Pak choi and spinach seeds
The company Gebroeders G. en W. Van Turenhout is located in the village of ’s-Gravendeel, in the province of South Holland.
Gert explains, ‘Our family has been in horticulture for three generations. My grandfather started out in the village of Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht. The company was handed down to my father and uncle and then to me and my brother. In 1999, our land was compulsorily purchased because some houses were going to be built on it, and so we moved here. Through the years, we have cultivated different products. We currently focus on pak choi and spinach seeds. We do this on one hectare of greenhouses.’
Female spinach seeds
Supermarket spinach has travelled a long road.
Gert briefly describes the process: ‘We cultivate female spinach seeds. These are planted in summer, grow fast, and can reach a height of up to two metres. This is why they grow up canes and along strings. In September, the plants wither and die. At this point, the company we work with comes to thresh. The seed is taken out of the soil, cleaned, and transported to Denmark, where it’s grown again and cross-fertilized with male seed. The resulting seed goes to the spinach farmer, who cultivates spinach for supermarkets. So the next time you eat spinach, you’ll know how it landed on your plate.’
Pak choi throughout the year
Gert says, ‘Pak choi is ready for consumption immediately after harvesting.
Pak choi cultivation continues throughout the year. In summer, we put 12,000 plants in soil blocks into the soil. After six weeks, we harvest the first stalks. We cut them manually and put them into crates. Depending on customers’ wishes, we can package them in bags. This is how we fill about six pallets a day. Starting September, the growing period is longer and the produce smaller. But we are never entirely without produce.’
Working without staff
Gert and his brother do all the work themselves.
‘The work is divided into equal portions of time, so we can easily do it ourselves. The fact that we don’t have any successors also plays a part, since expanding isn’t an option. Yes, it does hurt to think about the fact that after more than a century, the family company will cease to exist. We will run it as long as we can and then it’s over. It’s very unfortunate, but that’s just the way it is.’
Using gas burners to control weeds
Wanting to become more environmentally friendly, the brothers have started an experiment this year: using gas burners to control weeds.
Gert is eager to explain how this works in practice: ‘Before planting, we let the weeds come up and burn them with the gas burner. We can then plant the seeds in clean soil. We didn’t just start doing this with no prior thought, of course. We first tested it with a small gas burner that is available at every DIY centre. The results looked so promising that we decided to have a bigger gas burner made. We recently tried it for the very first time. It’s still too early to say whether it has worked well enough, but the prospects are promising. We have a lot of faith in this type of weed control.’