Take part in this expanding community-oriented farm
The following greenhouse/landscape design training turns into a paid opportunity potentially within two months depending on the participant’s level of experience and skill. The site of the program is M R Gardens, a sustainable nursery in the Oakley community of Asheville, NC. We grow primarily native perennials, as well as complementary plants such as groundcovers, vegetable starts and medicinal herbs. We are a community-oriented business, usually selling direct to customers or to landscape designers. We have an online store — in which customers reserve their plants and then pick up at the nursery. We also hold four-day plant shows at the farm at least once a month in the spring and fall. In addition, we offer coaching services in ecological gardening to clients as well as to other professional gardeners.
M R Gardens is on a two-acre farm with native flower gardens, naturalized slopes, swales to hold rainwater in the landscape, orchards/forest gardens, and vegetable beds, rich with beneficial microbes. We practice innovative techniques that we've picked up in the last 20+ years from many sources that are ahead of their time. If you're only interested in the training rather than the potential for income or a long-term position, go ahead and get in touch with us to see if our aspirations align.
Be sure to read this article for a longer explanation of our nursery before contacting us. We are a small, one-of-a-kind nursery, so in the rare instance we can pay others, we typically hire folks who have participated in our educational programs. We are so unique that there is not many previous experiences that could prepare someone adequately to immediately work for this business, but we definitely look forward to hearing what you bring to the table.
Over the years, we have paired complementary services with the nursery so that we can stay committed to our value of sustainability, while also producing high quality plants and creating a rejuvenating work place. Throughout the last 10 years of incremental growth, the enterprise has remained manageable so that it never becomes a burden—it’s never boring, and rarely stressful. It is possible to run a successful business and keep the stress minimal if the grower has a high level of skill—in both propagation and management. Our goal is to keep this work enjoyable—even as the nursery continues to grow—because we believe this care transfers to the plants and to the customers.
It’s recommended applicants have:
- Three years of experience working in a greenhouse;
- Familiarity with and commitment to organic greenhouse practices;
- An interest in Southeastern native perennials;
- An appreciation that there’s always more to learn in the field of growing;
- Wide-ranging life experiences that offer a broad perspective so that you can interact well with all types of people;
- A knack for coordinating the logistics that go into running a small operation;
- An eye for aesthetics in a naturalized landscape;
- The flexibility to change course in the midst of an evolving business;
- A grounded excitement for plant work, and a strong grasp of what’s realistic.
|Our main greenhouse in July|
Photos of M R Gardens on this page by Vickie Burick Photography
The main skill is coordination—keeping your eye on the ball as various people come in and out of the greenhouse, whether that be clients, students, helpers or others involved in building the business. While you won't be expected to take on these tasks until you have graduated from the training, it's good if you have a natural knack for management. You also need to get to know each of the plants’ requirements well—particularly their timing. In the meantime, you can refer to the spreadsheets we’ve created throughout the years, which includes dates of stratification and seeding, germination tips and other helpful information. Record-keeping is an important part of this job, as is keeping track of plant orders and reserving plants that have been pre-ordered.
Be sure this description fits you, but also know you have others’ help in carrying out the tasks listed. After graduating from your training, it will likely land in your hands to make sure that the greenhouse stays at desirable conditions—which means opening and closing the vents at specific times depending on the outside environment. You won’t be the sole person involved in this task, but you need to be able to direct others to do so.
This work varies greatly depending on the season. We mostly focus on the greenhouse February through May, and the rest of the year, there are opportunities to develop landscape design clients. It helps if you already have a bit of design experience, but currently we are mainly focused on 200 square foot (or less) designs for clients who need help arranging plants from our nursery. We can teach you how to do so as long as you are very familiar with how each species has unique needs and aesthetic elements. If you already are a landscape designer, you'll likely appreciate the opportunity to be able to grow your own plants for your clients' designs.
Our first step in this process is surveying potential applicants. Our hope is to train someone to stay on board here so that they can have the experience of running a small nursery without taking on the full risk of owning a business. That said, the training can take many forms depending on your situation. Send your resume and an explanation of your interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. If it seems like a potential fit, we’ll discuss your availability, required hours, tuition and potential income. Cost of tuition varies depending on the skills and experience of the applicant, and we can assist you in running a crowd-sourcing campaign for the tuition if needed. Note that if you are chosen for an interview, the application process includes three 2-hour sessions in the greenhouse, and we also ask for a $50 application fee.
We anticipate your time here to be quite enjoyable—people love being at our farm. We care about our team—throughout the apprentice program, students and program leaders check in with each other for at least 15 minutes each month to make sure that all parties feel like their expectations are being met.
Thanks for considering this rare opportunity to be able to learn directly from a native plant grower. Be sure to read this article for a fuller understanding of our nursery before contacting us.