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Wilgenburg Greenhouses

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Earl’s Organic is now carrying Wilgenburg colored bell peppers, eggplant and Euro cucumbers(Persian cukes coming at the end of September).

The consistent climate at Wilgenburg Greenhouses is warmed by this farmer’s personal touch. Located in Dinuba, CA, Hans and his crew put up every one of his greenhouses themselves, every plant sends out its roots in a nursery bag full of soil they mix themselves onsite, with worm castings and compost they farm themselves, and the fruit of all this labor is harvested by hand. “We have as many struggles as anybody growing outside,” Hans commented, “The only thing that we do differently is that we can control the weather”

Hans Wilgenburg www.abundantharvestorganics.com

Hans Wilgenburg

Watch Hans in the greenhouse and learn about his compost program: https://youtu.be/QRUNPe7a4G4

“As an organic grower you have to do things differently,” Hans said about the systems he has worked out for growing organic greenhouse fruits and vegetables. “I wanted the type of soil that would work organically, and nobody else really has that available. I like the way I do my worms. You can’t buy the fresh worm castings like what I want, so I like doing that myself,” he continued.

Pursing a true passion, a life with a hands-on touch is a part of who Hans is as a farmer and a family man.

He was born in Holland, the youngest of sixteen children, and came to California with his parents when he was five years-old. Hans’ father was a dairyman, thus, Hans had an early introduction to life on the farm. Even so, his transition to a career in agriculture wasn’t so straightforward. After his hands on experience of growing up on a dairy, Hans came to a conclusion, he “hated cows and wanted to get as far away from them as possible.”

But Hans didn’t jump straight from animal husbandry into growing plants. In between he earned a degree in psychology, spent a year in Israel, a year working for his brothers’ chicken ranch, had a change of heart towards farming, earned a degree in crop science, added a masters in international business, and then spent eight years working for the Latin American division of a chemical company out East, not to mention the addition of a wife and two children along the way.

It was toward the end of that eight-year stint of going to work every day in a three piece suit, working a job he was less than passionate about, that Hans and his wife Sharon geared up for a major life change. “I finally said, ‘You know what, I can’t live the rest of my life like this,’” he said. “So we made a big dramatic change. I drove the moving van, my wife drove the station wagon behind the truck. She was eight months pregnant, we had two kids. Talk about craziness.”

It took the family eleven days to drive from Connecticut to Fresno to pursue a career in greenhouse farming. Hans had done his senior project at Cal Poly on greenhouse cucumbers, grown in the style that he still uses today, and he wanted to get into business for himself.

He apprenticed himself to a local greenhouse grower, and spent two years learning everything there was to know about the business. In order to invest in the learning process in this way, he and his growing family had to adjust to living off of just one third of the income he had been earning at his previous job.

In 1989, the hard work and sacrifice started to pay off, and Wilgenburg Greenhouses opened their translucent sliding doors for the first time. About seven years after getting started on his own, Hans nearly went bankrupt. But, with perseverance, and a sense of purpose, he and his crew and family pulled through it. Today, in the aromatic warmth of the greenhouses you’ll find plants in various stages of growth and development; and out back there’s a red worm farm, compost produced in an innovative no-turn style, and rows of vegetables sold in the green Dutch style farm stand on Mountain View Avenue.

“I’m doing something fairly useful, producing food, something with significance, something that matters. I’m providing jobs for forty-eight families, and to me, that’s big,” he said. “I feel good about what I’m doing, so long as I can make ends meet. That’s also very important.”

Excerpts reprinted from www.abundantharvestorganics.com

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