Industry Spotlight: Cherrylake
Out of 1,800 acres statewide, Cherrylake has over 1,000 acres of rolling hills of ornamental tree production in Groveland, Florida. The main farm consists of seemingly endless rows of manicured oaks, maples, elms, bald cypress, magnolias, crape myrtles and holly varieties. Cherrylake’s tree production consists of sizes ranging from 15-gallon containers to as large as 670-gallon containers.
Cherrylake propagates mostly the staple trees found in the southeastern United States. Market trend forecasting influences the 5-year production ‘Master Plan’. Each tree is propagated from cutting or germinated from seed. A single tree takes anywhere from three to five years before it is ready to head to market.
Cherrylake is vertically integrated and prefers to propagate their own tree varieties instead of buying liners, an industry standard for some. Cherrylake uses Airpot root pruning containers in production to improve root health and therefore tree health, to maximize the health and longevity of the tree. Check out this article or this article for more information about Airpot root pruning containers.
“We want to control our production quality from beginning to end. We have found this to be the most beneficial for our operation,” said Austin Spivey, Cherrylake production manager. “Quality container trees are our priority.”
From trying new tree varieties, mechanization, irrigation technologies or planting densities, Cherrylake is always busy experimenting with production practices to increase efficiency and lessen costs, especially during a time of labor concerns.
“Our motto: If it isn’t broken, break it and make it better,” Spivey said. “We have no problem experimenting to try something new if it helps us in the long run.”
For example, Cherrylake adopted new sprayer technology and is saving 40 percent of chemical usage while achieving the same efficacy. In addition to direct material cost savings, production costs and labor have been reduced through this new technology and increased efficiency.
All agriculture can be a gamble, especially in tree farming where crop rotations are long. A lot of things outside our control can happen during the five years it takes to grow from a cutting to a sellable product, explained Spivey.
In 1979, Cherrylake’s story begins with citrus production until the catastrophic freezes of the early 1980s prompted the company to diversify its products from strictly citrus to include ornamental tree varieties. The first trees were planted in 1985 at the Lake County-based location.
In July 2019, Cherrylake celebrated 40 years with IMG Enterprises, Inc., an agribusiness and land management group of companies. IMG Enterprises has two sub entities: IMG Citrus and Cherrylake.
IMG Citrus is a vertically integrated citrus company that grows, packs and markets fresh citrus to retailers and wholesalers in North America, Europe and Asia. Cherrylake focuses on tree, shrub and palm production for the wholesale market, and more recently began providing irrigation and landscape construction services as well as landscape maintenance services.
Opportunity to Rebrand
Just 3 years ago, Cherrylake sought to rebrand itself. Its brand was over 30 years old, and no longer accurately reflected the innovations of the industry, nor the full spectrum of activities the company is involved with today, notably construction and maintenance services. Cherrylake saw this as an opportunity to redefine what they did and why they were in the industry.
Their five ‘why’ words that define their purpose were pinpointed: sustainable, beauty, vision, life and community.
- Sustainable landscapes are rooted, literally, in quality root systems and canopies of quality trees. These trees provide services not only today but also for future generations and landscapes.
- Beauty of natural or urban areas can be enhanced through trees, shrubs and palms.
- Vision of improvement and innovation to benefit current projects but future projects in the horticulture industry with functional yet sustainable landscapes.
- Community is made up of families, clients, vendors and partners coming together to build great landscapes and engaging experiences.
- Life through the plants that Cherrylake grows and landscape it installs, animal and human habitats are created and encouraged to live harmoniously.
“Cherrylake had the chance to change with the industry and refocus,” Spivey said. “We want to continue to evolve for the company’s future but also for our clients and employees alike.”
The company is “employee-centric” and offers professional development events that focus on wellness, yoga, bilingual coaches, leadership training and social activities to include everyone, from the field staff to the office administration.
“We are proud to have a strong employee-centric culture and continuous learning environment at Cherrylake,” Spivey said. “We attribute a lot of our success to the focus on our employees.”
For more information about Cherrylake and IMG Enterprises, check out their website.