Consumers top commercial demand for nursery supplier
A small fruit grower says consumer demand for plants during the coronavirus pandemic has caused a significant shift in his business this year.
“Used to be we sold 60 percent of our plants to the commercial grower, now that’s changed a little bit, it’s probably 40 percent to the commercial grower and 60 percent to the re-wholesalers,” he says.
Danny Hartmann is the third generation to operate Hartmann Plant Company with his wife Donna in Grand Junction, Michigan. He’s been growing small fruits and ornamental plants since the late ‘70s as one of the first growers to use tissue samples cultivating virus-free stock and the business has grown to supply commercial growers and home gardeners throughout the country and beyond.
Many of Hartmann’s plants are sold to re-wholesalers who will repackage them for garden centers or catalog companies. Demand this year for his number one crop, blueberries, has been unprecedented.
“We’re actually sold out this year, I’ve never been sold out of blueberry plants before,” he says.
Hartmann also has propagated natives he’s found plant hunting and specialty varieties like a cold-hardy kiwi fruit suitable to the Midwest. “We call them kiwiberries, they’re a cold-tolerant crop that get raised like grapes on a trellis,” he explains. “That alone will start an industry.” For now, Hartmann estimates home gardeners have been his main purchaser of the kiwis, selling more than 100,000 of those plants this past year.
Hartmann tells Brownfield as he’s seen Michigan’s fruit industry struggle in recent years, he hopes growing interest in super fruits will create a new wave of demand and diversify growers’ offerings to include high antioxidant fruits like the haskap, lingonberry, elderberry, and others.