John Barone is the owner of Barone Gardens, a multi-faceted New York business. He added a retail garden center in 1990 and a production greenhouse in 1991, which became the dominant force driving the business. The greenhouse produces plants for wholesale and retail applications, and Barone sells them to regional IGCs and in his own store.
Barone is also a young plant propagator for plant breeders like Suntory and Syngenta. Barone’s young plants are predominantly distributed throughout the Northeast, but are steadily spreading throughout the country.
The three different mixes he uses from Lambert Peat Moss are a key factor to Barone’s plant production. A Lambert mix is used in everything from finished material to the greenhouse’s Ellepot system. Barone says his business has been using Lambert growing mixes for about 20 years. He’s had a long relationship with Jeff Bishop, a sales representative for Lambert, and was unhappy with his previous growing media situation.
“I decided to try that and I’ve been quite pleased with it,” Barone says. “And I haven’t had any reason to switch ever since. It’s competitively-priced; it’s been an excellent product. I haven’t had any problems at all with it.”
The Lambert mixes help increase profitability for his operation because the company is easy to work with, they’re priced competitively and they’re reliable.
“Supply has always been there, the response has always been there and it’s just worked and it’s worked very well,” Barone says.
Barone recently opened Hot House Brewing, after acquiring a New York state farm brewery license. He’d been interested in growing hops in his greenhouse with the aid of LED lighting. Traditionally grown outdoors during the fall, he had a vision of greenhouse-grown hops producing multiple harvests per year. Longtime friends Tim Parkhurst and Paul Richer brought the homebrewing knowledge.
“It’s been a great crossover,” he says. “We’ve had no complaints that we opened a brewery, quite the opposite. It opened up another, younger demographic that we hadn’t been getting.”
Along with the brewery, Barone has opened a bistro to serve sandwiches, charcuterie boards and hot pretzels to his brewery’s customers. He’s devoted about 5,000 square feet to producing baby greens, which are used in the bistro’s popular panini sandwiches. As locally-sourced ingredients and the farm-to-table movement become more popular, interest has spiked in the bistro.
“Especially with everything that’s happened with the pandemic, you kind of look at yourself and say, ‘Are we essential?’ This year is proof that we are, but I still felt that growing and producing produce was just a good fit for the business,” Barone says.
Barone uses Lambert mixes for the produce and the hops, too, and says that has worked out very well.
“We’ve been extremely happy working with them over the years,” he says. “They’re good people to work with, a good family, just a good group of guys.”