Growing things is certainly in Pete Overgaag’s blood. Both sets of grandparents were in the greenhouse business in Holland, as were his father and mother. In 1968 Art and Maga Overgaag sold their business in Holland and moved to Santa Barbara, California, with their four children, ages 2, 4, 6, and 8. Pete was the 4-year-old.
Art Overgaag got a job as a groundskeeper on a Santa Barbara estate and kept his eye out for a property he could buy. He found one with some old greenhouses on it that had been used to grow cut flowers, so he started with carnations and then added chrysanthemums.
Pete, his brother and two sisters worked in the greenhouses growing up. “We had chores before and after school. Our homework got done after dinner. We did every job, planting, packing, driving the tractors, maintaining the greenhouses.”
Over time, the South American growers began to dominate the flower market, so the family explored growing produce. Pete researched different products and was intrigued by the potential for growing English cucumbers hydroponically. In the early 1990’s the family made the switch from flowers to produce, starting with cucumbers and later adding butter lettuce, tomatoes-on-the-vine and upland cress, all of which are grown hydroponically.
Pete explains the advantages of this method. “The roots of a plant that is growing in the ground spread out really far. If the nutrients aren’t distributed just right, the roots could miss something, or get too much of something. By growing in water, we can create the optimum growing conditions and give the plants exactly what they need.”
“In our state-of-the-art greenhouses we can control light, temperature, humidity, and nutrients. Advanced integrated pest management techniques allow us to control harmful insect damage on the lettuce without the use of pesticides or fungicides.”
Another advantage in a water-challenged state like California? “We use so much less water. No water soaks down into the soil beyond the reach of the roots, and none evaporates into the air and is gone.”
Hollandia Produce is still a family business. “My parents live right up the street. Dad usually comes by in the morning to have a cup of coffee and say hello.” Pete says. “The family and our employees are a great team. We all work together to get things done. My sister Ellen is the controller and office manager, my sister Karin is in charge of shipping. Vince does sales and marketing. We don’t grow cucumbers any more, but my brother has his own greenhouse business in Palm Springs, where he grows cucumbers and herbs.”
“We’re all very proud of our farm. We grow the best and freshest premium greenhouse vegetables,” Pete declares. He’s clearly enjoys his own products. “My wife and I live on the property with our sons, and when we need salad, it only takes a few minutes to get some!”