Lettuce all year round
Tuinderij Van Vugt specializes in lettuce. Located in the small town of Achthuizen in the province of Zuid-Holland, the nursery grows six varieties of lettuce all year round: butterhead lettuce, baby leaf, red chard, lollo rosso, lollo bionda, and oakleaf lettuce.
‘It’s actually by happy chance that we’re here,’ says Gert van Vugt. He owns the company together with his brother. ‘My father started out in Hendik Ido Ambacht in 1966. It was a successful, growing company that grew as many as twenty different products throughout the year. I was already working with my father when the land was expropriated for housing construction in 2000. We were forced to look for a new place. In the end, we were able to take over an existing farm in Achthuizen. We’ve specialized in lettuce here from the very beginning. This relocation turned out well for us. We had more opportunities to grow here, and took full advantage of them. We now have five hectares of greenhouses and we grow the lettuce varieties on sixteen hectares in the open air.
Roughly speaking, you can divide our lettuce cultivation into two seasons,’ says Gert.
‘In the light half of the year we grow in the open air, in the dark half in the greenhouse. The outdoor season starts in the second half of March. That’s when the different lettuce plants are delivered and we start planting them. We sow the Baby Leaf and the Red Chard lettuce straight away. From then on, we plant and sow weekly. We can harvest all types of lettuce after four weeks. Then the soil is ploughed and we get back down to work. We do two and a half rounds during the entire outdoor period. What that means is that we can harvest three times on one half of the land and twice on the other. The outdoor crop runs until the end of October. We start planting and sowing in the greenhouses in September. Winter growth is slower, with an average of eight weeks between plants and harvests’.
Delivering a good product and getting all the work done is quite a challenge’, says Gert.
‘It’s a daily struggle to get everything ready on time. We supply a fresh product that goes directly from the soil into the truck, as it were. We have orders every day, five to six days a week, all year round. It’s not unusual, for example, for customers to call at 7:00 AM to pick up an order at 11:00 AM. That creates a hectic and dynamic situation. Fortunately, my brother and I employ six people. We have a good team and that makes our work enjoyable. During peak periods in the summer, we can always take on temporary staff. Despite all the personnel, we still work long days. It’s fairly quiet in the winter, but in the summer twelve-hour days are no exception. But I like to talk about it; it’s a great job.’