He may not just have a green thumb. Hans Wilgenburg may have green fingers
and toes, too! The Cal Poly grad owns an impressive seven-acre greenhouse
operation in Dinuba, near Fresno.
Hans says, "Although I grow tomatoes, basil and strawberries in the
greenhouse, it is really the cucumber that's the focus of my business
and I grow about seventy thousand boxes of those a year."
The farmer sells some of his produce at a store right at the site of his
greenhouse. Jeannette Afonin claims that she travels forty miles to buy
fresh cucumbers. "They're crunchy. And they last a long time. They're
wrapped, so they last a week or two in the refrigerator and with my family,
we just eat the cucumbers as is. Usually with salt or maybe a little vinegar
and oil on it," said Afonin.
His store may seem like a small part of the operation, but Hans insists
that it's extremely important to him. "I sell my cucumbers to a lot
of the major grocery stores here in California, but I'm really interested
in focusing more on my home place here to see these more curved fruit
and some of the smaller fruit that the larger grocery stores are not interested
Hans grows his fruits and vegetables in perlite, instead of soil, because
he believes it's healthier for his customers. "Well, I'm growing
in perlite, because if you repeatedly grow your crops in soil, it builds
up diseases and things. So it's a lot cleaner environment to grow in and
it's a simpler way to manage that," said Hans.
Wrapped in plastic, the European Greenhouse Cucumber is one of the most
popular items. You don't need to peel it. Just slice and serve. Hans adds,
"The European Greenhouse Cucumber is different from a field cucumber.
It has a very thin skin and because it has that thin skin, we need to
wrap it with plastic so that it doesn't get floppy. Everybody wants a crisp cucumber, so we put that plastic film across there."
So the Dutchman has made quite a business for himself. Hans has fifteen
brothers and sisters and almost every single one of them is a farmer too.
They enjoy working the land and Hans says he can't imagine being in a
better location than California's Central Valley.
For more information about the produce at Wilgenburg Greenhouses in Dinuba,
call (559) 591-0352.