Carl Krieger and his business partner Carl J. Klemm originally founded Krieger Greenhouses in 1892 in Mason City, Iowa. Later, Carl and his wife Elsa purchased twenty acres of land on the north side of town. They thought this would be an ideal place to start their own truck garden and raise their young family.
They faced enormous obstacles. Only a small portion of the land had ever been tilled so more land needed to be cleared for their garden and hot beds for their plants needed to be built. The small well was inadequate for their needs, so a new well was dug, which flowed with clear water. At this bend of the river, the water frequently overflowed during the spring rains and ice-breakup, and deposited a layer of sand and silt.
With horse-drawn equipment, the Kriegers hauled load after load of manure from Decker’s stockyards and plowed it into the soil to enrich it. Finally, the first garden was planted, nurtured, and the first produce was harvested. Elsa set off for Mason City with a wagonload of fresh vegetables while Carl worked the gardens.
Carl and Elsa had four sons, shown here in December 1919. Left to right: Front- Elsa (age 40), George (9), Carl (56); Back- William (15), Richard (17), Carl (13); Prince
At first, young vegetable plants were bought from a company that shipped them from Texas. In a couple of years, they built their own heated greenhouses which enabled them to start their own vegetables and grow some plants year around. The first greenhouses that were built on the property were a series of four long houses joined at the sides. The greenhouses abutted an embankment that ran north and south. The west end of the greenhouses was half below ground level and was entered by going down three or four steps.
A few years later, two greenhouses were built adjoining the house on the south. The greenhouse against the house could be entered from the living room. The door opened onto an elevated walkway with a series of landings which spiraled down to the main level of the greenhouse. While the other greenhouses contained mundane tomato and pepper plants, this one usually had more exotic and interesting species like a huge Century plant, many varieties of cacti and colorful fuchsias. The first greenhouses north of the house had their own furnace and heating system, but the greenhouses that adjoined the home were warmed by the house system.
As soon as they were old enough to know a weed from a rutabaga, the four Krieger sons were expected to lend a hand in the greenhouse after school and on weekends. When the growing season was over, there were tools and machinery to be cleaned and repaired. They all learned the business from the ground up- literally, and their efforts played an important part in the growth of the family enterprise. About 1918, the first truck was purchased and proudly lettered;
“MODEL TRUCK GARDENS C.G. Krieger & Sons”
When Carl proudly added the “…and Sons” to the name of his truck garden, he and Elsa had hoped the name would remain for many years, and that the four boys would continue in the family enterprise even after their marriages. Their sons did begin their married lives in the business, but eventually all except George left to pursue other occupations.
Carl passed away in December of 1932, at the age of 69. George and his wife, Dorothy, were living with Carl and Elsa at the time of his death and remained on the homestead to run the family business with Elsa. All three of their children were born there. Their first son, Ernest, who’s birth Carl had so eagerly anticipated, eventually brought the family business to Jefferson, Iowa.