Decisions, Decisions - Part 1
Decisions, decisions. What do we do?
Maybe there’s some wisdom in a scene from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:
Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
The Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “I don’t much care where.”
The Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”
Now, back to our own decisions…
Unlike Alice, we DO care where we want to get to, so it DOES matter which way we go. As a matter of fact, we have a pretty clear vision for what we want Days of Creation to be, and we need to be doing things to take us in that direction.
We know that we want Days of Creation to be a place for families to enjoy themselves and bond together. It’s in our motto: “We’re in the family business; come make a memory!” So, that’s our direction, but which road takes us there?
Now, it’s the decision part that’s not so clear. We make some good decisions and some bad decisions, just like folks in any business, or, more broadly, like humans in general. However, with many of our choices, it’s several years before we know whether we made the right choice. And, once our decision is made and we’ve moved forward, there’s not a quick and easy back-up-and-recover plan.
To illustrate, I will focus on our tree selections in this blog entry. How many trees should we plant? What varieties should be in the mix? Will they grow well here? Will the customers like them?
Here are some of the actual challenges that we’ve faced:
· UGA literature about Christmas trees stated that Leyland Cypresses can tolerate wet roots and have no known diseases. That publication was over a decade old when we read it and planted our first trees. Today, no UGA plant scientist or extension agent would tell you that kind of information about a Leyland Cypress. Leylands need to have dry feet, and they have to be sprayed frequently (every two weeks for us) to keep fungi at bay during the entire growing season. (On the plus side, we’ve learned how to grow trees much better now.)
· We planted our numbers of trees anticipating growth in sales. But, the economic downturn that started in 2008 slowed our growth, but not the growth of the trees. So, we ended up with way too many very large trees. (On the plus side, our business is again increasing, and we’re even selling some of those really big trees.)
· We chose multiple varieties of trees that we thought customers would like. But, we found that getting “out of the norm” can be risky.
o One variety, Silverdust, just didn’t do well here at our farm; less than 4% of them actually made it to a customers’ home. (Ok, there is no plus side, we lost our shirts on those, and quit growing them.)
o Two other varieties, Clemson Greenspire and Castlewellan Gold, were successful for us, but other Christmas tree growers stopped growing them, so the plant nurseries quit producing those varieties. We haven’t been able to get plants. (On the plus side, we can grow plants ourselves, so we are producing Clemson Greenspire; we should have some of them ready for cutting in 2017. Of the Castlewellan Gold, we actually sold every single tree that we had, so we have no source of plant material. But, we’re still looking.)
o Two additional varieties, Carolina Sapphire and Naylor Blue, were beautiful (at least to us) in the field, but few were being sold, so we quit planting them. We didn’t see any need in growing trees that folks didn’t want. Then, customers decided that they liked them, too, and those varieties pretty much sold out. (On the plus side, now that we know people do like them, we’re planting some every year. We’ll have some Carolina Sapphires ready as “regular size” trees this year, although we had a few very large ones last year. The Naylor Blues are a bit slower-growing, so we hope to have them ready in 2016.)
We’ve made our decisions on what to plant for this year, and many of them are already in the ground. Our intent is to have them all planted by the end of February. We hope our decisions have been good. I guess we’ll know in a few years.
Well, I could go on and on, but I’ll stop for now. Check back for Decisions, Decisions – Part 2.