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Greenhouse celebrates 65th anniversary

April 25, 2011
Jenn Brookens , Fairmont Sentinel

Editor's note: More Home & Garden stories are available in today's Sentinel.

In 1946, what is now known as Smith's Greenhouse was out in the middle of a group of fields. At the time, it was called Fairmont Nursery, and there were rows and rows of nursery stock.

It was a sort of rite of passage for all five of Wayne and Ethel Smith's children to work first on the nursery stock, and then in the greenhouse. Chuck Smith, the middle child, eventually took over the business when his parents retired. But there would be more children who worked there, from family friends and neighbors, to teens who were in activities, such as DECA.

Article Photos

Chuck Smith tends to the geraniums on his flood benches recently at Smith’s Greenhouse. The business is celebrating its 65th anniversary.

"There were lots of school kids coming through," said Linda Smith, wife of Chuck Smith. "Wayne was quite the character; he was always receiving awards and recognition from the groups like DECA."

Over time, the greenhouse became more than the nursery stock. It supplied wholesale products to Sterling Drug chains; delivered stock as far as Billings, Mont., to Kmart chains in the region; and operated a Christmas tree farm in Wisconsin.

"We had 10, and someone bought them all," Chuck Smith recalled. "Then we had 100; someone bought them all. Then we had 10,000 and someone bought all those ... We've sold half a million trees since 1950."

Chuck and Linda took over running the greenhouse in 1979, and purchased it in 1992.

"He was always here; it was in his blood," Linda Smith said. "He knew the science; even as a kid he was the one with the science kit. He knew the water pH and the soils needed for crops ... He can tell what a plant needs just from looking at its leaves."

Chuck Smith also created the flood benches used to water the plants. Being built on a hill, the tables go down the gentle slope, and watering hoses at the top of the table spray to water at root level, which allows the plants to develop better root systems.

In 65 years, several changes have come and gone. Some of the buildings have gone up and been torn down, but the proprietors have adapted to meet the times.

"What used to be our seed house is now a gift shop," Linda Smith said. "It just keeps evolving with the way things happen."

The wholesale business is long gone, and with technological advances, there are no more seeding plants, but plug production - transplants that are already sprouting. Part of that is due to some flowers and plants now being patented.

"There is a much bigger selection now than 50 years ago," she said.

Smith's Greenhouse remains a greenhouse first and foremost. It is not open for business during certain times of the year. It closes in mid-June for plants and tree farm work, and opens again in November and December for Christmas trees. While the business isn't open during the winter, this season is one of the owners busiest times as they keep things growing and get plants ready for spring.

"We're open now through June for the planting season," Linda Smith said. "We'll be doing our 'Gardener's Night Out' on April 26, and it was a big hit last year. ... We are happy to still be here and that the community still supports us. We are happy to have what we have."



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