Margie Barnett, Owner
Margie's Farm & Garden, Aurora, OR
Margie’s Farm & Garden Defines What It Means To Be A ‘Family-Owned IGC’
Celebrating family – as well as offering high-quality plants, amazing customer service and reasonable prices – is at the heart of seasonal independent garden center retailer and grower Margie’s Farm & Garden. The Aurora, OR-based garden center is open seven days a week from April through the end of June or beginning of July – whenever they sell out of their fresh nursery stock. At the helm, Owner Margie Barnett runs the venture with her husband and four children by her side.
They grow 95 percent of what they sell right on-site in the company’s greenhouses so they can offer their customers the highest quality plant material, then they locally source trees, shrubs and other plants they can’t grow. “There are so many nurseries where we’re located, so if a customer needs something special, we can easily find it and pick it up for them,” says Margie.
For the other nine months out of the year, Margie and her family work tirelessly as crop farmers, before they get back to planning and planting next season’s bestsellers for the garden center.
“We grow a lot of hanging baskets, patio containers, vegetable starts, annuals, perennials, grasses and custom planters,” she says. “Customers will bring us their containers, and we’ll grow custom plants for them for a couple months then they’re ready to be picked up in the spring.”
Margie’s reputation for quality plant material has spread throughout the community – and even caught the eye of a large shopping mall center. The retail complex called her store for some of their famous hanging baskets.
With an intense interest in small-space gardening sweeping the industry, custom container business has increased every year for Margie’s. They’re especially seeing this popular trend of ready-made container gardens surge among Millennials and younger gardeners.
Margie and her team encourage this newfound gardening interest in young shoppers by offering several workshops and events that draw families, as well as having friendly, knowledgeable staff who can explain plant care in simplified terms. A Vintage Flea Market, held twice a year, is a huge draw for the retailer, which opens its doors to vendors to sell their crafts.
“We have quite the long waiting list of vendors who want to get in,” Margie says. “Those are really fun and exciting.”
They’re also working on expanding the list of activities and events to keep the Margie’s Farm & Garden name in every customer’s mind year-round.
Family is a huge part of Margie’s business, and she’s making sure to nurture the love of gardening and nature in her own children as her parents did for her. All four children love to help out around the store and the family farm.
“They love it, and they do really good jobs at helping me,” she says. “I love it when my kindergartner can tell customers where they can find the flowers. My 13-year-old has so much sales experience, too. On their days off, they want to sell pots and plant together.”
The future is very bright for Margie’s Farm & Garden, especially when it comes to transitioning to the next generation of leadership.
“My 13-year-old daughter wants to go to Oregon State and major in horticulture,” Margie says. “I’m amazed that at 13, she has all these business plans, ideas of expansion and different programs she wants to do. We’re located in a growing area, so it’s definitely in the cards to expand.”
She says her boys are more interested in farming and trying to figure out how to connect the two by expanding to include a farm stand for produce.
The love of farming runs in her family. Margie grew up on her parents’ farm, which is located a quarter of a mile from her current business. They grew flowers in a little greenhouse behind her parents’ house, and neighbors marveled at how beautiful their home-grown hanging baskets were.
“I definitely knew I wanted to do something in agriculture,” she says. “I loved growing up with it, and I knew that’s how I wanted my kids to grow up.”
While attending Oregon State University where she studied horticulture, Margie opened her own greenhouse in 2002 and began selling flowers with just a card table by the road. Every year, the business expanded and evolved until they built a new retail center in 2013 to accommodate the growth.
From the business’ inception, the focus has always been about delivering high-quality plants, amazing customer service and reasonable prices – and they continue that mission to this day. To continue moving her business forward, Margie attends industry trade shows and garden center tours to find the best there is in garden retailing.
“The GCA Summer Tour in Seattle was the first time I’d ever gone on it, and it was definitely worth it,” she says. “It was so eye-opening. I took a lot of pictures and got a lot of ideas for different ways to display information.”
After coming home with fresh inspiration from the tour, Margie told her husband they needed to “up our signage.”
But being a member of Garden Centers of America is more than just attending the tours – it’s about connecting with a network of other independent garden center owners and talking about the same issues they’re experiencing.
“It’s great to see what other garden centers are doing in the industry,” she says. “I love reading all the GCA e-mails – they’ve opened my eyes to issues that I didn’t realize could affect us.”
She continues, “I really love this industry. People are so friendly and helpful.”