When Bill Boonstra’s father began Bluestone Perennials back in 1972, he didn’t even own a computer.
Since that time, Bill and his wife Sarah have taken over the Bluestone and implemented new technologies that have revolutionized the business.
Greenhouses and mail order plants
Today, Bluestone Perennials spans nearly five acres of greenhouses and ships roughly 80,000 packages of plants a year. They are one of very few perennial plant companies to only sell direct to retail customers. The Boonstras have been able to create this niche for themselves in the market thanks to the technological advances they have integrated into both their growing practices and business management tactics.
The power of technology
For example, Bluestone utilizes computer assisted injection systems to water the annuals and perennials, and they have a computer-controlled greenhouses. They also utilize inventory technology to report out information from the greenhouses to their customers almost instantaneously.
The quick spread of accessible information is key for Bluestone’s success. “When we update our inventory, it uploads through our systems to our customer service reps on the phone within two minutes and to our website, so that it reflects exactly what's happening on the nursery floor,” Bill said.
Growth requires risk
While the technology that Bluestone utilizes can be expensive and risky to implement, Sarah suggests that risks are necessary in order to expand. She said, “To truly grow the business, you have to take a step toward the cutting-edge and it can be pretty scary, but it's a leap of faith you have to take if you're going to grow.”
Farm Credit understands the potential growth value in taking risks and has been there to support Bluestone through their periods of growth.
“Would we be in business without Farm Credit? No,” said Bill.
Sarah added, “it has been critical to have access to Farm Credit. We hit some tight times a few years back. We are in a much better place today, and a lot of that is because Farm Credit stood behind us.”