Mississippi Horticulture Industry With a value of more than $7.51 billion annually, agriculture is Mississippi’s No. 1 industry. Horticulture crops — vegetables, melons, potatoes, fruits, tree nuts, berries, nursery, greenhouses, floriculture, sod and Christmas trees — bring in $96 million. That number could be a lot higher in the future, says Dan Batson, owner of GreenForest Nursery in Perkinston. An Industry with Potential “I am optimistic about the future of the horticulture industry in Mississippi,” Batson says. “We have the opportunity to grow, and there’s an opportunity for growers in Mississippi to become more relevant. The growing industry in the states on both sides of us are much bigger, but we have as good or better natural resources and are positioned geographically where we can service Texas all the way to the East Coast.” Batson says as the state’s population grows, and sustainability and beautification of municipalities becomes more prevalent, there will be room for new nursery growers to get into the business and for established growers to expand. The non-nursery sections of the horticulture sector also have a solid foundation and room to grow, especially edible foods, he says. Batson says he is glad to be a part of the Mississippi Nursery & Landscape Association, a network of growers, landscapers and garden centers in Mississippi. Networking with industry colleagues is the best way to stay informed and will be integral in expanding the horticulture industry in Mississippi. “I am a big believer in associations,” he says. “It connects you to some of the most innovative and forward thinking people in the industry. It also creates new friendships, and you can talk to people and find out things you’re doing right or wrong. Some of the most successful people in this industry are connected to associations.” Mississippi Horticulture Industry GreenForest Nursery GreenForest Nursery is a 140-acre wholesale container tree nursery, and Batson says he’s expanding into shrubbery to further meet customers’ needs. Batson started the nursery in 1983 on his family’s land, which has been passed down through several generations since the 1800s. Back then, the standard for nursery trees was ball-and-burlap growing, but Batson saw a future in container trees — and he was right. “We started with 2,000 15-gallon pots in 1983, and now, we generally have around a half a million container trees from 15 gallons up to 65 gallons growing at the nursery at any given time,” he says. Leading the Way Batson picked up on the move to container trees in the early ’80s, and now, he’s working hard to embrace the sustainable movement, both in his growing practices and his marketing. “With the attitude of the public about the environment and sustainable habits we need to have, that’s what the horticulture industry needs to promote — how important green plants are,” Batson says. “It should be a necessity, not a luxury. Everyone needs to have green spaces.” And as GreenForest Nursery expands, Batson is investing in equipment and methods that conserve the land and natural resources. He recently bought a new spraying machine that allows for more accuracy when spraying pesticides, cutting down on drippage and reducing the amount used. GreenForest Nursery is also using less water these days. “One of the major things we’re attempting to do and spending a lot of time and money on as we expand is having water come to recycling ponds,” Batson says. “We collect runoff water on site and run it through recycling ponds to remove most of the nitrogen and phosphates and then reuse that water. It has helped us cut way down on the well water we use.”

See Also:  Agricultural Exports Grow Mississippi's Economy


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