Poinsettia nursery hits hard times - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Poinsettia nursery hits hard times

William Durston William Durston
Alan Takemoto Alan Takemoto

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

WAIMANALO (KHNL) - It's not only drought and disease threatening island crops. Hawaii farms could face a grim future because of our slowing economy.

"We're at a sense of urgency right now and if the economy doesn't turn around, we might see some farm operations closing down,"

Bill Durston sells mostly to big box stores and some hotels. He thought demand would be high this year, so he grew more poinsettias. But as it turns out, he was wrong and now feels anything but the holiday spirit.

It's the number one selling plant during the holidays, yet Leilani Nursery is still filled with it.

"I believed, I thought the cycle would not be very severe and it's much more severe than I thought, especially with the stock market, everyone concerned and just a natural tendency is to save your money right now," Durston said.

Something Durston doesn't like to hear, but he hopes a back-up plan helps his profits grow.

"I'm really forced to get out there and try to develop new markets and to deal with the smaller customers, who need tiny, little orders and more service and also a better quality plant," he said.

As seasonal businesses like Leilani Nursery continue to struggle during these tough times, Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation officials say they're not alone.

"All of the farmers are feeling the pinch of the economy, they have been wrapping up for the holidays and they're going to have to see how the market goes and act accordingly," Hawaii Farm Bureau executive director Alan Takemoto said.

Takemoto says farmers are extremely adaptable and that should help them.

"That's what agriculture is about," he said. "Farmers don't just plant just for today or tomorrow. I mean their whole operation is based on the long haul, so they're here to stay, there are going to be times when farmers are going to have to make that hard decision."

For Durston, that means something he's never done before, but may be forced to do for the first time in the 25 years he's been in business.

"I don't want to lose any," he said. "I'll be standing alongside the road selling poinsettias if I have to in the end."

They have 26 workers right now and already they've laid off a couple of people. If the economy doesn't change soon, they'll be forced to lay off even more workers.

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