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Van Baalen

A long-standing family business with modern sales methods

Company name:Van Baalen
Location(s):Hoek van Holland, Netherlands
Cultivation: Cherry tomato

A long-standing family business with modern sales methods

Kwekerij De Haak BV is a long-standing family business and is currently owned by Mark van Baalen. ‘The company was set up by my great-grandfather in the 1920s,’ says Mark. ‘It was a general vegetable grower back then. At the end of the 1980s, my father decided to specialize in cherry tomatoes. They were new and expensive at the time, and there was a market for them. We still have cherry tomatoes today, and three years ago we started growing strawberries and a few seasonal products.’

Cherry tomatoes and strawberries

The tomatoes and strawberries are grown in two large greenhouses.

Mark explains, ‘The tomato seeds are sown in November, and the first tomatoes are picked around mid-February. The picking season runs until the end of October, but the plants continue to grow and each one produces some 35 vines per season. We sow the strawberry seeds in August, and these have two picking seasons: from the end of September to the beginning of December, and in April and May. These different growing and picking seasons create a certain dynamic, but also continuity in the business.’

Natural pest control using insects

We try to work as organically as possible in our greenhouses,’ says Mark.

‘We don’t discharge any water, and we use insects to control harmful pest such as the infamous whitefly. Whiteflies are a big problem in the horticultural sector. They damage the crops. We hang cards in the plants with eggs. These insects eat whitefly eggs, which means we can prevent a lot of problems naturally. And it allows us to minimize the use of pesticides. The plants have often been growing for some five months before I need to spray them.’

Sales from the summerhouse

There is a summerhouse containing a vending machine close to the road that runs past the premises.

This is where passers-by can buy cherry tomatoes and strawberries from a vending machine. ‘We’ve had this machine since 2011,’ explains Mark. ‘Initially we only used it to sell punnets of cherry tomatoes. This has been pretty successful since the start. We’ve also been selling strawberries from the vending machine for a few years now, which has been even more successful. Strawberries sell themselves; most people love them.’

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