Our Ones To Watch
Five of our picks for future leaders in floriculture.
July 7, 2008
Twenty-five years from now, in 2033, the industry could have a whole new look. Will it be more consolidated? Will smaller growers be even more specialized? And, of course, how green will the industry be by then? Only time can answer those questions, but even the next 25 years will need a few leaders to lean on.
So beginning this month, and as part of our 25th anniversary celebration, we'll identify and profile ones to watch — the industry's movers and shakers — through November, before reaching our special December issue. We'll also profile a different person each week in our e-newsletter, Benchrunner, starting this month.
Age - 27
Her Job - As the one responsible for the creative direction and visual identity of Takao Nursery, Lisa sets the overall marketing theme for the company through the company logo, its Web site, annual catalog, newsletters, plant tags and presentations and tradeshow booth displays.
Childhood Inspiration - Part of Lisa's creativity derives from Shepard Fairey, a graphic illustrator best known for his street art.
Back In College - Growing up, graphic design intrigued her enough that she pursued and obtained a bachelor's degree with an emphasis in it at Fresno State in 2004. She served as president of the university's graphic design club and coordinator of the senior portfolio show.
Twenty-Five Years From Now - Lisa says more grower/retailers will sprout on the West Coast, and fewer independent garden centers will exist as owners reach retirement age and their kids opt for different career paths. Coffee and wine bars will, however, be part of the new garden center. "Replacing the independents will be the Armstrong or Al's model," she says. "There will be a place for the upper-scale garden center, either owned by a group of investors or families."
Why She's One To Watch - Takao Nursery specializes in annuals and perennials as liners, but behind Lisa, it has developed innovative marketing programs to appeal to younger consumers and lifestyle interests to encourage grower customers to do the same at retail. "We try to keep our marketing fresh, unique, colorful and alive," she says. "I want what we do to make a personal connection."
ABE and ART VANWINGERDEN
Ages - 38 (Abe) and 40 (Art)
Their jobs - Younger brother Abe is president of sales, marketing and merchandising while Art is president of greenhouse operations. Both are co-CEOs.
A Lot Of Labor - With 680 full-time employees, Metrolina is constantly forced to develop new programs to train and retain its best employees.
Technology-Minded - Over the next five years, Metrolina plans to update ERP, shipping and internal systems. At the moment, Metrolina is adapting its technology to house more customer sales data in order to do better trend analysis and order management analysis.
Twenty-Five Years From Now - The VanWingerdens say the industry will be stronger, more efficient, more consolidated and more involved with home décor than landscaping.
Why They're Ones To Watch - Abe and Art are leading one of the largest and most successful finished plant growing operations in the country. Metrolina has the largest single facility at 5.2 million square feet, and it excels at serving the box stores and producing plants with the most modern technology. Metrolina should continue to serve as a model for large growers.
Never Tire Farm
Age - 43
His Job - Head grower, head of maintenance and proprietor are some of the hats Bowdish wears at his small greenhouse operation in Lisbon, N.Y.
For The Little Guys - Never Tire Farm may be a small greenhouse operation, but it's very adaptive. Raymond and his four major employees, who include his wife Megan, have stuck with their plan of becoming a supplier of quality plants while using no registered pesticides. Never Tire Farm relies on biological controls to solve its pest problems instead. "Most people are amazed that fewer than four full-time people can handle such a diverse crop in our little half-acre," Raymond says.
Keeping It Local - To inform customers that its plants are provided in an area of less than 200 miles, Never Tire Farms plans to customize all of its tags with its location over the next year.
Never Tiring - Away from the greenhouse, Bowdish has been working with the New York Farm Viability Institute to get grants for Never Tire Farm in its quest to eventually use grass pellets to heat his houses. Additionally, he has created an internship program through the SUNY Potsdam biology department that helps Never Tire Farm develop new ideas and deal with labor.
Twenty-Five Years From Now - Carbon footprint reduction of businesses will become the norm as the economics of energy become a bigger issue, Bowdish says. Today's version of plastic container usage will be replaced by biodegradable pots and prefabricated landscapes that arrive in pallet form with all the irrigation and media needed to grow crops Never Tire Farm sells.
Why He's One To Watch - Despite its size, Never Tire Farm uses sophisticated technologies and common sense production. The Garden Pallet, which Raymond invented, is the best example of that. "We have developed a system of delivering entire landscapes of bedding plants and perennials, bulbs and many shrubs that are in full bloom and require no site preparation," he says. "The best part is our program can actually create spaces with no tilling in areas where there were formally green lawns."
Corso's Flower & Garden Center
Age - 37
His Job - As vice president, Chad runs the wholesale perennials business at Corso's in Sandusky, Ohio.
The Decision-Maker - The challenge of selecting new products to differentiate Corso's from its competitors is the best part of Chad's job - and a big challenge.
Controlling Costs - This year, Corso's installed several new planting lines that streamline its production and create better work environments for employees. At the same time, Corso's has purchased two trimming machines to efficiently cut back perennials — and it plans to install pumps to collect runoff and update its structures so that they're energy efficient.
Reaching Out - Growers need to be more automated, Chad says. "We need to help our employees be more productive by providing the equipment needed to meet production goals. In today's world, we need to encourage our staff to work smarter — not just harder."
Quotable - "In order to keep this industry strong, we must continue to bring in new blood. New people will eventually be the leaders, and we need to show them [the industry's] not all blood, sweat and tears, but rewarding both mentally and financially."
Twenty-Five Years From Now - Larger growers will still exist, and smaller growers will have opportunities to supply larger growers the niche items needed to have a complete line. Independents will need to be specialized by offering green goods that are unique in design, variety and location.
Why He's One To Watch - Corso has grown the family business in perennials over the last 10 years with independent garden centers and Lowe's. The Stepables line of creeping perennials has been a success for independent garden centers, and the Herb Herbert line of vegetable herbs has been a hit for both independents and Lowe's.
C. Raker & Sons
Age - 27
Her Job - Team is a key concept at C. Raker & Sons, and Susie is the team leader of the company's marketing and product support teams.
Resumé Builder - Besides earning a bachelor's in horticulture at Michigan State University, Susie has studied horticulture in Chile and worked for Goldsmith Seeds in Gilroy, Calif., and Bachman's Nursery in Minneapolis.
Organizational Involvement - Susie is involved with OFA, ANLA and MNLA, and she's an active member of the Generation Next Committee.
Consumer Education - "A lot of my peers are not educated about plants. We need to show them all of the fun and cool stuff that they can do with plants, from growing a vegetable garden to putting containers on a patio," Susie says.
Trying New Things - One key to the success of C. Raker & Sons is its openness to produce varieties it doesn't necessarily specialize in. "This attitude and approach has worked out great for our operation," she says. "We realize that we can't be everything to everyone, but it has created a special niche for us in the industry because people will come to us to grow their hard-to-grow varieties."
Twenty-Five Years From Now - The industry will be greatly consolidated. "A lot of that has already been going on," Susie says. "I think the small, family-owned business will still exist, but it will be reinvented."
Why She's One To Watch - As the daughter of Dave Raker, Susie represents the next generation at C. Raker & Sons. She leads her marketing team at California Pack Trials each year, and she's a key player in an operation that's dedicated to always improving innovation, service, quality and teamwork.