Our Ones To Watch
The list keeps on growing as we dive into the final month of our five-part grower profile series celebrating the magazine's 25th anniversary.
October 20, 2008
Age - 39
Her Job - As sales manager, Pamela is responsible for overseeing sales and customer service, inventory flow and customer satisfaction for Skagit Gardens.
Try Something New - Growing up in the horticulture business gave Pamela valuable experience in accounting, production and sales. She left the industry for seven years, spent four of them working as an auditor in Los Angeles and returned to Skagit Gardens 12 years ago. Her experience outside the industry gave her an appreciation for the sincerity and values of the people and companies within the industry.
Getting Involved - OFA is an important organization for Skagit Gardens. Pamela serves on the OFA board of directors and the OFA Exhibitor Advisory Committee.
Twenty-Five Years From Now - Growers will be more niche-oriented. They'll have to take greater care of their customers and be quick to react to opportunities. Human product handling will be supplemented even more with automation, but the human element won't be eliminated.
Why She's One To Watch - Skagit Gardens is about "delighting" its customers, and Pamela is at the forefront of that goal. She's visible in the industry, and Skagit Gardens is a leading operation through generations because of up-and-comers like Pamela.
Grand Flower Growers Age - 31
His Job - John has been a co-owner of Grand Flower Growers in Wayland, Mich., since 2000. He operates the business with his brother, Todd.
Teaming Up - Grand Flower Growers does most of its business with Home Depot. Behind the scenes, John helps manage many of Home Depot's national corporate initiatives for tagging, containers and genetics.
Quotable - "Surround yourself with people who are more talented than you." Bob Sedlatschek, live goods senior merchant for Home Depot, gave that advice to John, who says it's the best business tip he's received.
Opportunities & Challenges - In the short term, Grand Flower Growers is expanding and John sees a chance to increase the company's market share. The company's greatest challenge, like many others, is the economy. "We need to maximize efficiency and come up with new space-saving products without compromising quality."
Twenty-Five Years From Now - The success of growers will depend on their ability to adapt. "You need to be very open to change and seek constant improvement in everything you do," John says. "You can't settle for 'good enough.'"
Why He's One To Watch - John is an honest, hard-working grower who has earned the respect of his peers. He has balanced the needs of his business with what's best for his customer and fellow growers.
Kurtz Farms Growers
Age - 36
Her Job - Jennifer is sales and marketing manager at Kurtz Farms based in Cheshire, Conn. She also invented Urban Gardener planters and created programs for it as a means to provide instant impact for consumers looking to decorate with plants.
The Birth Of An Idea - As a wife, mother to a 3-year-old child and full-time worker, Jennifer didn't have the time needed to tend to her vegetable and flower gardens like she preferred. It made sense, then, to develop a product that provided an "instant impact." Thus, the Urban Gardener was created. "The biggest lesson I learned is that people were willing to pay for these unique products and wanted the instant gratification of a color pot rather than digging a hole and planting."
Twenty-Five Years From Now - To be successful, growers will have to be financially responsible, develop sustainable business practices and keep in touch with consumer trends. "There are some really great up-and-comers in our industry who will surely make some dramatic contributions on all fronts."
Why She's One To Watch - Jennifer is quick to recognize and react to opportunities like the Urban Gardener. She also finds a way to juggle multiple responsibilities, including sales and marketing for Home Depot.
First Step Greenhouses
Age - 40
His Job - Martin is the head grower at First Step Greenhouses, and he has 16 years experience growing plugs. "I enjoy the variability from day to day, season to season. I enjoy the fact that running an operation requires knowledge in many things and requires multiple talents."
Know When To Give Up - One of the best pieces of advice Martin has ever received is knowing when to dump a plant. "You have to get over all the time and effort put into the crop and realize it's perishable. It is a sacrifice of the one for the many. If you retain an old and overgrown crop and sell off it, you will most likely be selling old and overgrown the whole season." So bite the bullet, Martin says!
Information Sharing - Keep your customers in the loop, he adds. It defines your success. "A large part of the plug and liner business is managing and reacting to information. What separates us is our commitment to quality, as well as customer service."
Twenty-Five Years From Now - Success will depend on a few things, like the ability to differentiate, find markets or crops that have less competition and can command higher prices and understanding your product cost.
Why He's One To Watch - First Step Greenhouses isn't just an annual bedding plug producer or a spring liner producer. Martin will consider propagating anything, and he's been working intensely with new software to share growing knowledge with everyone on staff. "Sharing information will help everyone understand what needs to be done in a timely manner and empower lower-level workers," he says.
Age - 37
His Job - Matt is executive director at Amerinova, a EuroAmerican plant licensing company that helps market varieties.
Fresh Thinking - A huge part of EuroAmerican's business philosophy is new product development. Matt says to keep an eye on the succulent market and low water-use plants. "Invest in new products and programs," he says. "Learn from the 'old,' but don't hang on to it. Accept that we in horticulture are like any other business with its pluses and minuses."
Twenty-Five Years From Now - The industry will be consolidated globally. "As wealth shifts, so will markets," Matt says. "New products will continue to drive business." Also, he believes small and large growers will have the best chances to thrive. "The ones stuck in the middle will have a rough ride."
Why He's One To Watch - Matt has worked in horticulture for six months or more in five different countries, and he's been involved in the industry since 1992. He gives Amerinova and EuroAmerican a global take on marketing with his belief that companies will have to think more globally in the future.