Ken Altman, a co-owner of Altman Plants based in Vista, CA, has confirmed that the operation is currently in escrow to purchase EuroAmerican Propagators, the Bonsall, CA-based young plant and finished plant grower that filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on Jan. 23, 2017. Ken and Deena Altman are co-owners of Altman Plants and The Plug Connection, along with their son Matthew, who has recently bought into the family business.
The 55 acres of land and all of the facilities on it, which were previously owned by Jerry Church, a partner in EuroAmerican Propagators, are part of the purchase agreement currently in escrow, Altman says. However, it would not be absorbed by Altman Plants, which in 2016 was number 3 on Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers list with more than 11 million square feet of environmentally controlled greenhouse production, 62 acres of shade production, and 400 acres of outdoor field production. Altman Plants’ property includes ornamental bedding plants, container perennials, woody ornamentals, and potted foliage, as well as close to 500 acres of succulent and stock production.
Instead, the EuroAmerican facilities, which Altman says are in excellent condition and well set up for young plant production, will become part of The Plug Connection, the 350,000-square-foot young plant operation in Vista, CA, that Altman Plants purchased in October 2016. Combining the two facilities will make The Plug Connection a Top 100 Grower operation in 2017.
Jerry Church and John Rader, partners in the EuroAmerican Propagators business, have been friends of his for years, Altman says, so he knew the facility was nice and well-maintained.
“It’s a nicely set up young plant facility, and it’s close to our offices. In fact from my house, I can look over the hills and see it outside my kitchen window,” Altman says. “This seemed to go well with the Plug Connection. We’re having a good time with the Plug Connection. We’re liking that group and the crew and all the opportunities. And this is a chance to expand upon that.”
While it’s too early to know exactly what the plan and the timeline will be for the facilities, aside from increasing the Plug Connection’s business, one possibility is to expand the succulent liner program that EuroAmerican Propagators had offered. EuroAmerican’s trademarks on the Savvy Succulents and Celestial Gems programs might not be continued, however, as Altman Plants has its own robust succulent breeding program that includes all of the same genetics and more, Altman says.
Talks are also underway with breeders to get propagation rights, and many are already granting those, so now it’s just a matter of filling the space with new business, Altman says. He adds that because the purchase of the EuroAmerican property is so new, much of his time has been taken up with hiring staff and maintaining the inventory, but he is hoping to be able to continue to serve the suppliers who had alliances with EuroAmerican Propagators.
The Plug Connection currently specializes in annual and perennial young plants from seed, cuttings, and tissue culture, as well as poinsettia, cyclamen, and succulent liners. It also offers grafted vegetables in the Mighty ‘Mato, Ketchup ‘n’ Fries, and Field Farms lines, provides start plants for certified organic seed herbs and vegetables, and has its own private stock of vegetative herbs.
“We’re looking for customers – growers who want a good young plant producer, whether it be seed or vegetative,” Altman says. “Between the two places, we have good facilities and California sunshine.”
Altman says he is also seeing former EuroAmerican Propagators team members come back to the operation for positions. Altman Plants had offered jobs to team members who were displaced from EuroAmerican Propagators over the months that the operation had trouble maintaining its workforce, and then when it went into Chapter 7 bankruptcy in January.
“But now that we’re in the situation that we are with the facility over there, many of them are going back, and we’re finding other people who want to come back, as well,” Altman says.
With California now out of danger from the past few years of record drought thanks to record rainfall in recent weeks, including an event last week that cascaded more than 4 inches into Southern California – the equivalent of what the region is used to getting in a year’s time – the landscape has been transformed. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean consumers are going to rush back to investing in their landscapes, Altman predicts.
“It’s too early to know,” he says. “But there’s probably been some permanent change toward water conservation.”