The John Day greenhouse continues to grow its online roots.
John Day City Manager Nick Green presented a report that showed the greenhouse’s first 90 days on the e-Commerce platform, and broke down the $13,115 gross sales ($11,522 net sales after discounts applied) and statistics on the website traffic.
Online, the greenhouse managed to sell 1,504 leafy greens, 1,396 cucumbers, 708 pounds (or pints) of tomatoes, 510 fresh herbs and an assortment of fruits, salad packs and miscellaneous items at the John Day Farmer’s Market, according to the agenda for the meeting.
While leafy greens is the item most sold based on volume, slicer tomatoes have brought in the most amount of gross sales.
The three-bay hydroponic greenhouse, which was financed by a $350,000 Special Public Works Fund loan from Business Oregon, now provides 18 products such as a variety of cucumbers, tomatoes, cantaloupes and lettuce.
The first challenge the greenhouse faced in 2020 was the shift in customers of the greenhouse in March due to COVID-19.
“Our go-to market strategy was business-to-business sales, primarily through the grocery store, so we wanted to sell through Chester’s (Thriftway) and then to our restaurants,” Green said. “By March our restaurant customers had pretty much been wiped out. They were forced to close due to COVID.”
In April, the city began testing direct-to-consumer sales, according to Green. The decision was made in May to sell directly through the website johndaygreenhouse.com.
They city still does business-to-business sales to local restaurants and grocery stores while running the e-commerce. Business-to-business customers receive a 40% discount while restaurants and retailers get a 20% discount.
Green said that the website receives about 20 unique visitors per day, and almost 8% become customers.
“This is the one that I would say we’re the most proud of, customer retention,” Green said. “Year-to-date there are 176 people that purchased through the platform, and two-thirds are repeat customers. That’s a stable customer base for a start-up venture.”
Green said the greenhouse site has also received more traffic than other city sites as well.
“This has become a great tourism and marketing platform for us, and we have not even attempted to market outside of Grant County,” Green said.
The greenhouse also completed their first internship program with Zachary Ostberg, a high school student who started his freshmen year this year. Ostberg worked with the greenhouse crew for a month in August.
He worked about 20 hours a week and would help a greenhouse employee with seed propagation, transplanting, fertilizing, pest management and getting orders ready for customers.
“When I got there I enjoyed it, and it was really fun,” Ostberg said.
Another problem the greenhouse had to solve was an infiltration of aphids, bugs that sap nutrient liquids from plants, which affected the lettuce production.
The city eradicated the crops that had been infiltrated, reseeded and had to start over with some of the crop.
“We had a crew come in and reseal every potential penetration, put up new bug netting and tripled the amount of bug traps,” Green said.
The city also used Neem Oil, an organic pesticide, to help eradicate the bugs.
“We figured it out and they were completely eradicated,” Green said. “Hard lesson to learn, and we learned it the hard way, but I think we’re back on track and the lettuce should be back online again.”