Miles of Mums. Loads of Lilies. A plethora of Pansies.
Twenty-five acres of greenhouse space stretched in front of us on a cold March morning in Zionsville, PA. I visited one of four greenhouses in the Lehigh Valley owned by Dan Schantz.
This is the birthplace of ‘Dan’s Favorite’ tomato I wrote about last summer.
The computerized and automated process is a marvel of modern technology. Temperature is monitored by computer system. An alarm sounds if the temperature gets too high or too low. Most of the watering is programmed using recycled water. Hanging baskets move slowly overhead to the watering nozzle.
But much is done by hand. The greenhouses employ hundreds of workers.
Thousands of lilies are checked - one by one. The lily buds are measured against a template. If the bud gets too large the plant is moved to a cooler location to slow the process. All the lilies must bloom simultaneously for Easter.
Each tiny tomato seed is placed by hand in a grid of starting mix.
Tomatoes flourish in various stages of growth, from newly planted seed trays to small plants in neat rows. It is all timed to be ready for shipment in April or May.
The plants from Dan’s wholesale operation are shipped to big box stores and garden centers up and down the east coast. Retail stores are located on Lehigh Street in Allentown and W. Union Boulevard in Bethlehem.
It runs like a well-oiled machine and I saw how Dan’s favorite tomato got its start.