Huntersville, North Carolina
“Farm Credit has been with us through it all and will continue to be in the future, too.” -Abe VanWingerden
Metrolina Greenhouses was founded in 1972 by Tom and Vickie VanWingerden who immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands. Today, brothers Art and Abe VanWingerden continue the family tradition as a family-owned, wholesale plant and services company at their two locations in Huntersville, North Carolina, and York, South Carolina.
Metrolina Greenhouses consists of 16 million square feet of growing space—eight million square feet of outdoor growing and eight million square feet of heated indoor growing space—making it the largest single-site heated greenhouse in the country. Their facilities produce around 110,000,000 seedling and cutting plugs, which produce hardy mums, summer annuals, hanging baskets, poinsettias, bedding plants and perennials.
A family approach
Their greenhouse products can be found in big-box retailers, mass merchandisers, home improvement chains and other greenhouses across the East Coast. They employ 1,400 people year-round and hire seasonal help for the spring and fall peaks. And while the company may be large, according to Co-CEO Abe, their operation is first and foremost a “family business" and treat everyone who works with them as family.
Their facility is one of the most automated greenhouses in the U.S. with many internally designed machines, including automatic plant transplanters and mechanical shipping belts. Abe and Art incorporate sustainable solutions into their operation, including a pond system that allows them to collect and store up to three million gallons of water for every one inch of rain. This system enables them to recapture and recycle water for their crops.
“We capture every drop of water that hits our greenhouse roofs and parking lots, and reclaim every drop of excess water from inside our greenhouses,” Metrolina Greenhouses Co-CEO Art said.
A sustainable partnership
The VanWingerdens relationship began with AgSouth Farm Credit in 1994 with a small loan. According to Abe, as Farm Credit grew, their operation grew along with it.
“We’ve grown with Farm Credit through bigger loans, a stronger partnership, and most importantly, through the people we deal with every day,” Abe said. “Our relationship with Farm Credit's not about the money. It's about the people that know our business and what we try to accomplish every day.”
Art adds he appreciates Farm Credit’s cooperative structure and how profits are disseminated back to customer-owners through patronage refunds.
“It's been a great partnership,” Art said. “Whatever we've needed or when we need to do big expansions, Farm Credit helped us along the way with long-term loans and with a line of credit.”