Saturday, July 29, 2017

Visit to Bob's Market in Mason, WV

We hit the road as a group to attend Cultivate '17, THE conference/trade show for people in our industry. Held annually in Columbus, Ohio, it is the perfect place to get away from the store to look back at spring '17 while looking forward to 2018.
My companions on this trip were Valley View Farms' owner Andy Foard, GM Tim McQuaid and our grower, John Miller. We traveled together, driving to Ohio, taking one stop on our way out to Mason, WV. Mason sits on a bend of the Ohio River in the northwest corner of the state.
Tim, Andy, our host, Bobby and John

We took the opportunity to drop in on one of our young plant suppliers, Bob's Market, to meet the folks who grow our baby plants.
John receives the plants in 144 or 288 count plug trays, then moves them up to a 4 1/2" pot to finish them to sell at our garden center. Bobby Barnitz took the time to show us around a part of his family business. It was incredible to see what goes into producing millions of plants for growers and garden centers in our region!

John, Tim, Andy and I learned so much from our visit with Bobby
Bob's Market custom mixes soils for planting along a gigantic conveyor, where peat, perlite, bark, water, fertilizer and other ingredients are combined to make the perfect media to grow any number of particular plants.
Two stops on the flat filling machine 
Seeds are housed in a temperature controlled room until planting
The automation is astounding. Once flats are filled, they go to one of several stations where seed is dropped into the mix, watered and sent to a germination chamber for a few days. Once the seed has started to grow, Bob's has an incredible machine that takes photos of 1/2 a flat at a time to see if any seeds failed to germinate in their 288 trays. Little mechanical fingers are guided to a donor tray, where tiny plants are taken and placed into the missing cells.
Each and every cell have a seedling...I counted:)
Flats are then moved to greenhouse benches where they will grow on.
This single greenhouse was 8 acres
They will be shipped via Bob's Market trucks directly to greenhouses, like ours in Hydes, MD.
Our visit in late July occurred just as our fall pansies were being planted. What a treat to see the process from the very beginning.
Thank you, gentlemen, for a fantastic stop on our way to Columbus.

Three generations of Barnitz's at Bob's Market
Alan, founder Bob, and Bobby

After our visit, we hopped into Andy's SUV and headed to Columbus, now just 2 hours away.

The next blog installment will feature the show itself.