Starting a Plant Nursery or Greenhouse Business
Richard Regan, Extension Horticulturist, Oregon State University
Chip Bubl, Extension Agent, Columbia County, Oregon State University
Welcome! You have arrived at a web site developed to help people in Oregon find information about starting a nursery business. This information can help you decide if a nursery business is in your future and provide you with some of the details necessary to develop a nursery business plan. Links to additional information about specific topics are also provided.
The Oregon nursery and greenhouse industry is quite diverse. Farms vary greatly in size, from 1000+ acre operations to nurseries occupying just a quarter acre. As one might expect, the production strategies of Oregon nurseries are diverse as well. Some nurseries specialize in plants grown strictly in greenhouses while others use greenhouses to "start" plants, which are then "grown-out" in containers or in fields. Many nurseries buy their "starts" from specialized propagators and then raise them into saleable plants. Nursery operators have to make important choices about the types of plants they grow and the markets to target.
Field Nursery Greenhouse Container Nursery
Starting a nursery business is just like many other small businesses: it is a high risk venture requiring a large capital investment. Recently, the nursery industry in Oregon has experienced steady growth, but a nursery business is based on more than strong plant production skills. Elements of success include running a market driven operation and using sound business practices. These skills can be acquired by a combination of reading, talking to industry suppliers, Extension faculty, and other nursery operators, and on-the-job learning. There are outstanding programs at some of the community colleges on nursery production. Employment at a successful nursery is often the springboard to a self-managed nursery.
An example of Preparing a Business Plan for a nursery business is presented by the British Columbia Nursery Trades Association and the Province of Brithish Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. This is a good guide, but should only be used as an example when developing your own specific plan.
Another online source of information is provided by the Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA). This web site on Sustainable Small-Scale Nursery Production focuses on sustainable production of nursery plants. Although it is not meant as a primer for inexperienced growers, the topics will introduce you some of the challenges facing the nursery industry and discuss possible solutions.
If you are trying to decide what type of small farm to develop, visit the Oregon Small Farms Online web site. It was developed to provide small scale farmers with practical information about crop production, marketing and other topics of interest.
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