Ohio's Greenhouse Industry BloomsThere’s no doubt Ohio’s greenhouse industry is growing strong. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, in 2015, Ohio ranked fifth in the nation behind California, Florida, Michigan and North Carolina for wholesale sales of floriculture products, and the floriculture industry netted some $224 million.

Location, Location, Location

George Pealer, owner of Millcreek Gardens LLC in Ostrander, says part of the reason for the industry’s success is location.

“Ohio has several large, urban areas like Cleveland, Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus,” Pealer says. “We’re also close to Louisville and Lexington, and Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Detroit. That’s a pretty large region that we deliver to.”

Another reason the greenhouse industry continues to grow in Ohio is the state’s moderate climate.

“The environment in this part of the country is very conducive to growing perennials and other flowering plants,” Pealer says. “We have adequate moisture. Typically it’s in the 80s in the summer and 30s in the winter.” Bob Schmidt, second-generation owner of Schmidt Brothers Inc. in Swanton, agrees and adds that the knowledge and experience passed down by industry veterans has helped the industry grow.

“Horticulture started in this area because there were a lot of farmers around, and they got into it the same way my father and uncle did. The know-how was here pretty early on in the bedding plant business,” Schmidt says. “Most of the people here have been in it for quite a while. They have a lot of growing knowledge and they’ve kind of evolved with the business.”

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Knowledge Is Power

Pealer and his wife, Lynda, met while studying horticulture at The Ohio State University. He says access to a large talent pool has also contributed to his company’s success.

“Over the years, we have hired numerous Ohio State horticulture grads for staffing. I think that’s certainly been one of the main reasons that we have been in business so long. We’ve had really passionate and knowledgeable people that have worked here; some have been here 15 and 20 years,” he says. “We’re also getting more people from Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster. That’s definitely been a benefit – having these schools nearby.”

Like in most states, water conservation remains a concern for greenhouses and Ohio’s floriculture industry. Technology has allowed companies like Millcreek and Schmidt Brothers to more efficiently manage water consumption and be good stewards of the state’s most precious natural resource.

“We have booms [irrigation systems] now that will water pot to pot. They’ll actually stop and hit each pot individually rather than just a spray of water going over the whole thing, with a bunch of it going on the floor,” Schmidt says. “That is one advantage to our location – the abundance of water. We conserve water, but we’ve never had to worry about having a supply of it, which is a big problem for a lot of growers in other parts of the country.”

Courting Consumers

Both Pealer and Schmidt agree that while the future of the floriculture industry in Ohio is bright – sales were up 5 percent in 2015 from 2014 numbers – there are still a few challenges to overcome, in particular reaching new markets.

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“Everybody likes ornamental flowers and nice gardens. I think plants have become more important in people’s lives than they used to be. That’s one reason why the industry is doing pretty well in Ohio,” Pealer says.

“We have a lot of people who may have loved to garden, but now they will hire a landscaper contractor to do the work. We also have to be able to market to the millennials and younger folks. The question is, ‘How do we keep our products out there and make them realize how important those products are in their lives?’ ”