When Rocket Farms merged with Nurserymen’s Exchange in 2011, the company also acquired a huge resource in head grower Corwin Graves, an eight-year veteran who was then in charge of the operation’s substantial miniature rose program. Learning how to grow roses taught the horticultural science graduate from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo about the importance of stock management and that taking shortcuts in production leads to less-than-desirable results. Since then, the pride Graves takes in ensuring quality in all of Rocket Farms products shows in the company’s success.
“We have built our reputation as a company by not taking shortcuts,” Graves says. “We have great facilities, an experienced and thoughtful staff, an ideal climate and a sense of pride that I think is uncommon in the trade.”
Graves became head grower in 2011 and is responsible for all flowering products under the Rocket Farms brand, including 18 flagship and research and development crops under four product categories: edibles, indoor potted flowering, indoor decorative foliage and outdoor patio floral. He oversees 8.3 million square feet of growing space and 21 growers in the Half Moon Bay and Salinas locations.
“Corwin is involved throughout the entire growing process, from concept to consumer experience,” says Jason Kamimoto, vice president of marketing at Rocket Farms. “He never accepts the status quo with growing practices and available varieties. He is constantly meeting with breeders – on site and internationally – as well as customers, salespeople and others throughout the company to push the boundaries of what quality should be expected with Rocket Farms’ products.”
In addition to helping develop crops with qualities consumers want, Graves works to ensure those crops are selling well at retail. From the popularity of Rocket Farms’ Sun Star and exclusive Get Mee brands to its custom-grown orchids, Graves is focused on delivering on consumers’ quality expectations including height, color and flower count. Graves visits stores periodically to inspect the factors that influence quality at retail, including shelf life, improvements to enhance shelf presentation, and the durability of flowers through the packaging and shipping process.
Currently, Graves is immersed in a completely new category for Rocket Farms’ rose program with this summer’s launch of a new line of outdoor potted roses. Graves says he hopes will the new line will allow the operation to further solidify itself as a premier supplier of roses for indoor, patio and garden roses.
“Corwin’s involvement in finding new products, undergoing research and development and constantly pushing the envelope in quality standards has offered Rocket Farms new opportunities to market products that aren’t largely available,” Kamimoto says. “Corwin’s leadership plays a significant role in differentiating Rocket Farms’ products from those of its competitors.”