Our Greenhouses are Tools
Lucas Greenhouses has been a long-time customer of Prospiant. This family-owned and operated company was founded by George and Louise Lucas—not that George Lucas—in 1978. George’s story began when he was just 14 years old, growing flowers on a local hobby farm owned by two college professors. Having grown up on a small farm where this type of work came natural to him, by the time he was 17 George was managing every aspect of the business except writing the payroll and vendor checks. His employers encouraged him to go to college and he studied ornamental horticulture for one year. Soon he discovered that his heart was somewhere else and returned to work on the farm full time at the age of 20. Louise’s story also began at a young age, being raised on the family farm as the eldest of five. Life starts early and work begins young on the farm and at the age of 8, responsibilities including driving large farm equipment, cultivating, planting, harvesting, sorting, packaging, and even selling produce began for her. She was very involved in state agricultural programs throughout her teen years. Louise received her 2-year degree before she and George started the business.
It’s a Family Business
George and Louise attribute Lucas Greenhouses’ success to its people, many of whom have worked there for decades. It has been a family affair from the beginning, working alongside each other; George’s brother, Bill; head grower, Joe; sister-in-law, Becky, young plant manager, Lori; and many crew leaders who manage all the labor teams, like Julian. Bill and Joe have been there since the very first days, joining when they were just 10 and 11 years old, respectively; working in the afternoons. Joe is now the head grower and an indispensable asset to the operation. Bill tragically passed away at the very young age of 36.
All three of their children have been at the business since they were born, playing alongside, and helping their parents. They have worked each position and task at the greenhouse to better understand and appreciate all aspects of the company. George and Louise never want to hire anyone to do a job that they and their children have never done. All three received a bachelor’s degree in education (Lacey), biology (Corey), and business administration (Nate). Lacey currently works in the accounting department handling payroll, banking, some vendor account management, and company credit cards. Corey is the head of HR and internal data processing, handles AP with Louise, and is the company photographer. Nate oversees all operations, manages construction projects, facilitates a few large customer accounts, handles supply purchasing and inventory, and works to improve company efficiency.
Every member of the team at Lucas Greenhouses is part of the family and many wear multiple hats, completing whatever task is necessary for company success.
Louise and George met when they were around 12 years old while participating in 4-H club. Ten years later, George and Louise were set to marry and thinking about what they wanted for their future. They knew they wanted their own farming business and purchased four acres of land from Louise’s parents. They both agreed Louise would work on their farm, which contained a 9,000 square foot greenhouse, while George continued at his day job and joined her at the young business in the afternoons. Lucas Greenhouse officially opened in 1979 and one year later, George made the leap and headed to the farm full time. “The first year, we just about starved to death,” chuckles George. To begin with, they only grew foliage plants, no flowering plants, or poinsettias. They needed to increase sales. Taking a page out of the Tupperware sales model, they held plant parties in the evenings. To make those sales, George and Louise would load up their pickup truck, go to a gathering, and explain what each plant was and how to take care of it. It worked!
Every year after they opened, they were able to increase their greenhouse space through government loans designed for young farmers just getting started. They mainly built poly covered greenhouses that were very economical and are still standing today. In 1990, however, they built their first Prospiant greenhouse―a Grand Teton―with four bays. It was the first greenhouse with concrete floors. It was around this time that the Lucases felt it would be a good plan of action to get into propagation and focus on the technology side of growing. They started with a hanging basket system but only had double poly greenhouses with unit heaters, not the boilers that they needed. By 1994, they were able to build their first 55,000 square foot glass greenhouse from one of Prospiant’s competitors with the added boilers, which meant no more double poly greenhouses!
In 1998 Lucas Greenhouses added another 55,000 square feet to their growing space. While looking for other structural options, they found Prospiant greenhouses to be the most respected amongst the growing and farming communities. Running a greenhouse is a high maintenance job, especially when you need to replace poly every few years. George considers all his greenhouses to be tools, regardless of what needs to be grown. He and Joe Moore (head grower) want to know they have the best tools possible to grow the best plants.
The Lucases added an additional 110,000 square feet of Prospiant’s Clear Sky greenhouses to their land in 2002 and 2004. They wanted as much air as possible inside the glass greenhouse to help harden off the plants.
They eventually purchased another 40 acres across the street, which is now the location called “the Farm”. There were three greenhouses on the property with some added poly greenhouses, but they were soon ready to make the transition to glass greenhouses again. Needing additional space and wanting to prepare for future expansion, George approached his neighbor, who owned a horse farm adjacent to their property about the possibilities of selling her land to him. Initially, she did not want to sell but changed her mind.
Work on the farm location came to a halt in 2007 while they built their first Prospiant Dual Atrium greenhouse on the newly purchased property. The following year, they added another 130,000 square foot Dual Atrium. In 2009 and 2010, respectively, they added more Prospiant double poly freestanding greenhouses and a Prospiant Vail Utility house to the same property. The latter is an insulated steel-paneled building that serves many uses, including office space, coolers, soil mixing, sticking, seeding, and transplanting.
Prospiant Customer Service
In 2011, they built a Prospiant retractable roof structure but, unfortunately, the retractable feature did not operate correctly. George says because of Prospiant’s stellar customer service and “we’ll make it right,” business philosophy, they were able to retrofit the greenhouse into a 210,000 square foot diffused glass single Atrium greenhouse.
Several years later, they built another ten acres of retractable seasonal greenhouses on the farm and added 60,000 square feet of Prospiant glass dual-purpose shipping and basket grow space at the main facilities. Over the last five years, the Lucases have added 75 ground-to-ground double poly Prospiant Windjammer houses.
Shipping Bay Expansion
As if that was not enough, they then expanded their shipping facilities. It took close to 18 months to build 54 shipping bays, but they were finally completed in 2021—bringing their total square footage to a little over two million! A unique aspect of the shipping bay expansion, and the reason the Lucases went with the Prospiant Dual Atrium greenhouses, is because it allows for an additional 100,000 hanging baskets. Initially they were not going to grow on the floor but are now able to do so since it is a fully functional greenhouse. Considering that they got their start by selling plants out of a truck at plant parties, it is quite the impressive success story. Expansion is not over, however, and they are planning to continue tearing down the old greenhouses to add more office space, mechanical room space, restrooms, and storage space.
Huge Variety of Plants
Lucas Greenhouses grows 1,300 varieties of plants. Half of their business is in propagation and sold through brokers. The finished crop season begins with pansies, followed by Easter bulbs, then a full line of annuals for each the spring, summer, and fall, and poinsettias for the holidays. The majority of their business is sold to independent garden centers within a 400-mile radius. On the propagation side, they distribute nationwide. George claims that he is not really a “plant guy.” “Joe is the plant guy. I just like building things,” he said. The 1,300 varieties of plants may disagree with George! Although she works in the accounting department, Louise has always had a love for plants. Many call her ‘the walking plant encyclopedia.’
The Lucases saw the desire for consumers to grow their own vegetables and herbs at home, so Tim Moore (head of sales) and his team recently introduced a new line called Weezie’s Garden (named for Louise, whose nickname is “Weezie”). Almost everything veggie related at The Lucas Farm is now offered in Weezie’s Garden.
Fun fact…the restored Farmall Cub tractor on the plant tag is the same tractor that Louise grew up with and used to work her family farm!
“I couldn’t have done this without Louise,” George always says about his wife. “She is involved in every major decision and always has my back. I can always count on her support and encouragement as my partner”.
Both are full of gratitude to God every day for His blessings on them and their business. They also can’t thank their employees enough for their commitment to excellence and firmly believe that people are the most important part.
It’s astonishing to think that George and Louise started with a pickup truck, and today have 22 trucks, 7 tractors, and 40 box trailers! What a success story.