Visiting Hoffman Nursery in Rougemont, NC, feels like going on a nature retreat. The 45-acre property, a former tobacco farm, is situated in Durham County, just north of the busy Raleigh-Durham area. Quiet and serene, with rolling hills and farmland as far as the eye can see, the nursery is abuzz with the pollinators and wildlife that the operation works hard to protect. It’s here, in this dreamscape, that John and Jill Hoffman set up shop 30 years ago.
The Hoffmans built their business and raised their family on this land. They cultivated a market for a crop category that wasn’t well known at the time. As community champions, they created a fair place for team members to work that was based on education and mutual respect, while looking broadly to provide sustainable products and an ideology that would make a difference. And they have become innovators and groundbreakers in a new market for the industry, leading others in the Southeast, and throughout North America, toward what they believe is the mecca of green infrastructure.
Expanding And Evolving A Business
Today, Hoffman Nursery specializes in ornamental and native grass liners for the wholesale trade, producing more than 150 different species and cultivars of grasses, sedges, and grasslike plants, and shipping them to wholesale customers across North America.
Hoffman keeps its own nursery stock on site and contracts with another grower down the road, where the soil is loamy and light, to grow and maintain additional stock. Liners are produced from seed and by dividing stock plants.
The operation has expanded to include 125,000 square feet of hoophouses, heated space totaling 45,0000 square feet, which includes a recently completed 17,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art production greenhouse, and several acres of display gardens, landscape vignettes, and trial grounds.
A newcomer to automation, Hoffman Nursery is working to streamline efficiency as its business increases, while improving jobs for its 44 full-time team members and 20 seasonal workers, to help maintain labor and make the operation a pleasant place to work. The Hoffmans’ son David, a graduate of North Carolina State University’s (NC State) Horticulture program, has been working in this area of the business, developing time- and money-saving practices, and integrating them into the operation’s existing production flow.
A believer in sustainable production, Hoffman Nursery has integrated a number of practices into its property to help facilitate this. For example, its onsite water system recycles water used in the hoophouses by draining it into nearby water gardens and bioswales, which in turn cleans and filters the water into the retention pond on the property. This approach helps reduce erosion, as well, and is part of an overall focus on developing stormwater solutions that includes bioswales, wetlands, and buffer zones around ponds and waterways, says John Hoffman.
The operation also practices integrated pest management (IPM), avoiding chemicals wherever possible to maintain the ecosystem that has developed within the property’s demonstration gardens and landscape vignettes.
“We value the birds, butterflies, bees, and other creatures that share the land with Hoffman Nursery,” Hoffman says.
Next: Growing Horticultural Opportunities In Green Infrastructure