One family, stewarding generations of growth

One family, stewarding generations of growth

 

Robert “Bob” G. Meeuwsen may have been just 21 years old when he started Meeuwsen Produce in 1950, but he had an idea for a small business that could meet a community need and provide for his family. For more than 100 years, descendants of early Dutch settlers had faithfully worked the land in western Michigan. In the mid-20th century, as in the mid-19th century, crops had to get from the farms to the markets.

Robert “Bob” G. Meeuwsen may have been just 21 years old when he started Meeuwsen Produce in 1950, but he had an idea for a small business that could meet a community need and provide for his family. For more than 100 years, descendants of early Dutch settlers had faithfully worked the land in western Michigan. In the mid-20th century, as in the mid-19th century, crops had to get from the farms to the markets.

Meeuwsen bought a Dodge flatbed truck from his father and began hauling produce, counting the Heinz pickle factory as an early customer. His idea would grow over the next 65 years to become one of western Michigan’s largest agribusinesses.1

As the products Meeuwsen hauled expanded to include feed, frozen turkeys, apples, corn and flowers, the company’s fleet of trucks grew. The company eventually started hauling bulk commodities and built a grain elevator. And, in 1977, the company reorganized into Zeeland Farm Services to offer even more agricultural services, from hauling to storage to processing, to its customers.

To help finance the company’s growing needs, Zeeland Farm Services turned to First Michigan Bank. A predecessor to today’s Huntington National Bank in western Michigan, First Michigan had supported the area’s families and businesses since 1878, when Jacob Den Herder established the enterprise as Den Herder Bank, Travel & Insurance Agency.

Meeuwsen’s sons Cliff, Arlen and Robb, bought the family business in 1992. Today, the operation consists of four companies: Zeeland Farm Services Inc., Zeeland Freight Services Inc., Zeeland Farm Soya Inc. and Zeeland Food Services Inc.2

Such growth has benefited the Zeeland community as much as the company. In 1996, Zeeland Farm Services built Michigan’s first soybean processing plant, allowing local farmers to get a better price for their crop because they no longer had to ship it to another state for processing. Just a few years later, Zeeland Farm Services was exporting 16,000 tons of soybean meal to Japan for soy sauce, eventually becoming Michigan’s largest soybean processor.3

Today, Zeeland Farm Services employs more than 230 people.4

The Meeuwsens’ bank has been there step by step to support the business. In the past 25 years, Zeeland Farm Services has had only three Huntington relationship managers. Such long-term relationships and open dialogue is important to this family business; its expansion plans often hinge on the right financing.5

In 2006, Huntington was instrumental in helping Zeeland Farm Services to begin a green energy initiative; it originated the financing to let the company connect gas coming from a nearby landfill to generators. The business sells the extra renewable energy to a utility company.6

As Zeeland Farm Services continues to expand and serve an ever-growing number of customers, Huntington is prepared to help enable that growth with financing — just as the bank and its predecessor have been doing for generations.7

ZFS Aerial 2015

For more than 65 years, Zeeland Farm Services and the Meeuwsen family have been meeting the needs of farming communities and other family-owned businesses in western Michigan. Photo Credit: Zeeland Farm Services