The Salinas Californian

Our Vice President, Kim Hernandez, is featured on the local newspaper “The Salinas Californian” Aug. 8, 2014.

Career path returns woman to Monterey County roots

As a young girl Kim Hernandez tended her own garden and use to visit a nursery near her home to get supplies like bark and potting soil for her plants. Little did she realize that one day she would be overseeing the 15 acre operation.

Hernandez’s grandfather, John Rodriquez, owned a dairy across from Elkhorn School which her father, Jim, inherited. Although she grew up around animals, Hernandez decided to focus on ornamental horticulture when she went to college at the San Luis Obispo campus of Cal Poly.

After graduation Hernandez was hired by Bay City Flower Company as a grower of tropical plants, but she eventually became involved in inventory and quality control. She then returned to Monterey County to work for Sunnyside.

In 1994 Rod McLellan was looking for a forecast supervisor and Hernandez applied for the position. In a sense she had gone full circle and was now back at the company just down the road from her family home where she had once purchased supplies.

When she took the job Hernandez was the liaison between the greenhouse operation in Monterey County and the San Francisco main office. She then switched to overseeing the shipping operation and then managing the entire orchid nursery.

In 2000 Rod McLellan’s botanical division was purchased by the Taiwan Sugar Company (Taisuco). One of the largest orchid growers in the world, Taisuco had been the suppliers of Rod McLellan’s seedlings. The purchase of the firm gave the Taiwanese company a greater presence in the United States and growing facilities in California and Texas.

Hernandez remained director of operations until about 2005 when she received the title of vice president. In essence, that added sales to her list of former responsibilities.

To reach the McLellan Botanicals/Taisuco America greenhouses the visitor drives through acres of spiral blue and baby blue eucalyptus bushes which are popular for use in bouquets, wreaths and dried flower arrangements.

In the greenhouses you’ll find an array of colorful orchids that range from phalaenopsis, paphiopedilum, oncidium alliance and dendrobium to cymbidium and miltonia.

The young plants arrive in containers from Hawaii and Taiwan about every two weeks. There will be roughly 30,000 plants in each container. Placed in new three or four inch pots, they then grow to maturity in Aromas. This process takes from five to six months on average, but some orchids will need over a year to fully spike.

When ready to ship, the orchids are sent to box stores, grocery chains, hotels and flower retailers primarily on the West Coast, Texas and Florida. Hernandez said that orchids are also sold at some of the Central Coast’s farmers’ markets and at the Flower Mart in San Francisco.

“We ship over a million plants a year but that number will increase or decrease with fluctuations in the economy,” says Hernandez. “Also, when we got into the orchid business there wasn’t a lot of competition but that’s changed with more large growers.”

Orchids have become more popular with consumers as the myth that they are hard to care for has been dispelled. Given how long it will last if watered regularly, a plant with blooming spikes can last a couple of months, which makes it a bargain when compared to cut flowers.

Hernandez is proud of the fact that McLellan Botanicals/Taisuco America has employees who have been with the company for decades. She says some of their growers have been here longer than she has.

“That really helps with our quality control because we aren’t always having to train new staff,” she says.

The path that one takes following a career often takes one far away from her roots, but in Kim Hernandez’s case she ended much closer to her family home than she would have ever expected.

BIOGRAPHY: Kim Hernandez

OCCUPATION: Vice President/General Manager of McLellan Botanicals Taisuco America of Watsonville.

WORK: Bay City Flower Co., 1984-91. Sunnyside Nursery, 1991-94. McLellan, 1994-present.

EDUCATION: Graduated from North Salinas High in 1980.Received degree in Ornamental Horticulture in 1984 from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

PERSONAL: Lives in Hollister and has one adult daughter.