By Julie Campbell
The Meridian Times Staff Reporter
Every business has an off-season. At most places, it just depends on the weather. However, certain weather conditions tend to be more harsh on some businesses than others. For the plant market, winter isn’t easy. For the plant markets in states like Michigan, winter really isn’t easy.
With snow constantly falling for a majority of the year, places like the Hunter Park GardenHouse of Allen Neighborhood Center in Lansing are lucky to have a greenhouse with gas heaters to be able to grow during all seasons or for its multi-season community-supported agriculture program.
“Having grant support to build and operate a greenhouse is not the reality for all farmers, which is why I say we are very fortunate,” said Alex Bissell of Allen Neighborhood Center.
Farmers across Michigan may do things differently.
“Many farmers have hoop houses, which are essentially less permanent and less expensive greenhouses on their farms and are able to extend their season with passive solar energy alone,” Bissell said.
People can also store their summer crops and save them for the winter to bring to the market. For example, Bissell is still distributing onions that grew over the summer. There isn’t a long enough season in Michigan to grow many crops directly from seed so in February and March you have to start seedlings, which mostly take care of themselves.
Allen Neighborhood Center also accepts volunteers and donations. They have programs that draw in a lot of volunteers and keep them coming back.
“We get a lot of volunteers because our organization has built a reputation for all the good work that it does and neighbors and community members often want to be a part of it,” said Bissell. “We have many long-time volunteers who like our programs and the work we do and keep coming back.”
There is plenty of information on agriculture in Michigan on the Michigan Farm Bureau website.
Professors at Michigan State University in East Lansing also feel very passionate about keeping the plant industry busy during the harsh winters.
“The greenhouse industry is usually the busiest during the winter months,” said Dr. Kristin Getter, an academic specialist of horticulture at Michigan State University. “They start growing in August and selling in December. In January they start growing annual and perennial plants for the consumer that will be sold in April or May.”
Although the greenhouses may stay busy in the winter, it’s hard for the actual gardeners to do much gardening outside.
“If they had a cold frame, they may be able to grow some crops such as lettuce or kale that can tolerate the freezing,” said Getter.
Many things play into effect when staying in business. Every year there are more and more ornamental greenhouse producers growing cucumbers, tomatoes, and other food crops during the off season. With the help of volunteers, donations, and hard work there are many ways for plant businesses to keep the incoming flowing. If not, some greenhouses will close for a few months during the year.