‘This is my livelihood,’ greenhouses, landscaping businesses need to open

Tom Bismack owner of Sunrise Greenhouse.

Tom Bismack is worried and for good reason.
The owner of Sunrise Greenhouse, 6482 Perry Road near the Atlas and Grand Blanc Township line has more than $1 million worth of inventory they planted, grew and now have ready for sale.
“This is my livelihood,” said Bismack, who has owned the 70,000 square foot greenhouse for eight years. “This is a unique business where we do 70-80 percent of our business in the month of May. We missed Easter and now Mother’s Day (May 10) is creeping up on us.”
Business owners like Bismack are reeling since the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order imposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer went into effect earlier this month to halt the spread of the coronavirus statewide includes the closure of greenhouses and u-pick farms.
State Representative Mike Mueller, R-51st District which includes Atlas and Groveland townships recently joined Rep. Greg VanWoerkom, of Norton Shores, urging the governor to reevaluate the allowances for greenhouses in Michigan. The legislators said allowing greenhouses to sell to individual residents and farming operations is in the best interests of the state. On Wednesday the lawmakers asked Whitmer to provide clarification for her executive orders related to greenhouses and u-pick farming operations. Mueller, vice-chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and VanWoerkom, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development, wrote that the experience of going to these types of farms is safe and should be allowed.
“Greenhouses should absolutely be allowed to participate in online and call-in sales,” Mueller said. “We have every reason to feel confident our greenhouse industry would perform this task safely and with care.”
Bismack said his business will follow all guidelines including occupancy and distancing to get his business up and running.
“We’ll do what ever it takes to get up and running,” he said. “We support the public safety and we can make sure our customers are safe. The first month or two during the season is our prime time. Right now we are getting multiple calls daily for vegetable plants. People really want to grow their own healthy food.”
Both representatives said they have heard from many businesses in their districts like Sunrise Greenhouse, several of them family-owned and passed down through generations, who are terrified they will not overcome the COVID-19 shutdown.
“As lawmakers, we must stand up for our hard-working families and fight to provide common-sense solutions for them,” Mueller said. “We cannot let this virus win. As we continue to socially distance ourselves and take other precautions to stop the spread of this virus, it is my hope the governor will also fight to protect these vital operations. That’s why we are urging her to consider a common-sense solution, allowing these operations to continue while adhering to social distancing.”
Other exceptions to the order some lawmakers and industry groups are seeking – including access to golf courses, landscaping and gardening services and home renovations – Whitmer said the economy will keep suffering for longer if these measures are not taken.
“Every single exception to the Stay Home, Stay Safe order makes this more porous and less likely to work,” said Whitmer on April 9 during a press conference.
Brandon Township based Elowsky Lawn Services has been in business for more than 15 years. The more than 25 employees and lawn equipment are idle now due to the order said Stephanie Elowsky, who along with husband Ryan own the local business.
“Right now, in late March and early April we need to start some of our landscaping business,” said Stephanie. “The landscaping business along with the lawn mowing are by nature a social distance job. They ride lawnmowers and run trimmers all day. Now we can’t even open our doors, there are bills to pay and we have worked hard to build our business. I hope lawmakers realize we can mitigate the exposure to the coronavirus.”

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