Finding Passion In Portland

If you ever go to the Farwest Show in Portland, Ore., be sure to take some side trips in the area before and after the show. In the three days I was out there, I visited three growers, two retailers, two breeders and took in some fun and funky tourist attractions. Here are the highlights of places that really stood out with distinct niches that set themselves apart from all competitors:

Voodoo Doughnuts – Doughnuts have been around forever, make us fat and have been commoditized by chains, but this place dares to be different as the edgy mad scientist laboratory for doughnuts. Toppings include Captain Crunch and Fruit Loops Cereal, bacon strips on maple icing, M&M’s, bubble gum, even lemonade, Tang and iced tea granules. The signature Voodoo Doll doughnut is a screaming, chocolate iced monster/person with a tiny pretzel stake in its heart. Saturday night, there was a line of at least 30 people waiting to order doughnuts. The place is open 24/7. What could we do in our industry to generate this kind of interest and excitement?

Swan Island Dahlias–This breeder-producer of dahlia bulbs in Canby knows how to draw a crowd with its annual dahlia festival over two weekends. The public can see more than 350 varieties in 16 types and five bloom-size classes and order them by the tuber. Tubers range in price from $3.95 to $24.95. Forty acres are in bloom August through September. One attraction was a gallery of cut dahlias in showy floral displays by variety in what was underground stables. Each attendee received a booklet and a pencil to mark the varieties they are interested in. What a great way to rally around a single genus, just like Lilytopia at Longwood Gardens earlier this year.

Al’s Garden Centers  – This regional garden center chain owned and operated by the Bigej family is synonymous with gardening in the Portland metro area. This was my second visit to the Sherwood location and I was impressed to see the wide assortment of fresh, beautiful plant material at the end of August. From showy baskets out front to informative, inspirational displays inside, owner Jack Bigej says there’s no question it’s all about color. “Show ’em a dream, sell them a promise. It really works,” he says.

Pistils Nursery – This urban nursery on Portland’s bohemian Mississippi Avenue is the antithesis of garden centers that cater to suburbanites. It’s a throwback to the green plant shops of the 1970s, while also incorporating urban farming and landscaping for small spaces. They even sell chickens! Saturday evening hipsters of all ages were strolling through. One young man sought help creating his own terrarium. This is  a place where people get hooked one plant at a time, whether it’s a staghorn fern hung as a chandelier or a fig tree for your patio.

Terra Nova Nurseries – It was the green plant boom in the 1970s that got Dan Heims and Ken Brown of Terra Nova Nurseries hooked on plants. While Heims ran a landscaping business for 20 years, Brown was a microbiologist. They have revolutionized perennials by breeding traits with landscapers in mind–showier colors, longer bloom seasons, less maintenance, tidier habits and disease resistance. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting their gardens. Since 1992, Terra Nova has introduced more than 600 new plants that are being propagated in tissue culture labs all over the world. Heims’ goal is to surpass his idol, Luther Burbank, and introduce 801 plants.

Daring to be different and creating a loyal following just may be the ticket to ride out recessions. What makes your business unique? What can you rally around, share and celebrate that will be memorable for your customers? Pick up a torch and carry it.

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Practical Software Grower Vertical

June 18, 2016

Practical Software Solutions Increases Accessibility, Efficiency Of Its Grower Vertical System

Practical Software will demonstrate Grower Vertical, its customizable and scalable enterprise management system for the horticulture industry, at Cultivate’16 in July.

Read More
Battlefield Farms Company shot

June 14, 2016

Battlefield Farms Is A Finalist For 2016 Operation Of The Year

Battlefield Farms in Rapidan, VA, is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Innovation award for 2016.

Read More

June 7, 2016

Ball Seed Offers Full Mobile Ordering Capabilities With Updated WebTrack To Go App

The latest update for Ball Seed’s WebTrack To Go mobile app now includes full ordering capabilities for the industry’s largest assortment of seeds and plants. App users can also complete order fulfillment via seed count or package size, find product substitutions, get personalized “contact us” information, request plant tags, and more. “Upgrading WebTrack To Go to the full suite of ordering and management tools is where we’ve always wanted to be,” says Mark Morris, Director of IT for Ball Seed. “With this new roll-out, we’re keeping up with our customers on-the-go and providing them the information and access they need –- even while away from their desks.” The Ball Seed WebTrack To Go app lets customers: Check order status and shipment tracking 24-7 Access up-to-the-minute product inventory from hundreds of suppliers Place orders by seed count, packet size, and more Find product info, culture and photos when and where they […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Practical Software Grower Vertical

June 18, 2016

Practical Software Solutions Increases Accessibility, E…

Practical Software will demonstrate Grower Vertical, its customizable and scalable enterprise management system for the horticulture industry, at Cultivate’16 in July.

Read More
Battlefield Farms Company shot

June 14, 2016

Battlefield Farms Is A Finalist For 2016 Operation Of T…

Battlefield Farms in Rapidan, VA, is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Innovation award for 2016.

Read More

June 7, 2016

Ball Seed Offers Full Mobile Ordering Capabilities With…

The latest update for Ball Seed’s WebTrack To Go mobile app now includes full ordering capabilities for the industry’s largest assortment of seeds and plants. App users can also complete order fulfillment via seed count or package size, find product substitutions, get personalized “contact us” information, request plant tags, and more. “Upgrading WebTrack To Go to the full suite of ordering and management tools is where we’ve always wanted to be,” says Mark Morris, Director of IT for Ball Seed. “With this new roll-out, we’re keeping up with our customers on-the-go and providing them the information and access they need –- even while away from their desks.” The Ball Seed WebTrack To Go app lets customers: Check order status and shipment tracking 24-7 Access up-to-the-minute product inventory from hundreds of suppliers Place orders by seed count, packet size, and more Find product info, culture and photos when and where they […]

Read More
Gotham Greens Atrium Style Greenhouse Chicago

May 23, 2016

What’s Good For The Environment Is Good For Business [O…

Investing in technology to become more sustainable “always goes hand in hand,” says Abe VanWingerden, co-CEO of Metrolina Greenhouses. “If it is good for the environment, it normally is good for business over the long term.” That connection was abundantly clear in the responses we received to this year’s Top 100 Growers Survey. VanWingerden points to three investments Metrolina has made as good examples of how technology can reduce an operation’s carbon footprint and pay dividends financially. Its biomass system burns locally sourced waste wood — a renewable resource; its ozone water treatment system cleans irrigation water, reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides, and improving plant quality and precision growing; and electrostatic sprayers reduce water and chemical use, and provide more targeted chemical applications. Other Top 100 Growers have found VanWingerden’s theory to be true, as well. Costa Farms’ investment in solar energy panels on three buildings at its […]

Read More
Petunia 'Supertunia Violet Star Charm' (2015 University of Georgia Field Trials)

May 10, 2016

New Southern-Centric Ornamental Production Conference T…

The 2016 Academy of Crop Production is dedicated exclusively to sharing information on advanced ornamental crop production and business management techniques for ornamental producers.

Read More
University of Florida Online Greenhouse Training Courses

April 25, 2016

University of Florida Offering Online Training Courses …

There will be five courses offered, with the first starting on May 30. Courses are available in both English and Spanish and range from beginner level to advanced education.

Read More
Sanitation programs are essential to preventing and removing food safety concerns.

April 7, 2016

USDA Launches GroupGAP Program For Fruit And Vegetable …

The new certification program is designed to help small and mid-size growers, including greenhouse vegetable producers, comply with new food safety regulations.

Read More
Young Plants Farm North Carolina

March 15, 2016

Young’s Plant Farm Obtains MPS-A Qualification

MPS, an organization that develops and manages certification for companies in the horticulture industry, has awarded MPS-A certification to Young’s Plant Farm in North Carolina and Alabama.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

March 14, 2016

Dr. Charlie Hall Will Offer Keynote Address At Farwest …

The Texas A&M economist will discuss factors affecting short- and long-term demand driving the future of the green industry.

Read More
Seed Your Future Logo

March 8, 2016

Longwood Gardens And American Society For Horticultural…

Under the direction of co-chairs Paul B. Redman of Longwood Gardens and Anna Ball of Ball Horticultural Company, the “Seed Your Future” initiative is designed to combat declining awareness of horticulture while promoting it as a viable career choice.

Read More
Florida Green Industry

March 4, 2016

University Of Florida Study Shows Green Industry Genera…

According to the study, the rise of large retail chain stores with garden departments has made plants and other horticultural products more readily available to consumers than ever before.

Read More
Great Lakes Growers Expansion

February 22, 2016

Great Lakes Growers Expands Its Production Capacity For…

The Burton, OH-based grower has added 25,000 square feet to its operation, helping it to keep up with rising consumer demand.

Read More
National Garden Bureau Logo feature image

February 16, 2016

New Officers And Directors At National Garden Bureau an…

During the ASTA Flower & Vegetable Seed Conference, National Garden Bureau and All-America Selections elected new officers and directors.

Read More
Katherine Wolper

January 24, 2016

Ludvig Svensson Hires Katherine Wolper As West Coast Sa…

Wolper says she looks forward to listening to growers and understanding the concerns, obstacles, and opportunities they face.

Read More

January 20, 2016

Tips For Overcoming Challenges In Family Business From …

Our industry is run by a collection of family businesses, and every one, no matter how big or small, has its share of management issues. But there are several differences between one that is run successfully as a business and one that allows family politics to distract from the organization’s goals. In this year’s State Of The Industry Survey, we noted that labor recruitment and succession are two areas where growers struggle. In talking with the owners of Costa Farms for this month’s cover story, I thought some of the values they have incorporated into the operation’s management structure really stood out as practices that other family businesses could use. The participatory management approach to business and team building is one that Tony Costa, the second-generation owner of Costa Farms, instilled in his children, Maria Costa-Smith and Jose Costa, and son-in-law, Joche Smith, the current owners of Costa Farms. In […]

Read More
I-9 Form

January 13, 2016

Proposed Changes To I-9 Form Important For Greenhouse G…

AmericanHort’s Government Relations and Grassroots Representative Davi Bowen says growers need to become familiar with the new form and should be prepared to make comments if necessary.

Read More

January 13, 2016

Wenke Greenhouses Buys Zylstra Greenhouses

Two Kalamazoo, MI-based greenhouses have merged after Wenke Greenhouses closed on Zylstra Greenhouses at the end of November. The additional property and facilities will allow Wenke Greenhouses to expand its young plant business, among other areas.

Read More

January 13, 2016

Costa Farms Wins With Its Emphasis On Team, Solutions, …

Based in Miami, FL, Costa Farms has gone global by focusing on strategy, systems, and vertical integration. See how the operation continues to expand through its emphasis on team, solutions, and growth.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]