Issue 2Nursery and Floriculture Production Sector in Orange Countyby Luis Nieves-Ruiz, AICPIntroductionIn these difficult ...
majority of these nurseries are dedicated to the production of ornamental plants (1,654 acres) andcontainer nurseries (1,5...
The “suppliers and related industries” category includes suppliers, retailers, and the direct users of theproducts. There ...
The perception of agriculture as a losing land use proposition was recently questioned by the OrangeCounty Farm Bureau. In...
ReferencesRahmani, M, Hodges, A.W, and Mulkey, W.D. Profile and Economic Impacts of Agriculture and Natural ResourceI     ...
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Nursery and Floriculture Sector in Orange County

  1. 1. Issue 2Nursery and Floriculture Production Sector in Orange Countyby Luis Nieves-Ruiz, AICPIntroductionIn these difficult economic times, the Economic Research Initiative examines Orange County’seconomy in a comprehensive way by examining some of the industries that drive the localeconomic activity. This second article studies the impact of the Green House and NurseryProduction sector (NAICS 1114), otherwise known as the nursery and floriculture industry. It startswith a background that covers the history and general characteristics of this industry, looks at areasof concentration within the County, and discusses some of the challenges faced by the industry. Establishments within the Green House and Nursery Production (NAICS 1114) sector grow a variety of plants under cover, including nursery stock, shrubbery, foliage plants, and flowers. The local industry is ranked eighth in the nation, and local nurseries reported more than $237,000,000 in sales (USDA, 2007). Despite these impressive numbers, the nursery and floriculture sector tends to be a minor component of local economic development efforts. The fact that Orange County is considered an urban county may play a role in this omission. This position ignores the history of the industry, its drive to innovate, and its future potential.History of the IndustryThe commercial nursery industry emerged in northwest Orange County in the early 1880s to supplyseedlings to the local citrus growers. Soon after, several horticulturists started to experiment withother crops for commercial purposes, and fern nurseries started to emerge just before the FirstWorld War. The Boston fern was the major breed produced locally, but soon the industry expandedto include other types of indoor foliage. Innovations in scientific and mass marketing helped toboost production. Local growers organized the Zellwood Fern Growers Association in 1922 andstarted to sell their product under the Dewkist trademark. By 1927, local nurseries were shippingover one million ferns. The major buyers were large national chain department stores like Kress,Krege, McCrory, and Woolworth’s. The 1934 freeze highlighted the need for greenhouses toprotect the plants. By 1949, Apopka had 49 green houses, with others rapidly being built. In the1960s, the O.F. Nelson and Sons Nursery east of Apopka developed an assembly line method thatproduced container grown plants on a hardy root stock. In 1980, the third largest tissue culturefacility in the United States opened in Plymouth. The tissue culture method of plant reproductionworks very similar to cloning, as it involves placing a small piece of plant tissue in test tube withnutrients to grow a perfect plant.Nurseries have become an important fixture in Northwest Orange County. As can be seen onExhibit 1, most of Orange County’s nursery production is concentrated near the City of Apopka andthe unincorporated areas of Plymouth and Zellwood. Nurseries occupy over 4,000 acres. The ECONOMIC OUTLOOK AUGUST 2009
  2. 2. majority of these nurseries are dedicated to the production of ornamental plants (1,654 acres) andcontainer nurseries (1,597.7 acres).This large concentration of nursery businesses has also led suppliers and other related industriesthat support the nursery industry to locate in the area, creating economic “clusters.” A cluster isdefined by the relationships between nearby firms, which can include organizations from a variety ofindustries. For example, supporting industries may provide local nurseries with important productioninputs, such as seedlings, fertilizer, and pesticides.To verify if there is indeed a cluster in Northwest Orange County, staff used the infoUSA businessdatabase to identify nursery establishments and other associated industries. The establishmentswere separated into two different categories: producers and suppliers and related industries. The“producer” category includes nurseries that produce plants mainly to be sold at the wholesale level.It is comprised of firms within the following industries: Nursery and Tree Production (NAICS 1114),Nursery and Florist Merchant Wholesale (NAICS 4249), and Nursery Garden and Farm SupplyStores (NAICS 4442). There are 162 establishments within these three categories in the area. ECONOMIC OUTLOOK AUGUST 2009
  3. 3. The “suppliers and related industries” category includes suppliers, retailers, and the direct users of theproducts. There were 117 firms from a variety of categories, including tissue culture producers, fertilizermanufacturers, farm equipment providers, and landscaping companies. Figure 2 above shows thenumber of firms within these categories. While the absence of actual sales data makes it hard to provethe linkage between these firms, their geographic proximity hints that there is a strong connectionbetween these companies. Exhibit 2: Number of firms by NAICS Group in Northwest Orange County Cluster NAICS Number of Group Code Industry Description Establishments 1114 Nursery & Tree Production 13 4249 Nursery & Florist Merchant Wholesale 85 Producers 4442 Nursery Garden & Farm Supply Stores 64 1114 Nursery and Tree Production 3 3253 Fertilizer Manufacturing 3 Suppliers and Related 4238 Farm & Garden Equip Merchant Wholesale 2 Industries 4246 Other Chemical Merchant Wholesale 2 4249 Farm Supplies Merchant Wholesale 4 4442 Nursery Garden & Farm Supply Stores 12 4531 Florists 2 5417 Research & Development In Biotechnology 1 5617 Landscaping Services 87 5619 All Other Support Services 1 Source: infoUSA Business Database, 2009An important component of clusters is the educational and research institutions that provide thetechnical expertise and allow innovation to happen within the industry. The University of Florida’sInstitute of Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS) Mid Florida Research and Education Center in SouthApopka fits this role in northwest Orange County. This institution provides research on different aspectsaffecting the nursery and foliage industry, including plant development, plant production, and pestmanagement. Figure 3, on the next page, shows the location of some of these suppliers and relatedindustries in the nursery and floriculture industry cluster.Challenges and ConclusionsTo facilitate the growth of an industry, it is important to honestly assess the challenges facing it. From aplanning perspective, the biggest challenge faced by the nursery industry is recognition. In a time whencities and governments favor strategies to attract both high tech industries and a higher-value tax base,focusing on agriculture may not be part of the economic development strategy. Agriculture is stillperceived as an industry that consumes enormous amount of land, employs few people, and createslow value added products (Fulton, 2008). Most likely, this is the reason why agriculture is seen by someas a “holding” land use until urban development arrives.This debate is more common on the fringes of big metropolitan regions, where urban growth is pullingagriculture out of business. While urban development increases the demand for ornamental plants, itcan also put pressure on some nurseries to relocate or shut their doors. For example, Knox Nursery inunincorporated Orange County moved from their original location on the outskirts of Pine Hills, becauseit was encircled by residential growth. The company relocated to a new site in Avalon Road in 1997.Now, as urban growth migrated to southwest Orange County, the location is also encircled by newsubdivisions and commercial outlets. ECONOMIC OUTLOOK AUGUST 2009
  4. 4. The perception of agriculture as a losing land use proposition was recently questioned by the OrangeCounty Farm Bureau. In a study partially funded by the Orange County Board of CountyCommissioners, the Bureau compared the community revenues and expenditures created by thedifferent land uses. The study found that for every dollar generated by the local agriculture industry, theCounty and schools spend only 22 cents in direct services. On the other hand, residential land useconsumes 34 cents more in services than the revenues it produces.The challenges faced by the floriculture and nursery industry are mainly local in nature, since localjurisdictions still control both economic development strategies and urban growth. Therefore, localeconomic development organizations must recognize the importance of the nursery industry has innorthwest Orange County’s economy. Moreover, several of the plant technologies developed for thenursery industry, like tissue culture production, could be used to develop plants for biomedical studies.At the same time, the nursery industry will also need to learn to adapt to urban development. Forexample, as communities continue to consume rural land for urban purposes, nursery gardens could bebuilt on rooftops of urban structures. Hydroponic nurseries can grow food with just 15 percent of thewater used by a typical farm (Mackay, 2009). Similar initiatives would help the nursery industry tocontinue to thrive and preserve its important role in the County’s economy. ECONOMIC OUTLOOK AUGUST 2009
  5. 5. ReferencesRahmani, M, Hodges, A.W, and Mulkey, W.D. Profile and Economic Impacts of Agriculture and Natural ResourceI Industries in the Central Region of Florida. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Food and Resource Economics Department (2002) Gainesville: FLChamberlain, Alex S., Durak Michael L., Gerken, John L., Vigh, Charles A. Agricultural Development in East Central Florida (1967) East Central Florida Regional Council 1965 Research Series. Titusville, FLShofner, Jerrell H., History of Apopka and northwest Orange County, Florida (1982), Rose Printing Co. Tallahassee: FLEvans, Craig (2007).The Contributions of Agribusiness to Orange County, Florida. Orange County Farm Bureau. Orlando: FLCorthright, J. Making Sense of Clusters: Regional Competitiveness and Economic Development (2006). Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program.Jackson, J.W. Industry is back in bloom: Nursery sales top $3 billion, UF Survey says. Originally posted September 29, 2006Fulton, W. Down on the Farm. Governing. October 2008. p.58Jackson, J. Nursery meets the challenge. Orlando Sentinel: Central Florida Business, May 9-11, 2008Mackay. R. Up on the roof-future of gardening? Orlando Sentinel. April 14, 2009.Mills. K.G, Reynolds, E.B., and Reamer, A. Clusters and Competitiveness: A New Federal Role for Stimulating Regional Economies. Brookings Institution. Originally Published on April 2008. Retrieved May 30, 2009 from www. Orange County Growth Management Department Issues Month of Publication Planning Division Research & Intergovernmental Coordination Section Post Office Box 1393 Introduction May Orlando, FL 32802-1393 Telephone: 407.836.5600 Fax: 407.836.5862 Nursery and Floriculture Production August E-Mail: High Technology Sectors October Leisure and Hospitality November Health Care and Biotechnology December ECONOMIC OUTLOOK AUGUST 2009