What is the company’s history?
In 1967, five Tagawa brothers (Ken, George, Dave, Jim, and Albert) started the business as a vegetable farm. From vegetables, the company diversified into cut flowers and carnations, and today we have split into three main production facilities in Brighton and Golden, Colo., and Estancia, N.M., where we produce young plants and finished annual bedding plants. We are a distributor partnered with Ball Horticulture for our young plants division, sending rooted seedlings and vegetative liners for annuals and perennials to garden centers and greenhouses across the country. Our finished plants are sold under the InColor brand to big box stores and grocery store chains around the Rocky Mountain region. We also have a sister retail company, Tagawa Gardens in Centennial.
What changes have occurred in your operations?
Over the past five to 10 years, we noticed end consumers starting to become more environmentally conscious and wanting more information to stay educated and connected to the products they’re buying. This really has aligned with our approach to sustainability and growing methods that are better for the environment, our plants and our workers. For example, we’re using biocontrol practices that eliminate certain more harmful chemicals. And while the neonicotinoid issue became big news a few years ago, we had already begun to reduce our use by then. We’re also giving our customers more information about who we are and what we do with a new website that we launched earlier this year.
Given the booming market, are you planning to expand?
We definitely saw an exciting increase in business last year and are preparing to tap the strong demand with greater growing capacity. However, we’re not looking at expanding our physical facilities to accomplish this. Rather, we’re being strategic about our growth, confining it to our existing footprint. That involves a wide range of tactics, from automation in our production practices to better communication systems and inventory control and tracking technology.
What sets TGE apart from other production growers?
First, we embrace new changes. The older generation of Tagawas passed along to the younger generations not only the importance of a hard day’s work, but also embracing, rather than resisting, change. However, truly the key to our success was our relationships. We treasured great business partners, friends, and mentors throughout the years. They also taught us to reinvest in our industry. From steadily training our growers in the latest practices to our intern program, we strive to keep our industry healthy. Recently, we started to harvest vegetables from our community outreach project: Frank’s Garden (after my great grandfather). The harvest will go to many of our employees and local friends, and some will be donated back to our community.
How do you deal with such a diverse workforce?
I really am proud of our diverse workforce, though one of our biggest challenges is the number of languages that our employees speak. In our Golden greenhouses, for example, we have about nine different spoken languages. If you stay patient, you can generally find ways to communicate. We use some pictures to explain how to do the job, and one of our managers has even developed a makeshift sign language for some of his workers. It’s about being creative and understanding others, and even in a digital age of technology, a smile and handshake still goes a long way.