You know I love blogging, learning and sharing information about the floral and wedding industry so I've decided to start doing interviews with industry leaders that I admire. My very first interview is with David Register who is the Executive Vice President of FernTrust which was founded in 1986 as a cooperative of quality oriented growers sharing a rich history in the agribusiness and is located in Seville, Florida. I personal have met David and buy his products!
Thank you David for being my very first interview. I'm always fascinated by flower growers and really wanted to learn more about the cut foliage industry. I appreciate you taking the time to tell me more about yourself and your business!
Tell us a little about yourself and about your position at FernTrust?
I am 50 years old attended the University of Florida, Love the outdoors and country living. I have been Married to my wife Alison for almost 26 years and we have two daughters Victoria and Savanna. Victoria is 20 years old this month and now working at FernTrust and Savanna graduated from high school this year and Starts at Daytona State college this fall. I am now the Executive Vice President at FernTrust.
How did you get into the Foliage Growing industry?
My Grandfather started growing Leatherleaf fern under natural oak shade trees on our farm in 1960… so you can kind of say I was born into it. My family’s farm was actually founded in 1912 and began as a citrus and timber farm but the first Leatherleaf was planted in 1960. My great, great grandfather originally purchased the farmland we now live on and where the largest part of our farm is located. It’s ironic but he purchased it from my wife’s family… her original ancestor in Florida on this property was an English sailor whom escaped from the Spanish from the fort in St Augustine back in the 18th century and bought land in this area… so we have deep roots here ;-)
In 1986 I was still in college and trying to decide my future. A few years prior a big freeze came through our part of Florida and killed off all of our citrus trees… some of them were over 100 years old at the time. My family also had been growing fern on a much smaller scale and selling it to other larger growers locally in our area. At this time myself, my father and a couple of other growers in our area were considering our options on starting a new foliage company. We decided on the Cooperative structure and formed FernTrust… I started out as its Operations Manager and in 2002 I became its Executive Vice President.
Tell us about the foliage's you grow, who buys them and how they are used?
We now grow Leatherleaf, Tree Fern, Aspidistra, Variegated and Green Pitt, Ming Fern, Monstera, bottle brush, Sprengeri, ligustrum, variegated ligustrum, Podocarpus, weeping Podocarpus, milkyway, feather fern, selloum leaves, eucalyptus, Plumosus, foxtail, cocculus, redwood cedar, princess pine, Carolina sapphire, magnolia, and many others… close to 40 different varieties of cut foliage’s. They are exclusively grown to be used by designers and florists worldwide in cut flower arrangements and at special events.
What are you biggest challenges today and how have things changed over the years?
Being an agricultural crop our biggest challenge continues to be the weather and the unpredictability of it… it always has been this since the beginning of time … with many of the advances in technology we can better manage normal weather events now better than ever… but things like tornado's, extreme drought, freezing temperatures and in Florida hurricanes are always possibilities… and they can be pretty challenging. Our second biggest challenge has become dealing with our own government and its ever increasing amounts of regulation and tax burdens. It makes it very difficult to compete with other third world countries that don’t have many of these burdens in our own country now because of cheap imports and also on a worldwide basis.
What is the best thing about your job/career?
Since our customers are worldwide.. I get to meet and work with people from all parts of our planet and especially every corner of the United states… I love that I have had the opportunity to travel and see so many places and develop friendships with people from all over the world and all walks of life. It is rare that a simple farmer which is what I really am be afforded these great opportunities. How many other farmers get to work with people with such great artistic talent as the floral design world…its awesome ;-)
If you could change one thing about your job/career, what would it be? Honestly… I can’t think of anything ;-)
What is the one thing you would want "non florists" to know about your industry? This is for florists and non florists… when someone gets a bouquet of flowers or greens for them to really think what it took to get that in that vase on their table.. and to understand the value that they are receiving…. First someone had to build the shade structure and irrigation system that would be used to grow it, next someone had to plant it and care for it till it was ready to harvest (not easy with weather, pests and other forces trying to kill it). Some had to cut each stem by hand with a pair of shears, someone had to transport it from the field to the packing house, someone had to pack it by hand carefully in a box. Someone had to sell it to a wholesaler. Someone had to transport it in refrigeration to their corner of the world. Someone had to sell it again to a flower shop and get it transported there. Then someone had to carefully un pack it, process it and then create something beautiful with it… all of these people along this chain are trying to make a living just like you and me… its really quite miraculous that this whole process can be done and still be affordable to the consumer
What is your personal favorite foliage?
Is there anything else you'd like us to know about your or your business? If you haven’t taken the time to watch it… check out our FernTrust Segment on the Florida fresh foliage tour on UBloom ~ I also love being connected to both designers and flower lovers on Facebook on both my personal page and on our company page…
Thanks again David, this was wonderful. Click Here to see J Schwanke's visit to FernTrust!