Local garden/farm provides specialties PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Garden Editor   
Thursday, 27 June 2013 09:10
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Rows of flowers are growing at Gardenview Flowers in Grand Rapids. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
GRAND RAPIDS - Growing garden vegetables and flowers is not as most people might expect at Gardenview Flowers. The farm is an oasis of nature filled with garden items. It is tucked away along the former U.S. 24 in rural Grand Rapids.
The operation is run by father and daughter Jerry and Jenny Van Houtte, and the younger half of the duo could not be more proud of the quality of their merchandise.
Don't try to stop by their farm to buy their goods, rather, you will need to visit one of the farmer's markets. They sell on Wednesdays at Bowling Green and Thursdays in Perrysburg. You will also find their wares at Toledo on Saturday and in a couple of Michigan locales.
Right now, Jenny says their specialty orange cherry tomatoes are just ripening.
"These are so good, people just love them," she said as she popped one into her mouth.
Her father, Jerry, agreed, "They are my favorite. It's the best tomato flavor you can get."
He also noted that some families use the tomatoes as a snack substitute for chocolate for their children.
He shared a story of how one toddler found a bag of those tomatoes beside him in the back seat and had it half gone before his mother discovered it.
"She didn't mind, she knew they were good for him," he said.
The family duo is secretive about the type of tomato as it is one of their "specialty crops."
Jenny added, "All we do is specialty vegetables."
She reeled off a list of common garden vegetables, including zucchini, rhubarb, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower and sugar snap peas.
Despite the vegetables being common, she stressed they always get specialty varieties such as the seedless, burp-less cucumbers, and a much sought after specialty egg plant.
"We grow the best variety we can get," she said.
They also put personal touches into their offerings such as picking the zucchini when they are very small. It may take more effort, Jenny said, but the flavor is worth it.
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A selection of flowers and cucumbers sit in the cooler at Gardenview Flowers.
Both generations stress how they use no sprays or chemicals.
"We let nature take care of itself," Jerry said noting the volume of trees, frogs and other natural aspects of the farm.
"It really is a nature center," he said.
In the off season, they are busy ordering seeds and preparing for the growing season. Some plants are started in their greenhouse, then moved outdoors at the appropriate time.
Jenny says they order flower seeds from 15 different companies. Their fields feature as many as 60 or more different types of vegetables and more than 50 differing flowers. Within those types of flowers, they also grow many varieties of those flowers, for example she estimates there are between 30 and 40 varieties of sunflowers.
She considers herself an artist and puts together the floral bouquets sold at their stand at the markets. Jenny also has made her flowers available at area Churchill's stores.
She says art runs in the family and she spent a year at an art and design school in Savannah, Ga.
Though she will provide flowers for weddings or other special occasions, they do not provide a traditional flower service for the bridal party.
Another unusual buyer from the farm is the Toledo Zoo. The zoo purchases curly willow trees from the farm which is used to feed both giraffes and elephants.
The operators both noted the hard work involved on a daily basis to plant, grow and harvest the 65 acres.
Their fields likely contain more than 20,000 plants.
"We keep it as minimal as possible," Jenny said noting they do almost all of the work themselves.
"It does take a lot of hard work, but we also depend on God and Mother Nature," Jerry said.
He says all the work is worth the effort to see the smiles and the appreciation of their customers.
"When we get such good customers who appreciate our efforts, the rewards are there," he said. "We pick the product and take it to market ourself. That's what people love."
Last Updated on Thursday, 27 June 2013 10:50
 

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