A Plea from Branson Davis, Help Save our 11th Generation Family Farm

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Help Save 11th Generation Family Farm, Our Home

“Known to the public as Banner Place Nursery / Farm & High Performance Flowers”

After somehow managing to keep our family’s farm going in the face of record drought, statewide water restrictions, the housing crisis and big economic collapse (all of which resulted in very many family farms and plant nurseries being forced out of business), we never thought that our hardest blow would’ve been dealt by the very farming/nursery supply companies that we’ve relied upon for 25 years… That blow came in 2013 while my father was hospitalized in grave condition, with me struggling to keep things going by taking on all his duties on the farm in addition to my own responsibilities running the greenhouses.

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My father and I represent the 10th and 11th generations of Davis Family farmers, and are the only two members of the family carrying out the 7-days-a-week operations that keep this farm, and therefore our home, going. While our farm does have field crops and a few cattle, we’ve become most well known for being specialized growers of very high quality annuals and perennial flowers. Many people have come to rely on us to provide them what we are frequently told are “the healthiest, most beautiful flowers we’ve ever seen!” I’ll readily admit THAT is the most rewarding part of this job, and seeing the happiness our flowers bring to our customers each season makes working 7 days a week, sunup to sundown, worth it. In order to consistently produce such a high level of quality requires experience, proper timing, and a very “hands-on” approach to raising and tending each season’s crop. While that much personal attention on a daily basis is very important, it also takes A LOT of time.

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During the year when my father had been hospitalized for months and was facing only a 15% chance of surviving a very invasive, but crucial, surgery, BOTH of the big supply companies, from whom we’ve bought all our seedlings and other materials for many years, essentially changed the rules “mid-stream”. For as long as I can remember we’ve had the option, whenever it was needed, to carry some of the balance of a particular season’s material costs over to the next season (btw, for some perspective on what some of these costs entail, just the seedlings that we need can easily cost $35,000 for one season). But we’ve always ended up paying our balance and any subsequent late charge, if applicable. Never have we left any bill unpaid.

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This particular year, however, our suppliers informed us that we would no longer have that option. Most unfortunately, this policy change came at a time of the season that was too late for me to seek any other recourse, as I had already submitted my orders to those companies and was expecting them to arrive nearly any day. Now, however, I was told I would receive none of the plants or materials unless the balance was paid in full. We tried to plead our case, especially given such extenuating circumstances, but it was to no avail. To not comply with their new rule would mean we could no longer operate. To abide by it would require all of what little money we had, and a lot of money that we simply did not have and, therefore, had to borrow. This proved to be a very costly year. Though all of this left us in shock we had no choice but to do everything we could to press on, try harder, and hope the next season would be better… Tragically, 2014 brought with it two devastating losses that no one was prepared for at all.

In addition to my Dad and me, two of my closest friends also helped us on our farm and in our greenhouses, and came to be invaluable to my family and to our customers. Their respect for my family and for what we do, plus their enthusiasm and desire to help, garnered them much respect and love from my entire family, friends, and anyone else fortunate enough to get to know them. Sadly, both of these wonderful, caring souls left this world within the first five months of the Spring of 2014. We were all grief-stricken as the impact of such terrible personal loss fully weighed down upon us through the fog of disbelief–first in January, then again in May. At that point not only had I lost two of my absolute closest friends, whom I looked forward to seeing every day, but our family farm had just lost the two very experienced people who made up half of our workforce. Needless to say, the rest of that year was beyond challenging, and attempting to find and employ adequate help to finish the following growing seasons proved very costly. As a result, we are two seasons behind in seedling and materials costs. It will require approximately $85,000 to catch us up and, therefore, allow us to continue the upcoming growing season.

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Throughout all of this we’ve made every sacrifice we possibly could in order to just make it through one day and on to the next. We really have put everything we have into this farm, this business, and this family. While we’re certainly no strangers to the balancing act that is the nature of family farming, the overwhelming hardship, monetary demands, and grievous personal losses of those two ill-fated years have outweighed all the hard work and determination that my Dad and I could muster. We’ve always gladly been the ones to help others, in or out of our community, whenever someone needed it. Now we are asking for help to save our farm, because it’s also our home.

There is a certain technology that would help save our farm—an “ebb & flow” watering system—but the cost to convert to this system is beyond what we’re able to take on, especially now. In fact, that was the goal we were striving towards when this terrible succession of events wreaked havoc on us over those two years. We spend roughly 6 hours a day watering our plants by hand. An ebb & flow system allows for very precise watering, basically automatically watering just the plants that need it and not the ones that don’t. The greatest thing about this system is that it can reduce those 6 hours of watering each day down to approximately 8 MINUTES. Basically, an initial cost of $180,000 can essentially FREE UP 40 labor hours a week! The value of having that amount of time available to be used in all other areas of production cannot be overstated. And the numerous health and growing environment benefits of converting to this watering system are IMMENSE. Most of all, investing in this type of improvement can go a long way to securing our future as a farming family that can continue to provide our known specialty product to all those who’ve come to rely on us for so many years.

Thank you so, so much for caring about our cause. Please visit our GoFundMe campaign. And Please know that by giving what you can you are truly helping more than just a family farm, but all those who count on us to provide a source of joy unlike any they can find anywhere else.

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Click here for Go Fund Me Link:Davis Family Farm

With My Most Sincere Gratitude,
–Branson Davis

Posted by Photojournalist James P. Grierson

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