The region's mild climate, fertile soils and abundant water were the keys to the initial development of the nursery industry in the Northern Willamette Valley. Today, the industry's success hinges on the ability of local nurseries to market their products, particularly to residential and commercial consumers outside the state. The three largest markets are the Northeast, the Midwest, and the Atlantic states. Neighboring states, Washington and California, combined, import another large portion of the crops in production. It is worth noting that Oregon also imports nursery and greenhouse materials for local sale, particularly from California.
The national economy, as it prospers or declines, influences the nursery market. Wages and unemployment regulate the consumer's buying power. Housing starts and other construction provide important outlets. National, state, and local governmental policies involving housing, highway construction, beautification and scenic programs, energy, the economy, and other issues can significantly affect the demand for nursery stock. The nursery industry can also suffer from overproduction of certain product lines. It can benefit or be hurt by weather events both in Oregon and in other production and market areas. Finally, there is increasing competition within Oregon and from other states for market share.
As a nursery owner or manager, you must be market-driven to assure that a market for your plants is ready and willing when you are ready to sell. Every aspect of your nursery business should focus on serving the needs of your customers. For the most part, nursery operations do all of their own marketing activities, unlike many other agricultural businesses. Remember that nursery products are not a commodity and you should avoid competing on price alone. To develop customer loyalty, it is advisable to develop a value-package using the specific elements of plant quality, price, and service your market demands.
Starting a nursery business is just like many other small businesses: it is a high risk venture requiring a large capital investment. There are many factors to consider and plan for. Elements of success include running a market driven operation and using sound business practices.