Site allows users
to review products, check inventories
By KELSEY THALHOFER
The Oregon Association of Nurseries will officially launch its new online nursery guide at this year's Farwest Show.
"As a grower, I'm really excited for it," said Jerry Simnitt, OAN president and owner of Simnitt Nursery in Canby. The guide, made possible by a $92,000 USDA specialty crop grant administered by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, will allow both industry professionals and home gardeners to find and order Oregon nursery products online. OAN matched the grant and covered the rest of the project costs, totaling an estimated $264,000.
"This truly is an innovative step and really mirrors the kind of technology that we have now," OAN executive director Jeff Stone said.
The site -- www.nurseryguide.com -- is smartphone compatible and links with social media including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It allows users to rate and review products and check inventory at a given nursery. Users can also share resources and advice using forums on the site.
"We have a product that will keep us at the leading edge for at least five years," said Ann Murphy, OAN marketing director. Murphy has spent the past two years conducting market research and developing the site and plans to keep updating it as technology advances. "We know it's not going to be a static product."
Murphy said member education will be a crucial element in making the site more functional. OAN will give all members a profile on the site, but each member is responsible for updating the profile and making it public. OAN plans to walk many members through that process. They are calling the site's debut at the Farwest a "soft launch," so that growers can prepare their nursery profiles before OAN begins marketing the site to the public in late 2012.
Members also receive one free product listing with their profile, but they must pay for each additional one.
Through her market research, Murphy discovered that the leading way growers find new supplies is through trade shows, and the next popular option is online. Attendees can do both at the Farwest Show.
"We're trying to serve the entire green industry, from small grower to large grower, from designer to retailer," Murphy said. "It's going to provide -- exponentially -- a lot of value to the industry."