The “Make-Your-Own Lettuce Wrap” star at Howard Hughes Souplantation became more interesting Thursday night, July 14, when guests met the local hydroponically greenhouse grower as they ate the butter lettuce wraps from his greenhouse.
About 150 “Living Butter Lettuce” heads were also given out to guests, courtesy of Hollandia Produce LP. Those who wondered how hydroponic vegetables are grown got their questions answered by Pete Overgaag, CEO of Hollandia, based in Carpinteria and Oxnard, CA. John Morberg, CEO of Garden Fresh Restaurants was also with Pete to speak with guests.
Let’s take it back to the 1920’s in Holland where it all started. A man named Leo Overgaag started growing vegetables in a greenhouse. Fast forward to 1953, Leo’s son, Art Overgaag, started his own nursery in Den Hoorn, Holland, growing tomatoes in the spring and summer and lettuce in the winter. Since Holland was cold and rainy, Art decided to move to the United States, settling in Carpinteria, CA, in 1968 with his wife, Magda, and four children, Pete, Ellen, Leo, and Karin.
In 1970, Art and Magda bought the greenhouse property where Hollandia operates to this day. Pete and his brother, Leo, switched the family crops from flowers to vegetables and harvested its first hydroponically-grown greenhouse lettuce crop in 1987. Today, Hollandia’s vegetables include: Living Butter Lettuce, Living 3 in 1 Lettuce, Living Upland Cress, and Living Red Butter Lettuce. In 2011, they began their certified organic brand, Grower Pete’s, with Living Butter Lettuce and Living Watercress.
Now that we have the back story, you must be wondering what those answers are about hydroponically-grown vegetables in greenhouses.
What is hydroponically-grown mean?
Using state-of-the-art greenhouses, they are able to control light, temperature, humidity, and nutrients fed to the roots of the plants using a controlled water system. The plants are grown indoors and off the ground in culture channels.
How does it control growth?
With high tech farming, there are sensors inside the greenhouse constantly measuring information and a weather station outside. It takes that data and automatically makes a decision as to whether it needs to open, close a window, or use its shading system.
Temperatures of 72 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night are the optimal temperature to maximize growth. This includes increase in yields, shorter time from planting to harvest, and produce quality product year round.
How does the water system work?
The culture channel where the lettuce grows receive a steady flow of nutrient water. The flow of water goes back into the mechanical filtration, sterilization unit, nutrient solution tank, and pumped back to the culture channel. The hydroponics growing techniques recycle precious water resources, reduce overall water use, limit water loss due to evaporation and stop soil erosion. Hollandia’s hydroponics system will conserve from 66% to 84% of the water that would be used if the lettuce were grown in the field.
How long does it take to grow lettuce?
Typically, it takes 7 to 8 weeks. After 3 weeks of germinating the seed and raising the young plant, it is sent to the hydroponic system. And then about 4-5 weeks it finishes in the hydroponic system.
How big is Hollandia’s greenhouse?
The farm includes 35 acres of greenhouses with 15 different sections located on two properties in Carpinteria and Oxnard, CA.
Guests enjoyed learning about the hydroponic system and were amazed by the technology it takes to grow lettuce. Pete Overgaag had a great time meeting everyone at the Howard Hughes Souplantation and boasts, “Our level of quality and fresh seems to be a perfect match for Garden Fresh’s high standards, so we also look forward to building our partnership and being a steady, trusted supplier.”
About Hollandia Produce L.P.
Founded in 1970 by Art and Magda Overgaag, Hollandia Produce, L.P. is now an employee-owned farm specializing in hydroponically greenhouse grown lettuce and leafy greens. With locations in Carpinteria and Oxnard, California, the company grows, ships, and distributes its certified organic label Grower Pete’s, and its Live Gourmet® line of products, which are harvested with their roots intact to preserve freshness. For more information, visit: www.hollandiaproduce.com.