With 2,000 acres of growing area and 26 retail outlets in four states, Moon Valley Nurseries is the largest retail-integrated nursery in the United States. Currently, the company produces approximately 500,000 trees per year. Moon Valley is just the latest stop in Operations Manager, Russ Kelly’s, long and storied career After studying Ornamental Horticulture at Cal Poly in the early 1970’s, Russ began looking for innovative ways of growing trees in Southern California. That’s when he discovered a revolutionary method of tree planting.
A Growing Epiphany
In the early 1980’s, Russ stumbled across grow bags developed by High Caliper Growing. Known as Root Control Bags, Russ found them so advantageous he became the largest user of High Caliper grow bags in California. “I’ve experimented with numerous methods of growing in my 40-plus-year career. Bags are the absolute best,” he commented. Root Control Bags gave Russ the ability to harvest up to 500 trees per day. “Root Control Bags create major savings in the industry’s largest cost center — labor.”
To the Moon and Beyond
In 2013, Russ’s company was acquired by Moon Valley Nurseries, who retained him to build their business. Russ quickly realized that his new, vastly expanded customer base wasn’t ready for High Caliper Growing’s innovative grow bags. Despite their .01% mortality rate and harvest-ability in 108-degree temperatures, the market was not prepared for a paradigm shift. That got Russ thinking. Who exactly was forward-thinking enough to purchase bag-grown trees? That’s when he discovered a niche market — selling indoor trees to high-end properties and venues. That single insight led him to create relationships with some of the world’s most recognizable brands.
How Do You Like Them Apples?
Russ’s customers now include some of the highest-profile brands in the world. Apple is installing bag-grown trees throughout its $5-billion headquarters in Cupertino, California. Apple houses Russ’s trees in custom concrete pots that have leather seating installed on top of them. And Apple stores around the world are catching on, too. From San Francisco to Missouri to Dubai, Apple stores around the globe are buying trees grown in Root Control Bags. For Russ, selling grow bags into this highly specialized market is the culmination of a long and winding career. Reflecting on his experiences, he mused: “I started with a one-acre plot and became the largest user of Root Control Bags in California.”