Economic Value of Iowa’s Green Industry

Cynthia Haynes, Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Jeff Iles, Faculty, Horticulture Department


Iowas agriculture industry consists of a unique mix of production agriculture (corn and soybeans) as well as relatively small diversified farms specializing in edible food crops, nursery plants and greenhouse plants. Recent surveys of the turfgrass and edible food crop production sectors showed these horticulture industries are important to Iowas economy.

In 2004, the U.S. Green Industry, which includes both production (nursery and greenhouse) and service sectors (landscape design, installation and maintenance, lawn care and tree care), generated $147.8 billion in output or sales. Further, nursery and greenhouse crops are ranked in the top ten commodities in 42 states, and in 2004 ranked as the fourth largest crop group in the United States based on farm cash receipts (USDA, 2004). Currently, Iowa ranks last in total outputs among the eight states that comprise the Midwest region (Hall et al., 2005). Yet, the Green Industry is the fastest growing segment of Iowas agriculture industry, and in the past 13 years the number of private horticulture businesses in Iowa has more than doubled (Klein, 2003).


A survey of Iowas ornamental horticulture industry has not been completed recently, therefore this research project was designed to gather and analyze data from members of Iowas Green Industry to better understand the scope, scale and business climate of this industry and to determine its economic impact on Iowas economy.


A total of 1281 businesses were identified; 377 florists, and 904 nursery, greenhouse, or landscape related businesses. On 10 Feb. 2005 questionnaires were mailed to all 1281. On 7 Mar. 2005 a reminder postcard was sent to all non-respondents, and a targeted mailing of the original questionnaire was sent to the businesses, from the original population, identified as nursery, greenhouse, and landscape production or sales. Data collection was completed in July 2005.


There are an estimated 11,277 jobs within Iowas Green Industry. The economic impact of Iowas Green Industry and allied sectors associated with the industry in 2004 was $538.2 million suggesting the Green Industry is an important part of Iowas overall economy. Although size and type of businesses varied, a majority of respondents had only one location, were family owned, had been in business <6 years, and had <10 employees in each of the categories (full-time, part-time permanent, and seasonal). These varied businesses offered a diverse mix of plants, most of which are purchased from outside sources, and 43% of businesses also offered some type of landscape service. A majority of respondents expected their business to expand in relation to number of employees, gross payroll, sales and total expenses by 2010.  Respondents participating in our study were generally optimistic and identified only a few factors that could be limiting to business success. Of the limiting factors, the availability of skilled labor and capital were also reported as limitations by other states with larger green industries than Iowa.  As a result of this preliminary research, further educational programming and professional development opportunities can be tailored to address these needs.

A refereed manuscript on this research will be published in the Oct.- Dec. (2007) issue of HortTechnology. (A Survey of the Ornamental Horticulture Industry in Iowa.  Cynthia Haynes, Ann Marie VanDerZanden, and Jeffery K. Iles.)


130 Horticulture: Commercial and Consumer

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