Nursery, landscape industry thrives in Louisiana

Richard Bogren, Owings, Allen D.

Ferns and foliage plants await sale in a greenhouse at Hickory Hill Nursery in Forest Hill, Louisiana. (Photo by John Chaney)

Ornamental plants are big business for wholesale nurseries and retail garden centers in Louisiana. (Photo by John Chaney)

The sun reflects rainbows during irrigation on ornamental plants in a nursery yard in Forest Hill, Louisiana. (Photo by John Chaney)

News Release Distributed 04/23/15

BATON ROUGE, La. – As Louisiana moves through spring, the state’s horticulture industry is shifting into high gear.

“The nursery and landscape industry is an important part of horticulture in Louisiana,” said Allen Owings, research coordinator at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station. “Besides wholesale nurseries, it includes landscape contractors, landscape maintenance firms, retail garden centers and others.”

Louisiana’s nursery crops contributed $167 million in wholesale farm gate value to the state’s economy in 2014 according to the LSU AgCenter Ag Summary. That comprised more than 8,000 acres in production by around 730 nursery operators.

“When additional areas of the nursery and landscape industry are added to wholesale production, over $2 billion in contributions comes to the Louisiana economy annually along with 56,000 jobs,” Owings said.

Rapides and Tangipahoa are the leading parishes in wholesale production. Each was responsible for more than $10 million in gross farm value. Parishes that produced $5 million to $10 million in nursery crops included Plaquemines, St. Bernard, Washington, St. Tammany, Iberville and Lafayette.

“Climate here is good with a long growing season,” said Bobby Young with Doug Young Nursery in Forest Hill. “We’re in a pretty good location.”

The area around Forest Hill in Rapides Parish has been producing nursery crops since the 1940s, Young said. And production began increasing in the 1960s and 1970s.

“This year looks pretty good,” Young said, although cold weather early in the year meant a slow start. “You don’t know what each year will be like.”

This business in competitive, he said, and AgCenter research helps solve problems. “They’re there if you have problems and need help – anything we need.”

Innovations in agriculture and plant science have helped maintain the Louisiana industry, said Caroline Maxey with Harold Poole Nursery in Forest Hill.

“The nursery business goes way beyond the borders of Louisiana,” she said. “We have customers from all over the South – Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas.”

Forest Hill nurseries had challenges during the 2014 drought, but they’re coming back, Maxey said. Droughts, freezes and similar weather incidents help create the market for replacement plants.

“The nursery industry is a viable part of the Louisiana economy that’s needed,” she said. “And a good customer base helps tremendously.”

The Internet has been important for reaching new generation of homeowners, and the industry has begun to reach out more, she said.

“As new products are developed, the AgCenter brings them to the awareness of the public – letting people know what grows in their area, what will grow where they live,” Maxey said.

“There is ‘style’ in the nursery business,” she said. “We need to be able to adapt to the market.”

The nursery industry in Louisiana provides jobs and keeps businesses sustainable, said Randy Bracy of Bracy’s Nursery in Amite.

Louisiana offers a good location – including abundant water and moderate temperatures, Bracy said. His company sells wholesale throughout Louisiana and in the South, including three major markets – Dallas, Houston and Atlanta – that are within a day’s drive.

“The nursery industry in Louisiana is not overregulated,” Bracy said. “The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and the LSU AgCenter are very supportive.”

The Louisiana Super Plants program has very strong support from the garden centers and has helped create demand for some plants, he said.

Market demand has improved in the past several years, he said. “Last year was a good year for everyone.”

Rick Bogren
4/24/2015 12:04:03 AM
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