CPN's founder, Mike Fahner, was a 3rd generation Fahner farmer. His grandfather managed a dairy farm, and his father, Fred, owned a potato farm in Tulelake, CA. This is where Mike spent most of his childhood. Mike grew up attending school, playing sports, and working on the farm, where he larned the ropes form his dad at an early age. Mike went on to get his business degree at the University of Nevada, Reno, and after graduating he earned a reputable sales job at a big firm in the bay area. Nevertheless, it only took a few short months for Mike to realize that he wasn't cut out for desk work, so he left the city behind and returned home to work on the family farm, which he eventually took over.
It was around this time that strawberry nursery fields began returning to Macdoel, California, where the higher elevations provided earlier chilling, fruiting, and better fruit quality, size, and firmness. Lassen Canyon Nursery was the first to shift its nurseries from lower elevations to Macdoel, and many others followed shortly after.
Growing up less than an hour away from Macdoel, Mike observed the strawberry nursery industry closely, and he recognized the opportunities and complexities that existed within it. Nurseries demand extremely well-drained land, clean and dependable groundwater, access to quality labor, and lots of chilling hours in September. All of these elements existed in Macdoel, but not in Mike's hometown of Tule Lake, which was about 40 miles down the road. Knowing that, Mike and his wife, Debbie, made the tough decision to leave Tule Lake so they could purchase new ground in Dorris, CA (adjacent to Macdoel), where they started their very own strawberry nursery.
Even though "Cedar Point Nursery" (CPN) was officially founded in 2004, Mike farmed strawberry plants several years before that as he transitioned the farm operations away from Potatoes and Onions. The first planting of strawberries at CPN consisted of only 10 acres and produced around 2.5 million plants. Today, the farm operates on close to 850 acres and produces around 80 million plants annually.
Since its inception, CPN is extremely proud of several hallmark contributions to the strawberry industry, earning the company a reputation as innovators and pioneers. We are the only nursery that was locally borne, and Mike was the youngest member in an industry that is notoriously difficult to penetrate. CPN was the first nursery to sussessfully design and implement both the Drip and Tunnel System for plant production, concepts which are used by nearly all nurseries today. And in 2021, Mike & Cedar Point earned a victory in the US Supreme Court (Cedar Point Nursery vs. Hassid) to help protect private property rights.
CPN first employed subsurface drip irrigation at all stages of nursery production in 2003. This was a significant step forward because drip irrigation drastically reduced disease and yield loss in production fields. Disease typically spreads through splashing water, which is unavoidable with overhead irrigation, but drip irrigation allows for precise control of moisture levels in beds, which reduces disease pressure and also decreases water and nitrogen consumption by nearly 50%.
In 2008, the team introduced the first fully vented micro tunnel system. The original intent was to protect the plants from Mother Nature’s wrath, but the tunnels also aid in UV light transmission, which substantially increases soil temperature, promotes, growth, and reduces fungal spore germination. The tunnels create a mini-greenhouse around each bed, which nurtures young and developing plants that would otherwise be exposed to wind, rain, sleet, and snow.
The coupling of tunnels with drip irrigation was an enormous advancement for the industry. These techniques have reduced huge amounts of risk that used to be carried by both nursery and fruit producers. Now, foliar and soil-borne pathogens originating at the nursery are at historical lows, and CPN is extremely proud of the role they've played in that.
As of today, CPN is 1 of 9 nurseries with primary locations in Butte Valley, California, and 1 of 6 major providers of UC Strawberry varieties. Additionally, we are the only high elevation nurseries to partner with the UC Davis Strawberry Plant Breeding program, where new plant varieties are grown and tested on our ranch.
Commercially, we grow public varieties from UC and UF to the tune of about 75 million strawberry plants annually. These plants are then sold to growers throughout California, Florida, Mexico, and Canada. During the growing season (March- November) CPN employs roughly 60 full-time employees and as many as 400 during harvest. This fall, CPN will partner with the University of Florida to examine how winter chilling at the nursery field affects the quality and performance of strawberry transplants.
Moving forward, CPN hopes to continue its hard work and innovative practices to continue to deliver the highest quality plants possible. We look forward to many more 'fruitful' years to come.