“My father is clever. When I was little, he gave me a small greenhouse for my birthday. I spent hours playing in it. That’s how my love for plants and flowers was born. I’ve known what I want to do from a very young age.”
This is what Patrick van de Weijer of Ecoflor said this morning, when I asked him why he joined his father’s company. He’s never wanted anything else. When he finished his agricultural studies – there’s no such thing as horticultural studies in Brazil – he travelled to the Netherlands to learn about growing amaryllis. He also worked in the USA for a year, to learn about the cultivation of phalaenopsis. His sisters Rachel and Jacqueline are also involved in Ecoflor.
What struck me in Holambra, is the large number of children taking over from their fathers in the business. Patrick isn’t the only one. I spoke with three other young growers. They’re also taking the place of their parents. In some cases, it had always been clear they would. But some others didn’t get there in such a straight line.
Patrick Barendsen – son of pot plant grower Geraldo Barendse – studied production engineering, worked with a fiberglass company, but ended up choosing the family business after all, about three years ago. He liked the fact that a horticultural company isn’t just about cultivation, but an industry with all sorts of processes. His sister Claudia is responsible for finances and MPS. Their younger brother Frank is getting ready to join them; he’s currently doing an internship at Dümmen Orange.
Patrick previously worked in England (phalaenopsis), Portugal (hydrangea) and the Netherlands (medinilla) and he was closely involved when the company set up their own phalaenopsis cultivation. “He really feels that the phalaenopsis cultivation is his department”, said father Geraldo.
Brothers Fabiano (35) and Alexandro (38) de Bruin of Quali Flora are taking over their parents’ ornamental plant nursery. It all started with mother Riet growing some plants in the back garden many years ago. They now have 3 hectares. The brothers have been following all the activity of the nursery since they were little boys.
His studies in electronic engineering didn’t stop Fabiano from a career in the horticultural industry. After working at Rijnplant for three months. Alexandro told me that he used to work as a cashier at a bank, but wanted to work with his family. He also learned at Rijnplant, as well as at Terra Nigra.
Phalaenopsis nursery Kolibri also has its succession sorted. Daughters Regina and Gabrielle and son-in-law Mattheus are taking over from Lisette and Theo Breg. Everything’s been arranged. Regina could always be found in the greenhouse when she was little. Gabrielle preferred the company’s office.
Four companies and plenty of successors. Holambra’s next generation have known the horticultural industry from when they were babies. An important reason for following into their parents footsteps. But there’s another important reason. The companies offer a future; they’re making money. What if the family business hadn’t been doing so well?
Patrick van de Weijer: “In that case, my father might have advised against it. Nobody can work without an income. Plants and flowers probably would have been just a hobby then. I still would have been playing in my little greenhouse in the backyard.”