Rooted in Westland

Source: Groot Westland – Geworteld in Westland

Last week we were in the newspaper with a nice article about the origins of the Westland Plant Nursery.

1946 – Gardeners were happy to outsource cultivation
Arie van der Arend (1906 – 1988) gardened on the Papelaan in Monster. He took over his father’s garden in 1932 and grew all kinds of seasonal vegetables in grape greenhouses. Arie grew the plants for his own company. Around 1946 he was asked if he wanted to grow plants for other gardeners. Arie’s company was called ‘Plantenkwekerij Arie van der Arend’.

Press pots were needed to sow the plants. These were made on the company. The soil was delivered by barge and brought to the company in wheelbarrows. There the soil was mixed with water, after which they were made into press pots with a hand potting press.

It was Arie who determined which varieties were sown based on an estimate of demand. This was what the gardeners could buy from him. Supply and demand have not yet been coordinated by anyone. Customers come to see what was available and then buy their plants, which are transported in wooden vegetable boxes. In the early years, these were collected by the customer themselves.

The garden consisted of separate greenhouses with ‘dredging paths’ between them. The Papelaan itself was only a pass over which horse and carts drove. No one had a car anymore; that was a luxury item first purchased by the doctor.

Gradually, Plantenkwekerij Arie van der Arend itself provided more service and delivered the plants to their customers by truck. Arie had nine children with Wilhelmina (Mien) Witkamp (1910 – 1988): six sons and three daughters. Five children started their own business; Geert (1935 – 2016) started in 1956 at the Lange Broekweg in Naaldwijk, Koos (1939) in 1961 at the Grote Achterweg in Naaldwijk. These sons gave the name WPK to the company: Westlandse Plantenkwekerij. Nic (1945) started in 1967 and Wim (1951) in 1971 in Duffel, Belgium. Koos van Leeuwen (1944), married to Ria van der Arend (1948), took over Ria’s parents’ company on Papelaan in Monster in 1971. Geert and Koos, together with a local Limburg entrepreneur, started a number of WPK companies in Arcen in 1974 and in Grubbenvorst in 1978. All companies bore the name WPK. They also all grew vegetable plants. Both plants for the greenhouse, such as tomato, pepper, cucumber and gherkin plants, and plants for outdoor cultivation, such as lettuce and cabbage plants.

Customers started to specialize more and more. the production line that was responsible for the cultivation was taken off their hands by WPK, which allowed them to grow more efficiently. Gardeners were happy to outsource this.

There were also developments in the cultivation itself. The plants were sown on seedbeds in the roof of a greenhouse. As soon as they grew, they had to be pricked out into soil pots. The mechanical pot press was one of the first innovations in horticulture. Pressing the pots no longer had to be done manually, but was done with a machine. The pots were placed on the greenhouse floor with a ‘scooping fork’. As soon as they were established, they were driven around on a flat cart to a breeding greenhouse. That place car was later replaced by an electric car, which made the work a lot easier.

Curious about the complete history, present and future vision of WPK? This is described in detail in the book ‘Grooted in Westland’, which will be published in the autumn of 2016.

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