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