OBERLIN, Ohio - "When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one and a lily with the other." -- Chinese Proverb.
They are words from ancient times, but they still ring true. Lilies are will be widespread throughout the Christian world, because the flower is a symbol of Easter. At Green Circle Growers, near Oberlin, Ohio, one of the largest greenhouse operations in the Midwest, there is a rush to get 320,000 out the door and onto the shelves of stores throughout northeast Ohio and beyond.
Workers are moving the flowers along conveyor belts. The lilies have not yet bloomed.
"That's on purpose," said Colleen Welch, who specializes in product market and merchandising for Green Circle Growers. "We want to make sure when they get to stores that they bloom there so you can have more buds at house to bloom," she added.
Green Circle employs 400 workers whose jobs it is to grow lilies, orchids, roses, ferns and many other plants for distribution. The company's 100 acres of greenhouses is equivalent to 100 football fields. Each greenhouse is maintained at a specific temperature and humidity to help its plants grow well.
A February fire at the facility damaged several greenhouses, but the bulk of the operation was untouched.
The operation is so large, workers are often seen bicycling from one area of a greenhouse to another. When someone coined that age-old saying, "You've got to stop and smell the roses," had Green Circle been around in those days, the author could have pointed to it. Roses grow almost as far as the eye can see. "I just got done growing 6-inch roses for the customer," smiled Jeff Belmont, who was up to his chest in rows of roses. "I do it every day," he added before bicycling off to another field of flowers.
Though Winter's winds still rip across northeast Ohio, at the Lorain County set of greenhouses, it is always spring and summer with a floral fragrance with every step you might take.