Recent recovery in America’s housing market has led to a revival in horticulture operations. Floriculture, nursery and specialty crops boasted an 18-percent increase in sales since the housing market crash of 2009, according to a National Agricultural Statistics Service report.
Bob Moore of Moore and Davis Nursery LLC in Shorter said the housing crash dropped demand for plants from real estate developers and home builders. He’s thankful for the uptick with improvements to the housing market, adding he’s seen increased demand for plants by landscapers and independent garden centers.
“We lost over one-third of our sales, but we made it through the recession,” Moore said. “Our volume of sales has made a gradual recovery since 2009, but we have yet to recover to our 2006 peak.”
Housing foreclosures had a domino effect on horticulture operations, he said.
“I contribute some of our recent gains to the lack of people left in this business,” Moore said. “The housing market crash put some indebted, larger operations out of business when sales dropped.”
The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Mac Higginbotham said the horticulture industry, like any market, has rewards – and vulnerabilities.
“When you’re directly impacted by the housing market, it can be an exciting, yet nerve-wracking, industry,” said Higginbotham, Federation Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod Division director. “Today, we’re seeing just the opposite from what we experienced during the 2008-09 seasons.”
Bobby Boozer and daughter Taylor Hatchett of Boozer Farms in Thorsby purchased their sod business in 2012 amid a shaky market. However, sales to homeowners performing minor improvements helped their success.
“A lot of times when the economy is down people spend more time at home instead of going on expensive vacations, so they take up small landscape jobs around the house,” Boozer said.
Boozer’s farm sells about 20-30 pallets of sod weekly to small landscape operations. He also grows fruits and vegetables, including blueberries, tomatoes and peas. Hatchett said the farm’s diversity was a key to its success.
“If we have a bad year with one crop, we have another one that may be doing great to fall back on,” Hatchett said.
Higginbotham said he’s optimistic about the future of floriculture, nursery and specialty crops, but cautions that increased demand can affect supply.
“Producers who stayed in the sod business are having a difficult time meeting consumer demand today,” Higginbotham said. “Demand is picking up to the point that supply is impacted.”
Alabama ranks second nationally for sod production. Greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production bring $561.6 million in revenue to the state annually.