Food Service & Agriculture, Human Resources, and Lakeshore

Agricultural company sells and saves 300 jobs

August 24, 2016
| By Pat Evans |
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Three hundred jobs in the region have been saved after an agricultural company facing bankruptcy sold its assets.

Zelenka Farms has been sold to LM Farms, an affiliate of Lawrenceburg, Indiana-based Gardens Alive!, for $15 million in a bankruptcy auction.

Zelenka Farms filed for bankruptcy in June and filed a WARN notice with the state, with the expectation of laying off 300 employees at the company’s farm in Grand Haven on Sept. 9. The farm is the largest in the company’s network.

Zelenka Farms had about $187.7 million in debt, according to a Dow Jones Business News report in June.

The company’s management team will remain intact for the time being, with CEO Eric Ek leading the way. Ek said the company has a bright future. He said the 300 employees in Grand Haven will be retained and more will likely be hired.

Ek is a senior managing director with CDG Group, a financial advisory firm in Los Angeles, and has served as Zelenka CEO since 2015.

“The outlook is very positive,” Ek said.

The company has more than 1,500 employees at six farms in Oregon, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Michigan and North Carolina.

Texas-based Zelenka is a grower and distributor of shrubs, trees, perennials and roses. The company’s clients have largely consisted of big-box retailers.

Zelenka said its annual sales exceed $130 million, and its customers include Lowe’s, The Home Depot and Meijer.

After the sale, the company will re-focus on independent garden centers.

“Independent garden centers provide a great service to their local communities,” LM Farms Chairman Niles Kinerk said. “I feel that a well-run independent garden center is a wonderful cultural resource, which makes its surrounding community a better place in which to live.”

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