In Response To “The Veggie Boom,” Benchmarks, July 2008 issue, from Sandie Shores

Hello Sara,

My name is Sandie Shores, an herb grower in Southeastern Minnesota (serving Rochester MN), and the author of Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs (Ball Publishing). I’ve been in business for 24 years and have always grown fresh-cut herbs, potted herbs in volume along with a large variety of potted tomatoes, peppers and herb and vegetable container gardens.

I read, with interest, your Benchmarks article in the latest Greenhouse Grower and am quite amazed that growers are just beginning to see how the downturn in the economy is changing their customers.

Of course I saw this coming! Last fall I sent out an informal survey to the 700+ local upscale “Foodies” who subscribe to my e-mail Herb Newsletter asking if they planned on growing more of their own vegetables and herbs next season (2008), and if so, why. The response was as I had expected and surprising in how many people took the time to reply.

The vast majority who responded said they were going to give up some, or all, of the space they used for bedding plants and ornamentals in favor of growing vegetables and herbs. Their reasons were: The rising costs of produce, food safety and the desire to know the inputs used in the vegetables they eat.

With this information I expanded beyond my normal herb, tomato and veggie transplants and offered every type of vegetable that can be transplanted. I also offered, as I do every season, “ready-to-eat” tomato, pepper and herb hanging baskets for those who wished to replace their flower baskets. It was one of the best spring seasons I’ve ever had.

Most of the large retail ornamental nurseries and garden centers in my area have had a devastating season. I hope that they will be able to recover and that this is not “a day late, a dollar short” scenario for them. The status quo has changed and those that pay attention to the economy and trends will understand how it changes the buying habits of our customers.

As you probably can tell by the products I grow I have always focused on edible plants and, in fact, don’t know a blessed thing about ornamentals! I read many trade magazines monthly in order to stay current on the trends and marketing technics. Greenhouse Grower has always been one that I make sure to browse along with American Vegetable Grower.

Thanks for doing such a great job with Greenhouse Grower and for writing about this topic. Hopefully the readers will pay attention and make some changes next season and beyond.

Sandie Shores
Herb’s Herbs and Such
Zumbro Falls MN

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