In an economy where most businesses are struggling at some level, a tree farm in East End is quietly expanding to keep up with demand.
Taking up about half of 30 acres, the commercial tree farm, Cayman Growers is part of an old quarry. The farm has 10,000 trees grown from seed. Coconut trees fly out the door. But Royal and Christmas palms are also in high demand on the island.
Depending on the tree, it takes about two to three years to grow from seed. In that time, coconut trees can get up to 20 to 25 feet tall.
The tree farm also grows fruit trees, mangoes, avocadoes, Barbados cherry and lychee.
The farm’s sod, suitable for tropical environments is popular. Last year, Cayman Growers was growing two acres of sod, with a crop being harvested every five months. This year, that output has increased to four acres and it is sold as fast as the farm can harvest it.
Cayman Growers, is the brainchild of partners Travis Houston and Trent Riggins. They started the tree farm together after Hurricane Ivan destroyed much of the vegetation and landscaping on the island five years ago to provide wholesale trees and sod to developers, landscapers and nurseries. Considering the amount of rebuilding and new developments after the storm, demand for locally grown trees and sod has steadily grown.
One reason is the quality for locally grown trees and sod is higher than product shipped from Florida. For developers and landscapers, there is also less lead time needed to get product. And the local trees are already acclimated to the climate said Houston.
But a huge advantage is the savings. Most clients save 20 to 25 per cent on average compared to trees shipped here from Florida. And that kind of cost savings is compelling for any landscaper or developer added Houston.
Originally from Texas, Houston comes from a family of tree farmers. Growing trees is in his blood.
“I have been growing trees all my life,” said Houston. “I thought there was a need for it here.”
Before going into business with Houston, Riggins had a restaurant that was destroyed in Ivan. The tree farm gave Riggins a chance to try something new.
Cayman Growers has seven employees. Two employees looking after the tree farm full time. The remaining employees work in landscaping and irrigation services that Cayman Growers also offers.
While Cayman Growers has operated as a wholesaler since it opened, it is now opening up the farm to the public. Along with opening up the farm to the public are plans to expand its tree and sod output to accommodate the increased demand.
But for first time visitors to the tree farm, it can be a bit tricky to find. To get there, you need to go past East End Primary school, make a couple turns until you get to Farm Road and then drive down a ways. There is a sign outside, but it is small. Both Houston and Travis have a saying.
“When you think you have gone too far, keep going,” said Houston.
“And if they still can’t find it they can call me,” added Houston.