TREE AND PLANT NURSERY APPRAISALS; NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART
No plant appraisal assignment requires more skill, knowledge, training and combined horticulture knowledge than appraising a tree farm or plant nursery. And the deep end of the pool is eminent domain (especially if there is a partial Taking) and product liability. The former requiring the appraiser to make whole the client and the latter a hide and go seek format in data collection and evidence.
The plant (including trees) appraiser’s first obstacle is how to value a plant that has no value in the marketplace. Not 100% of plants are ready for sale in any given wholesale nursery at any given time. There are different stages of development that a plant must go through to become ready for market. The problem comes when the plant is at one end of the development scale or the other; either just a seedling or within a few months of maturity. And everything in between. The law has definitive rulings on just how to appraise such developmental stages of growth. And the plant expert must be able to testify as to the correct approach to each development stage of growth. This is a contact sport. Put in your mouth piece.
Further, the plant appraiser must be able to quantify and qualify the costs of producing each plant size; from soup to nuts, the math and knowledge of producing plants is formidable. And the subject nursery operation is never the same from grower to grower. The plant appraiser must be able to separate what is being claimed by the grower and the truth and facts. When people are scared they tend to state what they think the appraiser wants to hear. Many times the truth lies elsewhere. The plant appraiser must know where to find these facts so that just compensation may be established by the trier of fact.
The rate of turn-over in inventory must be established and published. An opinion of value must include how many times in a given time period a particular plant sells and the growing cycle renews. This cycle is necessary to establish values into perpetuity.
What maintenance practices are being employed is crucial to the opinion of value. The chemicals used and their set-back requirements by label instructions must be known. The methods of pest control, including weed control is crucial in the understanding of how the business is being professionally operated. Is there waste? Is there efficacy? And what of quality of the plant material, is that a factor in placing a value on a plant.
I’m not at all certain there exists more than a ½ dozen arborists in our nation that are truly qualified to appraise a plant/tree nursery. I know of one other than myself, and I’m still learning; so is the other person. My history includes 50 years of practice in the trade and a former nursery owner as well. As a professional I was fortunate enough to be trained in nursery appraisals by one of the nation’s foremost property rights attorneys. Over the decades I’ve had the good fortune to be trained by scores of other property rights attorneys. My collegiality are trained by other arborists. In a group of those trainers at a recent international conference I posed the simple question to them: just how many of you guys have defended your opinions of value in a court of law? How many depositions? Not one hand went up. Not one of the trainers had ever been to court or deposition. And these are the good professionals training other arborists how to appraise a nursery and trees and plants.
Caveat emptor is now gently offered advise to the fine and gifted attorneys who defend and prosecute those clients looking for just compensation in the valuation of trees and plants.
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