Market Focus

Edited from an article by John Dobberstein

Originally published in the Spring 2010 issue of Rural Lifestyle Dealer (click here for complete article)

Southwest Wholesale Nursery in Carrollton, Texas, serves as a hub between growers and the landscape contractors who need plant material for various landscape jobs.

The 40-acre nursery just north of Dallas takes in flowers, shrubs, bushes and trees from growers in 18 states and distributes them to wholesale customers in a 300-mile radius, including north and west Texas and most of Oklahoma.

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Southwest is bustling with activity from Thanksgiving through April loading and unloading plant material, and there isn’t much equipment sitting unused.

The workhorses of Taber’s operation are five Kubota R520S wheel loaders, which are used to load or unload trucks and move plants to the nursery. The units average 600-900 hours a year and they’re key because of their maneuverability.

“We’re stacked to the gills here in the spring and those are our best machines. One guy out there starts a loader in the morning and literally doesn’t turn it off until the end of the day. He’s either loading or unloading something all day long,” owner Steve Taber says.

Taber isn’t opposed to compact tractors. In fact, Southwest has a New Holland 545

Southwest Wholesale Nursery  The five Kubota wheel loaders used at Southwest Wholesale Nursery to load and unload plant material are run 600-900 hours per year and need timely service to keep the business running smoothly, says owner Steve Taber.

tractor with a straddle deck, a style Taber prefers because it’s compact. But that deck style has been discontinued, which forced Taber to turn to wheel loaders.

Another challenge for a nursery like Southwest is all the stopping and starting involved. Tractors with clutches are of little use.

“What happens if you pull up to a truck with something to load and your foot slips off the clutch?” Taber asks. “We can’t have a geared clutch. The wheel loaders have forward, reverse and a brake. That’s all we need.

“The thing I don’t like about the wheel loaders is you can’t put a box blade on it. If we’re not loading or unloading, we’re working our roads.” For that task, Southwest has 3 New Holland front-end loaders equipped with box blades.

Two New Holland telehandlers — a M427 purchased in 2007 and P545 bought in 2000 — are used to handle large trees at the nursery. The M427 gets used about 700 hours a year, and the P545 about 250 hours a year.

“Many times we have to lift and load trees over trailer sides that are normally used to carry bulk material. So telehandlers are perfect for that purpose,” Taber says. “We also might have trees stacked in together, so the telehandlers are perfect for reaching over and pulling out a specific tree in the back.”

A Vermeer BC1000 XL wood chipper is used for general cleanup on the property. Southwest also has 2 forklifts and a small lineup of trailers —including a 30-35 foot gooseneck trailer with a low floor and low sidewalls for easy loading and unloading.

For moving smaller loads of plant material around, Southwest has 20 Yamaha gas-powered golf carts and self-tracking 4 x 8 foot trailers. The carts accumulate a lot of hours, but the maintenance needs are usually simple enough to be handled on site.