Last month, I visited Mark Hommes and Edwin van de Bovenkamp at the Castle Hayne Farms, which is right up the street from our River Bluffs farm location. I’m not sure people in the Wilmington area have any idea of the size and scope of this flower farm operation, or, how innovative their practices are. Both men are Dutch American transplants (ha) who brought their expertise to America over thirty years ago to start Castle Hayne Farm.
I sat down in Mark and Edwin’s unassuming office with them to discuss re-selling their flowers at our farmer’s markets, and in our CSA boxes. Once that business was finished, Mark took me on a tour of the facility. I was blown away. I realized immediately that I could learn a great deal from them about greenhouse growing. They grow much of their crop under tens of thousands of square feet of greenhouse, AND, they grow them directly in highly composted soil – just like we do – except their systems are much more sophisticated and automated. I’m sure my eyes looked like saucers when I first saw their fertigation manifold where they dial in their nutrient inputs. After learning about their fertilization methods and how they sterilize their soil beds (WITH STEAM!) I realized that their operation is about as close to being “Organic” as a flower grower could ever get. I honestly believe I may have found the answer to the tomato disease problems that tomato growers almost inevitably encounter. I’ll never stop being amazed at how farmers, generally, are so generous with their time and expertise. Mark and Edwin are no exception. Every now and then I come across a learning experience that pushes our knowledge and capabilities to a higher level, and this was one of those experiences. We look forward to working with – and learning from – the crew at Castle Hayne Farms in the years to come.
For anyone that lives in the Wilmington area, you should know that you have an exceptional grower right here under your nose. Castle Hayne Farms ships their cut flowers all over the world. We sell their small and medium size arrangements at our farmer’s markets: River Bluffs, Wilmington Farmer’s Market at Tidal Creek, and the Farmer’s Market at Poplar Grove. The flowers that Mark Hommes provides us are so fresh that our customers routinely speak of them lasting over two weeks. They are exceptional flowers from an exceptional local business that may actually be better known internationally than locally. Get to know them!
Last thing, the pictures below were taken from a farmer’s perspective. That is to say I was more interested in the crop succession than taking pictures of beautiful flowers. One step inside the Castle Hayne Farms greenhouse and, having created large crop rotations and succession for vegetables, I could immediately see the succession pattern growing in these greenhouse bays. For pictures of the actual flowers themselves, visit their website. —– Farmer Steve