Woodburn Nursery and Azaleas, Inc.: A Strong Commitment to High-Quality Plants

Interview with Ken McVicker, Sales and Marketing Manager

Woodburn Nursery and Azaleas, Inc.
13009 Mckee School Road NE
Woodburn, Oregon 97071

How did the company get started?

Starting out by raising mink and growing cane berries and filberts, Bob and Jean Fessler founded Woodburn in 1961. They decided to try their hand at the nursery business by growing florist azalea liners in a small greenhouse in 1968. Other family members joined the operation and by the mid ‘80s the nursery operation added rhododendrons. In 2000, they added pot-in-pot production and today the nursery production covers 500 acres of pot-in-pot, a container yard and greenhouses, staffed by 250 full-time employees.

What is your niche in the nursery industry?

Led by our current general manager, Tom Fessler, we aspire to a long-range vision that keeps us as focused on the future as it does on the present. This keeps us strong and prepared for opportunities and any challenges that lie ahead. Next, we have a reputation for consistently high-quality plants across the country. This quality comes from strong and efficient production systems that are run efficiently year in and year out by our highly-committed, long-standing employees.

Mechanized shrub trimmer saving time and labor

What markets do you serve?

Our markets extend across the country to the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Northwest, Canada, and the Intermountain region. We supply to wholesalers, re-wholesalers and retail companies. With the acquisition of some product lines from Van Essen, including the Vibrant Selection perennials, we are strengthening our market presence in Colorado. We are also very involved with Plant Select© and growing these plants to meet the demand, including some of the upcoming new releases. We’ve also assisted with developing the Plant Select© nursery tags.

Woodburn’s insect laboratory where beneficial insects are studied and raised for release in the nursery

What industry trends are shaping your business?

We’re seeing an increased demand for just-in-time availability. There’s a migration toward container-ready, year-round shipping and we are well positioned to meet this trend with our focus on pot-in-pot production. For our customers, we are working hard to simplify the buying process. Although we are not Amazon, we want to make the buying process as fast, convenient and consistent as we can for our customers.

What role does sustainability play in your operations?

Sustainability is very important to us. In the big picture, sustainability is what will keep us in business year after year. On an operational level, we have an extensive water-recycling program that utilizes drip technology, recycling ponds, drain tiles, and flood floor watering, and we use solar panels to help provide power. Additionally we utilize energy-efficient heaters, boilers, infrared poly, twin-wall polycarbonate, and an Argus environmental control computer system for our greenhouses to maximize efficiencies. We are probably one of the few large nurseries in the country that has its own insectary. We raise beneficial insects that help keep our plants healthy and reduce our dependency on chemicals.

Aerial view of Woodburn Nursery & Azaleas located in Woodburn, Oregon

What value does Woodburn receive from being a CNGA member?

Membership in CNGA has enabled us to make and nurture long term connections that help our business. In particular, we’re very proud to be part of ProGreen each year and we think it’s one of the best shows in the country. We really appreciate the person-to-person networking at ProGreen – it’s essential for our business. We enjoy the open communication that CNGA provides, whether it’s industry news or learning about new members. We love being part of this association!

‘Winter Gem’ boxwoods in the pot-in-pot production field