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Horticulture Tours Showcase Regional Producers

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I have wanted to write this article since June 2005 when Noble's staff horticulturists took cooperators on a horticulture tour of central Oklahoma. It included the Tres Suenos winery and vineyards near Luther, the Sunberry pick-your-berry operation, the Wind Drift orchard near Harrah and Couch Pecan farm in Luther. We ended the tour by visiting TLC Nursery and Greenhouse in Oklahoma City, where we were hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Shackleford.

This year's tour was a change in the geographic location as well as type of enterprises. On June 6, we toured several North Texas horticulture enterprises. We had a long day of several interesting stops.

A trip to a Denton County composting facility started the day. Gayla Wright was our hostess and showed us mountains of composting materials that are sold to anyone by bag or tractor trailer loads. The bulk of the materials are used in the landscape trade. This is one way to handle the monstrous amounts of organic matter that are being misplaced in landfills.

The next stop was at a large, well-organized wholesale tree nursery called LMI Tree Farm, near Celina. Our host was Vicki Van Deren, who showed us 20 acres of 4- to 6-inch and bigger trees in containers. LMI sells to large subdivisions and developers as well as landscapers. Our next stop was a real treat for lunchtime (hosted by the Collin County Master Gardeners) at the home and nursery of Susan Owens in Celina. The Owens nursery specializes in plants being promoted by Texas Cooperative Extension called EARTH-KIND. These plants are promoted as having low disease and insect pressure. For more information, contact Steve George, statewide Extension coordinator of the CEMAP/Texas Superstar program and the EARTH-KIND Environmental Landscape Management Program. Or, visit these Web sites: texassuperstar.com, aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/.

Following the warm Texas hospitality at lunch, we visited a turfgrass grower near Melissa called Stoney Point Farms. They specialize in zoysiagrass.

The final stop at Fannin Tree Farms was very interesting as we viewed a quarter of a million newly planted trees which are marketed for subdivisions and landscape contractors as well as homeowner plantings. Our host, David Kerns, shared his company's management style of the tree nursery and tree establishment.

The reason for these tours is to allow growers of horticultural crops to share their opinions with cooperators. We allow time for a question-and-answer session so our cooperators receive an idea of what is needed to start an operation and how to market the production.

We encourage you to attend our next tour of horticultural enterprises in June 2007. Several new places to visit have been suggested to us, and, if you have any requests, please forward your suggestion to me. Come and enjoy the fellowship and meet new people along the way!