Matt Gold, the outgoing president of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, owns and operates Gold Hill Nursery in Hillsboro, Ore.
His family has been in the nursery industry for over 50 years, and he looks forward to continuing that legacy.
Capital Press recently interviewed him about topics important to the nursery industry.
CP: What have you seen change in this last year in the nursery industry? How is the industry doing?
MG: I think last year a lot of people were feeling positive about the industry and this year it seems to be more consistently positive. People are selling through their product and there is still a fairly broad shortage of material which is helping the growers get better pricing on their product.
I think things had a slow start this year, but things really redeemed themselves in April and May.
On the production side in general people are feeling that there is a decent shortage of employees. We’re competing with other industries that we share our labor force with — construction and landscaping. People are starting to want to produce more than they have in the past and now that there is a demand to produce more there’s not enough employees to be able to do it.
CP: What did you enjoy about being the president of the OAN?
MG: It was really cool to go to (Washington) D.C. and see how important our association is and how we have a united voice on major concerns. We talked to our different legislators on issues that concern the industry: immigration reform, water scarcity, the bee issue.
It was impressive to see upfront how our association can have an impact. Instead of being so ideological that we close doors, we had conversations with politicians that may have different ideas than we do, but seeing the level of cooperation and reasonable thinking on how we approach different issues was impressive.
CP: Do you see that cooperation as pushing the industry forward, out of the recent economic downturn?
MG: Yes. One of the key functions of the association is to help strengthen its members. When we talk about the recession and how people made tough financial and budgetary decisions, I can only see all these things that the OAN does for its members. These resources are pretty expensive for someone to replicate on their own.
We’re farmers by nature, and we want to be in the business of growing our crops, but in the process of that we have to make business and political decisions that are forced upon us. It’s nice to have that resource available to us. A large nursery could afford to have some recourse, but a small one couldn’t. The OAN can really help with those small ones especially.
CP: What challenges do you see in the coming year facing the nursery industry in Oregon?
MG: This probably sounds like a broken record, but immigration is going to continue to be an issue for us. How do we plan for future growth and expansion if we don’t have a good outlook on what our labor pool will be like? That’s not a new challenge but it’s still something we have to deal with.
Also water issues, both quantity and quality, are on the horizon. There’s no quick fix and I know the OAN is spending a lot of time on it. That’s something I appreciate about the OAN. It’s terrible to admit, but I don’t really care a lot about water. I have it and it does what I need so I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. But in the big picture that’s not a good way to think about water. We need to be aware about water quality and availability so we can have a seat at the table when it does matter to us.