Kiyota Greenhouse near Platteville marks its 50th year in business
In 1959, Kiyota Greenhouses Inc. opened with one greenhouse, about 50 feet wide and 100 feet long.
The business was started by Johnny and Daisy Kiyota and Henry and Mayrene Kiyota. Now, 50 years later, the fourth generation of the family continues to help operate the business. One greenhouse has grown to 15 to 20 greenhouses about four miles southwest of Platteville, where Johnny and Daisy have made their home for more than 60 years.
They celebrated their 63rd anniversary in February, then Johnny passed away in June.
When Johnny and Daisy were married in the Fort Lupton Methodist Church, they were farming the land where the greenhouses now sit. Daisy proudly points out they have been members of the Platteville Methodist Church for some 60 years.
“We had 75 acres of potatoes and 75 acres of sweet corn. We had a family from Texas who came up every year to help, but when their children got older, they quit coming,” Daisy said as she sat at a table just off the kitchen of their comfortable home.
So that’s when Johnny and his brother, Henry, along with their wives, decided to start the greenhouse business.
Greenhouses have been a staple of Weld County agriculture for years and most recent estimates are that there is at least 1 million acre feet or more under glass or plastic in the county.
Part of the land that produced the potatoes and sweet corn is now pasture that is leased to a neighbor, Daisy said.
Daisy said her brother-in-law is a carpenter and when the greenhouse first opened, he made boxes of wood that could hold 12 bedding plants of either flowers or the vegetables they grew.
“All that is plastic now, for the past several years,” she said. At first, everything was hand-planted in the boxes, but even that has advanced to machinery, she added.
Bedding plants and vegetables have been a mainstay of Kiyota Greenhouses. At the start, and for many years, the family would get their seeds from Rocky Mountain Seed Co., but even that has changed as now seeds come from several different sources.
Some seeds, such as those for petunias, weigh only 1/64th of an ounce, and for some specialty varieties, can cost upward of $70,000 a pound, Daisy said.
Kiyota Greenhouses has both a wholesale and retail market business, providing several nurseries, landscape companies and flower shops with product, in addition to customers who come to the greenhouses to get their hanging and bedding plants, as well as vegetables.
“For several years, we had five women who would come from Kansas, all in individual cars. They’d bring their lunch and spend the day picking out vegetables for their gardens. They fill their cars or station wagons and then go back to Kansas in the afternoon,” Daisy said.
Daisy said she doesn’t stick her nose in the greenhouses much anymore, leaving the business operations to the Kiyota children – Dale, Roger and Susan Zeiler. Dale, she said, has a degree in horticulture from Colorado State University, while Roger has a business degree from the Fort Collins university.
They start planting early in January and the retail business gets hectic at times from April through July. Neighbors work in the greenhouses during the spring and summer months, some of whom have been with the business for 40 years, Daisy said. The operation is open to tours for school children and garden clubs, and wholesale product is shipped from Cheyenne to Denver and into Estes Park.
“It’s been a long time,” Daisy said, looking back over the past 50 years.