Heeseung Lee and Jong Inn Jun, wife-and-husband owners of ePlantWorld in Half Moon Bay, operate their farm among the greenhouses along Route 92. This Korean immigrant family has transplanted decades of family knowledge growing orchids, and now have 14 years’ experience operating a family farm in California, having started with ½ acre of greenhouse space.
The farm operated for more than a decade relying on credit cards to finance operations, as they were unable to find lenders to finance their growing business. When opportunities for growth became clear, Heeseung and Jong began to look for business loans. When they were looking into additional acreage, another farmer pulled up on a tractor and suggested that FarmLink may be a solution for them. Ultimately they found success working with FarmLink; receiving a $150,000 equipment loan and a $50,000 operating loan to grow organic herbs and vegetables alongside the orchid business. The family now has two acres in greenhouses and an additional four acres outdoors.
In a recent interview, Jong described the high demand for their products,starting with herbs in 2016 and adding cucumbers last year.This spring chervil was the leading seller–with a specialty Japanese cucumber quickly becoming a mainstay. With the loan from FarmLink, they’re expanding acreage and greenhouse space, and building greenhouse benches and other infrastructure. Jong explained that they employed five, then six people last year, and this year there are ten people on the payroll. “We need more people, it’s very busy,” reports Jong.
Five-star reviews dominate on the Yelp profile for Orchidholic, a retailer at the San Francisco Flower Market. Customers value the store’s robust orchids with unique colors and patterns, and it’s thanks in large part to Jong and Heeseung. They import the orchids in various stages of growth from a company in Korea the family has worked with for generations, managing the required import fees and paperwork. Together with his elderly father, a lifelong farmer who emigrated a decade ago, and brother, the three have nearly 100 years of collective farming experience.
“I’ve greatly enjoyed working with ePlantWorld”, says Catherine Van Dyke, Lending Associate at California FarmLink, “it’s exciting to see their expansion and continued success after being blocked from traditional financing sources for so long.”
Jong explained that buyers value his produce as an alternative to imported produce which had often been his buyers’ only option. Now they’re sourcing organic produce grown 20 miles away. “We deliver every day, that’s why they like us,” Jong laughed. We’re looking forward to helping ePlantWorld to grow and expand their legacy and impact.