Owning a greenhouse business keeps former EPHS horticulture teacher busy

Eagle Point area residents will recall just a few years ago that Kelly Brainard left the FFA Horticulture program to enter private enterprise.  She and her husband bought the Ashland Greenhouses, a century old business supplying annuals, perennials, vegetable starts, hanging baskets and poinsettias to a large number of area retailers.

No sooner had they assumed ownership of the business, they began a move, in 2007, that would take them from the city of Ashland to rural property off Eagle Mill Road, north east of the city.  That move would take them two years to complete, all the while maintaining production and sales.  The original greenhouses were picked up and moved to the new location on the east side of I-5.

That may seem like an easy task, but there are more than 63,000 sq. ft. of greenhouses.  The entire operation was moved, except for some support beams that were set in concrete and could not be salvaged.

The move was a good one for the business.  Utilities companies worked with them to improve the efficiency of their heating system, an aged boiler that forces heated water through  iron pipes.  Not only that, but they were better able to arrange the physical locations of the houses to make pick-up and delivery much more efficient.

Ashland Greenhouses has a wholesale trade, supplying many retailers in the northern California, southern Oregon area.  In addition, they have a thriving retail business, selling to walk-in customers from throughout the area.  The area surrounding the houses is landscaped to present a most pleasing picture to those who follow the signs to the potting rooms.

Inside the greenhouses, Kelly is proud to show the shade curtains that prevent summer heat from cooking plants, and roll-up sides that help cool the houses and keep excess moisture from building up inside.  She says that healthy plants thrive in the correct conditions and therefore resist insect problems.

When asked about teaching, Kelly readily admits that she misses the students.  However, she actively teaches on weekends, only this time it is mostly adults wanting to know more about the plants they are growing or potting.  She also maintains an advisory status with most of the area schools, helping them with ailing programs, or even starting new ones. She even helps with the Rotary Access program.

Never one to rest on her laurels, Kelly will shortly embark on a one-month tour of northern Italian greenhouses, hoping to glean even more information from those operations.

What is the #1 crop grown at the Ashland Greenhouses?  “Pansies,” she says, “we grow two crops per year.  They don’t do well in summer, so we start them in the spring and again in the fall for winter color.”

Information on Kelly’s classes are found on facebook at Ashland Greenhouses and the website is Ashlandgreenhouses.com.  She says that a number of her classes are free, but they do have to charge a minimal amount for materials in some classes. The phone number for Ashland Greenhouses is: 541-482-2866.
By Ralph McKechnie
for the Independent


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