Northern California Growers On Tour

Northern California Growers On Tour

A bus load of Pest Management Conference attendees took advantage of the opportunity to see a cross section of California growing operations during the half-day preconference tour on Wednesday, Feb. 19. Stops include plug grower Head Start Nursery in Gilroy and Cheng Nursery and Cal Color in Morgan Hill.

HEADSTART NURSERY

Founded 20 years ago as a Cal Poly State University student’s senior project, Headstart Nursery has grown into one of the nation’s largest vegetable transplant and ornamental plug and liner operations. President Steve Costa and his brother Randy built the business by responding to customers’ requests. “Everything we have ever added has been through a request,” Randy says. “That’s how we ended up with 5,000 line items.”

At least 75 percent of the operation is devoted to producing vegetable transplants and a big growth area and opportunity has been in organic plugs, which now represent 20 percent of Headstart’s business.

Headstart added an ornamental plug line in 1986, which began with cut flowers and then perennials, herbs, grasses and annuals. Liners from cuttings are a newer addition. There are some fundamental differences in the production and distribution of vegetable transplants versus ornamental plugs and liners. For vegetables, Headstart will ship thousands of transplants on a large trailer rack and leave it at the farm. In ornamentals, Headstart could be shipping four trays to 40 growers with different ship dates.

Headstart’s Gilroy locations will be the host site for Israeli breeder Danziger and Guatemalan cuttings producer Oro Farms during the California Pack Trials, March 28-April 5.

CHENG NURSERY

Tour participants said they felt they were transported back in time at Cheng’s Nursery, a traditional cut chrysanthemum family operation. Kenny Cheng is a one-man show propagating, planting and harvesting cut mums by hand with all the pleasures of pulling black cloth to force varieties into flower. In addition to standard and pompom mums, alternative varieties mixed in include statice, stock and sunflowers.

The greenhouse structures were very primitive and it was a very low-tech facility. He said it can get as hot as 135 degrees in the greenhouse. Cheng’s philosophy is to keep production simple and he does exactly as his parents have done for 30 years. Mums are sold cut fresh in buckets on site to local florists, retailers, wholesalers, really anyone who pops in and wants to buy. “We produce 600,000 stems per year, but we can’t even sell that much anymore,” he says.

CAL COLOR GROWERS, LLC

On the finished garden plant side, Cal Color Growers LLC offers the full spectrum of annual bedding plants, perennials, vegetables and herbs. The business was founded in 1992 by Dave and Michele Vincent. Prior to that Dave was vice president of operations for Color Spot, the largest bedding plant grower in the United States. Facilities encompass 40 acres of land with 530,000 square feet of greenhouses, 120,000 square feet of shade and 560,000 square feet of outdoor container production.

Vincent says the biggest challenge has been providing high quality and service at lower prices. In addition to independent garden centers, Cal Color has sold to Wal-Mart and the Yardbirds company that was owned by Home Depot. Lowe’s continues to be the primary big box client. Seventy percent of the business is with smaller chains, independents and Orchard Supply Hardware. “You need one foot in with some box store to get to this size,” he explains. “Otherwise, it’s hard to stay at this level and sustain it.”

Vincent says the market has shifted from seasonal bedding to baskets, quarts, gallons and premium annuals and perennials, as well as more ready to use products, like color bowls. He’s also witnessing a tremendous resurgence in vegetables and herbs. One line Cal Color offers is the Herb Herbert line of herbs from Australia. Retailers would like to see more point of purchase materials and posters for garden vegetables. “Too many consumers don’t know the first thing about starting a garden,” he says. “Somebody has to supply that. People want to do it but there’s nothing in the store telling them how.”

Cal Color also is a big proponent of recycling and collects its flats and pots from independent garden centers.

 

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Northern California Growers On Tour

  1. Is it possible for our County wide Garden Club to purchase blooming potted mums to sell at the 1st ever Harvest Day Oct 12?. I have a wholesale license if needed. This would be for Community Service fund raising, projects carried out in various communities in Colusa County.

Latest Stories
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More

December 6, 2016

America In Bloom Moves Forward With New Management Comp…

Effective Jan. 1, 2017, management of America In Bloom will transition from AmericanHort to Second Wind Management, which is owned by long-time AIB Executive Director Laura Kunkle.

Read More
bailey-nurseries-team-feature

December 5, 2016

How Bailey Nurseries Has Found Solutions To The Labor S…

A changing seasonal workforce led this Minnesota-based company to explore new labor sources through the H-2A program and refugee organizations, and it’s working out for the better.

Read More
mycoapply-from-mycorrhizal-applications-feature

December 5, 2016

New Growing Media Advancements Giving Growers More Opti…

With innovative, sustainable growing media components, growers will be able to improve plant health, achieve consistency among crops, save money, and reduce inputs, while saving space on storage.

Read More

December 5, 2016

Benary’s Jennifer Calhoun: How We Can Make Plants…

I see one main issue facing our industry in getting more people to buy plants — we assume that the way we used to sell plants is the way millennials will want to buy them. Nothing could be further from the truth. We sell plants in small packs that you plant in a hole in your garden, with a generic label that says “blooms all season.” Millennials don’t have gardens, so they want a plant they can put on their fourth floor apartment balcony, or better yet on a shelf in their living room near a window.  We give them too little information to help them be successful under those circumstances. But what we don’t realize is that if the plant dies, they feel personally responsible for killing another living thing which is so painful that they would prefer not to take the chance a second time. If we sold […]

Read More

December 5, 2016

A Visual Guide To Garden Retail Merchandising

Antje Verstl, a German visual merchandiser who has worked with many high level garden retailers in Europe, has a lot of practical, and inspirational advice on how to transform your plant yard into an exciting place to shop. Take a look at this gallery, and enjoy a visual guide from Verstl. Her book, “Eagle & Frog!,” is now available for purchase by an American market through her website.

Read More
mikaela-hermstedt-penn-state-university

December 4, 2016

Shinoda Foundation Names Penn State Horticulture Major …

Mikaela Hermstedt, a 21-year-old senior from Lincoln, DE, plans to pursue a career in commercial greenhouse production of flowering plants.

Read More
all-america-selections-new-website-home-page

December 3, 2016

New Mobile Responsive Website From All-America Selectio…

All-America Selections has launched a newly redesigned and revamped mobile-responsive website that includes a more attractive design, enhanced search tools, and easier and simpler navigation.

Read More
Sea Breeze Catharanthus combo

December 2, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
kelly-norris

December 2, 2016

Kelly Norris: How The “Me Too” Philosophy Affects Plant…

When you’re selling the exact same thing as everyone else, it’s unrealistic to expect customers to buy only from you.

Read More
mcconkey-plastic-shelves-feature

December 1, 2016

How Color Point Is Stopping Cart Theft With Plastic She…

Plastic shelving on carts acts as a deterrent to theft, and employees enjoy the benefits of being able to handle the racks without difficulty or injuries.

Read More
oasis-water-valve-feature

November 30, 2016

How You Can Water Plants Based On Basket Weight

The Oasis from Control Dekk is designed to reduce water use by giving baskets the exact amount of water they need.

Read More

November 29, 2016

How Changes In Plant Patent Law Could Affect Your Varie…

There is an ongoing discussion happening among plant genetics companies about the current laws and ethics of plant breeding, and what the future holds for the improved lawful protection of genetics.

Read More
foxglove-aphid

November 29, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Manage The Foxglove Aphid

Recent research is shedding new light on the foxglove aphid. Understanding host plants, identification, and biology will help growers deal with this pest.

Read More
endless-summer

November 29, 2016

Endless Summer Hydrangeas Will Soon Feature New Identit…

Bailey Nurseries, which first introduced the reblooming hydrangea a decade ago, says the new identity will feature a more contemporary look to appeal to current and future gardeners.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means F…

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More

November 29, 2016

How The Industry Is Ensuring Consumer Success With Plan…

Greenhouse Grower RETAILING reached out to growers and suppliers for their ideas on how to attract and keep new plant customers. Here's what they had to say about ensuring gardening success.

Read More

November 29, 2016

Heroes To Hives Seeks Veterans For Beekeeping Training

Michigan State University is bringing together two great causes of our times — supporting vets and boosting pollinators — in its new program aimed at teaching professional beekeeping to former soldiers.

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