By MITCH LIES
PORTLAND -- The number of exhibitors is down, but spirits are up at the 2013 Farwest Show as nursery growers said they are seeing the first major jump in sales since the Great Recession hit in 2008.
Some even reported hearing of product shortages for the first time since the bottom fell out of the nursery market.
"Shortages started to pop up toward the end of spring," said Carson Lord of Tree Frog Nursery in Silverton, Ore.
Lord, who is president of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, said Tree Frog has been holding firm on prices knowing that if one retailer won't take it, another will.
"We're well up (in sales) and the mood we've seen has been very improved," he said. "I just got back from the East Coast and, from talking to customers, the difference in mood and confidence level was remarkable from a year ago."
"I'm hearing about shortages for the first time in a long while," said Clayton Moore of North American Plants in Lafayette, Ore.
Moore, who sells extensively to the agricultural market, said he's having "one of the biggest years we've ever had this year.
"You can't complain when you're pulling your hair out because you're shipping too much in too small a time frame," Moore said. "That means the lights are on, the bills are paid and you've had a good year."
Tom Fessler of Woodburn Nursery and Azaleas characterized his situation as "not fabulous, but moving in the right direction.
"We're climbing out of the hole we were in," he said.
Trudy Van Klaveren of Van Klaveren Nursery n Lake Stevens, Wash., said she is seeing "a definite change this year."
"We cut back production during the slow time, and now people are having a hard time finding things," she said. "We've gone up a little bit in price."
Things aren't as rosy for a show that ranks as one of the top handful of nursery shows in the country each year.
This year's show has drawn only about 500 exhibitors, well down from highs of 700 at the show's peak in the mid 2000s, according to Jeff Stone, executive director of the OAN.
But, Stone said, those that are participating are making good contacts and engaging in a lot of business activity.
"Our growers are very busy doing tours in and around the show," Stone said. "Our folks are busier now than they have been in a couple of years.
"This show reflects that we are on the rebound," Stone said. "We are a little thin, but we still have over 500 exhibitors.
"This is home court for the growing community of nursery stock in this area, and we are still very appealing to our bread-and-butter participants, which is the wholesale grower community in Oregon and Washington."
"This is one-stop shopping for landscapers, retailers, wholesale growers and others," Stone said. "That part of the show is still vibrant. We've even had a foreign delegation attend the show from China. They want to open more trade between Oregon and China."