American Color, a grower located in Orange, Va. that started with one acre of land, received the Excellence In Annuals Production award for 2015 at Greenhouse Grower’s Evening of Excellence held July 13 during Cultivate’15.
Since opening in 1998, the operation has grown to include 784,080 square feet of greenhouse space and 20 acres of field production.
American Color grows annuals, perennials and holiday plants, and its main customers are Costco and Kmart, as well as Food City and various independent garden centers. The operation also does contract growing for Metrolina Greenhouses.
“We’re extremely proud to receive this award at American Color, because it really validates our approach to this industry. Our mission at American Color is to provide superior plant quality, excellent customer service, and unmatched commitment to all of our customers,” Owner and President Ed Van Hoven says. “When you can (provide that) to every one of your customers, you’ll always be pleased with your results.”
van Hoven says American Color has grown into the company it is today by trying to be honorable in all of its dealings, both with its customers and its vendors, as well as by following a philosophy of giving back to those in need.
van Hoven says he is also proud of the fact that his children, Brandon and Brooke, are involved in the organization, and that his son has taken an interest in pursuing a career in the greenhouse industry.
“Those are all things that my wife Gwen and I had a vision of when we started this place,” he says. “It’s working out how we anticipated.”
van Hoven started the family business when his two children were very young, with a desire for them to grow up in the greenhouse business, like he did. van Hoven’s grandfather, the late Aart van Wingerden, raised his own family in the greenhouse business, and in turn, van Hoven was raised the same way in his family’s business, Battlefield Farms. Though American Color has grown over the years, it remains a family-run greenhouse operation.
“We’ve been fortunate to keep our entire core team, and we have very little to no turnover,” van Hoven says. “Indirect family, we’ll call it. That’s definitely the feeling here.”
The top priorities for American Color are providing quality product and excellent customer service, which includes 24-hour turnaround for customers.
“In the greenhouse business nowadays, everybody has to provide top quality. If you’re not providing top quality, you’re no longer a player,” van Hoven says.
In February 2007, a survey trip to Guatemala led van Hoven and his cousin, Ron van Der Hengst from South Central Growers, to start an agricultural business patterned after the Christian mission Double Harvest, which was founded by their grandfather. In partnership with Estuardo Arriaga (of Dümmen Orange), van Hoven and van Der Hengst created Bountiful Plant Ministries. The mission started out by growing tomatoes in a greenhouse in Guatemala and has since moved on to another location in Guatemala and started a farm. Bountiful Plant Ministries helps provide local jobs and uses the proceeds to build churches, clinics and schools. The mission continues to grow, and all of American Color’s key team members are actively involved in it.
“We wanted to be involved in missions because we were raised in a Christian environment, and we believe in missions,” van Hoven says. “We’re not preachers, and doctors and teachers, but we do know agriculture, and we wanted an agricultural mission.”
Greenhouse Grower thanks BASF, the sponsor of the Grower Of The Year Program.