Raymond Greenstreet II | Owner and President Greenstreet Growers and Greenstreet Gardens

Pond Roofing

About This Episode

Ray Greenstreet joins John in this exciting new episode just in time for Spring! Ray is the Owner and President of Greenstreet Growers/Greenstreet Gardens and has three different locations throughout Northern Virginia and Maryland. Ray shares a wealth of knowledge from the gardening industry, the latest technology, tips for getting your family involved with gardening and the amazing health benefits of having plants in your home and life. Don’t miss this exciting new episode!
Greenstreet Gardens Website



[00:00:05] Speaker 1 So welcome to another episode of the Go with John show, we are here today with Ray Greenstreet of Green Street Gardens. Ray, thank you for coming in.


[00:00:14] Speaker 2 Yeah, thanks for having me on this beautiful morning.


[00:00:16] Speaker 1 I know rainy day. So you were telling us a little bit about the drive in, how you hit a little traffic on the little stick out there right now? So, Ray, tell us a little bit about, you know who you are and how did you end up becoming a nursery grower?


[00:00:34] Speaker 2 So I really started when I was young and I was 13 and needed a job like all the other kids do. And I was the yard boy. I worked for a big wholesale grower that his wife had polio, and I would literally drive around on the golf course cart. And she would say, plant the miracle there and plant that there. And then winter came. And you know, I started working in the greenhouses and it was called Cherry Break was over in Clarksville, Maryland, Howard County, of course. All that’s gone now, it’s all built up with homes. And he said, go to school every day and work my tail off. We got paid 80 percent of minimum wage because it was agriculture back then, so I started at two twenty five an hour. Wow. And I worked my tush off.


[00:01:20] Speaker 1 Yeah, but you had fun.


[00:01:21] Speaker 2 I had a great time. It was. It was. We had 50 Quonset houses, which are those little hoop houses and were not very sophisticated yet. Open and closed doors and manually open and close windows grow a ton of bedding plants and perennials and things. And on the weekends, the family that we work for was, you know, fairly religious and they would go to, you know, their services, things on the weekend. And it was me and a bunch of high school kids running the place. And it was my job to be the weekend manager and keep everything alive, you know, till Monday. And what are the flowers and keep the kids from burning the place down or, you know, running around on the trucks or anything else? And I work there all through high school was a great it was a great education because it gave me the opportunity not to just, you know, flip burgers or anything, but, you know, learn how to work on equipment. And, you know, I’ll tell you a little funny ways to be the right way, the wrong way and the cherry right away. And you know, they were they were hardworking people and didn’t have a lot of deep resources. And, you know, I had them keep things patched and working and generators running and heaters and things like that. But it was a great education in that it really taught me a lot about how a lot of life lessons are. And I’ve been in the agriculture business ever since I worked for a big interior escape company called Creative Plantings, and back in the 80s, right after I got off school wasn’t high school, wasn’t ready to go to college, and we did all the malls and hotels and stuff in northern Virginia and D.C. market and Four Seasons Hotel and all those places. That was when, you know, every office had plants in it. And by the way, I don’t see one plant in this office. That’s right.


[00:03:09] Speaker 1 What’s the problem? Labor, Labor?


[00:03:14] Speaker 2 So and then I went away to college and went to school out in Chicago. I was affiliated with a company called Ball Seed Boll Seed as the premier breeder and broker for worldwide for plants and and came back and worked for Bell Nursery. A lot of people know by now there they supply a lot of the Home Depots, and so the box stores with, you know, seasonal color. Back then we were growing product flowers and foliage and everything else to supply to create a plantings, which was the sister company and did all the interior escape oak and chugged along and started doing a little bit of work with Depot. And one day ball seed came in and said, Hey, we want you to be a salesman. And I went on the road 10 99 employee and and it was that was a great education. I had, you know, Maryland for a number of years. And then one day I got a call and they said, Hey, we want you to move the Long Island and take over the New York market. And my wife sort of crying, you know, we had a young son. Our family and friends were down here, you know, never, never a little bit of experience in New York. Not much so. We went up and bought a home on the eastern and the Long Island Place called Waiting River, right on the Long Island Sound. Beautiful country up there and a lot of people don’t realize it, but I had all the Long Island, Rockland, Westchester and Fairfield. Connecticut was my was my sales to our territory. Mm-Hmm. And that was, you know, late 80s things. The economy was growing and going crazy, and I had all the Hamptons. They were all my customers there, their landscape contractors and growers, right, were my customers and, you know, got to see what that was all about. And they would have a party on the weekend and they’d plant their whole place and landscape it, and then the next weekend they’d have another party and then midweek they’d take all the flowers out and put all new flowers in the same gas come back and they didn’t want to have the same flowers.


[00:05:16] Speaker 1 All right. Imagine that. That’s crazy. But a lot


[00:05:20] Speaker 2 of big commercial growers in Long Island, so Long Island. It’s kind of an interesting place. You know, I always said, you could you could have anything on Long Island that you once you have the money, great food and great people. And I used to be all potato farms out there. And eventually it’s turned into wineries and vineyards and greenhouses. But Long Island sticks out into the ocean, you know, a hundred and fifty miles and that eastern side of Long Island gets more light than South Carolina and Florida does because all the water reflects the light from the ocean back into that area. Yeah. So it’s a phenomenal growing area. And there’s plenty of good water and stuff. The biggest problem on Long Island is getting on all, getting on and off the islands


[00:06:07] Speaker 1 right over the bridges.


[00:06:08] Speaker 2 Yeah, but yeah, and that was always that was always a treat or grabbing a ferry or something. It still is today. Yeah, absolutely. But have a lot of passion for for my friends and customers up there and what they do and really kind of opened my eyes to a little bit different type of retailing and a lot of farm stands. I mean, there’s just one one after the next and on the weekends, you know, everybody goes from. These are from New York City, Manhattan, out to the island, and they’re either going out to the South Fork, which is where the Hamptons and all that are, or they’re going out and getting their pies and their fresh vegetables, right? So it was up. It was a high drive, a lot of fun, challenging territory and and then eventually. I promised my wife I would bring her back to Maryland one day, and I think if we probably stayed there another couple of years, we probably never would have left but right. But we came we had the opportunity to buy one of our suppliers, one of Paul seed suppliers called Widmyer, and they produce little vegetative cuttings so seed plants come either from seeds or vegetative cuttings and back. Long time ago, when Martha Stewart started going and getting going and had all this kind of novelty plant material and proven winner, as you probably heard that name. Yep. All floorplan. And so the vegetative annuals and vegetated perennials and things, they don’t they’re not good seed producers, but they’re great growers. And, you know, they cover a lot of space and they take, you know, the high heat and and they grow really, you know, rapidly. So where do you produce so so those stock plants? There’s a nucleus block in Chicago or whatever. But the real stock plants are grown in Israel, Costa Rica, Nicaragua now and Kenya. So they have these huge, I mean, massive, massive farms and greenhouses. They’re all they’re all screened for a thing called thrips, which is a little bug that can carry, you know, viruses. Mm-Hmm. Mm-Hmm. And they put all these yellow cards, sticky cards up and check for check for the bugs and things. And then there’s different quarantine levels. So back, you know, with the terrorists and all that was going on. One of the things that’s most popular in the market, right, is petunias. You see these great big, huge petunias and some of his yard or and these massive hanging baskets or these calla breakaways that call them or mini petunias. But they’re actually on the terrorist watch list because there are host to Estonia. And Estonia is kind of what created the Great Potato Famine and the government. U.S. government is always afraid that somebody would affect the farm and then they would bring this disease into the country. So you go into your white suit, you go in that house and you go through the ammonia bath with your feet. And then every time they take one of those or cuttings, they they change their knives. And it’s very Strout’s. It’s almost like surgery. It’s unbelievable. And they harvest all these cuttings and then they pack them and cool them and get the heat out of them because it’s, you know, very warm down there. And then they’re flown into Miami or they’re flown into New York and they go through a USDA day inspection very quickly. Everything has a barcode on it. So you know the variety. But you also know a greenhouse when it was cut through, the clutter was so if there was ever an issue with anything, you could always trace back. So then those cuttings get delivered to our farm, usually by FedEx or truck. And we have, you know, about 24 to 48 hours to get them stuck because there’s no roots, right? You can’t bring soil in from other countries.


[00:10:05] Speaker 1 So so you have the bare roots.


[00:10:07] Speaker 2 She’ll come in a little tiny, you know, little plastic bags with a label. It looks almost like drugs coming out right there, all these little packets and then, yeah, and we have to sort them, you know, we grow a lot of a lot of different varieties, and then we route them from about four to five weeks. And then once a route, about 100 are dry or 50 and a tray, and then we ship them out to other growers. It’s really their starter plants home. So that was when we bought Wimmer. That was really their predominant focus, which is now green street growers. And in my heart, I always loved Long Island, a lot of the growers and I love the the garden centers and things up there and the farm stands. So one of my goals right after we purchased Woodmere was to open up our own garden center and we’re on 65 acres there and we took part of the old tobacco farm and, you know, built greenhouses, and we also built a garden center, year-round garden center. And things are going along pretty good, and then we had the big old, good old recession that came and that was that was hard with that. Typically, you know, we always say the plan industry is a little bit recession or recession proof because it’s such a long season. And you know, it’s it’s kind of years and in the turn and usually the economy, you know, kind of corrects of that period. But this, as everybody knows, that recession lasted a really long


[00:11:31] Speaker 1 time, which recession. So that was back in 2008. The financial yeah, we talk about that a lot. You’re on this show, so


[00:11:38] Speaker 2 it really impact us. So a lot of our medium sized customers that bought these liners, these starter plants, they kind of disappeared. Either they got smaller or they got bought out or they said, Forget this business, I’m out of here, you know, or they want, you know, they went belly up. So. I really decided that we had to diversify. And my wife, I’ll tell you, we’re too diversified. But you know, you mentioned labor with a horticulture business. You know, there’s a couple of big peaks. You know, you have a big peak in the spring and a big peak in the fall on the peak of the Christmas. And then when I was a kid and working in there, you would just get laid off. They would lay everybody off between those peaks and valleys, and you can’t do that anymore because you never get your staff back. Right? So, you know, between the recession and trying to, you know, make sure that we really built a strong team was to figure out what else we could do to diversify. And one, you know, we purchased another garden center right in the middle of the recession was was not an easy thing to do with the bank. And that’s what ever here in Alexandria, off of Braddock Road and. Pretty insulated right from from that type of the economy, you know, a lot of old money down there and passionate gardeners and homes from, you know, small homes to, you know, large estates. So that was a real gem that really helped us. And then we got into green walls. We do a lot of commercial green walls. That’s what you really need an air clean cleaners that cleans the air and right, you know, makes your guest a little bit more relaxed, right, and makes your brain work a little bit better. So we do that. We’re doing those, you know, all through Baltimore and all of which I know we just put one down in Alabama and Bonnie Plants, who grows a lot of vegetables for the box stores. They have a new office. We just put one in there. We do our own residential landscape. We don’t do commercial landscape because we supply the plants to the commercial properties just like you’re building here. They got pansies out front right now and, you know, hopefully in a few weeks, if it warms up a little bit, we’ll start getting some of the other neat items that we grow. But so we ship into northern Virginia, Baltimore, Washington, Delaware, more to the eastern shore. It’s kind of amazing what’s happening on the Maryland eastern shore in Delaware, right? More and more commercial places in Berlin and other places we ship over there, Cambridge, and then we’ll go as far north as north or New York and as far south right now as North Carolina. So we’re bringing the seasonal color, right? And that’s one of the things that we grow millions of millions of those things.


[00:14:28] Speaker 1 So, so tell me a little more about a Greenwald, so how do you how do you install?


[00:14:32] Speaker 2 So we have a patented technology and it’s almost like siding on a house, but it’s a double panel wall and we pressurize it. OK, we have a padded nozzle, so we bring the ambient air from a room or from a conference room. Mm-Hmm. We push it into the wall and then this nozzle delivers the moisture, the air into the roots on what’s called the rhizosphere. And. And we actually force the moisture in the air together in the rhizosphere where the roots are. And the micro builds and all the things that are grown in the soil actually break down the voces, the volatile organic compounds. Mm-Hmm. So this process was first kind of discovered back in the 70s with the Dr. Woolverton and Nasser, and they were trying to figure out how to clean the space station because with all the electronics and the canned air and stuff, you know, you can’t open the window a little fresh, Erin, and be that pollutants are really were a really big thing. And what he found is. Typical house plants, typical tropical foliage, plants actually clean the air. But most people think they clean the air of, you know, you have a spath or a piece of lonely sitting here on the corner, which you don’t, by the way, but I’ll send you one and all. And in that thing, cleans the air. But really, it’s doing a little bit, but it just kind of sitting there. What the research really showed is that forcing air into the roots, right? It’s it’s a symbiotic relationship between the plants and the bacteria that grow naturally in the soil. It’s exactly what happens outside. So the plant is kind of the inoculum, it’s the engine. It’s producing the sugars to feed all these different good bacteria. And when those those VOCs come in there. It actually chews them up and breaks them down and it really becomes food for for them and the plan. It’s pretty amazing. So we developed this technology and we’ve got a new wallet we’re working on right now to get how we got stored a little bit with with COVID and supply issues. And but we’re. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with that, the wall that we just put up down and down in the body plants is our newer, newer technology and we can do it. We can grow agricultural plants with it. We can we can make smaller units that will actually be like a desktop or in your home. It’s really cool. And the neat thing about it is we were putting, you know, led light has gotten to be huge and it’s huge in your offices, in the homes. But one of the biggest drivers of LED lights is the cannabis market. Mm-Hmm. Because they need as much light as they can to produce, you know, the right type of, you know, THC and all those other things. And you know, we get these, I get these industry magazines and they got a strawberry and they got a LED light over top of it. It’s changed a little bit now, but when it was first, you know, kind of taboo to talk about it. You know, they cherry the strawberry, but you knew what they were really talking about growing cannabis in, and I’m not advocating one way or the other, but it was a huge driver for GM, for General Electric and Philips and these people who make this different type of light. So we’re stealing that technology and buying lily delights to can to grow the green wall. So I agree walls are much different. You know, these are the green walls that are out there and they hang parts on a wall and right and they’re beautiful and you get the esthetics out of it. But ours is really two function one, it’s it’s cleaning the air, and it’s also adding, you know. The ambiance to your office and right, and you know, there’s all kinds of research you know about what plants do and was interesting with COVID. One of the things that really did was really drove people back into the house plant and foliage market. So back in the 80s, when I was with creative and ’90s, the foliage market was just booming out of Florida because most of the foliage is grown in Florida. And over those last 20, 25 years, you know, it really was starting to go south. And, you know, the nurseries were kind of slowing down, expanding and they were building homes out of Florida. Right? And then COVID hit and the foliage market and the houseplant market and the cyclical market went berserk. Yeah, and berserk.


[00:19:04] Speaker 1 Yeah. And the homebuilding market and yeah.


[00:19:07] Speaker 2 And so, you know, everything kind of comes and goes around. So back in the 70s and 80s and 90s, it was plants were everywhere. And then the commercial properties and homes kind of went more of artwork and fancy tables and things like that. And now there’s a trend that it’s kind of moving back to the middle again, like everything does. And and also the younger generation. They want they want something easy. You know, and that’s why the succulent business is really kind of got huge. So we grow a lot of succulents and they’re just little two and a half inch plants and it’s a good thing, you know, it’s everybody needs something green in your life, right? And it makes you healthier and helps your brain helps you relax or to get off the beltway.


[00:19:53] Speaker 1 And I feel I feel very, very badly that we don’t have.


[00:19:58] Speaker 2 I know I’m playing this studio and I going out. I want to send some things down. But you know, and also it’s a natural way to add humidity back in your room, right? You know, one of the things I kept taxing our governor and our county exact is when this COVID thing was going on is to tell people, open the windows in minutes. It’s you know what, what happens with COVID and those other viruses was when the air is dry that just floats around, floats around floats. Yeah, but if there’s a little bit of humidity in the air, right, you open the window. The moisture molecules attach to that virus and it settles to the floor. So we never show we were, you know, we’re deemed agriculture. So we stayed open. Our stores stayed open. Our business stayed open. You know, at peak, we have 175 employees now. Wow. We never shut down one day for COVID. We were open seven days a week just like we were. We had customers coming into our store because, you know, we really transitioned to foliage and more vegetables and gardening. And, you know, so people grow their own stuff. And I think, you know, knock on wood. Over that period of time, we had four or five cases of COVID, and that was it.


[00:21:09] Speaker 1 Yeah, well, you’re you’re mostly outdoors.


[00:21:11] Speaker 2 Yeah, we’re outdoors. But you know, we’re never, you know, the one thing about agriculture that I think a lot of people don’t realize is, you know, you’re not just driving a tractor anymore, you know, it’s you know, you have to have the social media and you have to have the marketing and you have to have the databases to know where all your plants are. We have, you know, we use a skill database, so we manage all these, you know, jobs across this market. So we know what’s been in there for the last number of years and a lot of times we have. Data, it’s more accessible to us than the landscapers because we’re tracking all that. You know, when I work for ball converted from their old system to our SRP Kapisa database system out of Germany, and everything’s looked at the line level. So you put all the all the information about this plastic bottle in there, you know, you have all these different products. We do the same thing with our plants, so we track in the color the size of growth and any attributes that we want to track. And then we can produce phenomenal reports and projections as far as what we’re going to grow the next year. And, you know, because I guarantee, along with Foster and every other four seasons of where I was, they’re not thinking about what they’re going to have next spring out in front of their sidewalk. Right. But we at the start, you know, it’s a huge, very long chain of life from the nucleus blocked the stock block to mother plants, you know, so it’s, you know, we need to be we’re like the clothes. It’s clothing business were eight, nine, 10 months, 12 months out, you know, and coats create a lot of challenges in our industry, especially with pots and soil things you just want to think about. And you know, we’re looking at going ahead and ordering supplies for 2023 and 24 now to see if we can try to get ahead of the curve. But our motto is success grows here and we truly mean it. You know, I want my staff to think about when a customer comes in either wholesale or retail. What are the, you know, what are the pieces that you need to be successful in your home, your building? And that is not just buying the plan. You know, we want to make sure that, you know, understand about the fertilizer or, you know, maybe you need some for your roses or. The garden center business and the plant business, it’s really like baking a cake. Right, you need two eggs, cup of milk, a little bit of sugar or whatever you need. And that’s how you bake a cake, right? Right. Everybody can follow that recipe. And our industry is very much like that, you know, so here are the parts and pieces. So if you’re a novice, a lot of times people say, Well, I don’t know enough about gardening to go into our garden center. I’ll go to depot because I don’t know. I don’t know. Right, right. Well, that’s you know, we don’t want that. We want an independent garden centers, right? But learning to grow one type of plant or a couple of plants. And then it’s like, you know, reading a book, you kind of get addicted and then you make sure you try something new in the next year, you try something new. And and that’s what we want. You know, the Washington market does a great job with, you know, plants and color and perennials and and whether you want a native plan or, you know, I think you know, a yard, your commercial property or residential should be a blend of, you know, some Naito’s and some other species that work well in this area and a little pop of color. Right, right. You know, it’s let’s make it a beautiful world, and there’s certainly all those tools and things you need. Soils are super important thing. You know, we push a product called bumper crop, which is it’s kind of what your grandmother, if you were at a grandmother, it was in a gardening and it’s got, you know, lobster composting and and it’s got some seaweed worm castings. And also because what happens with some garden, especially new ones? They saw, you know, your flowers are beautiful. You know, my look terrible. Well, it’s not that that you’re that much better of a gardener. You’ve just put a little bit of those extra things in the soil. And, you know, it adds porosity, the soil, a nutrient holder capacity. And and that’s really what makes it successful. So we push, we push soil amendments. There’s, you know, so we’ve been using bumper crop. It’s a great product. There’s also saw a move to we just started getting in some products that actually are using local food waste, right as a compost, too. So we’re using that. There’s a new company just started where we’re talking about him yesterday, and it’s it’s a group of vets that that are starting some different types of compost. And one of the ones that they’re talking about doing is compost a crab shell. Wow. There used to be a place that used to be a company when we first started, probably probably 15 years ago, that sort of compost crab shell product. And so why is that so important? What’s a natural way to add calcium and and all those building agents to your to your soil? And they ran into some problems. You know where to compost because you can imagine what a, you know, stack of crab shell smell like something. So we bring this product now that has lobster compost, but there’s now a Maryland company that’s going to start doing the crab shell. So we’re going to introduce that this spring will start getting some of the stuff into our stores. So it’s all about the roots. You know, it’s no different than the Greenwald, right? You know, keep the soil on the roots happy and get the right porosity and stuff in there. Those are really the keys, the keys to success.


[00:26:51] Speaker 1 So talk a little bit. I know one of the things that you’re passionate about is gardening and health. So what do you what do you say to folks, because we live in such a busy world right now where a lot of folks outsource their gardening to a to to to a neighborhood kid or to a landscaping company? How important do you think it is for folks to get out and spend a little time outside in the yard?


[00:27:18] Speaker 2 It’s it’s great. It’s great exercise. You know, I’m trying to lose weight right now. You know, I put my car, but we had ordered a lot. It’s got me on a diet, you know? But, you know, getting out and just touching the Earth and and we have a farm near us that she’s doing a lot of the detox work with, with people, with what they eat and farm to table and all those types of things. But really just getting your hands dirty and, you know, be happy, I’ll say, Oh, it’s, you know, so much work. Don’t take on too much, you know, a small raised bed in your backyard or produce, you know, put a couple of tomato plants and some squash, and you know, it’ll it’ll produce a lot. There’s a really neat new tomato coming out that we’re going to grow when it’s grown at next winter. And it’s it’s a tiny little tomato plant, tiny, really tight, compact and it has a very small round red tomato. And you know, we’re going to start selling them through the winter next year so you can take the plant home, pick the tomatoes right off and put it in your salad. Wow. How fresh can you be?


[00:28:20] Speaker 1 Right, right? Right. So there’s like cherry tomatoes, or are they going to be different? Maybe a little smaller


[00:28:24] Speaker 2 than a cherry


[00:28:24] Speaker 1 tomatoes? OK, so the plan itself


[00:28:27] Speaker 2 is, you know, it’s going to almost look like a, you know, small house plant. Yeah. And the idea is to sell it with a fruit already on it. Hmm. And literally, you know, put on your table and you have your guest over and, you know, pick a couple of tomatoes and put it in your salad right now out.


[00:28:43] Speaker 1 That is cool.


[00:28:44] Speaker 2 There’s some peppers and some other things that are coming out, too. But getting out, breaking a sweat, getting your hands in the soil, you know, watering, you know, watering. You know, some people complain about watering, but you know, we’re in D.C. It gets hot and dry, right? Right. So, you know, pour yourself a glass of wine, go outside, take a little breath and water. It’s interesting in the wintertime, especially now this year, the last couple of years with COVID and being a cold winter where people come into our garden center. And. They want to come in there and walk around the computer and decompress before they go right. They want to get the Beltway off their mind or get their boss off their mind. Right. And you know, people need green. Yes, and that’s it’s super important. So there’s 21 million new gardeners, as I’ve covered and believe that. Yeah. So a lot of it was gardening was, you know, flowers or vegetables and things. And I’ve been talking to, you know, some of our industry, you know, leading people on my wall that are going to switch off because now, you know, people are back out and they’re going to Ocean City. The theory is no, and because when they emerge, they interviewed a lot of these people and our demographic has always been female. Right. Our industries caters to probably 80 percent female. But what they got with the 21 new gardeners was a lot of males. And when they were interviewed, most people said they just didn’t budget in time. They didn’t think it was important. So they didn’t budge at the time for it and asked, You know, are you going to keep growing? And yes, it’s become an important part of our life. You know, I started when I was 13 and and. Agriculture is a great way or landscaping to get your son or daughter. From, you know, being in the house out to having a job because is it going to be work? Yeah, it’s going to be hard work, you know, you’re, you know, planning and putting stuff together, but. Agriculture has become so diversified because, you know, we need a computer person and we need this right and we need the plants and that it’s always been a big autumn. I ever since we started our business to hire kids, hire some kids and you could say always, you know, it’s cheap, doesn’t I pay them, you know, whatever. But. To me, it’s a way of kind of giving back to the community and to these kids, and some of them will stay in it. A lot of them won’t. But let me tell you, do you go work for a farm or garden center or landscape company? You’re going to get a lot of good life lessons. You know, you’re going to have to change a tire and you’re going to know how to break a little bit of a sweat and you’re going to understand about how things grow and work. You know, it’s not like going up to an ATM. You push the button and the money comes out, right? Right. You know, you got to know about heat cooling and fertilization and transplanting and spacing and all and just orders. I mean, we, you know, we produce around how many tens of thousands of orders that we do a year. But you’ve got to read the pick list and you’ve got to load the carts and you’ve got to be able to count. I’ll tell you a funny story, you know? So in our industry, there is a gazillion different sized pots and trays. Yeah. How many pots in a tray? Right, right? Moses Market. There’s 15 pots and a four and a half inch or a tray holds 15, four and a half inch pots, right? So when we were trying to do our pot design itself, we went to 10. And and you know, the reason why we went to 10?


[00:32:25] Speaker 1 No, but you’ll let me know.


[00:32:27] Speaker 2 Yes, because nobody can count in multiples of 15.


[00:32:30] Speaker 1 Oh, makes perfect


[00:32:31] Speaker 2 sense count in multiples of 10. Right. Because we got to count when we learned form, we got to count before we put them on the truck, right? And you know, you ask somebody to count multiples of 15. They got to pull their phone out.


[00:32:43] Speaker 1 Yeah.


[00:32:45] Speaker 2 So but that is right. But you know, one of my big concerns, you know, and I’ve talked to some of the politicians and pushing a little bit is. And this is going to sound terrible to everybody, but as they increase the minimum wage. You’re killing the opportunity for young folks to get a job, get out of the house, get away from their parents, yeah, and get a little independence, right? And you know, I’m advocating a two level minimum wage, right?


[00:33:16] Speaker 1 Right. So it makes perfect sense


[00:33:17] Speaker 2 somebody that gets a work permit who is 14 years old. So maybe they’re six years old or something? Yeah. You know, here’s the beginning range and you know, they do a great job then great. They are more. Yeah, but you can’t. Businesses can’t afford to pay somebody who’s 14, 15, 16. The current, you know, the minimum wages that are out there. So that’s why you see, you know, McDonald’s adding in machines. You know, I just saw that thing was either first Whole Foods or something is going to be 100 percent automated checkout right arm folks were kill. We’re killing it or killing the next generation. You know, they’re going to go through high school college, get their first job. Hmm. They’re not going to be worth anything further than that. Yeah. And you know, we really need to think about that and what we you know, what we need to do to encourage young people to get out and contribute a little bit by some of their own gas and pay a little bit of their insurance or, you know, a little bit of their spending money. We’ve got to teach them. You’ve got to teach them about it. They have to have a work ethic. Yeah.


[00:34:25] Speaker 1 And you know, and I’ll just dovetail on that. I’ve got my kids or I’ve two two boys, 13 years old. They’re going to be 14 here later this year. And we’ve got a we’ve got a farm out in Woodstock, Virginia, and they have to work it. You know, we don’t have a lot of labor out there and we get we get the liners in and we’ve got to plant them and we’ve got to get them in pods and set them up in the irrigation. And they absolutely hate it when we get started. It is a fight to get him dressed. It is a fight to get him out, you know, to the to the work area. But once we get 20 or 30 or 40 minutes into the workday, something takes over. There’s a spirit and energy. They get passionate about the mission that we’re trying to accomplish, and it is hard work and you do break a sweat and you are sore at the end of the day. But when you’re sitting around with your family and you’ve worked a hard day or a hard two days or a hard three days, there’s there’s there’s there’s a bond that you get with everybody that you’ve worked with. You’ve got a team. And I’m sure the same exact thing happens with the young folks that come and work at your facility. They they’re not what their parents are and they’re not what they’re family, but they’re with their work family and it is hard and it does. It is hard to get started, but what you get out of it is so much more than the money.


[00:35:48] Speaker 2 Yeah, we’ve had a lot of students that have, you know, going on a college and a lot of them come back and, you know, work, you know, for us for a while before they moved on to something else. And some of them are still, you know, some of them are still here and it’s a win win, you know, and whether you’re working for, you know, Depot or McDonald’s or something, any job is better than nothing, right? You know, you need to be. We need to get these kids out there and teach them. And, you know, not everything could be behind a computer, you know? And there’s, you know, I’m I’m an avid tech guy and, you know, have all the latest and greatest gadgets and things and apps. But you do need to connect to nature. You do need to know how to do some things because God forbid, if anything can really happen to this country, you know, you’ve got to be able to survive, right? And the first thing they’re going to cut off is the computer. Yes, right. And then I know so you know, and there’s some real satisfaction. Get your family. It’s a good garden is a great way to get everybody out and kind of work together. You know, whether you’re doing your trees or you just grow a simple vegetable garden? Yeah. You know,


[00:36:54] Speaker 1 I recommend the vegetable garden,


[00:36:56] Speaker 2 you know? Yeah. And you know, for those that are getting a little bit older, you know, we have raised beds, you know, you know, the bend all the way over right and raise the bed and and do some of those different things. And if you travel a lot, there’s easy ways now to put some drip irrigation out there to keep things kind of running along and the the the really young generation, they love it. Mm hmm. Get out there with their hands, in the mud, in the dirt and the water cannon, and then you see those first flowers or those first vegetables, you know, starting to come in. So it’s like anything. Don’t don’t go too big in the beginning, you know, build on it. Right? So it doesn’t become a burden. Yeah. And that what you really wanted to do is become something that, you know, you look forward to. And same thing in the house, you know, got a few plants, you know, put some plants in your kid’s room, let them take care of them and. It’s amazing how, you know, young. I’m talking like elementary kids, right, are really connected, you know? So we have a lot of events we do, you know you starting on and we do all these other different events and things. And I have one of our friends no years ago goes, you know, I can’t go down to 58 anymore. I’m like, Well, this is a Maryland y. Every time we get close to your garden center, my son wants to come in and we have to stop, you know? So, you know, there’s definitely a connection. The earlier you can get that connection with your kids, the better it is and just teach them, teach some of the basics. Yeah.


[00:38:25] Speaker 1 So, Ray, what are some of the most important life lessons that you think you’ve learned that you can share with folks out there that that relate to gardening and farming?


[00:38:39] Speaker 2 I guess it just, you know, develop a passion, you know, get out there and get your hands dirty, get get a couple of plants, try something you know you’re going to kill something. It’s, you know, it’s going to happen and forget the water it or you went away for a long weekend or whatever, you know. OK, that’s fine. You know, learn from it, learn how to propagate a little bit and. To me, it’s easy, it just kind of comes naturally, you’re a you’re a grower, and for long as I’ve been doing it, you know, I can walk in and greenhouse. I don’t need to look at the temperature on the computer or I can just tell you, you


[00:39:12] Speaker 1 can feel it. I can feel it.


[00:39:13] Speaker 2 Yeah, the humidity right is light, right? So, you know, our industry, like many others, has gotten much more advanced. So we talked a little bit about the lighting and there’s now work with her putting hydrogen peroxide bubbles into the water, the irrigation water to help be a cleaner and safer way to control disease and things. How the equipment works. You know, we’ve got houses that are glass houses, which is the best light transmission. Unfortunately, as you know, as a builder, that’s the worst you can have because you lose all your heat, right? Yeah, yeah. So we have what they call shade curtains and heat retention curtains, and it’s just like a big blanket we pull at night, you know, automatically, and it holds all that heat in your home. When we built our new range, we shipped everything from Holland and you said, Why did you bring it from Holland? Well, at the time, the euro was kind of in the tank. Yeah, but the technology from from Holland was much better than the technology here at the time. So our motors have frequency drives. So when we spin the motor as fast as we need, so we get enough energy. So you know, you turn a motor or fan or bathroom friend in your house. It’s been at 60 hertz and all of the U.S. motor speed and 60 hours. We have them, we have we look at the water and how much we need and maybe only around 30 or 20 so that you’re not burning so much energy up. We have, you know, the greenhouses have weather stations because we have to know what’s going on at the tell the computer that the wind’s blowing from which direction, you know, what’s the, you know, air temperature, what’s the humidity? So and our heating system, we use a hot water system similar to, you know, upgraded homes, not a not hot air system, but hot water. And we use radiant heat, but we run a mathematical calculation based on the wind. What target temperature are the light levels? And it puts just enough BTUs in those pipes so that you maintain now you can’t go from 40 degrees to 70 degrees. Second, you know, it takes hours. But when you look at our heating charts, it’s just as steady, almost flat line all the way across versus having a home where it maybe goes up to 70, goes down to 65, goes to 70 while it goes to seven and cuts off. But you still have all that retain heat in your furnace, right? And maybe goes to 72 or those two or three extra degrees is a huge waste of energy because you’ve overshot your goal. All right. So the technology that we have is is is one that it’s constantly looking at. What do I need to put in there? So a lot of times you walk on a greenhouse in such a pipe, you think, Oh, it should be like red hot, and it’s actually just kind of warm, you know? It’s amazing how you know how all that works and how well that that works. So there’s a lot of, you know, energy’s a big part of our industry and, you know, we’re all looking to improve waste, you know, ways to do it and and be more efficient. There’s a thing that we can do this time of year. So you know, you want a nice plant when you buy it at the store, but you don’t want something that’s really tall and floppy. We call it leggy. Right? But what we can do with the computers and stuff now is if we crash the temperature 30 minutes before sunrise, that’s called a negative diff. And what the plant thinks is that the day temperature is cooler than the night temperature. And what that does is it keeps the plant nice and tight without having to put growth regulators on it. Right. And it’s called a negative death now. Same thing as poinsettias are a little short. We can do it the other way and do a positive diff and pick up a couple, you know, a couple more inches or an inch.


[00:43:08] Speaker 1 So you don’t just put it in the ground and let it grow.


[00:43:11] Speaker 2 Now it’s there’s a lot, there’s a lot to it, you know, and pest control and what we’re trying to do for that, you know, we use a program called Integrated Pest Management, so we put yellow sticky cards because bugs do go to yellow. So right, you see these ladies and have a beautiful yellow dress on in the spring itself, and they’re covered with bugs. It’s not your perfume.


[00:43:29] Speaker 1 Yeah, that’s the color of your dress.


[00:43:32] Speaker 2 And so we put these little, you know, I guess, are like a three by five imposing an index card, right? And there’s glue on both sides of when we just stick them to the greenhouses so that we can monitor any, you know, any types of pass. We use biological control for our herbs and vegetables so that we don’t use any any, you know, manmade insecticide. So we use these predator insects and they’re they’re like cannibals. They go out there and they eat these. And tear their head off and and then we bring them in every week and we, you know, call it releasing, right? Yeah, we do in the evening when it’s dark and then we have these things called banker plants. And you said, what’s a banker plan banker plants or plants that produce a lot of pollen so that when they gobble up all the aphids right or all the threats, then they would just die or they would eat each other? Right? Survival of the fittest. So these banker plants produce a lot of pollen and other things that they can feed on and let the population come back up. So, you know, it’s interesting what the U.S. market. Everybody wants to be green and safe, right? Yeah. And so you get a bug and then nobody’s ready to come in with, you know, pesticides with everything. Yeah. And you know, pesticides have changed so much since I was a kid. And you know, most of the things that growers are using now are very safe. They’re safer than what’s under your kitchen sink. So if you look at your oven cleaner, especially in some of the other things you use in your in your house, your label uses caution, warning or danger. Most of the things in your house are cleaning products or a warning or a danger. Almost everything we use in the greenhouse business now carries a cost level. And and by using an integrated pest management, then you really target versus when I was a kid used to go on with like the napalm and you would spray everything, right? Every week you just spray spray spray, right? But we’ve all learned to be much more environmentally conscious and safer and use softer types, things, you know, maybe it’s an oil or some of these other things so that we’re more careful the environment and careful the plants that we use predatory, you know, insects use the sticky cards. There’s there’s a lot of things that we do. And also starting with clean stock offshore and bringing it in, you know, clean plant and clean plant out. Right, right, right. Just like any, any other industry, I’ll tell you a funny story. So we bring a lot of plants in from Israel. A lot of people are amazed. Well, you know, why is Israel so? Israel has a huge agriculture market. And you know, it’s a very small country, but it’s very diversified. So if you go down south, it’s kind of like you’re in Egypt with the sand, right? And you go north, it’s greener. And so I went to Egypt, I mean, with Israel, probably a five or 10 years ago and. Everything there. They they ought to be gross in the morning, but they have regular water. Gray water right near the hotel, there’s you know you have two from buttons on your toilet, right? You know, solids or gray water, right? Right. And they take most of the gray water. Everything’s double pipe there, like in Tel Aviv. And then that gray water goes out to the farm for irrigation. Because in Israel, you know, it’s basically a desert. So if it’s not irrigated, it’s that. I mean, it’s just there’s no it’s the driest place, you know, I’ve ever really been. But it’s amazing what they can do. And because of being such an and dry environment, low humidity, they don’t have a lot of pests and diseases. So it can, you know, it stays really clean. So you go to these farms and it’s not like, I mean, these are acres and acres and acres of, you know, of greenhouses and things, and you put a whites, you know, come in, clean it, you know, take your clothes off or you put a white, you know, surgical suit on, put booties on your feet and, you know, gloves in her hands and a hair net the whole nine yards. Because if you were carrying a pass or something, they don’t want you to bring it into their clean environment. Right? But one of the other things you go through as you walk through these ammonia bars and the farm delivery trucks that are coming in, they drive it just like a big pit, right? Yeah. And it’s full of ammonia. And you drive these trucks or you have these, they call like, it’s like a floor mat, right? But it’s wet. Yeah. And you you walk on out with your feet. So I’m there for a week, right? We’re going to, you know, all these different places and visiting all these different types of production from herbs and vegetables. They do a lot of them. They do a lot of splicing of different types of tomatoes and different types of rootstock and things, right? So anyway. Of course, you know, they’re worried about terrorists, right? Especially 10 years ago back there. So I go to the airport and really think about it, so I go the airport. I put all my luggage on my dirty clothes and my and my suitcase and I walk into Tel Aviv airport, which is unbelievably secure, right? Immaculate, right? And guess what? All the bells and whistles go off in the middle of the airport with me because my luggage is full of ammonia. Oh, so I’m standing there in the middle of the Tel Aviv airport and literally, you know, get stopped. They take every stitch of clothes and dirty underwear and everything out of my suitcase, and it just spread all over the place. And of course, I get, you know, interrogated. You know, none of my buddies told me to wash my clothes for I left no job there. They set me up. And so I was there for a while, and then they pack all the stuff back and they put the biggest red zip tie I’ve ever seen in my life, and they zipped out my suitcase so nobody could open it. Wow. And I thought, Well, they’re going to go back and burn in on the rest of my stuff again. So I don’t know. Hours later, I flying onto my plane and flying at to BWI. And sure enough, there comes my luggage and I’ve got this huge, massive zip tie on this thing. But it was it was quite it was quite the experience. Wow. Wow. They are deadly serious.


[00:49:42] Speaker 1 Yeah, very, very serious. It is amazing. So that is amazing. Well, so Ray, tell us. So tell us a little bit about your show. You’ve shared a lot of great information with us today. Really appreciate the stories in the knowledge. So tell us a little bit about your organization. So you said you have a facility in Alexandria, right?


[00:50:02] Speaker 2 So we our main farm is in Lothian, Maryland. OK, and that’s that was where we started. That’s called Green Street Growers, OK, and we’re about a 65 acre farm. You know, we produce all types of seasonal color and perennials and things. We have a retail garden center there. That’s, you know, open seven days a week to the public. And then we have a second retail location in Alexandria, right off of Braddock Road, where it used to be called the Apple offices. It’s right across the street from T.C. Williams, and I know they just change the name of Tshwane’s.


[00:50:36] Speaker 1 And so, yeah, so T.C. Williams High School. It’s now Alexandria City High School. Yeah, so you’re so, so your retail center is in right across the street from literally right across the street. OK, OK. And so and your new location is on Route one.


[00:50:51] Speaker 2 We call Bell Avon because it’s up to the Bell Haven golf course and things.


[00:50:56] Speaker 1 Yeah, it’s right there. So do you have the same inventory? And I know you probably have more inventory,


[00:51:01] Speaker 2 more inventory in Maryland, right? Braddock because of space, it’s just tight and the diversity, but we’re bringing trucks in constantly to restock, especially this spring.


[00:51:12] Speaker 1 And as Belle Haven going to be kind of a mirror of the Braddock Road location,


[00:51:16] Speaker 2 it is the only issue there is. It’s all outside. So we’re on a piece of property that can’t be built on and there used to be inertia there, you know, 100 years ago or so, right? We can have the same footprint. So if it rains there, it’s a little a little bit harder. But yeah, we’re building that up, you know, and a lot of people are asking about when it’s coming and and what’s going to happen and we’re trying to have. All the parts and pieces. Because, you know, it’s hard to get around down here right traffic now, if you’re right, so people don’t want to go to five places to get it right. When I first, when I bought Apple House, which is what the Braddock store used to be called. They had a pretty, you know, had a pretty good list of products. And I was like, You know, we really need all this stuff, all these different sizes of impatience. You know, we had six different sizes and and now we probably have 10 times the SKUs that we have because you like to garden this way or you like to use, you know, fish or mulching, or this person likes to use this and write all those different things work. You know, it’s no different than having your favorite brand. You know, my mom, when she goes the grocery store, she still buys the same brand of the same things that she did when we were a kid, you know? And there’s one right next to it’s probably exact same thing, but she’s always buy this right? I’m the same way. Yeah, loyalty. It’s it’s loyalty. Yeah, brand loyalty. Yeah. So we try to make sure that, you know, whether you’re a master gardener or you like, you know, different types of soils or we try to have a little bit of all of it right now.


[00:52:54] Speaker 1 Do you have people at these facilities that are experts that can answer? So we have


[00:52:58] Speaker 2 great, we have great staff, OK? And we have full time, part time, you know, people. We have a lot of good salespeople out there to try to answer your questions and help put some of the designs together. And you know, I somebody come, I want to do a little bit in my yard and you know, we’ll lay all the plants out in the car. And then when they go to the cash register, like, don’t move the plants because they’ve got to go.


[00:53:18] Speaker 1 I got to go, Jack. Are you all right? Yeah.


[00:53:21] Speaker 2 So yeah, we have we have a really good staff and we go out to our commercial job sites and try to visit and try to make sure we’re coaching the the landscapers. We do all the all the baskets and Georgetown, all those big pink pink baskets to go down in the street. Oh wow. And let me tell you, that’s not an easy job where all that working with the landscaper, you know, it’s hard to get into on the water. We do a liquid feed program. We use a fertilizer that it’s called nature source, and it’s actually the soybean extract or the oil. And the reason we do that as a much lower salt level. So it’s easier for the plants to survive the heat and, you know, the wet and dry and that they get so right, right? Right. So yeah, we we try to have it all. We have things in there. In Maryland, we actually just started selling the raw dog food. So one of the other COVID. Results was everybody got pets and what they what people have realized for, you know, through research is a lot of the commercial dolphins that are out. There are not the best thing for your dog because they cook all the nutrients on them. Right, right and chewy in those places can’t ship raw because it’s raw, right? Right. And and a lot of people bring up a lot of people bring their pets, they bring their kids. But they also a lot of people bring their pets, you know, to the garden centers. And it’s, you know, it’s a it’s a day out for the family, right, right, right. Or it’s a new couple and they just start up. So we added this. Everybody thought on our show is crazy. It’s not a real big footprint, but we have a nice little footprint and we don’t have anything from China. Everything is made in the US and the raw the raw food is has really been quite amazing. We feed less, you know, but there’s much more healthy for your dog. And we also have these raw bones. Don’t ever give your dog a bone that’s been cooked right or because it’ll splinter right? But they can literally eat a raw bone in their stomach. Acid is like one. Yeah, and a lot of time. And that’s what they did, right? That’s that’s what they did, right? That’s how they let me tell you. I got a big rod, you know, is 120 pounds


[00:55:26] Speaker 1 while his


[00:55:27] Speaker 2 favorite dog. And let me tell that for one and raw bones out of the packet. Holy smokes. I won’t seem for hours. Yeah, you know, as high as get as big as dinner plates, just don’t try to take it away from.


[00:55:38] Speaker 1 Yes, you’ll lose a finger.


[00:55:41] Speaker 2 Yeah. So yeah, we want all those parts and pieces part of it, too Long Island. I learned as agritourism, which is where you’re bringing, you know, the public onto your farm. Right? So we do that. We have a huge fall festival in Maryland, starts the middle of September through the end of October. On the weekends, we bring school groups in for, you know that and they get to spend the day on the farm. You know, you’ll get your 30000 steps and we’ll make sure we try to send you home dirty and tired, maybe with a couple of pumpkins and stuff. But right, there’s Akamai’s and there’s all different types of agriculture are all different types of entertainment. One of the biggest things which sounds crazy is corporate corn pit is a shell big box full of corn. You know, tons of, you know, bushels of corn. And the kids get in there and it’s like sand, right? Yeah, but the dexterity, you know, it’s really kind of interesting, though the kids and and yeah, they go home when they got corn coming out all the way from our place to the to the farm to


[00:56:45] Speaker 1 mom and dad got to love cleaning the car


[00:56:47] Speaker 2 that you know, it’s but it’s fun. It’s fun to get them out because it really gets people to understand. We have a lot of customers that come from D.C. to visit the farm, come out. You know, we’re in South County, we’re 70 miles south of Annapolis. It’s beautiful, right? You know, it’s 30 minutes for D.C., depending on how you drive, right? We got some great restaurants out there. Come out and spend the day in South Carolinian. Yeah, you know, get some food and have some fun with your kids and pick a pumpkin and do the maze. And we opened our we have a part of our properties is wooded, so we went in there and clean up a good portion called the Woodlands because when I was a kid. I would say, Hey, mom, I’ll see you tonight, we go. Me and my buddies, we go in the woods all day. She’d have no idea where we were. All right. Yeah. Cell phones and you came back when you either got hurt or dirty or hungry, hungry. And so we created this area called the Woodlands, so they can do the corn maze and go in the woodlands. We have some, you know, some fun stuff to do, but it’s just getting out. Yes, just getting out there and touching nature a little bit. And it’s a great way to reduce stress and a great way to bond with your family. Get some pictures and, you know, see that, you know, we’ve got a bunch of farm animals, you know, goats and things. And you know. I guess for as close as I am to all that stuff, what I see people come in and visit, sometimes I’m kind of shocked that they’re so disconnected from that. Yeah. You know, you can just see it on the kid’s face or, you know, or or even the parents and stuff, you know, they’re just blown away. They see a pansy field full of millions of pansies blooming, right? I mean, it’s it’s unbelievable. Yeah. And so. It’s a lot of work. You know, it’ll make a whole lot of body will fall fast, but it’s a way to kind of get us around the corner. It’s a chance for the for families to come out and and really spend the day.


[00:58:35] Speaker 1 Yeah. So what’s your website?


[00:58:37] Speaker 2 So Green Street Gardens is green street gardens dot com. Yep. And our commercial site for growing, which is is grow green street.


[00:58:46] Speaker 1 Fantastic. Super easy. So every person I’ve ever met who is very successful is very passionate about what they do, and I can see the passion in your face. I see the passion in your eyes, and the folks listening can hear the passion in your voice for what you do. So, Ray, we really appreciate you coming in. It’s been great hearing your story and learning about some of the things you do. Is there anything else you want to add to our conversation today before we close?


[00:59:15] Speaker 2 Get on. Everybody’s been stuck inside. It’s been a cold winter know. Let’s get out and get out and do something, get out and do something you know and break a sweat a little bit and, you know, have a glass of wine or whatever you like and just enjoy it. And I, we we. You know, we’re kind of like my parent, my wife and I kind of like the plumber’s wife right in the sink, always leak because you’re always outdoors, you’re right in our backyard. It’s been like that for like 10 years or five over the last, you know, 18 months. We really redid our, you know, backyard and put a lot of pots and eating area and stuff out there and made it really nice. And you know, my wife gets out there every morning and she we have a ton of containers, you know, with all different types of plants. She won’t let me touch it. You know, that’s her time to get out and decompress and drag the hose around and roll it all up and do all the things. And she does a great job with it. You know, I’m in the, you know, she’s more in the air and and that piece, I’m closer to the plants all the time. But right, you know, it’s her passion. You know, she can’t wait to get out and take care of those containers. And once you get somebody hooked on that and you know, decorative containers, an easy way to put plants outside. And, you know, because all those are beautiful, I don’t know how to mix plants together. It’s super easy. You need a thriller, something in the middle of a spill or something to fall over the edge and a filler to fill the middle. If you pick plants or go to a garden center, you say, Well, let me see your spill or fillers and thrillers. You take whatever colors and combinations you like. Buy yourself a nice pot. Buy yourself a good bit, you know, by my soil. You’ll be amazed. And it’s super easy. And then the other thing when you’re planning your garden are containers you always plant in odd numbers. One three five. Your brain works better. It looks. It looks more interesting. Yes, it’s an odd number. Not even right. Right? Right. So thriller, spill or filler and odd numbers and a good soul mix. That’s the recipe for today.


[01:01:17] Speaker 1 There it is. Ray Green Street. Thank you so much for coming. We very much joined our chat today.


[01:01:22] Speaker 2 Thank you.