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From oakleaf and butterhead to Lolla Rossa and Romaine lettuce. There are enough lettuce varieties to choose from at the Belgian horticultural company, Maes Wilfried. “We founded the company in the early 80s. And we’ve been growing all kinds of lettuce since then,” says Myriam Maes. She began the business with her husband, Wilfried.

“Over the years, our range has expanded considerably. We now cultivate about ten different varieties to client order.” The company used to be affiliated with the auction. But in 2000, Wilfried and Myriam decided to go their own way. They’ve been independent ever since.

“Unfortunately, we had a bad year because of COVID-19. Most of our production goes to a Dutch wholesaler who supplies cruise ships. But because of the pandemic, those couldn’t sail. However, we’d already ordered the plants. That left us with many products with no destination. We also supply wholesalers who, in turn, supply retailers and the hospitality industry. So, this year, we’re going to add cauliflower and savoy cabbage. That’s to stay busy and fill last year’s gap,” says Myriam.

Wilfried Maes

Myriam and Wilfried not only farm in full soil and a greenhouse. They also use modern hydroponics methods. These include a gutter and floatation system. “In 2009, we started outdoors with a gutter system trial set-up. We began with this early on. But we weren’t the first farm with a modern cultivation system.”

“We added the floating system later. This system not only prevents excess soil in the product. It also keeps out many soil diseases. When we switched to this system, fusarium wasn’t such a big problem yet. Not in lettuce cultivation. Nowadays, it is. But thanks to our different cultivation methods, we can respond to it well,” explains Myriam.

Photo: Codema

“The farming method doesn’t affect the product’s quality much. The lettuce we cultivate on the floating system grows faster. But there’s little difference in flavor compared to those cultivated outdoors. The main difference is that the weather, like rain, can affect open field lettuce. The lettuce grown in the greenhouse is protected from that.”

These growers don’t have any big plans for the future yet. “The most important thing is that we can quickly go back to the ‘old normal’. We need to start moving nice volumes again. We’re not getting any younger either,” Myriam concludes.
Photo: Codema

For more information:
Myriam Maes
Maes Wilfried
15 Heir Street
B-2801 Heffen, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0) 475 617 317
Email: info@maeswilfried.be
Website: www.maeswilfried.be