Strathlorne Nursery to seek new business and clients

The publicly owned Strathlorne Forest Nursery near Inverness grows more than three million tree seedlings a year, but officials are now looking to grow the site in other ways to maximize economic development opportunities.

'We feel a broader outlook is necessary,' says Jonathan Kierstead with the Department of Natural Resources

The Strathlorne Forest Nursery was built in 1978 to provide trees for budworm devastated forests. (Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources)

The publicly owned Strathlorne Forest Nursery near Inverness grows more than three million tree seedlings a year, but officials are now looking to grow the site in other ways to maximize economic development opportunities.

A recent community meeting, organized by the provincial Department of Natural Resources, invited people to bring ideas about how to gain new clients and customers.

"We want to unlock the value of our assets at DNR," said the department's director of forestry, Jonathan Kierstead.

Two ideas that came out of that gathering were the possibility of growing sod for the two nearby golf courses, Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs, and a suggestion that medical marijuana could be cultivated at Strathlorne, he said.

The property currently includes greenhouses, a lab and production building, a garage and two drive-in freezers, irrigation ponds and equipment, an office building and a three-bedroom home.

'We have lots of land'

When things get busy in the summer, about 50 people are employed at the nursery, Kierstead said.

"We have lots of land — 50 hectares of fields," added Kierstead, who noted that there are another 150 hectares available for other projects that have a good business case.

There is an abundance of capacity at the site because it was set up in 1978 to provide trees for budworm devastated forests.

At peak times it produced more than 50 million seedlings a year: primarily red spruce, black spruce, white spruce, white pine, red pine and balsam fir for reforestation programs across the province.

It now produces far fewer trees and the challenge now is to find ways to fill that unused capacity, Kierstead said.

"What other opportunities have been overlooked or under-developed?"

Consultants working on it

Among those leading the discussion is Perennia, a consulting firm from Truro that specializes in food and agriculture issues.

But other consultants, Group ATN and Morton Horticulturalists, have also been brought in to explore "bricks and mortar" possibilities that go beyond food and agriculture-centred projects.

"We feel a broader outlook is necessary," said Kierstead, who wants to entertain a wide range of possibilities.

DNR has asked for a full report from the consultants by the end of September, he said.

With files from Information Morning