Growing is their business
Trude Weekes and Jo Reid bought Planter’s Nursery in July 2014. The nursery will be closing its retail doors to the public on August 31, but will be out the back in full swing growing commercially and wholesale. Reporter Brenda Vowden caught up with Jo and found out more. ■ Tell me about your background.
I worked in the horticulture industry all my life — having spent 20 years at Waimea Nurseries, in Nelson latterly as field manager and Trude has a wealth of experience in office administration. I relocated to Havelock North and worked in the nursery industry until becoming the head gardener at Summerset in the Vines for four years. While there I bought seedlings from Planters and when the nursery came up for sale, we jumped at it.
■ How has Planters Nursery’s vision changed?
The demand for commercial and wholesale vegetables has increased dramatically in the past four years, and so with this the vision has changed to focus on this area. The move away from retail is a natural occurrence with the increase in commercial/wholesale sales. It is important for quality in this industry and we simply cannot maintain all our time on all areas. Something had to give.
■ Tell me about your most popular sellers and who you sell to.
Our vegetables have been our forte, selling to commercial market gardeners, along with community gardens, retail outlets and boutique wholesalers. We also propagate flower seedlings for florists, weddings, landscapers, restaurants. Planters Nursery is also currently the supplier for the council baskets in Hastings, Flaxmere and Mahora.
■ Why has Planters been so successful?
We are passionate and grow to the conditions. Our vegetables have been a great success as we supply all our retail/wholesale customers with commercial lines of seedlings, sowing to seasonal varieties that thrive well in Hawke’s Bay conditions. Our clientele over the past four years have varied with product and quantities, variety is the spice of life, and we sure get that here.
■ Will you stick with this new business model or are more changes ahead?
Our new model will be commercially focused for market gardeners, along with a strong focus on wholesalers. Planters will still be producing vege and flower punnets but these will be sold off-site at other outlets. We will be sticking to this new model — we couldn’t continue spreading our focus. This would have been to the detriment of either retail or commercial. Another focus on the wholesale side is to move more extensively into organic production. Currently a third of our commercial operation is organic.
■ What has been the trickiest part of deciding to ditch the retail side of the operation?
The utmost worst part of this decision is letting our customers down. We are very apologetic that we won’t have the shop open for them. It wasn’t a decision taken lightly but in general our customers have been very understanding. Our doors will always be open for advice and/or orders, be it the back door.
■ Why do you love working at/owning Planters?
We simply love this lifestyle for the gratification we get from watching our seeds turn into plants, taking the pressure off growers (commercial or home gardeners) because that’s what we do. Sharing our plant knowledge and chatting about growing is a favourite pastime, be it with customers, growers or students in the industry. Yes we have challenges, but every day I get to walk through the houses, talk to the plants and have an immense sense of pride knowing my team and I produced these.
■ A word to customers?
Many people have commented that they had no idea how huge the scale of production was out the back, thinking the retail shop was all that was here.
The retail area was like the tip of the iceberg. We certainly will be available to grow plants to order and invite customers to give us a call and discuss requirements. Check us out on Facebook as where to buy Planters seedlings from. There will be a few outlets in the Hawke’s Bay area. We would like to thank our customers over the past four years. We have enjoyed your company and garden chats.
■ Planters Nursery, 418 St Georges Road North, Havelock North, phone 06 877 6537 or visit www.plantersnursery.co.nz
Jo Reid bought Planter’s Nursery in July 2014 with co-owner Trude Weekes.