By Lynn Langley.
At October's monthly meeting, members were given an inside look at the nursery industry with Booman Floral's Jim Booman, who gave a wide-ranging and interesting presentation.
Jim began by reminding us that San Diego is one of the top areas in the country for nurseries and plant crops, which bring in about $3 billion a year. It is only recently beginning to recover from the devastating effects of both the recession and the drought.
The Nursery Industry: A Brief History
Jim took us through a brief history of the nursery industry. At the turn of the century, it was all market gardening—true farm-to-table, with people growing and purchasing local products because of the limits of transportation. The development of a road system changed everything. People were no longer limited to local produce; they could travel to, or bring in, produce from other areas.
The next major change occurred with the availability of air freight. This spelled the end of large-scale use of canned fruits and vegetables, and fresh produce could be purchased year-round.
The 1980s and 1990s saw an explosion of plant breeders. Getting these new plants noticed and sparking public demand was difficult until an enterprising San Diego family had a novel idea. According to Jim, the Ecke family wanted to market their poinsettias, so they managed to convince television stations to place them behind the newscasters so that they would be seen by people watching the news. Their idea worked!
Stock plant management is another area in which the nursery industry has changed over the years. Cuttings were initially sent across the country, and are now easily shipped all over the world. Tissue culture of orchids has made it easier to increase the number of available orchids. Propagation flats were once made of wood and filled with sand, making them difficult to move them around. Today, propagation flats are made of lighter material and are filled with peat moss, making them much easier to maneuver.
Booman Floral's Growing Pains
Jim then shared his personal history in the nursery industry. At its peak, Booman Floral had over twenty acres in production, with over 300,000 square feet of nursery space and sixty-five employees. At one point, his nursery was rooting over 2,000,000 cuttings a week. This all changed with the energy crisis, then the Great Recession, and finally the drought.
Even though Booman’s company has had to downsize, he has much to look forward to. He has patents on twenty-one begonia hybrids and is the largest grower and distributor of carnivorous plants. And, according to Jim, millennials are beginning to get interested in plants. He is currently expanding based on his anticipation of larger demand due to these millennials. Jim also looks to the future beyond millennials. As he finished his presentation, he gave all of the audience a directive: Teach the children to garden.