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Santa Maria Sun / Biz Spotlight

The following article was posted on March 19th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 2 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 2

Spotlight on: Plantel Nurseries

Mike Leedom, Operations Manager

By DORA SALTZMAN


CONCERNED ABOUT WATER
Mike Leedom, operations manager at Plantel Nurseries in Santa Maria, stood in front of his healthy transplants despite the recent drought. “The drought hasn’t affected our company just yet, but it’s definitely something we will have to worry about in the future [if] it continues,” he said. “Transplants save water in the field because they don’t start from seeds.”
PHOTO BY DORA SALTZMAN

It’s a Monday morning and the ocean smell of organic fertilizer made from fish emulsion and kelp extract is ripe in the air of the greenhouses at Plantel Nurseries.

A sea of young broccoli, tomato, and celery transplants are currently arranged in rows by pallet, awaiting shipment to their destinations. Plantel is a wholesale provider of high-quality vegetable transplants for local farmers, although some products are delivered to Arizona, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, and Wisconsin.

“We’ve been open since 1987 and last year alone grew over 1.2 billion transplants,” Plantel President Scott Nicholson said. “We have transplanting crews that put most of the crops in the ground for the local farmers.”

In order to do this, they have a fleet of machines with the ability to work with a different blend of row configurations, bed widths, and types of transplants.

Transplants, which are essentially starter plants and less than 5 feet tall, are grown from a seed in the nursery’s controlled environment. Employees monitor moisture, nutrition, and temperature levels, and bacteria are nearly eradicated. As a result, the plants develop more quickly and efficiently than direct-seeded plants.

Plantel also uses an advanced Cravo retractable roof on its greenhouses, which allows both the sides and top to open for more light, greater airflow, and better efficiency.

“It saves time because we don’t have to move the crop outside the greenhouse for it to harden-off,” said Mike Leedom, the operations manager at Plantel. “It also saves energy because we don’t have to cool the greenhouses during the day.”

When the plants are “hardened-off” properly outside, it ensures they will be hardy specimens that can almost definitely survive transfer to the field.

Although Plantel has nearly 1 million square feet of greenhouse space throughout three locations in Santa Maria, the facility on Telephone Road is different because it has been certified in Organic Transplant Production since 1999. Sustainability is also something Leedom feels goes hand in hand.

“Our trays are durable and go through a cleaning machine so we can reuse them numerous times,” he said. “We recycle water and we have a sophisticated water-recycling system that captures all the water on the property so nothing runs off.”

Plantel also uses sustainable potting soil and features a fleet of more efficient trucks running on diesel. 

“People see those trucks on the road and see the greenhouse when they pass by the nursery, and they wonder what we grow,” Leedom said. “We want to invite our neighbors to come and see what we do.”

Generally not open to the public, Plantel employees have decided to hold an open house in order to educate the community on their company.

The open house will feature tours of the facility, free vegetable and flower plants, and information about the nursery.

“We want to walk everyone through the process: from the seedling line where we start the plants, to where we put them in the nursery, to how we ship them and who we ship them to,” he said.

The open house will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 3.

Plantel Nurseries is located at 2890 Telephone Road in Santa Maria.

For more information, call the nursery at 332-4159, or visit website plantelnurseries.com.

 

Intern Dora Saltzman wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, e-mail, or mail.




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