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Profiles in Agribusiness: ARC Ferns
ARC Ferns Thrives Through Specialization
When PNC approached us, I saw right away that they were interested in building a relationship with us. Since we are a relationship-based business, we recognize the value of that. It’s a natural fit. When we need something, I feel confident calling PNC because I know that the person on the other end of the line is listening and ready to support us. We’re very happy to have PNC on our side.
When customers go to greenhouses or big-box retailers to buy decorative ferns for their homes, gardens and offices, they might not know that their plants began as fern liners, small young starter plants that might well have come from ARC Ferns in Apopka, Florida. Each year, ARC Ferns produces more than 10 million fern liners, in 150 different varieties, for growers, nurseries and resellers throughout the country.
“We satisfy nearly 50% of U.S. demand for these types of ferns,” says ARC President Dan Carmi, whose horticulture education and expertise form the roots of his successful business. “Our goal is to push that number to 55 or 60% over the next few years through responsible, manageable, sustainable growth that ensures we remain profitable.”
Carmi and his wife, Revi, joined Milestone Agriculture in 1998, 10 years after its establishment by Dan’s father, John Carmi. In 2013, the entrepreneurial couple transitioned this family-owned business to their own personal endeavor, ARC Ferns — a move Carmi says made them more agile and responsive. They hit the ground running, doubling their business from 2014 to 2017. Now they are confident that their current focus on managed growth will ensure they maintain the exceptional levels of quality and service their customers have come to expect.
“We’ve built our company on personal service and never want to lose that focus,” Carmi explains. “We learned that when you try to grow too quickly — and when you hire too quickly — it can come back to hurt you. We have a stable, well-trained, well-compensated staff of about 20, and we trust every person on the team. We are all committed to the same goals and share a strong work ethic.”
The team needs to be strong, given the challenges of the marketplace. “The U.S. ornamental horticulture market has remained fairly stable in size and pricing, but we’ve seen a 300% uptick in input costs from when we started; maintaining profitable margins is tough,” explains Carmi. He also cites what he terms “smaller issues,” including labor availability and environmental regulations. “Everyone tries to find a way to stay economically viable. We’ve done that through specialization: Our established position as a niche crop provider gives us an advantage over new entries into the market.”
ARC Ferns also has the advantage of having the support of PNC. Carmi began banking with PNC about four years ago. “We were with another bank, but when PNC approached us, I saw right away that they were interested in building a relationship with us,” he says. “Since we are a relationship-based business, we recognize the value of that. It’s a natural fit. When we need something, I feel confident calling PNC because I know that the person on the other end of the line is listening and ready to support us. We’re very happy to have PNC on our side.”
Company: ARC Ferns
Location: Apopka, FL
We’ve built our company on personal service and never want to lose that focus. We learned that when you try to grow too quickly — and when you hire too quickly — it can come back to hurt you
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