News from Headstart Nursery, Inc.
March 2018
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Nursery News

California Spring Trials are Coming!

California Spring Trials are almost here! Plan to visit Headstart Nursery from April 14-19. We will be showcasing Headstart plugs as well as Danziger genetics. We will also have our Cyclamen breeder trial, so come by and let us teach you a thing or two about growing Cyclamen!

This year we will also be highlighting our Organic Ornamental Vegetable program. We are currently growing over 5 million plugs, custom sown in multiple tray sizes.  

Although we welcome drop-in visitors, we do recommend making appointments for larger groups. Please call (408) 842-3030 or send email to to reserve a time slot or get more information. Hope to see you soon!

Up in Smoke

After California legalized marijuana, Headstart Nursery lost some of the greenhouse space we had at various rented satellite facilities to cannabis growers. As we looked to replace this space, we found a new facility—and actually gained more space than we had lost! This turns out to be good news, because with fewer facilities to manage, we can be logistically more efficient, which helps keep our costs lower for customers.

Poinsettias Power Local Charities

Our poinsettia program was once again very successful! In 2017, we sold over 80,000 plants to local schools and non-profit groups who sell them as fundraisers. While typical orders are around 80 plants, some groups take as many as 3,000. We even ship two truckloads worth of poinsettias to sports teams in Arizona who sell them every year!

To learn more, see the article in Gilroy Life highlighting our poinsettia program and how it benefits local community groups.

Battling CGMMV

Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus (CGMMV) continues to be a problem for watermelon and other cucurbit production. Over the last several years, Headstart Nursery has been actively working with seed producers as well as industry associations like CSA and ASTA to conduct facility risk assessments and develop SOPs and outreach materials.
Headstart Nursery continues to require that all cucurbit seed be tested for CGMMV before entering our facilities. We have also implemented a comprehensive hygiene program for workers and visitors, and we regularly inspect all seedlings for signs of the disease.

For more information about how you can diagnose and control this pathogen in the field, download the CGMVV Seed Production and Commercial Growers Guide from the American Seed Trade Association.

Help Wanted

The labor situation in California continues to be an issue throughout the entire ag industry. Here at Headstart, we've found it increasingly difficult to hire and retain people. Sometimes we invest the time to train employees, only to lose them and start the process all over again. We will continue doing all we can to create a positive workplace environment so people will keep working and growing with the nursery.

Keep On Truckin'

Headstart Nursery has been gradually upgrading our fleet. With more of our own trucks, we won’t have to count on subhaulers, so we can provide more reliable and cost-effective deliveries for our customers.

Look for one of the new rigs coming soon to a field near you!

Staying Connected

Desert Showcase

In December, our Desert team welcomed a group of 36 college students who are part of the Western Growers Careers in Ag Program.

The students (who hailed from UC Davis, Cal Poly Pomona, and University of Arizona) loved touring the Mecca nursery and learning about transplants!


Western Watermelon Convention

In January, the Headstart Nursery and Radicle Seed teams (including Steve Costa, Randy Costa, Mike Bushman, Lisa Branco, Doug Iten, and Pete Perez) set off to Las Vegas for the annual Western Watermelon Convention. They had the opportunity to meet with customers, seed producers and other industry connections while learning about trends and issues affecting the industry.

ASTA Vegetable & Flower Seed Conference

Shortly after the Vegas trip, Steve Costa and Lisa Branco headed to San Diego to represent Radicle Seed at the American Seed Trade Association's annual Vegetable and Flower Seed Conference. Lisa is a member of the Communications Committee as well as the Seed Ambassador Leadership Team. After meeting and networking with industry representatives, both Steve and Lisa are excited about future opportunities to work strategically with suppliers.
(Shown at left: Steve Wiley from American Takii, Lisa Branco, and ASTA President/CEO Andy LaVigne,)

Employee Spotlight

We have an amazing team at Headstart Nursery, and in this newsletter we just wanted to shine the spotlight on a few of our staff members who do an especially outstanding job for us—and for our customers!

Customer Service Rep Heather Guibert is someone we can always count on to step up and step in when needed. She often drops what she’s doing to do whatever is asked of her…whether that’s answering the phone, entering vegetable transplant orders, or helping close month-end. Heather has always been a solid team player, and we’re lucky to have her!
Officially, Valerie Marinovich is in charge of Payroll, but she actually does much more—including helping out with HR, 401k, risk-related issues, and day-to-day questions from employees. She is a terrific support to all of us, always willing to help resolve issues or assist with any projects that come her way. Over the last few months, Valerie has been super helpful in preparing year-end reporting for payroll, insurance, and retirement benefits.
Assistant Production Manager Chris Cornia does a fantastic job managing the seed room. This increasingly complex job requires accurately tracking large volumes of high-priced seed, keeping up with new disease testing requirements, and adjusting seed lot usage based on germination rates. His attention to detail helps reduce customer seed costs and ensure that orders are met on time. Chris completely understands the entire business, from seed to shipping, and is a truly valuable asset for Headstart Nursery and our customers.
Gilroy Logistics Coordinator William Medina somehow manages to stay cool and calm, all day and every day. He makes sure trailers end up exactly at the spot in the field that the customer requests, that we get returned plants back in to the system so no inventories are wasted, and that we use our trailers, bins and equipment as efficiently as possible. William is a huge reason our shipping department is able to run so smoothly with so much volume from multiple facilities—and that efficiency translates into lower costs for our customers.

All in the Family

New Faces

Rodrigo Raya Jr. started working for Headstart Nursery in June 2017. He is working at the nursery part-time while studying Art and Computer Science at Gavilan College. In his free time, Rodrigo Jr. likes to paint, collect sneakers, read comic books, hang out with friends, and watch movies.

Since his dad, aunt and uncle also work for the nursery, Rodrigo Jr. already feels like part of the family!

Jose Nunez Jr. was hired at our Desert facility December 2017 to work in Labor Management and Quality Control. He went to La Quinta High School and was referred to us by a client.

Though you can't really tell from this photo, Jose says he’s excited for the opportunity to be part of the Headstart Nursery team!

A Fond Farewell to Robin Iten

We were all very saddened by the loss of Robin Iten (mother of Headstart Desert managers Doug and Cole) in November. Born and raised in Holtville, Robin was a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother who was also very actively involved in many local charities. Though Robin passed away much too young, she left behind a lasting legacy that will be remembered by future generations. Our hearts go out to Doug, Cole, and the rest of their family.

If you’d like to make a gift in Robin’s honor, please consider donating to the Halos and Tiaras Foundation, a non-profit organization that she founded to help Imperial Valley children stricken with pediatric cancer. The group will be holding its Third Annual Golf Tournament and Golf Ball Drop in memory of Robin Iten on Saturday April 21, 2018 at Imperial Palms Resort at Barbara Worth in Holtville, CA.

In the photo above, Robin is shown with granddaughter Caelynn (the princess who inspired Halos and Tiaras) and husband Mike.

Wedding Bells for 
Cole and Stephanie

In some happier news for the Iten family, Desert Production Manager Cole Iten and his bride Stephanie tied the knot in Las Vegas on December 30. Congratulations to the happy couple!

Happy Birthday Boss!

Steve Costa turned 62 in February, which means he’s now eligible for Social Security…but he says he plans to hang around the nursery a while longer!

(Feeling sentimental? Check out the History page of our website for classic shots of Steve and brother Randy in their younger years!)
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Our mailing address is:
4860 Monterey Road
Gilroy, CA  95020
(408) 842-3030