Jennifer Kolenc describes her work propagating plants at the Heartland Growers greenhouse facilities to Gov. Mike Pence. The wholesale business operates throughout the year, but is especially busy from March to mid-June, when it employs about 80 full-time and 100 seasonal employees.
Jennifer Kolenc describes her work propagating plants at the Heartland Growers greenhouse facilities to Gov. Mike Pence. The wholesale business operates throughout the year, but is especially busy from March to mid-June, when it employs about 80 full-time and 100 seasonal employees.
WESTFIELD, Ind. — Business is blooming at the Heartland Growers greenhouses in Westfield.

Gov. Mike Pence and other state officials visited the company, which operates one of the most modern and capital-intensive greenhouse facilities in Indiana, during a daylong tour of various enterprises to celebrate Agriculture Appreciation Month.

“Indiana is a lot of things. But at the end of the day, I think Indiana is agriculture. It’s really the core, I believe, of who we are as a state. We grow things, and we make things,” Pence said. “Today is an important reminder that when we talk about Indiana being an agricultural state, it means a lot more than most people think.”

“Just know that what we’re committed to as an administration is to continue to build on both the strength and diversity of agriculture in Indiana,” the governor said.

“We know we’ve got the best people in the world. We also have the best soil in the world. And the combination of those things, good character and our work ethic means we can continue to bring greater diversity and greater economic opportunity to our state by putting the emphasis on agriculture.”

Pence commended his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, who served as governor from 2005 to 2013.

“It seems to me the prior administration, among their greatest accomplishments was putting agriculture front and center, making Indiana not just an ag state, but we’re a pro-ag state,” he said.

Heartland Growers owner Jim Gapinski said he’s excited about his business, which he has operated for 29 years. Living next door, it has served as the site to raise his family, as well as flowers and other plants.

“The horticulture industry is a beautiful industry,” Gapinski said. “Even during downtimes, people still plant flowers.”

Energy is a big expense for the company. In turn, at a second location in downtown Indianapolis, methane is taken off a nearby landfill and is used to heat the greenhouse.

“We were green, we feel, before green was in,” Gapinski said, noting the family strives to be a responsible steward of the environment and was honored for managing its water resources with the River Friendly Farmer award from the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

“Indiana is a great place to do business,” he added. “Our business is a people business, and then we grow plants. It’s all about our people.”

Heartland Growers supplies wholesale plants and services to local independent garden centers, florists and landscapers, as well as national chain stores throughout the Midwest. Current products include bedding plants, flowering and foliage hanging baskets, geraniums, hardy mums, lilies and poinsettias.

Gapinski said the company plans to diversify in the future and grow produce for the burgeoning local food market.

“A local market is still the best market,” he said, citing the carbon footprint of shipping produce from California or Florida to the Midwest and a study by Rutgers University on the freshness and loss of certain nutrients in those vegetables during transit after just 48 to 72 hours.

“We all can’t wait for summertime to have fresh-grown produce in our gardens,” Gapinski said. “I don’t order tomatoes on any of my burgers in the wintertime because I don’t like the taste of those tomatoes.”

“That’s where Indiana Grown can play itself — this is grown right here by homefolks, by Hoosiers, and it’s just good,” he stressed.

Gina Sheets, Indiana State Department of Agriculture director, praised the business for its agricultural innovation.

She noted Heartland Growers has participated in specialty crop block grants with Purdue University to study efficiencies in greenhouse production.

It has a whopping 30 acres of covered and connected growing space, which is divided into 28 zones that are heated through concrete floors or a bench heating system. Water reclamation occurs from gutter systems and two retention ponds.

“You have to recognize the natural resources here and the stewardship that’s being done, whether it’s water use and reuse, energy conservation and how important that is, the control of insects and pesticides,” Sheets said.

“Certainly, when we see this industry, we recognize how important and vital it is to the economy of Indiana agriculture,” she said.

“It’s exciting,” Pence added. “It just reaffirms to us that as we look to get our economy moving again and we look to strengthen opportunities for Hoosiers today and tomorrow that agriculture is going to be the centerpiece of that in the Hoosier state.”