Crystal Cady has been working as a professional in Oregon’s horticultural industry for more than 15 years. That is especially impressive when you learn that she is just 31 years old. While working in a garden center, Crystal chose to attend a community college to gain an associate’s degree upon completing her high school degree as a junior, one year earlier than most. Then she moved from Portland to Corvallis to work at Garland Nursery while studying for degrees in horticultural science, botany, and business at Oregon State University.
Added to this, Crystal also volunteers for industry associations; participates as the seminar coordinator for the Farwest Trade Show, sponsored by the Oregon Association of Nurseries; and also serves as the chair of the Yard, Garden & Patio Show held at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. Surprisingly, she says, “A lot of people don’t know that Oregon is nursery country.” Many of the plants at local garden centers around the country originate in Oregon, and some 80 percent of what’s grown there is shipped out of state. Before the 2008 financial downturn, Oregon’s ornamental plant production was a billion-dollar industry, and at last, much to Crystal’s delight, the state is approaching that once again.
Through all of her time working, studying, and volunteering, Crystal has been part of the production business herself, creating containers and hanging baskets for private clients. In 2012, she marketed a range of 75 different ready-planted pots and quickly sold out. With that success, she knew the time had come for her lifelong dream—to start a garden center and farm. In 2013, Sunflower Acres Farm & Garden was born. Crystal leased a 30-by-96-foot greenhouse and grew about 500 hanging baskets; those, too, quickly sold out.
Crystal and her husband, Josh, have now signed up to sell their plants at local farmers’ markets in 2014, and the couple are closing in on their goal: They hope to acquire roughly 40 acres and open their own garden center this fall. Crystal’s plan for this place is ambitious, but there is little doubt she will accomplish her objective. “There will be a nursery with a café, display gardens, community and school plantings, a farm with fresh fruits and vegetables for sale, and eventually a vineyard.”
Photo: Jon Jensen