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Business is Blooming

You could say that Tom and Joe Goldberg grew up with the business, helping their dad, LeRoy, on the family’s 10-acre flower farm near Oxnard, California. Today, they co-own and operate Skyline Flower Growers with locations in Oxnard and Nipomo.

The family business grew from simple roots in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Grandma Gertie Goldberg began selling flowers during the Depression. Left to raise six children, she eventually built a modest business with her own greenhouse.

When her son, LeRoy, returned in 1954 from serving in World War II and the Korean War, the family relocated to Oxnard, California. The operation steadily expanded its acres, with grandsons Joe and Tom accelerating the pace in the 1970s through the 1980s.

Tom, 53, is now vice president and co-owner. He joined the business in 1978. Joe, 55, CEO and president, returned to Skyline in 1983 after gaining experience working for a flower brokerage company. Together they formed LJT Flowers, Inc. Today, the next generation of Goldbergs is involved in the company. LeRoy, 86, still comes to work every day. 

“Other than bulb crops from Holland and Chile, all of Skyline’s flowers are grown from seed,” Joe says.

Growing flowers is a labor of love

Their flower business showcases 50 to 60 different varieties. Their three top-selling flowers are snapdragons, oriental lilies, and Burgundy dahlias. Altogether, the operation includes 3 million square feet of greenhouses, totaling 120 acres. The flowers are watered through drip irrigation.

Joe monitors sales, marketing, and accounting. Tom oversees growing operations at Oxnard and Nipomo. Their sister, Susan Robertson, is sales manager.

The Goldbergs sold their flowers through brokers until the mid-1980s, when they began selling directly to wholesale florists.

“We knew we could offer the selection, availability, quality, and service that wholesalers wanted,” Joe says. 

Their wholesale distribution centers, located in both Seattle and Spokane, Washington, are managed by Joe’s two sons, Patrick, 29, and Gerald, 28. 

In 1998, they purchased 65 acres near Nipomo, 100 miles north on the central coast 2 miles from the ocean. Their heat-loving flowers are grown there in tunnels or in plastic-covered rows in gas-heated greenhouses. They recently increased their total acres there to 92.

“The tunnels allow the blooms to develop the most vibrant colors,” Joe says. The two locations employ more than 175 employees.

“Our foremen are hands-on,” Joe says. “Harvesters pick only select flowers and greens. The packing crew carefully inspects the plants before shipping.”

Flowers are shipped by truck, air, and overnight carrier across the U.S. and Canada. Skyline Flower Growers also sells to local retail florists and at farmers markets throughout San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.

One of the greatest challenges facing future generations is the cost of land. The cost is up to $60,000 an acre.

“Growing flowers is a very labor-intensive business,” Tom says. “It’s difficult to compete with the lower labor costs of South American growers. That’s why our business focuses on fragile blooms, including lilies and snapdragons, that don’t ship very well.” 

Using technology

Over the past several years, the Goldbergs have harnessed technology to fine-tune their business and production methods. Their innovations include:

  • Computerized monitoring of the plants' nutrient levels.
  • An ozone system to help clean water and remove impurities
  • Hydroponics to save fertilizer when using drip irrigation
  • Water recycling (1,000 gallons per day).
  • Growing their online sales at sklineflowers.com
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