Cooking Up Sales

Cooking Up Sales

Ask Karen and Mark Langan of Mulberry Creek Herb Farm in Huron, Ohio, and they’ll tell you they have an herb farm first, and it just happens to be all certified organic.

“Growing plants is the priority, and we just happen to do that organically,” says grower Mark Langan. It’s a small but important distinction in a market currently obsessed with the words organic, sustainable and green. He adds the business has thrived for many years and only recently have some customers started to visit the small, family-owned operation because of its organic designation.

For the Langans, the decision was simple as they watched their two sons running around the farm. It had to be safe for them. And though the Langans don’t tout Mulberry Creek (www.mulberycreek.com) as an organic destination, the organic and environmentally friendly way of doing business has attracted a large fan-base–some from as far as two hours away. It has become a destination of sorts, thanks to the annual Herb Festival that attracts people to check out the more than 400 varieties of specialty herbs, heirloom vegetables and more than 300 miniature varieties available.

This summer the herb festival drew more than 1,800 people to celebrate a Tuscan theme with display gardens, cooking demonstrations, herb-related vendors and even musical entertainment. The herbs, all grown on site at the farm, come with descriptions of uses and recipes to entice on-the-fence shoppers into purchasing savory rosemary or delectable basil plants.

In fact, the focus at the festival is mostly on cooking since most customers use them in the kitchen, though they’re also great for everything from soaps and aromatherapy to drying and decorations. “It’s tough if you look in our greenhouse in the spring, in its full glory and it’s all green,” Karen says. “I see the distinguishing features of the herb, but it’s still green. You have to teach people how to use them, and cooking is still the queen use for what we grow.”

The display gardens assist with that, and this year each garden had a specific Tuscan theme, such as Antipasto, Second Course and so on, featuring herbs that would be found in each of those meals.

The festival also features a plant sale, which was initially how the festival started years ago. “It started off as kind of a plant sale and now it’s going into full agri-tourism,” Mark adds.

The retail operation also offers classes outside of the fair, and will customize classes based on customer requests.

A True Niche Market

Mulberry Creek Herb Farm also capitalizes on a specialty product it stumbled upon four years ago. Each year the operation introduced about a dozen varieties in a specialty area, just to pique customer interest. They ranged from English cottage plants to prairie plants and others. But four years ago, they introduced several varieties of miniature plants. The popularity of these tiny forms took off, and it pulled the men who previously waited for their wives in the car back into the greenhouse. Karen describes the miniature enthusiasts as non-traditional buyers–men between the ages of 55 and 70, looking for small ornamental plants for their railroad gardens. Each year since then, the retailer has offered more and more miniature varieties, and now currently has more than 300 available. Next year, Karen says, the main thrust of the miniature plants will be conifers to add trees to the mix.

“The asset of them and the liability is that they grow slow,” she says. “If you find a three-year-old plant it’s going to cost more.”

Progressing To Green

Though the operation has always been organic, Mark says only now with the products recently available does he feel as though the growing can truly be green.

“We are making the transition to 100 percent biodegradable pots,” he says. “We’re just working through our existing inventory of the plastic pots until we can get rid of them. Next year we’re going to add biodegradable pots for all the vegetables.

“We’ve been an organic greenhouse for 14 years now and we’re finally able to go green–and for me that’s really exciting. These products just haven’t been available.”

But now the industry is stepping up, he says, more so than other industries in an effort to be environmentally friendly. He sees more consumers expecting herb and vegetable growing to be organic, though his customer base is still largely price-driven. “We do have probably 10 percent of our customers that buy from us because we are organic, especially with the vegetables. They just won’t buy unless it is organic.”

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...

September 24, 2016

Plantarium 2016 Honors Winning Novelty Varieties

Novelties at Plantarium 2016 were judged by an expert committee from the Royal Boskoop Horticultural Society.

Read More
mukgenia-nova-flame-terra-nova-nurseries-feature

September 23, 2016

Growers Offer Advice On How To Grow Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame’

‘Nova Flame’ is best brought in as a summer or fall crop and bulked over the winter.

Read More
deutzia-yuki-snowflake

September 22, 2016

Allan Armitage Suggests Plants That “Even My Neighbors Will Try”

When the urge to garden strikes, every homeowner needs a few plants like these for their yard.

Read More
Latest Stories

September 24, 2016

Plantarium 2016 Honors Winning Novelty Varieties

Novelties at Plantarium 2016 were judged by an expert committee from the Royal Boskoop Horticultural Society.

Read More
mukgenia-nova-flame-terra-nova-nurseries-feature

September 23, 2016

Growers Offer Advice On How To Grow Mukgenia ‘Nova Flam…

‘Nova Flame’ is best brought in as a summer or fall crop and bulked over the winter.

Read More
deutzia-yuki-snowflake

September 22, 2016

Allan Armitage Suggests Plants That “Even My Neig…

When the urge to garden strikes, every homeowner needs a few plants like these for their yard.

Read More
Phlox 'Pink Profusion' (Green Leaf Plants)

September 13, 2016

Aris Horticulture Names Blair Hoey As Managing Director…

Hoey brings more than 20 years of greenhouse production and management experience to Green Leaf Plants, a young plant supplier of perennials serving the U.S. and Canadian markets.

Read More
hibiscus-hollywood-hot-shot

September 12, 2016

New Variety Award Winners Announced At Farwest 2016

A panel of industry experts, as well as show attendees, selected a thornless blackberry and a hydrangea for the top honors.

Read More

September 7, 2016

Check Out The Best Annuals For Attracting Bees And Butt…

Public interest in protecting bees and other pollinators has initiated a new market for flowers that are good food plants for pollinators. Here's a list of annuals Michigan State University Extension recommends that are attractive to bees and other pollinators.

Read More

September 6, 2016

10 Colorful Spring Plants For Sales In 2017

Trends with plants come and go, but color always sells. These spring crops for 2017 offer color choices ranging from bold and vibrant hues to understated, softer tones, and they’re versatile enough to be used in baskets, containers, beds, and borders.

Read More

September 5, 2016

7 New Shrubs And Foliage Plants For Spring Interest

Perennials and annuals aren’t the only plants that supply spring color to the garden. Shrubs and foliage plants also add color and interest and are a great way to round out your spring product mix.

Read More
Janikia Eckert

September 4, 2016

All-America Selections Presents Achievement Awards At I…

Jim Nau of Ball Horticultural received the AAS Medallion of Honor, while Janika Eckert of Johnny’s Selected Seeds took home the Breeders Cup.

Read More
Phlox 'Pink Profusion' (Green Leaf Plants)

August 30, 2016

14 Cool Season Plants To Kick Off The Spring Season

These new cultivar introductions for 2016 are spring bloomers that can take the cold for early-season sales.

Read More
Penn State University Trial Day

August 26, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Broaden Their Horizons

Allan Armitage says you can learn new ideas to help your business when you get out to visit plant trials and other growers.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Kick Spring Sales Up A Notch With 20 New Plant Introduc…

It’s time to look forward to the spring season and what plants will get your business off to the right start. These 18 new cultivars have all the traits of good breeding — uniform habits, bold colors, showy blooms, good vigor, and excellent branching.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Gardens Alive! Parent Company Buys Zelenka Farms

  Zelenka Farms, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, says LM Farms, which owns Gardens Alive!, has purchased the company and all of its assets. BFN Operations LLC and its affiliated entities, d/b/a Zelenka Farms, operated one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the U.S. Its products include shrubs, trees, perennials, roses, and groundcovers. The owners of Gardens Alive! have successfully purchased several other companies from bankruptcy and are experienced nursery managers. Niles Kinerk, Chairman of LM Farms, stated that “the opportunity to purchase Zelenka Farms assets and to continue the turnaround that is well underway is exactly the kind of opportunity that we look for. We understand the efforts of the management team led by Eric Ek and others have been successful, and we will support the management team in the coming months and years.” Zelenka Farms operates its six facilities across the key growing regions in the […]

Read More
Coreopsis-UpTickCream-19793-DarwinPerennials

August 20, 2016

Growing Tips On Coreopsis UpTick Series From John Wilso…

Editor’s Note: In this new feature, the Greenhouse Grower varieties team will choose one noteworthy variety each month we think is worth bringing to your attention. Then we’ll share growers’ and breeders’ perspectives on the best ways to produce it successfully at your operation. This month we focus on the hardy Coreopsis UpTick series, winner of Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Industry’s Choice Medal of Excellence for Breeding. Growing Tips From John Wilson, Seville Farms When asked about producing Coreopsis UpTick, John Wilson says he doesn’t have much to say because it was so easy to grow. Wilson, a Corporate Grower for Seville Farms, says based on the new series’ strong performance during the trialing he has done so far, the nursery ordered a large quantity of the plants for future growing. “If breeders were looking to come up with something that says ‘wow,’ they have done it with the UpTick Series,” […]

Read More
Eucomis arrangement from Golden State Bulb

August 19, 2016

What’s New With Blooming Potted Plants

From exotic orchids and lilies to flashy red cyclamen and jaunty gerberas, new blooming potted plants come in every shape, size, and color.

Read More
Craspedia Golf Ball Beauty (Danziger)

August 19, 2016

Learn How Unconventional Plants Can Be Hidden Gems

According to Kelly Norris, plant breeding inspired by consumer motivations and interests restores our connection with consumers thirsty for out-of-the-ordinary plants.

Read More
Petunia 'Moonstruck' (2015 Welby Gardens Field Trials)

August 9, 2016

Welby Gardens Names Top Selections From Its Trial Garde…

Welby Gardens, an exclusive grower of Hardy Boy Plants, tested more than 900 varieties this year in its field and container trials. Find out which varieties were the cream of the crop.

Read More

August 6, 2016

Growing Tips On Petunia ‘Night Sky’ From Da…

Production tips for Petunia ‘Night Sky’ from Dan Chaney, Vice President of Production, at Ivy Acres.

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