Ohlman Farm sows seeds of successWritten by Brandi Barhite | Associate Editor | email@example.com
Ohlman Farm & Greenhouse is a fifth-generation family business that prides itself on growing with the industry.
Ohlman Farm began in 1882, when Joe Ohlman purchased an 80-acre plot on Hill Avenue.
In the beginning, it was mostly vegetable farming and truck gardening, eventually evolving into a full-scale greenhouse production.
“Our ancestors were involved in truck gardening and vegetable production,” said Larry Ohlman Jr., president and owner. “When the bedding industry was born in the 1950s, my father began to experiment.”
Today, Ohlman Farm & Greenhouse is involved in year-round production of quality plant material, such as annual bedding plants, hardy mums, poinsettias and orchids.
“We start sowing seed in the greenhouse in November, and it takes all winter to produce the seedlings and then we transport them,” Larry said.
Ohlman Farm is also a major supplier of annual bedding plants to stores throughout Ohio, serving retail garden centers in Ohio and Southeast Michigan. During peak season, 60 people work at Ohlman Farm, up from the 10 to 15 who worked when the family business started more than 100 years ago.
In the 1980s, Ohlman Farm/Gedert’s Greenhouse approached North Carolina-based Lowe’s about opening garden centers, and eventually supplied those garden centers. The families even leased a greenhouse facility in Athens, Ala., to reach southern markets. These days, Ohlman Farm supplies 92 Lowe’s stores in Ohio and Michigan with the help of two local family businesses, Gedert’s Greenhouse and Schmidt Bros.
“That is pretty cool that we have two more family businesses we partner with. We are all separate entities, but we approach the Lowe’s account as one,” Larry said
“ … We strengthen each other and we can really get some synergy by working together. This past year, we brought the Schmidt family into the fold. We also have a corporate management team that manages all three of our companies to unite us even closer — to make us more like one.”
The secret to making it from one generation to the next is keeping it simple.
“I think basically hard work and always doing a really good job on providing quality products and services to customers,” Larry said.
He was never worried about his successor because his son, LJ Ohlman, has been involved in the company since he was a young boy. His son handles marketing and sales.
“You can’t let something that has been going on for four generations go by the wayside,” LJ said. “It is something that you have to carry on the legacy.”
The 29-year-old said a new line of potted herb plant, an Ohlman signature line, will be unveiled in 2009. The plants are naturally grown with no chemicals and can be put on the windowsill. Whenever you need a little basil for cooking, you can pick it off, he said.
“The horticultural industry needs more business thinkers instead of plant growers,” LJ said, who is an MBA student at UT. “You have to have a business-minded approach to marketing and getting customers and dealing with stores. You have to be able to create an affordable product on time and that customers like. If you just grow plants, you won’t be successful.”
During harder economic times, customers cut back on premium-type items like huge planters and really large baskets, according to Larry, but they are buying more of the basics like flats and packs. Ohlman Farm & Greenhouse opens its retail center on Hill Road in the spring and summer.
“Gardening is a hobby, and when people aren’t traveling as much, they seem to spend more time beautifying their yard,” he said.