On May 18th, the second full day of tours for VALOR Class IV’s national trip took us to several interseting stops including McCorkle Nurseries. We were led through our tour by Brian Jernigan, Production Manager for the afternoon. Brian first took us to a building on the grounds called the Center for Applied Nursery Research (CANR). Since 1997 this non profit group provides a managed facility and funding for ornamental horticulture research based on grower needs, conducted under commercial growing conditions at McCorkle Nurseries and with their partnership. We were shown trials including ornamental blueberry bushes for the homeowner, that would produce berries throughout the season vs. all at once, for the enjoyment of the owner. They also worked in areas of disease research and used integrated pest management (IPM).
The nursery itself is approximately 820 acres, of which 440 is in production. Their primary business is to wholesale and landscape distributors. They have their own branded line of flowers and shrubs as well, so if you’ve seen the Gardener’s Confidence Collection at your local landscape business, it was probably grown at McCorkle Nursery. Its one of their trusted brand partners, listed on their website. It was also listed online that they ’employ’ robots. That is something I wish I’d seen!
While there, we added two special guests to our tour. Our first guest was Seth from John Deere’s Augusta Factory in Grovetown, GA. The Augusta factor is the largest employer in the area. At this particular John Deere plant, they assemble 27 models of tractors from 1 Series to 5 Series. (Fun Fact, this facility was also recognized by John Deere in 2014 for assembling the millionth unit, a 5100M model; read about it here.) Only assembly work is complete; parts come in, tractors come out. These tractors range in jobs from mowing the lawn to pulling and operating large farm implements. While we didn’t get to tour the plan, Seth gave us some insight on what goes on just down the road from McCorkle’s at the plant.
Our second special guest was Tom Knuth of Stilt Pro LLC. Tom explained his business as assisting growers with new methods of mechanization and automation to help improve agricultural operations. On his website, Tom asks “what equipment do you need?”. His focus is to ‘provide a fresh take on product design, blending simple safe robust design with user friendly technology to meet our growers and their customer’s needs’. So if you have a new idea for a piece of equipment that would make your farming life much easier, he’s looking for your call!
It was very interesting to see what [parts of] an 820-acre nursery looks like and hearing from two innovative individuals.