Local nursery owner presented with Nurseryman of the Year award


There are photos and items hung along the wall in the office at Schneider Nursery Inc.

They tell part of the story of the nursery that was founded by George and Mae Ellen Schneider in 1949.

Their son, Grant Schneider, and daughter, Margie Strange, now share the office and own and operate the nursery at 3066 E. U.S. 50 between Seymour and Brownstown.

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One of the latest items hung on the wall is the 2018 Nurseryman of the Year award from the Indiana Nursery and Landscape Association, which was presented to Grant on Jan. 10 during a ceremony at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

The award is presented to those who provide outstanding service to the nursery and landscape industry in Indiana.

The nursery operates on more than 500 acres with 16 full-time employees and nearly 10 more during the busy months. It has become a go-to spot for those looking for flowers, shrubs, trees, plants, garden decor and more.

The nursery also is a wholesale site for area garden centers and landscaping companies.

But don’t give Schneider all of the credit because he doesn’t want it.

He said the award was only possible because of the dedication of the employees who have helped build the second-largest nursery in the state.

“This isn’t my award. This is the nursery’s award because that’s my feeling about it,” he said. “It should be the nursery’s name because it really is a team effort. I feel Margie is just as deserving as me for this kind of thing.”

It is a family effort, as his other sister, Annie Prout, who teaches in Vincennes, helps on the weekends, and his brother, Jeff, has retired from the business. His daughter, Jill Glover, also works there.

The nursery staff found out in late December that Schneider would be presented with the award. He said he was hesitant at first because awards really aren’t his thing, but then he saw how excited everyone was about the news.

“I’m not into honors, but when I saw how excited everyone else was about it, I thought of it as an award for us,” he said, adding how special it was that Jill’s husband, Andy, drove employees to the ceremony. “I’m not trying to eat the humble pie, but it really is the whole nursery staff that makes it what it is.”

The award was special because it came from the same organization that was important to his father, Schneider said.

George was the president of the association in 1964, and in 1999, he was presented with the association’s award of merit, the highest honor the organization gives.

The organization also brings together an important community of nurseries, Schneider said, which shares a special bond. Even though they’re all technically competitors, everyone is there to lend a hand, share experience and be there for each other, he said.

“Nursery people are good people,” he said. “We get along, and when we have a problem, we help each other out.”

Schneider shared a story about how nurserymen help in important times when he spoke during the award ceremony in January. In fact, the story showed how nurserymen played a pretty big role in history.

It was a story of when a young child fell into a pool in his parents’ backyard, but no one was around except the gardener.

“He rushed into the backyard and jumped in the pool to save the child’s life,” he said, adding the parents then ran to the backyard went to see what happened.

The parents wanted to reward the gardener, who said his son wanted to become a doctor, but he couldn’t get into medical school.

The parents were people of influence and were able to get the man’s son into a great medical school. Years later, the boy who fell in the pool became ill with a disease that was usually fatal.

The doctor who led the team was the gardener’s son.

“With God’s help and the team, they healed the young child,” he said. “The young child was Winston Churchill, so one of the world’s greatest statesmen was saved by a gardener.”

Being a nurseryman is difficult, Schneider said, because there is so much planning and difficulties predicting what will happen from the time something is planted and ready to sell.

Something plant today will not be ready to market for seven to 10 years.

“And that would only get you one size,” he said. “Some of our trees are 14 years old.”

There are many situations that cannot be foreseen, like consumer preference and what Mother Nature has in store.

“One year, we got hit hard by the emerald ash borer,” he said. “Purple ash was our No. 2 selling tree.”

The beetle is a native to northeastern Asia and made its way to Indiana a few years ago, taking ash trees with it.

Blue spruce trees are now being affected by needle cast fungus, and a species of dragonfly is coming around to affect oak trees.

“There are challenges each year,” he said. “It takes years to do this and how to figure everything out.”

But Schneider’s instincts have helped the business grow to what it is today. The business used to be primarily for retail sales, but he approached his father in the early 1980s about offering plants wholesale.

“I went to him and said I wanted to give wholesale a shot, and I expected him to say no, but he immediately said it was the route we should take,” he said.

Now, wholesale holds a majority share of the business.

Schneider said wholesale probably makes up around 65 percent of sales, but he has recently seen an increase in retail.

“It’s definitely bounced to that 35 percent, but there for a few years, wholesale was about 80 percent,” he said.

The staff is now preparing for its busy season, which will come quicker than many may think.

Schneider said this year will be like many of the others — one where a dedicated staff will help make Schneider Nursery what it has been since it was founded decades ago.

“We have a great team that’s dedicated to what we do,” he said. “This is all I ever wanted to do.”

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