YAKIMA, Wash. — With 32 years in nursery work, Zach Nurse is an experienced professional. He owns Farwest Nursery and Landscape in Yakima, Wash., and says that there are many things that make nursery work accessible and enjoyable for people like him.
For he considers himself a self-made man in the sense that he did not receive an education beyond high school. He began his nursery career by working for experienced employers, starting when he was 18 years old. He made a point to learn from bosses, co-workers and customers.
“If you quit learning in this business, you should quit,” he said.
He discovered that everyone around him has a bit of knowledge from which he could benefit. This information could then be tested in the field.
After some time, he said, he started his own landscaping business.
With an eye to expansion, he discovered inexpensive land upon which he could start a nursery. He began leasing property on the outskirts of town, an area that appeared rural enough to give customers the experience of getting out of the city. Bird sounds and fresh air are two of the attractions that bring people to the nursery, Nurse said.
People started coming right away.
He began setting up a bare-bones nursery and was ready to open eight days after signing a lease. The first year of business, he said, was excellent, and it only improved during those early years, with sales doubling every year for the first five years.
When the option to buy his property came up in 2005, he jumped at it.
Trouble was just around the corner, though, as the collapse of the real estate market led to a terrible 2009 for Farwest.
“We weathered the storm, though,” Nurse said. Business has bounced back since then, and he has been able to expand. He put up a greenhouse and improved his inventory. He expanded into annuals and increased his perennials. Still specializing in alpine fir, he has begun offering new trees.
He said he wants to be the guy who is always coming up with something new. He aims to always keep his customers curious about his product. Then they will keep coming back to see the latest thing.
In this way, he said, an independent nursery can keep up with a big box store. Independent nurseries can draw customers by being an attraction. Also, they can offer better service and product quality.
Donna Nurse, who works alongside her husband, said that she also enjoys the business. Nurturing living things is rewarding, and “meeting people is fun,” she said.
Employee Randy Bacon, who has been at this nursery for three years, agrees, and said that he enjoys the freedom to be creative. He looks up to the Nurses, and he appreciates his employment.
“I love being here,” he said.