Green market grows in Virginia
With an economic impact of more than $3 billion on Virginia’s economy, the “green industry” is the fifth largest element of Virginia’s $55 billion farm sector. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, sales of horticultural products jumped 73 percent over the past decade. And business models are changing. Where once a grower might raise products and sell them to a retailer, many are now selling directly to consumers.
“Our success is that we are marketing to the consumer, the end user,” said Dan Gregg, president of Grelen Nursery in Orange County. “We eliminate the middle man. We plant the beds, trees, shrubs. It is very satisfying, because we get to see where they end up. That makes it both interesting and rewarding.”
Grelen Nursery is one of more than 290 growers using 11,000 acres of land for nursery production in Virginia.
“Local demand is increasing,” Gregg said. “We are a tree grower, and we are closer to the market, which in turn is more cost-effective for the customer. We are close to the District of Columbia, and that is helpful. We are seeing more nurseries popping up next to the end markets.”
Gregg noted that, in addition to being interested in cost savings, consumers are becoming much savvier buyers. “We have people coming here already knowing what variety they want, and because of the Internet the information is accessible. We are seeing an improved overall knowledge by gardeners.”