Meeting The Demand For Edibles: Altman Plants

Meeting The Demand For Edibles: Altman Plants

First Cukes, GardenHouse Farm, Matt Altman and Harry Vlottes

Altman Plants COO Matt Altman (left) and GardenHouse Farm manager Harry Vlottes show off the first cucumbers harvested at GardenHouse’s 12-acre facility in Peyton, Colo.
Photo courtesy of Altman Plants

Locally grown produce ranked No. 2 in a recent survey of 1,300 professional chefs (National Restaurant Association’s 2014 What’s Hot survey), and in March, USDA released the report “Why Local Food Matters: The rising importance of locally grown food in the U.S. food system.” Those are just two of several similar reports of the growing importance of edible crops.

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Find out how growers are taking advantage of the rising demand for locally-grown food from an increasingly diverse mix of customers.

This is one of four articles on how growers are appealing to the growing interest in edibles. Click to read about High Meadows Farm, Peace Tree Farm and Go Green Agriculture Inc.

Altman Plants Adjusts To A Different Market

Altman Plants, headquartered in Vista, Calif., is venturing into greenhouse vegetables with a new company called GardenHouse Farm in Peyton, Colo. In January, Altman Plants purchased a 32-acre greenhouse facility that had previously been operated by Color Star.

“Color Star began looking into doing greenhouse vegetables last year before we purchased the greenhouses,” said Matt Altman, chief operating officer. “We thought it was a great idea as well. We have been involved in growing other food crops, including leafy greens and tree crops of avocado and persimmon.”

Of the 32 acres of greenhouses, a 12-acre range is allocated to vegetables. Ornamental plants and flowers are being grown in the other 20-acre range. The business is looking at which crops have the highest return.

The first crop of cucumbers and tomatoes were planted this spring. Cucumbers are already being harvested and the picking of tomatoes began in June.

“We were fortunate to get these greenhouses,” Altman says. “The greenhouses have an extensive curtain system, conveyors and irrigation booms. This is great for ornamental plant production, but we had to make some changes to the infrastructure to accommodate the tomato production.”

The business is producing in gutters and on high wire. The biggest investment was installing a new pipe rail system that allows employees to move down the rows on adjustable rolling platforms to maintain the plants and harvest the fruit.

Vegetable Learning Curve

GardenHouse Farm tomatoes

The biggest investment at GardenHouse Farm was the installation of a new pipe rail system that allows employees to move down plant rows to maintain the plants and harvest the fruit.
Photo courtesy of Altman Plants

Even though Altman Plants was already shipping ornamental plants into Colorado, Altman said there are major differences in marketing vegetables. He said most of the produce grown by GardenHouse Farm is sold in the Mountain States region, primarily in Colorado. He also said there is a lot of interest in Colorado to buy local product.

“The market is really different for greenhouse vegetables,” he says. “It’s not as seasonal as ornamentals, but there are definitely seasonality impacts. During the summer there is lower pricing. There is imported produce from Mexico and Canada, which has some very large, efficient growers.”

Altman says growing and selling vegetables requires understanding the pricing and costs associated with a whole new market as well as understanding the changes in supply and demand.

“Commodity prices change on a weekly basis,” he says. “Generally for ornamentals, prices are set for the season along with some ads and promotions. The prices for the produce can change quite rapidly.”

The company is selling primarily to supermarkets and larger chains. The supermarkets and other retailers that are selling produce work with a separate group of suppliers, distributors and brokers that has to be navigated.

Altman said one of the differences between growing ornamentals and vegetables are the harvesting of the crops and the need to consider the end product.

“With ornamentals, you’re finishing the plants to their pot size and shipping them at their peak,” Altman says. “With vegetables, you’re growing them for quite a few months while harvesting the fruit. It’s a different mentality in the way you treat the plants.”

Altman said with edible crops there are a lot of food safety issues and regulations. GardenHouse has been certified by Primus, a third party certification agency.

“Certification is required by major supermarkets and it’s not an easy process,” he says. “It’s very vigorous, very strict. There are a lot of processes, laws and procedures that have to be put in place to avoid any kind of potential contamination and food safety concerns. You have to implement a recall process and be able to react to anything that does happen.”

For more information on GardenHouse Farm, contact 760-744-8191 or eMail [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Brenda says:

How come your holiday rosemary tree is not for consumption

Michele says:

Please explain why the Holiday Rosemary Tree I purchased today is not for consumption. If I had been aware of that I would not have purchased your plant.

Elena Grinstead says:

I just purchased 2 holiday Rosemary plants and it states Not for consumption please contact me as to why or should I return to the store?

Dorothy Richie says:

I bought the Holiday Rosemary and why is it not for consumption? I wouldn’t have bought it either if had known.

Bruce says:

Why are the Rosemary bushes not for consumption? I too would not have purchased. I also see a reply from almost a month ago and still no answer. Do you even look at your customer feedback?

Joshua Wiebelhaus says:

I am interested in why my rosemary is not for human consumption.
It looks like a lot of folks here are looking for answers. Maybe we need to get some representation to ask you formally, if you don’t answer us informally.

Cheryl Altman says:

I also would like to know why I can’t use the Rosemary in cooking.

Mimi says:

I HAVE THE ANSWER PEOPLE! I called and annoyed my way into talking to someone, who was very kind and helpful which I appreciated very much. So, here’s the answer. Rosemary trees being shipped to 12 different states were required to be sprayed for the California Brown Snail (strange ag laws and such). The spray itself is nonsystemic (meaning that it does not make its way into the actual plants systems) so any new growth is OK for cooking and eating in plants that were sprayed. While only 12 states shipments were sprayed, all plants were actually labelled with the warning. I’m not sure what the 12 states are (besides West Virginia – he just let me know that because I am in Virginia). I am in Richmond, Virginia and plants shipped to Virginia were NOT sprayed. To find out if your state is one of the 12, call their 1-800 number and just press the number for any department (there is not a guest service option, so just ask for that when you get on the line). They’ll probably hate me forever for posting this. It’s just helpful information. When you talk to the person, be nice please. They are very kind and good people and this wasn’t their fault. The company is aware of the issue.

Laura Drotleff says:

Greenhouse Grower also reached out to the operation and asked them to answer your questions, and they replied and said they would. I’m sure they’ll get to it soon. Meanwhile, thank you, Mimi, Mimi, for taking the time to call Altman Plants, and for sharing!

Teri says:

Dear Altman Plants. For your valued customers,
Would you Please List the 12 States that were shipped the Holiday Rosemary sprayed for the California Brown Snail?
This would save you many phone inquiries. Thank you.