Frank Singer, Hem Zaden B.V.
Hem, The Netherlands
Hem Zaden, now 100 years old, is working its way into the future!
Started in 1918 by Jan Singer, son of a nursery owner and market gardener, and grandfather of the present directors and owners of the company, the seed company has seen many changes over the years.
At its start, production was close to home, and mainly vegetables for the European market. World War II had a devastating impact on the family and the business, as the Singers were put out of their home and the property was confiscated by the Germans. After the war, the company rebuilt itself, expanding its market and its focus. It was then that Hem Zaden first began production of flower and herb seeds, which is now its main focus.
Over 3000 different annual, biennial and perennial flower and herb seed varieties are produced in many different countries on both hemispheres, making Hem Zaden the world's largest producer of open-pollinated flower seeds.
Frank Singer, third-generation director of the company along with his older brother John, has been at the helm for 35 years. One of his two sons has taken on the role of director of production; the other works in the warehouses. His brother’s daughter is the office manager. It’s clear that this business will be staying in the family for the foreseeable future.
Seed companies closed, and others consolidated. Hem Zaden took over the open pollinated flower seed varieties and sales activities of former competitors, expanding its seed offerings to the home garden market. About 20 years ago Hem Genetics, a sister company of Hem Zaden, was founded. This new company used the thousands of varieties of flowers offered by Hem Zaden as a genetic resource for developing and marketing bedding plants aimed at the professional growers’ market.
Frank and his wife Jenneke live in Hem, a small village in the northwest Netherlands, in a house that his grandfather built. Adventurous to the extreme, he has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with his daughter, hiked in Kenya, spent time in rural China. “I remember eating a pear in Communist China with an old farmer,” he reminisces. “For him this pear was a treasure; it was minus 4º F and he hardly had anything left but together we ate pears in his small hut.” While at home Frank enjoys bicycling, running, skating on ice and on the road.
“I love the trade, and working from morning until evening with clients around the globe. I also love traveling and absorbing the good things life gives us,” says Frank. Hem Zaden’s primary aim is to maintain its reputation as a reliable and sustainable seed supplier. It is important, Frank explains, that the home gardener who buys a packet of seeds can have absolute trust that it will grow and bloom. At the same time, the company keeps an eye on the market trends so that when opportunities arise, it can provide what is needed in a changing world.
“Walking through a meadow full of wildflowers, bees, butterflies and other insects makes you realize how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful environment,” Frank muses. “This feeling is something we must pass on to future generations. We must remind them that there is more in the world than city life full of concrete and food suppliers.”