It all began in 1953, when Ernst and Zehava Danziger started a small nursery, located about 15 miles from Tel Aviv and 40 minutes from Jerusalem, growing and selling cut flowers. Today, the company operates nearly 20 acres of state-of-the-art greenhouses and provides young plants and cuttings for more than 60 countries around the world. In addition, it manages hundreds of licenses, licensing cutting producers and rooting stations worldwide.
One step ahead
Although the company was founded in 1953, its roots go back to 1936, when Ernst Danziger - then a small boy - visited his sister in Prague and went to see the tombstone of the Maharal of Prague, who was said to make wishes come true. He put a note on it with a humble request, hoping it would come true one day.
Back in Israel in 1953, Ernst and his wife started a farm on 3 acres of land, growing strawberries (because they both liked them) and corn (because he knew how to grow it). "I decided to base my farming program on three principles," Ernst Danziger says, looking back at the early days. "First: beginner's luck, which today is called Innovation. Second: the dumbest farmer has the largest potatoes. Third: don't work for the banks."
He saw corn sprout much earlier than expected and decided to plant his crop considerably earlier than the seed companies recommended. His experiment succeeded, resulting in the earliest crop on the market and much higher profit margins than those of later crops. His business motto was born, which the company still upholds today: One step ahead.
After a few years, the company started to branch out into cut flowers, starting with Gladiolus from Holland. After a few years, finding new gladiolus plots to minimize disease problems became increasingly harder so Danziger switched to Chrysanthemums, in part following advice from Dr. Maggie from Florida. The company started building greenhouses for the crop. "The contractor couldn't understand why we would install a heating system in our greenhouses even before we had heating in the house we lived in," Ernst Danziger recalls.
In the 1970s, son Micha Danziger studied agriculture and came across research that solved the problem of Gypsophila not blooming in winter. The Ministry of Agriculture's gypsophila field was neglected that time of the year, and the officials allowed Micha and Ernst to scour the field - which mainly consisted of 6 feet high thistles - for shoots of Gypsophila, they collected, some of which were partly dry. From the countless shoots they yielded about 100 plants, which - to everybody's amazement - flowered after two months. From those they selected the single very best plant, which can be considered the mother of Israel's modern day gypsophila production. Growers from Holland and Germany, who'd been grafting gypsophila plants up until then, were astounded by the success of Danziger's new technique. Today, Danziger's gypsophila accounts for 70 percent of the world market. Its innovative introduction of the Million Stars variety a few years ago revolutionized the cut flower market.
Ernst Danziger's 50-year-old motto of "one step ahead" remains as true as ever. From the small, husband-and-wife farm team, Danziger "Dan" Flower Farm has evolved into a world-renowned company with 200 employees, producing and selling more than 100 million vegetatively propagated cuttings a year of more than 300 varieties. Danziger's marketing experts travel constantly to study the demands of the world markets. In addition, 16 agents represent Danziger's interests around the globe. Danziger employs 30 people in research and development, including agronomists and geneticists. Its state-of-the-art tissue culture lab produces virus-indexed material, both for its own stock production as well as for export. The lab uses the most current technology, including genetic engineering, and performs research in cooperation with Hebrew University.
"Service without compromise" is another motto that the Danziger family has adopted. Its staff certainly goes the extra mile to accommodate customers' wishes and to cater to the different market demands of the many countries Danziger does business with. Consequently, growers have many options when it comes to ordering product from Danziger. If preferred, they can order unrooted cuttings directly from Danziger, which can be ordered online at www.danziger.co.il. Orders are typically confirmed within 24 hours. Unrooted cuttings can also be ordered from other licensed producers offshore, and North America. "We want to make it easy for growers to do business with us," explains Chanochi Zaks, marketing manager for Danziger.
Danziger breeding efforts are behind some of the most popular plants on the market today, although growers aren't always aware of it. Here are a few highlights of Danziger genetics:
- Harmony® New Guinea Impatiens: This series has gained considerable market share and is believed to be one of the leading series in the New Guinea Impatiens market today.
- Cascadia Petunias: Originally mainly offered through the Flower Fields program, this series is now available from several propagators in North America. Together with the remaining petunia varieties offered, Danziger is considered number 2 in the petunia market worldwide.
- Torenia: With 12 varieties in the Moon series, Danziger is considered number 1 in the Torenia market.
- Gypsophila: The introduction of Danziger's Million Stars® variety a few years ago revolutionized the somewhat traditional Gypsophila market and rose to a worldwide market share of 70% relatively quickly.
Dreams do come true
So what did young Ernst Danziger write on that note in 1936, when he visited the tombstone of the Maharal of Prague? "May I be successful in everything I do." His company's success proves that hard work combined with a keen business sense can make wishes come true.
About the author: Kerstin P. Ouellet is president of Pen & Petal, a marketing communications firm servicing the green industry.