Starting a Plant Nursery or Greenhouse Business
Richard Regan, Extension Horticulturist, Oregon State University
Chip Bubl, Extension Agent, Columbia County, Oregon State University
At a time when traditional agriculture is struggling, Oregon nurseries are prospering, growing at about twice the rate as the national nursery industry. During the late 1990's, the industry benefited from a strong construction market, rising household incomes, and growing interests in landscape aesthetics and environmental enrichment. Currently, the industry is concerned about the lackluster economy, shipping difficulties, poor climatic conditions, and competition from other nursery regions.
Oregon's 2000 nursery and greenhouse gross sales were estimated at $642 million. This is the highest nursery value ever estimated and the industry has about doubled in size over the past decade. About 75% of all Oregon grown nursery products are shipped out of state, which accounts for 11% of the national market.
Most of the states nursery and greenhouse crop production is located in the five Northern Willamette Valley counties - Clackamas, Marion, Washington, Yamhill, and Multnomah. What distinguishes all these locations are a moderate climate, good soils and water, and good interstate access. There are also outstanding nurseries in eastern Oregon, along the coast, and in southern Oregon.
Oregon's nursery industry is diverse, producing a wide variety of plants grown in the field or in containers. While Oregon is the leading state in the production of bare-root shade and flowering trees, the production of container-grown plants has increased greatly. Many nurseries employ a mix of production systems suitable to the mix of plants they intend to sell.
Container Plants are grown out and sold in plastic containers. The plants are grown in a "container mix" based usually on bark or peat moss. Bare-root Woody plants are grown in soil and dug in the fall for shipment without attached soil. They are stored in cool moist conditions to keep them dormant and are shipped in late winter or early spring. Balled & Burlapped Woody plants are dug with the soil mass attached. The soil/root ball is covered with heavy burlap to keep it together during shipment and sale. Greenhouse Greenhouses are used to "start" or propagate woody plants and to grow "bedding" plants, hanging baskets, and other floriculutre plants. Cut flowers are also grown in greenhouses.
Labor availability, environmental concerns, and the increasing urbanization in the Northern Willamette Valley will continue to pressure the right to farm. Nursery and greenhouse owners will need to be adaptive and proactive in finding positive solutions to the challenges facing today's family farms. Several industry trade associations and societies exist that encourage cooperation, and provide necessary information and services.
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