Many popular fruiting trees and shrubs produced by professional nurseries in the eastern half of the United States have been subjected to the routine and heavy use of pesticides and herbicides. Although some varieties grown in that manner will thrive when transferred to a home environment, many will not.

The owners of Edible Landscaping, Michael and Jeannie McConkey, wanted to provide products that harmonize with nature and that would therefore grow and perform well with less care. They started the business in 1979, searching worldwide for varieties that will prosper without chemical sprays. At the nursery, they propagate their plants by grafting, budding, seed, divisions, and cuttings. All the plants are hand-weeded and sprayed only when necessary, and then only with naturally derived products. It is a source of pride to offer plants in peak condition, whether bought on site or shipped.

There was little money available to start the business, so it began with a lot of hard work. Luckily, a nationally known garden magazine interviewed a fruit breeder who recognized Edible Landscaping as the lone source for hardy kiwi. That bit of public recognition made all the difference to the success of the business. As experts in their field, the owners and staff at Edible Landscaping now provide many mainstream products to retail outlets. The company is also a great source for less readily available products such as currants, kiwi, persimmon, pawpaw, and mulberry.

Ten employees help manage the nursery, which includes a show orchard where visitors can learn about the plants and see examples of any they may be considering. The nursery also offers volunteer work days and annual events such as their Fall Fruit Festival, Persimmon Festival, and All About Fruit Day.

The business is currently overhauling their eCommerce site to optimize search engine compatibility. They are connecting buying histories from 1993 to the present and using the results for marketing strategies. They are also improving staff salaries and paid vacation.

What's Great About My Mentor?: 

Michael says that Steve cares about them, and he is grateful for Steve’s expertise and generous, ongoing friendship and help.

How SCORE Helped: 

Their mentor, Steve Cooper, helped them focus on the financial aspects of the business such as expenses, finding ways to save, keeping track of three-year averages, and what is working for the business and what is not working.