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Wednesday, Sep 28, 2022
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Geraniums Helping Ecke Ranch Blossom

Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas, one of the world’s largest poinsettia producers, expects to finish off 2006 with a sales increase of 25 percent to 33 percent over 2005.

Owner Paul Ecke III said the increase is due partially to the acquisition of Pennsylvania-based Oglevee Geraniums in July.

The purchase price was not disclosed.

While poinsettia sales are solid for Ecke from year to year, the company’s spring mix flowers weren’t taking off because they didn’t include geraniums, a top seller. In August, Ecke had estimated that the acquisition could boost sales 40 percent this year, but he revised that this month to 25 percent to 33 percent, saying it’s “too early to tell.”

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Sales for Ecke’s poinsettia cuttings, which he sells to growers mostly in the summer, are up 14 percent from 2005. Ecke said there is a “strong demand” for poinsettias this season, and that most of the growers he sells to say they’ve been able to sell out their blooming plants to retailers.

Many farmers have been concerned of late about root weevils taking up residence in their nurseries or fields. But Ecke said he doesn’t think his nearly 70-acre ranch will see a problem with the pest, which has already caused five coastal areas to be quarantined in San Diego County.

According to Eric Larson, executive director at the San Diego County Farm Bureau, the quarantined areas include residential parts of Carmel Valley, Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe.

Ecke said state regulators inspected his ranch recently.

“We grow completely indoors,” he said. “We’re not at very much risk for the root weevil, but if regulators put a quarantine on all of San Diego County, and limit shipment in and out, that would kill us. Hopefully, they’ll operate on a case-by-case basis.”

Big concerns for Ecke in 2007 are the cost to heat his greenhouses, water supply and the availability of farm labor, he said. Ecke said his gas bill is about a $1 million a year.

The Paul Ecke Ranch, started by Paul Ecke’s grandfather more than 90 years ago, today collects royalties off 70 percent of the poinsettias sold in America and 50 percent off those sold outside the United States. Most of its operations are now in Guatemala and Mexico. Around 250 of Ecke’s 1,000-plus employees work in San Diego County.

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