Cultivate’22: Learning the family secrets at Foertmeyer & Sons
Photo by Chris Markham

Cultivate’22: Learning the family secrets at Foertmeyer & Sons

The tour of the fundraising-based operation featured insights on biocontrol, labor and watering.

July 18, 2022

Head grower Matt Foertmeyer makes up the “Sons” part of Foertmeyer & Sons, a Delaware, Ohio, greenhouse which was founded in 1988 by his father Mark. A short drive from the Cultivate’22 convention center, Mark founded the operation as a solely fundraising-based business, meaning all of its sales are to fundraising programs, mainly to elementary schools, because, as Matt said while leading the production tour, people are often more willing to buy from cute little kids than teenagers. The Fortmeyers take pride that their business is still fundraising-based today.

When it comes to protection from pests, Foertmeyer and Sons also employs a beneficial mite called sachets, which mainly deal with thrips. Applying the sachets during the larvae state is crucial, as Matt believes that one of the biggest biocontrol mistakes growers can make is not starting early enough. Like with human health, the best cure for plant ailments is often prevention. At Foertmeyer & Sons, they start their prevention as soon as possible on day one of propagation. This strategy has worked well for them, as Matt shared that when the operation switched to using biocontrol about six years ago, one of their biggest problems was thrips damaging their plants. But now, thrips are barely a problem. For Matt, sachets are an ideal method because they’re less labor than other biocontrol methods, which is a win in his book.

Labor was a running theme on this year’s greenhouse production tour. With the current labor shortage, operations everywhere are searching for workers wherever they can. The federal H-2A program is growing in popularity among growers, including Foertmeyer & Sons, with Matt saying that they currently have five H-2A employees at the Delaware facility.

The last note Matt touched on during the tour was watering. “I think we water too much as an industry,” he said.

At Foertmeyer, they try to keep their plants as dry as possible. This goal is helped by the use of flood tables. Matt said they also want to expand to start using flood floors, as well.