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Grading and Packaging at Hecklinger's, 1920s
Hirzel Greenhouse, 1920s Photo courtesy Norman L. Moll, Extension Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources, State of Ohio

Northwest Ohio Under Glass: The History of the Bedding Plant Industry

Northwest Ohio's "greenhouse" roots can be traced to European immigrants who settled in the area during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many of them became vegetable farmers, who developed greenhouses-then called hot houses-to lengthen Ohio's growing season. Because one of the largest rail hubs in the Eastern United States was in Toledo, the area was ideally located to efficiently transport crops to Boston, Atlanta, New York and Chicago. Until the 1960s, the major crops were tomatoes and lettuce. When competition from California and Mexico, which could offer these same vegetables for a cheaper price, Northwest Ohioan greenhouse farmers turned to bedded and potted flowers as their main crop.

The greenhouse industry is a highly complex business, relying on specialized structures and subject to the seasonal demands of the marketplace. Exceptional management skills are required to plant, seed, grow, and market more than 250 types of flower and vegetable plants. As researchers continue to experiment and to test new methods that produce stronger greenhouse crops, farmers share their knowledge about growing and marketing.

By 1999, about 80 greenhouse firms in the Toledo area produced and exported flats of petunia, marigold, impatiens, New Guinea impatiens, pansy, and begonia. Most of these businesses are family owned, some for several generations. The vast majority of Toledo area greenhouse crops are grown for domestic export to Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Other floral greenhouses produce high quality potted flowers and many smaller greenhouses sell directly to the local residents, either through their own farm market or the Toledo Farmers Market.

Documentation includes a five-page report, newspaper and magazine articles, and photos.

Originally submitted by: Marcy Kaptur, Representative (9th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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