Hort Life Chronicles: Bailey


With a rich history and intense focus on the future, Bailey is a perfect kick-off story for Hort Life. As we embark on this storytelling journey, we’re setting out to share the beauty that is horticulture by giving you an inside view into the lives of the people and organizations that work so hard to grow, sustain, and enhance our industry, and our world.

Bailey is a recognizable name in the horticulture industry, known for their commitment to quality, partnership, and innovation. This commitment extends to their products, their employees, and their customers, all of which work to benefit the industry as a whole. Here’s a glimpse into their Hort Life, and the impact it has on our world.


From the very first crop on the very first 10 acres up on that Minnesota hill, there was a focus on the future and an innovative spirit used to succeed. Bailey was built on rocky bedrock – literally. Over 100 years ago, the founding Bailey - John Vincent (J.V.) – planted crops of fruit and vegetables to improve the quality of the soil for future crops. His crop choice, plus his revolutionary use of additives enriched the soil for high quality plant production. Through his sales at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, Bailey earned a reputation for high-quality product. JV Bailey’s hard work and aptness for innovation established his leadership in the industry. Example after example exists:

  • J.V. Bailey was the first vendor at the Farmer’s Market to use an automobile, saving him hours of transportation time AND enabling restocking of supply, which significantly drove revenue.
  • He diversified his product portfolio to include flowers and trees, growing his business exponentially and eventually leading to the hiring of his first employee to help support demand.

Bailey’s foundational beliefs in innovation, quality, and the future were established early, and continue to prove successful year-after-year.

When you believe there is always an answer, or a better way, your opportunities are only limited by your daring.


That rocky-turned-rich bedrock was the genesis of the way Bailey does business. They nurture nature with reverence and curiosity, growing the potential of their business as well as the possibilities for the industry.

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As time ticked on, new generations of the Bailey family took control (5 to date) and cultivated unique change based on the current business and economic conditions. To name a few:

  • Established an unprecedented profit sharing plan for employees
  • Shifted to a wholesale operation
  • Built cold storage systems and spaces for bareroot trees
  • Designed a plant breeding program, Bailey Innovations™, to improve the beauty, lifespan, and growing success of plants
  • Countless tools custom built to automate the time consuming and repetitive tasks
    Including J.V. Bailey’s automobile + makeshift trailer, a drop trailer that unloads potted plants in the fields, pruning bars that bulk prunes plants and trees, robots that consolidate and separate plants, a root hog that pulls young plants, and more


Bailey is a fifth generation company, where more than 1,000 employees call home. That’s not stated lightly. Many employees have long careers with Bailey, often starting from the very beginning – working in the greenhouse on evenings and weekends as a  student and growing from there. Being family owned, there might be an innate hominess in their work culture – though Bailey works very intentionally to attract and keep their team strong. For instance, if Bailey family members want to work in the organization, they are required to make a career at another company first. The outside experience is helpful in professional development, but also in affirming the desire to 'come home' to Bailey and horticulture. Just as they nurture nature, Bailey fosters a nurtured nature throughout their organization.

Fun Fact: All Bailey farms retain their original farm names (at time of land purchase), which were often named after the family that owned it. There’s ‘Nord Farm’ in Cottage Grove, MN, and 'Bauer' and 'Danberg' Farms in Hastings, MN.

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It takes a powerful, united team to farm more than 5,000 acres spanning five growing operations in Minnesota, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, and Georgia. Each employee radiates a passion for the work they do, and a deep care for the Bailey products. Empowered to share ideas and resolve challenges, the Bailey team members work seamlessly together to help their customers be successful – in better, beautiful, and more efficient ways.

Bailey is one of the top five US nurseries in tree and shrub production, and they are focused on Growing What’s Next™. Terri McEnaney, CEO of Bailey, said this:

“Growing What’s Next means raising the bar for all of us. It means nurturing strong businesses, growing future leaders and working together to elevate our industry as a whole.”

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Hort Life is unlike any other. Those living this life have a passion and commitment to the industry that is incredibly special. Perhaps when life leads you to work that matters, a sense of responsibility and the potential for achievement grows deep roots.

Bailey has rich history filled with compelling examples of how invention and hard work contribute to success. Because of their commitment to foundational values and faith in the future, they are leading change in our industry and making our world a more beautiful place.

If you are interested in a printable version of the Hort Life Chronicles, you can download it here: 

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