In honor of Father’s Day this weekend, Hollandia Produce, L.P. CEO Pete Overgaag reflects on what he has learned from his father about growing and running a business. “Growing plants is what I’ve done all my life. It’s completely in my blood,” he tells us. “I’m proud to be able to keep our family farming tradition going here in California.”
In 1968, Pete’s parents along with him and his three siblings immigrated to California from the Netherlands. Within two years the Overgaag family found a modest nursery on the Central Coast in Carpinteria and set about carrying on their family tradition of greenhouse cultivation of various plants. Operating initially as Hollandia Flowers, the company’s first crops were cut flowers, including carnations, chrysanthemums, and baby’s breath.
Pete fondly remembers growing the varieties in the family’s greenhouses with crystal clarity. “We would roto-till the soil, then steam-sterilize it, rake it flat, lay the support grid wire on the ground, then plant a young chrysanthemum plant in each square space that the wire grid provided,” he says. “It would take about 15-16 weeks until they were ready for harvest.”
Pete and his team of growers continue to call upon the company’s earlier methods that Pete and his family learned from their grandfather Leo and father, Art. He points out that they inspire him “to keep innovating and [realizing] that there is always a better way and room for improvement.”
Today, there’s no question those methods have led to extensive progress. The company’s greenhouse operation has robustly expanded since its early days, adding an entire new facility roughly 30 miles south in Oxnard which also will double the company’s physical size when fully complete. Additionally, the family work ethic has enabled Hollandia Produce to successfully distribute product nationwide at many of the largest, most prominent grocers in America, while holding true to its core values.
As for the CEO’s own advice for the next generation of growers, he encourages them to: “Pay attention to new technology, question the traditional ways and experiment with new ideas, no matter how odd the idea may seem.”