While the bounty of the Santa Maria Valley’s agricultural land is easiest to see at harvest time as vegetables, fruits and flowers are loaded onto trucks, the work begins long before that.
The harsh conditions that crops face before harvest is most pronounced at the beginning; when weather, pests and predators can have a dramatic impact on the plants’ growth, even on its ability to survive.
That is where vegetable transplants, like the ones produced by Plantel Nurseries, come in.
Grown in controlled environments until they are transplanted to the fields by trained and experienced crews, Plantel’s vegetable transplant seedlings allow a farmer’s crop to get off to a stronger start than direct-seeding could provide. When Plantel Nursery first started operation, the owners believed that Santa Maria would be a perfect spot for a transplanting business as the lack of available agricultural land in the area meant that one of the best ways to increase the productivity of a field is to increase the number of harvests you could have in a year.
After starting with a location in Garey in 1987, Plantel opened a second location on Telephone Road in Santa Maria, and their newest production facility at 2775 E. Clark Ave a few years later. Between the three facilities, they have 1,350,000 square feet of greenhouse space and about the same square footage available for outside growing.
What is growing at the facility at any given time is completely determined by incoming orders from farmers, and is generally destined to wind up in fields on the Central Coast.
Using transplanted vegetable plants rather than seed maintains the consistency of the overall yield of a crop by removing the possibility of a failed germination that would cause gaps in production rows, and growing the transplants in the controlled environment of Plantel’s greenhouses allows for higher quality control of early plant growth.
“We put a good quality plant into the ground for our customers,” Graulich said.