Galema’s Greenhouse in West Lafayette is proof that there’s more than one way to grow.
Owned and operated by Tim and Bev Galema, who are Farm Bureau members from Tippecanoe County, Galema’s began in 1991 with 5,600 square feet of greenhouse space built on property that the couple purchased from his grandfather, a grain and livestock farmer. Galema’s now has more than 100,000 square feet of greenhouse space, but it also has expanded its product line, selling finished spring bedding plants, mums, poinsettias, rooted cuttings and “prefinished” plants.
"Where the greenhouses are right now was sheep and cattle pasture,” said Tim Galema, who is Galema’s president and horticulturalist.
One of the main reasons for the business’ growth is the need to make sure it continues to produce income even after the busy season (January-May) is over.
“We started with bedding plants like flats of vegetables, flowers, geranium pots, hanging baskets, anything like that,” Tim said. That first year, they also produced poinsettias. The next year, after getting the spring bedding plants going, they began growing mums.
"But there were some gaps that I wanted to fill, and that’s when the business grew," he added.
Not every garden center that wants ferns, herbs, geraniums, impatiens, petunias, spider plants and so on is looking for finished plants, so Galema’s sells rooted cuttings and prefinished plants. Prefinished plants are young plants that are well past the seedling stage but still much smaller than what’s sold at your local garden center. Galema’s sells these through brokers.
“They are the same products that we grow in the spring for the garden centers, but they take them early before they are full-grown,” he explained. Many are individual plants, but there also are hanging baskets and patio pots – “anything that has a longer crop time.”
The plants Galema’s sells are started either from seeds or cuttings, which are little segments of plants capable of developing roots and eventually growing into full plants. For the plants started from seed, Galema’s uses a specialized propagator. But for the plants produced from cuttings, they grow their own.
“We were buying those rooted cuttings (called ‘liners’), but we were buying thousands and thousands and thousands, and we thought, ‘Why don't we just propagate some of our own?’” In addition to using the liners themselves, they also became part of Galema’s product line.
“We ship them all over the country through the broker network,” Tim said.
Galema’s has 20 full-time employees, but during the busy season, that number increases to around 35. Besides Tim, the staff includes Bev, who has a degree in accounting and handles the books and all the logistics in the office. “She is the epitome of organization,” he said.
In addition, their son, Alex, who has a degree in mechanical engineering, is the on-site expert in the equipment and the computer system, while their daughter, Molly, attends college in Iowa and helps out when she’s home. Tim’s parents, Chuck and Marilyn, also regularly pitch in.
The growing year starts in January with the liners and prefinished plants, which are shipped out in March. Next are finished spring plants, sold mostly in May. Just before the spring season finishes up, they’ll start rooting garden mums, and then in the late summer and early fall while the mums are still getting shipped, they start the poinsettias.
“So everything has a little bit of an overlap to it as far as the growing cycle of the crop,” Tim said.