Bob Bedford has been a full-time farmer in Harrison County, Kentucky for 35 years. He currently raises cattle, corn, soybeans, hay, and seven years ago he started Longview Nursery on his farm.
He once grew 10 acres of tobacco along with 100 acres of tobacco plants and 50 acres of tobacco plugs for other farmers in the area, and when the tobacco quota started being cut, he looked for something else to grow. He now has two acres of nursery production in the field as well as four large cold frames, some of which were converted from growing tobacco plants to growing landscape plants.
“When the quota started being cut, I went to a cooperative Extension meeting in Montgomery County, and they were talking about different things you could do besides tobacco. Some people in Fleming County were talking about growing trees, and it sounded like something I could do. I have always enjoyed growing things, and this seemed to fit the bill,” said Bedford.
Bedford talked to the University of Kentucky and some Tennessee folks when he was getting started in the nursery business. “I asked people what to grow, and no one could tell me. There's a lot of guesswork because you're always looking two or three years down the road. There are trends in this business, but it's the most unpredictable business I've been in,” Bedford said.
To minimize risk, Bedford started small and began with a large variety of plants. He also installed a pot-in-pot system so he could market his plants year-round. This system requires intensive irrigation during the summer, but he believes it has helped with fall sales. He markets his plants to landscapers and garden centers within a 50-mile radius of his farm and has also sold plants to the Louisville parks system, Berea College, and large horse farms around central Kentucky.
Bedford farms his 165 acres along the south fork of the Licking River by himself with no outside labor. He has kept his operation profitable and manageable by remaining small-scale but highly diversified. “This is something I can do without help that I couldn't do with tobacco,” said Bedford.
He said it's best to have a good variety of plants. “I like to grow odd stuff that other people don't grow. Most people come for the unusual things and then buy additional plants once they are here.”
Bedford believes there is room for more nurseries in Kentucky, but his advice is to start small and work your way into it. “I knew there was a lot of potential, but didn't know how to capture it. It takes a long time for people to know you're here,” Bedford said
Bedford is a member of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's Kentucky Proud Program and regularly exhibits at the Central Kentucky Ornamental and Turf Association trade show in February.
You can find a list of his products on KDA's landscape plant availability guide by going to www.kyagr.com, clicking on directories and then clicking on Kentucky Landscape Availability Guide