A natural product that improves air quality, filters and cleans the atmosphere, keeps topsoil from eroding, acts as a noise and sight barrier, and pleases the senses – too good to be true?
Plants provide all that and more. Green industries are changing the landscape of Georgia’s economy, entrepreneurial spirit and aesthetic.
In fact, studies have shown that an attractive landscape adds about nine percent to a home’s perceived value. Operations like nurseries, greenhouses and turfgrass businesses have made Georgia a rising star in the plant world.
Green and Growing
In 1942, McCorkle Nurseries was a mom-and-pop neighborhood garden center. However, a love of plants and a willingness to grow has made them one of the largest nursery operations in the state.
Seven decades later, most of McCorkle’s plants are sold through larger retail outlets like Pike Nurseries, Lowes and Home Depot.
“My dad encouraged me to get college training in the area of business,” says Skeeter McCorkle, president of McCorkle Nurseries. “That has proven to be solid guidance and integral to our survival and success. Without a good understanding of business and a passion to make the family business work, I’m not sure McCorkle Nurseries would still be here today. Thanks to the Lord’s blessings and a great group of dedicated team members, we have been able to weather many storms together and create a family-friendly culture.”
That family-friendly culture is a necessity in a business where it takes an average of three years for plants to mature. McCorkle Nurseries currently markets more than 700 Georgia Grown plant varieties in a seven-state region.
In order to handle this capacity, the nursery uses robots to move plants, computer modeling to predict insect emergence and disease pressure points, and digital sales platforms to reach more customers.
“It’s amazing what has changed since our grandparents grew their first plants,” McCorkle says. “It will be neat to see where all the changes and opportunities that lie ahead take us.”
Super Sod and Super Success
It’s not just nurseries and greenhouses that are making a difference in the green industry. Turfgrass is one of the leading green commodities in the state.
“I think Georgia is setting a standard for the southeast as a whole for turfgrass,” says Josh Morrow, vice president of Sod Atlanta. “Our state is progressive in terms of working on the next generation of landscaping and building sustainable practices.”
Sod Atlanta, recently acquired by a division of Patten Seed Company, Super-Sod, has been involved in the turfgrass industry for more than 30 years and is a multigenerational company.
Morrow says the ability to adapt is one of the reasons the company has been in business so long.
“We take a lot of risks in our operation. We have released a lot of new grasses into the marketplace and have created a great demand for them,” Morrow says. “We don’t just carry the basic production. We carry new and innovative products including drought tolerant and heavy traffic tolerant variations.”
Morrow says Sod Atlanta focuses on using advanced variations and innovative technology in their operation.
“This is an exciting place to be in agriculture,” Morrow says. “It’s not like your grandpa’s farm where you are literally using the same tractor he used. We have cutting-edge technology to make farming better. We still believe in taking care of the land and our goal is to put the best product out there. We use the best technology we can because it makes a big difference.”