40 years and still growing strong

When he opened Greenwood NuRsery in 1981, Jeff Farber “was hoping to get to the end of the year” with his business. “When we started, I didn’t have anything. I thought, ‘What’s the worst that can happen, I’m gonna fail?’” Not only did Farber not fail, he has built one of Tracy’s most successful enterprises. Photo / Per Peterson

Jeff Farber and his employees are celebrating Greenwood Nursery’s 40th anniversary

Even today, four decades after opening his business, Greenwood Nursery owner Jeff Farber laughs about his humble beginnings.

It was 1981 and Farber needed some seed money to get his business going. After his father-in-law, Myron Johnson, told him he could use his lake home as collateral, Farber secured a $15,000 loan from Northwest Bank. The only catch: the interest rate was 22%.

“When I look back on that … I think I had to be one of the stupidest people on earth!” Farber said.

Farber had the loan paid off in three years, and the rest is horticultural history.

“‘Why are you coming back here to start a business?’ is what my parents said,” said Farber, who along with his staff is celebrating 40 years of business in Tracy. “I had worked in the Cities and had four years of landscape experience, but I had never worked in a retail situation. I didn’t start this to have greenhouses, I didn’t start this to have retail. I started to have a landscaping center.”

When he opened Greenwood Nursery at the age of 24, Farber admits he had no real, long-term goals or expectations of where his business would go or even how long it would last.

“I was just a kid,” he said. “At that stage of the game, I was hoping to get to the end of the year. When we started, I didn’t have anything. I thought, ‘What’s the worst that can happen, I’m gonna fail?’”

He certainly hasn’t, even though there have been some rough patches over the years. Looking back, there have been a few very lean years where his business was close to bankruptcy, whether it was because of the economy or of a self-inflicted nature.

“There are many things I’ve done over the years where it’s like, ‘Well, that didn’t work,’” he said. “But you don’t go home and cry, you go back at it and try something different.”

Farber remembers 1985 when Greenwood expanded into the Marshall area. As it turned out, the weather wasn’t on his side and to make matters worse, the building he was going to lease wasn’t finished on time.

“Before we opened that fall, we had three or four weeks of rain,” said Farber. “My projections of moving into that location for fall sales turned out to be zero. And the weather in the spring was crap. That was my first round of struggling.”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.