Photo courtesy of Anthony van Hoven

Anthony van Hoven, president of Rapidan, Virginia grower Battlefield Farms, has been working in his family’s business for practically his entire life. As a child, he helped out in the greenhouse before attending Liberty University and returning to help run Battlefield alongside his father, Jerry.

Below, van Hoven explains why it’s important for Battlefield to be energy efficient, how he works to develop a healthy work culture and what he looks for at industry events.

Greenhouse Management: In December, [Battlefield Farms] obtained MPS-GAP certification. For a business of your size, why is getting that certification valuable? 

Anthony van Hoven: In 2010, we started with the MPS-ABC certification and worked our way up to the A+ ranking, which we have now. But we wanted to pursue it because it really helps you focus on the complete management of the things you do spend a lot of money on — the chemicals, the fertilizers, energy ... It’s a little bit of a different focus, but it’s the same principals. It helps me, with the team here, keep everyone focused on improving.

GM: Battlefield prides itself on having a strong organizational culture. What are the characteristics of that culture and how is it cultivated?

AvH: A hard-working, optimistic culture is what we want. Something that is very important to me is the general happiness of the employees and their attitude. With the right attitude, you can learn and do anything. And if you have that attitude and that kind of motivation inside, then the sky’s the limit for what you can attain and we try to cultivate that kind of attitude here. It’s not glass half-empty — it’s glass half-full and finding ways to improve what you’re doing. What I like to try and do is empower the managers, the supervisors, the line coordinators. They are doing something all day, every day and I’m not. If you have an idea of how you can make things better, I want to hear it. 

GM: When you go to an event like Cultivate, what are you looking to learn?

AvH: At an event like Cultivate, it’s not so much about what I’m trying to learn as far as new plants and new machinery or new chemicals or fertilizers. I stay very current with [that], so it’s not like I’m expecting to see something I haven’t seen. But at the same time, it’s a great chance, with the entire industry there, to talk to people face-to-face, go over any potential issues that there may be with certain suppliers. We’re planning for the next year, so it gives you a chance to talk to the people you work with instead of doing it on the phone or over email. You get a better feel for how the companies you work with are doing and what their challenges might be and how you can help.