Fascinated by flowers: A farmer’s dream

by | May 1, 2020

Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers. Ruth Holcomb, of Currin’s Nursery, is one of those farmers. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run for an entire year on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers!

Growing up in the tobacco industry, Richard and Emily Currin were raised with a strong love of farming and seeing a plant grow from a seed to a finished product. According to their daughter, Ruth, Richard discovered his calling for the green industry while he was in college at N.C. State University. “He managed the greenhouse on campus, and that is when he really decided that he could make a living out of something he truly enjoyed,” she said. In 1974, Currin’s Nursery, in Willow Springs, was founded on just two acres of land and a lot of dedication.

Ruth Holcomb, current sales and marketing manager of Currin’s Nursery, had her parents love of plants instilled in her since the day she was born. “As a little girl I can remember running through rows of junipers, hollies and Leyland cypress,” she says, “my sister and I would play, pull weeds, learn how to drive tractors and it wasn’t always work for me because it was fun.” Although growing up her parents told her to be whatever she wanted to be, Ruth realized after college that the family nursery was not only where she needed to be, but where she wanted to be.

Now growing 24 acres of plants for retail garden centers and landscapers, Currin’s Nursery offers a variety of plants but is most famous for their abelias, wax myrtles, junipers, conifers and crape myrtles. Over the years, the variety of plants grown at the nursery has evolved based on consumer demand because some prefer plants with utilitarian purposes, such as wax myrtles, and others want plants with ornamental value, like camellia’s. “We have gone from a 3-page plant availability to a currently 8 to 9 page availability,” Ruth said, “but the customer is, and always will be, our biggest priority, so we do everything we can to make sure they get what they want and are satisfied with the product.”

A typical day at the nursery varies from season to season. Some days the Currin family will be completely focused on filling orders for customers, and other days they are riding around the farm fixing maintenance issues or developing new mechanization techniques. The family sets daily goals to ensure high priority items are accomplished, including taking care of customer needs and walking or riding the farm to check on and tend to all the plants. “It really is a 24/7 job,” Ruth said, “the plants do not stop growing at 5 p.m. on Sunday evening, which means we don’t stop working then either. It’s a year-round adventure.”

Mechanization is a big buzz word in the industry right now due to labor shortages. Many nurseries, including Currin’s Nursery, are working together to develop new techniques such as forks for tractors that can pick up 24 to 48 pots at a time as well as plant handlers that minimize the effort of crews constantly bending down to load trucks. “There is no industry that will share knowledge with each other like this one does,” Ruth said, “we are like one big family because we all learn and take advice from one another.” According to Ruth, current innovations in the industry are not only to help minimize the physicality of tasks for current labor, but also to help recruit future labor.

Currin’s Nursery is a member of the Johnston County Nursery Marketing Association where they work with other nurseries to market their plants, including their current best seller, the wax myrtle. “I think there is a lot of buffers being put up in neighborhoods and wax myrtles help solve that problem for many reasons, especially because they grow quickly,” Ruth says. Her favorite plant, at the moment, is woodland ruby illicium because it grows in many conditions and is incredibly versatile.

In much the same spirit as her father, Ruth takes a lot of pride and fascination in the way their plants are grown. “It still amazes me to this day, even though I have seen it basically since I was born, how you can take a little cutting, grow roots on it and years down the road it becomes a plant in somebodies landscape,” she says, “and you can take pride in knowing that you did that.” In the future, Currin’s Nursery will continue to search for new and innovative techniques to improve the industry as well as nurture and grow the plants their customers love. “There are many rewarding aspects of the plant industry,” Ruth says, “and each finished product is a true testament to God’s work on this earth.”

Check out their plant varieties here: