Pandemic uproots business for Long Island greenhouse

For Bob Van Bourgondien, president of CJ Van Bourgondien Inc., a wholesale greenhouse on the North Fork of Long Island, sales or lack thereof this time of year can either make or break his third-generation business.

"We're looking at how to cut back hours to keep payroll down if we couldn't sell the product," he said. "I told my kids that we may end up selling the farm after 101 years if things don't pick up."

His greenhouses sit on over three acres of land in Peconic. Inside are close to a million pots that house flowers planted well before the coronavirus pandemic. Van Bourgondien said business should be booming but like so many other industries they too have been uprooted.

But there's a glimmer of hope for growers after landscapers got the go-ahead to plant again late last week. Van Bourgondien hopes to make up for lost time because he said the fall will be here before we know it.

Christmas actually starts in May here or even before. Poinsettias are planted well in advance but there are a lot of uncertainties because of COVID-19. Should they plant as many as they normally would? Part of the problem is that no one knows what it will be like in a few months from now.

At this point, Van Bourgondien said it is a guessing game. As for these next weeks, perhaps people who normally don't plant will give it a try.

"It's a great feeling growing plants for people to put in their yards and to sit back and say 'Wow,'" he said.


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