Thomas Nass, Beekenkamp Plants’ North American product manager, grew up around horticulture. As a child, he says his grandfather would bribe him with a can of soda for helping pick weeds in the greenhouse at Donahue’s Greenhouse in Faribault, Minnesota. As an adult, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from the University of Minnesota, interned at Four Star Greenhouses in Carleton, Michigan, and worked as head grower at Len Busch Roses in Minneapolis before being hired by Beekenkamp in 2016. Now, Nass’ job involves running plant trials, attending different trials and industry events and working with growers to solve problems in their greenhouses.
Below, he answers questions about why he wanted to work for a breeder, what it’s like being Beekenkamp’s only employee in North America and what plants he’s excited to work with in 2018.
Greenhouse Management: You previously worked at Len Busch Roses and interned at Four Star Greenhouse. Why did you make the switch from working at commercial operations to working for a breeder?
Thomas Nass: I felt like I was in a little bit of a bubble. I wanted to get more industry exposure, see and meet more growers, see how they were growing and build up my network. This was the closest I could get to still growing plants without having your ‘babies’ in the greenhouse and caring for them 24/7.
GM: You are the only Beekenkamp employee in North America. What challenges does that present?
TN: I live in Minnesota, which works really well because I am, at most, two time zones away from customers and, at most, a four-hour flight to customers. But it is a seven-hour time difference to the Netherlands. 10 o’clock my time is when the office is closing in the Netherlands, so it is a little bit of a difficulty sometimes. But we all work together to make it work.
GM: What are some of the plants you’re looking forward to working with in 2018?
TN: We’ve had a series of fragrant begonias for a few years now, and we are looking at adding a new orange variety. Adding fragrance into a genus that really isn’t known for being fragrant is something really exciting and I think will draw people in. Most flowers aren’t really fragrant anymore because of breeding and to try and bring that back is something we are really interested in. Also, your Reigar-type begonias are unique in that they have excellent garden performance, strong heat and sun tolerance and we are really trying to increase the number of locations you can use a begonia in.