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by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 8/30/07

   When Liskey Farms produced its first crop of 55,000 nursery plants in the early 1990s, Tracey Liskey didn’t think they could sell them all. He was wrong.
   “We sold out in three to four weeks,” he said.
   The nursery operation has served the Klamath Basin for nearly two decades, relying on geothermal energy beneath the Liskey property to heat the greenhouses Retail nursery to stay in operation, with changes
during the cold season and propagate f lowers, shrubs and other plants for gardeners.
   But family members — brothers Rocky and Tracey and sister Vickie—announced last week that they would no longer raise the stock for their nursery plant business and instead will lease their greenhouses to another agricultural company to raise predator mites for spider mite control.
   T he reta il nurser y business will continue to operate, but the plants sold will be purchased from other growers rather than grown in Liskey greenhouses.
   Vickie said they plan to offer the same variety of plants. She spent the past week in Portland making contacts and also plans to sell plants grown by those in the Basin. From page A1
   “If we do our jobs, the public shouldn’t notice,” she said.
   The nursery will close for the season Sept. 30. Plants will be available next season from April 15 until July 31.
   “Change always has some question marks,” Rocky said. “But it’s going to be an exciting change.”
   Greenhouses were at Liskey Farms long before the family began growing nursery stock. The first set was built in the 1970s for growing forestry seedlings to sell through a business partner in Seattle. Unfortunately, the partner didn’t come through and the project was abandoned after several years, Tracey said.
   A not her bu si ne s sm a n attempted to grow cacti and other plants in several of the greenhouses, but financial issues knocked him out within a year. Then the buildings sat empty for about four or five years.
   In the meantime, Vickie returned to school and earned a degree in horticulture. In 1990, she and her brothers began the nursery operation and it took off, she said.
   “It was a resource to be used for our family,” she said.
   The operation expanded several times since, one of the most recent being the addition of ten 30-by-120 foot greenhouses. The additional capacity allowed Liskey Farms to keep up with increasing demand.
   But the business had its concerns.
   Nursery plants require a high quality water supply which irrigation water couldn’t deliver. At the peak of the season, the company employs about 50 workers, who are getting harder to find.
   “You develop relationships with your personnel but labor was expensive,” Rocky said.
   Tracey and Vickie said the decision to stop using the greenhouses came this summer.
   Biotactics, a Romoland, Calif., company that will lease several greenhouses to raise predatory mites, made an attractive offer. It also will serve the agricultural community, the Liskeys said.
   Tracey and Vickie said the change in operations would allow them more time with their families, especially their aging parents, and give them time to relax a bit as well.

Tracey Liskey, 53, left, and his sister, Vickie Liskey, 62, are changing operations at Liskey Farms. A company called Biotactics will use the Liskeys’ geothermal greenhouses to raise spider mite predators. Liskey Farms will continue to sell plants to its local clients.

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