Tree Foundation of Kern

Nursery Owner or Manager

To propagate, purchase, care for and sell potted trees either wholesale or retail

Shielded from the commotion of urban life, the nursery is a natural haven filled with lush potted trees and the familiar cat prowling among the leaves. Here, the nursery manager enjoys a daily routine that centers around the earth and trees.

Managers oversee the daily operations and provide a link between growers and wholesalers or the general public. They keep abreast of changing fads and trends in the tree industry and watch their inventories closely to avoid damaging to the trees.

Managers in retail nurseries may find themselves handling a variety of tasks from ringing up customer sales, answering the phone and helping customers select appropriate trees. Wholesale nursery managers supply large quantities of trees to contractors, tree groups and other large organizations.

Although the nursery industry tends to be seasonal with most sales coming between March and June, there is plenty of work to be done in the off season including maintenance, restocking, signage and repairs.

Nursery managers enjoy working outdoors on balmy spring days and brisk fall afternoons, but they also work outside through the chilly winters and hot summers.

In addition to management, nurseries also offer a variety of entry level positions and opportunities to gain experience in the field and move up the ladder. Many of the tasks in a nursery are physically demanding such as loading and unloading trees and potting materials and require strength and good health.

"I think to be a good manager, you need to start from the bottom," said Amparo Rodriguez, manager of Cooper's Nursery Wholesale in Bakersfield, California. "I'm real happy with my job. I like everything."

Many nursery managers began at the bottom and worked their way up, taking on new responsibilities and learning new facets of the industry along the way.

"I started weeding, feeding and watering and then moved into sales," said Jere White, owner of White Forest Nursery in Bakersfield, California. "The entry level position is laborer or worker and it requires little experience. The next level is sales which requires some education and experience."

Those seeking a career as a nursery manager need a wide range of knowledge from soils, trees species, diseases, design ideas along with public relation and sales skills.

"You need to really love working with plants to enjoy this kind of work," White said. "It's very rewarding to develop a plant from a seedling, to develop it into a very nice specimen. It's very relaxing, therapeutic."

Requires: Physical strength and lots of experience

Salary: Is dependent on management and sales experience. In wholesale nurseries, pay ranges from $25,000 to $40,000. Large urban areas start Nursery Managers at $40,000. A top notch nursery like Monrovia pays its managers about $70,000.

START UP: Costs are high for nursery owners. Inventories are minimally $25,000 to over $250,000.