A Sea of Glass in the Carolina Piedmont
Imagine driving through the rolling hills of the Piedmont Plateau of North Carolina, and suddenly coming upon what appears to be a giant lake, reflecting the bright morning sun. Instantly you realize that it is no lake, but a sea of glass as far as the eye can see.
What you have happened upon is the largest single site greenhouse in the world, and the word, large, doesn’t do it justice. The greenhouse is the size of 120 football fields at over 6.1 million square feet of climate controlled space. It is the creation of the VanWingerdam family from The Netherlands who began in 1972 with one small greenhouse near Huntersville, North Carolina. Today, Metrolina Greenhouses, a family company, sells 70 million plants a year to over 1000 retail outlets in the eastern U.S.
The mammoth complex uses no public water source, but depends upon a remarkable rain collection system that adds 3 million gallons of water to 25 acres of retention ponds from each inch of rain that falls. The greenhouse uses up to one milliom gallons of water a day to support the production of all those plants. Every week, seven tractor trailer loads of sustainably harvested Canadian Sphagnum moss arrives at the facility, and during the peak season from March to June, 150 tractor trailers a day leave the greenhouse loaded with plants destined for your home or office. Up to 650 people work full time to make all this happen.
Check out this six minute video to get an up close look at this mind-boggling operation along the Mecklenburg-Cabbarus County line in rural Huntersville, North Carolina. And to think that it all began with $5,000 and a dream.