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Robin Johnson, at left, spent spring keeping the thousands of sprouting plants and flower baskets in tip-top shape. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Hafner's: More than 1 million plants

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The spectacular flower boxes and barrels that adorn Park Rapids' downtown and surrounding businesses are the handiwork of a three-generation family business.

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Hafner's Greenhouse, on 170th Street outside Park Rapids, opened for the season April 20 after weeks of planting flats of pansies, petunias and impatiens. The business included a newly-built retail center.

Currently run by brothers Mike and Tom Hafner and Mike's son Darin, the trio anticipated a good season.

"We've ordered extra vegetable plants and will be selling more tomatoes, peppers and cukes," Darin said in April. The veggies are for customers to purchase, sans vine and dirt.

Last summer the greenhouse experimented selling its own produce. It was a hit.

Mike said they ordered more garden supplies.

"We've heard there will be more people gardening, staying home," he said. "With more people staying home, I think they'll putz in their gardens. We think there will be a lot of people spending money on gardening."

Mike said economic necessity is fueling the demand for more vegetable plants. Customers will grow and preserve their own food, he maintains.

But plants are also a cheap way to beautify your surroundings, he said, when homeowners may not be able to afford more expensive remodeling. "A little bit of color around the home" does a lot for the overall ambiance and enjoyment of your surroundings, he says.

Overall, Hafner's is shifting from a mainly wholesale operation to a more diversified business.

The greenhouse was emptied of most of its flats by opening day, with the stock going to Kmart stores in North and South Dakota.

"We're trying to move away from the wholesale aspect, but we'll still do fundraisers," Mike said. "We have quite a few and they're a big part of our business."

The greenhouse raises plants and flowers for non-profit groups, which sell them to make money for their organizations. It also does a lot of custom planting for businesses and homeowners.

Robin Johnson spent her spring watering large planters lined up on wooden tables. On warm sunny days the greenhouses will use 10,000 gallons of water.

The family-owned business was started in 1947 by Tom and Mike's father on South Highway 71. It's been through one move and a consolidation with a second greenhouse located where L&M Fleet Store's new parking lot is today.

The second generation divided up the business. Sister Beth Pederson took the retail store and flower shop on the original location; the brothers took over the wholesale arm.

The business closes after Christmas. One greenhouse remains heated and the seeding operation starts in late January. It gradually spreads to 17 greenhouses over five acres.

This season Hafners will sell 75,000 hanging baskets, 8,000 12-inch geraniums 75,000 assorted 4-inch annuals and 1,366,450 plugs planted into 6 packs.

It was prepared to add up to 2.5 million plants and plugs as need arose.

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