Greenhouse Grower named Henry Mast Greenhouses as Operation of the Year at its Evening of Excellence on Monday, July 14 at Cultivate’14 in Columbus, Ohio. Greenhouse Grower’s Grower of the Year Program is sponsored by BASF.
Since its start in 1971, Henry Mast Greenhouses, located in Byron Center, Mich., has operated through most of its history as an independent grower and distributor. Today, it is one of two production arms for Masterpiece Flower Company, which is the sales, distribution and merchandising company that provides plants for Meijer and the Home Depot. The other production arm is Whitewater Greenhouse in Whitewater, Wis.
Masterpiece Flower Company is served by its co-owned trucking company, Peak Transportation Solutions. The entire operation covers more than 30 acres of covered greenhouses and 10 acres of outdoor growing area. Henry Mast Greenhouses specializes in continuous production of orchids, potted floral crops and a full line of garden center annuals offered spring through fall.
Recycling is taken seriously at Masterpiece/Henry Mast, and over the past five years, it has worked closely with East Jordan Plastics (EJP) to recycle 350,000 pounds of plastic per year. Pots and trays are returned from the stores the company services and reprocessed by EJP back into horticultural containers.
The staff at Henry Mast Greenhouses and Masterpiece Flower Company works closely with their customers to mutually develop programs to expand sales. The merchandising staff maintains good relationships with store management and keeps the sales operation informed about store conditions and what is selling.
Co-owner Tim Stiles says being willing to listen and being open to suggestion and criticism has been invaluable for maintaining long-term relationships with their customers. Early on, the operation was primarily acres and acres of geraniums and a few other potted plant items. That started changing a few years ago when customers started asking for more variety.
“We had to learn a lot about growing other types of products, things like patio containers and hanging baskets. We were criticized for a few years on how that was looking, but we have since made a lot of improvements. I would say that open-mindedness and willingness to change and find new methods has helped us to keep our quality up and that enhances our customers reputation.”
Even a single grower serving a few retailers in a small metro area can do a lot to build customer relationships says Stiles. He says it is a matter of talking to customers and understanding what they need and being willing to share some risks together or share information.
“Our customers have taught us a lot, and we appreciate the confidence they have placed in us,” says Stiles. “For many years we defined ourselves as growers who specialized in only a few crops. We have learned that sometimes you have to step outside of your comfort zone and take on additional risk and responsibility to encourage company growth.”