January 23, 2010
Time To Refocus
Last month, I promised I would share a few ideas on how to avoid or repair the damage when the bottom drops out of your business. I am writing this as 2009 draws to a close. You are reading it in February, when you are in the midst of your spring season. All of us are wondering what the future of our industry will be. Unfortunately, none of us has a crystal ball so we can know for sure what will happen. In March 2000, I wrote: “To survive in this industry, you must find the stars, milk the cows, look carefully at the question marks, dump the dogs and keep squintin’.” That’s probably good advice today. (If you want to read the rest of what I had to say, get a copy of my book, “One To Grow On,” from Meister Media Worldwide and check out the column titled […]
December 28, 2009
Make It Happen Again
Every obstacle presents an opportunity. Our industry has taken advantage of opportunities before, and now we have to do it again. At Christmas, you could see big changes in approach occurring at the major retailers. The major Christmas toy sales started in mid-October, and the major toy stores and mega-chains started selling toys at year-end prices. Walmart had a Black Friday sale that lasted all day and all night. Brand name toys were selling at $10 apiece, with hundreds of different toys priced in this range. Kmart advertised layaway plans with little or no interest that attracted many early buyers and also helped them pay for purchases made in October over a three-month period. If you read any of the business magazines, you’ve realized the large retailers were going to get their product early and sell as much as they could at discount prices. Their goal was to make certain […]
November 13, 2009
Times Change Quickly
The entire United States financial system was on the verge of bankruptcy. If it had not been for the federal government’s intervention, the whole system would have collapsed. Some unscrupulous individuals stole hundreds of billions of dollars at the expense of all of the honest workers and citizens. In only days, the government printed the money to cover these criminal acts. The debt of our country almost doubled in one month. The recession got worse and unemployment hit new highs. As I write this, the unemployment rate is 10 percent nationally. In Michigan, it is 15.8 percent and in Detroit it is over 29 percent. In the September 2008 Produce Business magazine, Dave Dever indicated that, based on his most recent statistics of income for the 2006 tax year, approximately 55 percent of tax filers had adjusted gross income of less than $50,000 with an average discretionary income […]
October 19, 2009
Horticulture: A Reason For Thanksgiving
We all have heard the old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” Well, I think many of us can’t see our profession because we are only interested in one facet of this great industry. This notion was brought home to me a few months ago when I read a garden design magazine. It showed how to create a meditation garden, a pharmaceutical garden, a service garden and a beauty garden, as well as an art garden. There were many different plant species used that I had not seen before. I began to remember what I was taught at the university: There are so many plants on this earth that it would be impossible to learn all the genetics, physiology, pathology and uses of even a small percentage of them. For some of us, it has taken a lifetime to master all the information we need […]
September 16, 2009
Life Is A Challenge
Here we are in October, planning for the spring of 2010. If you’re like me, you read the business papers, check the stock market, find out how many people are unemployed and what our national debt is. You also look at interest rates and whether bank credit will be available in order to finance your 2010 plan. The government has initiated plans to stimulate the economy. These plans have involved everything from bailing out the financial institutions and banks to supporting the automobile industry by taking in “clunkers” and giving people $4,500 to help them buy new cars. The government is now focusing on universal health care and many other issues that will affect our businesses. I wish the government would give people a rebate for buying nourishing foods like fruits and vegetables to keep their families healthy and well. Most of these issues are beyond our control, and we […]
September 1, 2009
What Goes Around Comes Around
My wife’s mother often used the statement in the headline to indicate what you did in the past will come around to haunt you in the future. She was one of the kindest and most considerate people I have ever met. She worked hard, took care of her home, was a great cook and would never say a bad word about anyone. Some people were less than kind to her, but she would always say, “What goes around will come around.” I’ve thought about her and her saying, and in the last couple of months, I’ve come to the conclusion: “Here we go again.” In the last two to three weeks, I have read 20 to 30 business and management magazines, listened to television news and even checked the Internet to determine what the feeling is regarding our business position. Most now acknowledge we are in a recession. With 10 […]
July 20, 2009
Just Ask To Sell More
I met a new friend who works in the rubber industry as a sales manager. He is a great guy who is deeply involved in that industry, as well as with his church and the Michigan State University (MSU) community. His wife is also involved with MSU activities as a Master Gardener and volunteers as a docent in the 4-H Children’s Garden. They are both active in the music department and athletic department at MSU. They attend all hockey, football, men’s and women’s basketball games, and so on. They are really true Spartans! The couple also is active in the community and their neighborhood where my friend’s wife serves as treasurer of the homeowners’ association. I enjoy observing all the activities they are involved in and seeing how happy they are! An Outsider’s View Recently, I asked my friend to take a look at our industry. From the information I […]
June 18, 2009
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Have you ever had the feeling you were sitting on a gold mine but no one wanted gold? Or that you had a $1 million home but no one could afford to buy it from you? Or that you owned a business but no one wanted to invest in it? Or that you stockpiled fuel at $4.00 a gallon and now it could be purchased for $2.50? If only we knew what was going to happen next year, our decisions would be simple, and we would always choose the right course of action. We must realize everything changes, and we must be prepared for change. Today, you can get a rate of 5-5.25 percent on a home mortgage. When I got my first home loan 40 years ago, the rate was 6.75 percent. However, there were times over the years when you couldn’t get a mortgage loan for less than […]
May 27, 2009
Be Prepared For Change
As I’ve told you before, I’m a Danish storyteller. Here is a story about my father: My father was born in Sweden in 1900. He moved with his family to Bornholm, Denmark in 1908 because his father was a stonemason, and there was a quarry on that island. In 1916, he immigrated to the United States and lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. with relatives. He worked on machines that made cigars. He became an engineer and took care of the machines in several production facilities. Things went well, and he was able to marry and have two children before the stock market crash hit in 1929. My parents had a third child in 1931, and then the family had to deal with the Great Depression. There were tough times, but he and my mother held our family together. I was born in 1941, just before the bombing of […]
April 24, 2009
Don’t Forget The People Who Made It Happen
My wife Barbara and I recently attended the funeral for my former secretary’s husband, Jim Allen. Sandy worked with me for more than 25 years. She was one of the most important assets I had during my time at Michigan State University (MSU). Barbara and Sandy managed the two businesses I had. They organized conferences for 2,000 people and followed through on the details of the many trips I took to speak all over the country and the world. It didn’t take me long to realize my most valuable asset was not money but the people I had who worked with me. During my tenure at MSU, I had 10 individuals who I held responsible for all the different areas I had to cover. The areas included teaching, research, Extension, the Horticultural Demonstration Gardens, all of the teaching and research greenhouses at MSU, Bedding Plants, Inc. (BPI), the Bedding Plant […]
March 23, 2009
Abandonment Or Revolution?
For more than 10 years, our industry has heard that we must change. The word “change” is probably used most often related to production or marketing our product. The fact is that change is a continual process that happens whether we want it to or not. Many changes that occur are beyond our control. We must accept and adapt to them or reject them in order to do what is best for our businesses or ourselves. We must remember that not all changes are for the better, and, in fact, many may drastically damage or destroy our businesses or our lives. I’m a great fan of Tom Peters. I have most of his books, including “In Search of Excellence.” And I attended one of his seminars in Chicago in 1984. Another book he wrote was “Tom Peters’ Seminar: Crazy Times Call for Crazy Organizations.” Peters wrote, “We must move beyond […]
February 10, 2009
Consumer Attitudes On Organic
The Garden Writers Association Foundation (GWAF) surveys people to get a feel for what the average person thinks about various subjects related to gardening. My son Will is the chairperson of the survey committee, and he discussed GWA Foundation’s 2008 fall survey of 1,000 people on consumer attitudes on organic. TechnoMetrica, a market intelligence group from Oradell, N.J., conducted the survey. Will and I usually get together once a week to discuss things related to horticultural business. He provided me a copy of the survey report, which is a well-done, professional account of the findings. He gave me a condensed version and then reviewed each area with me. I have been involved with the Garden Writers Association for more than 40 years, and I served as the director for the Great Lakes area for more than four years in the 1980s. I’m proud to see how the association has developed […]
January 16, 2009
Avoid Root Rot
One of my former students visited me over the Christmas holidays. He is now what I consider to be one of the best grower-managers of one of the premier greenhouse ranges in the United States. As old professors often do, I asked him questions just to stimulate his thoughts. I asked, “How do you avoid root rot?” We then had a half-hour discussion about all the symptoms, the chemical controls and the environmental conditions that could be used to control root rot problems in plants. It was a very good and valuable exchange of information during which I probably learned more about the recent advancements in this area of plant pathology than he did. I complimented him on his thorough knowledge of the subject. Then, just to keep him on his toes, I said, “You know a great deal about root rot in plants, but I was trying to determine […]
December 16, 2008
An Icon Is Gone
Dr. Henry Marcellus Cathey died on Oct. 8, 2008 after 79 years here on earth. His life is a great contribution not only to ornamental horticulture but to our whole society. In the past few years, there have been many articles, notes and blogs describing his many accomplishments to our industry and the general public. But all the information written about Dr. Cathey is well known and shows the great depth of knowledge and skill he had in the fields of science, communications, consumers and people. So rather than repeat his accomplishments, I would like to share several stories that show how Dr. Cathey was an icon in our industry. Marc Cathey–The Mentor When I was working on my Ph.D. thesis on plant nutrition of ‘Better Times’ roses, my adviser, Dr. Ernest Bergman, and I decided to research the effects of 16 essential plant elements on the yield of this […]
November 11, 2008
Guidelines To Success by Will Carlson
It may be that no one can accurately predict the future 25 years from now or even imagine what our industry will look like. However, 25 years ago, when Dick Meister and I decided to start Greenhouse Grower magazine, his words of wisdom were, “If it is to be, it’s up to me,” so here are my thoughts on what a “grower” will be in 2033. I’ll never forget what Neil Mast, a good old Dutch grower, told me about 25 years ago when I said, “You need to get a computer.” He said, “Will, my mother and father gave me a computer when I was born.” I said, “Neil, they didn’t have computers 60 years ago.” He smiled at me and said, “Oh yes they did. My computer is between my two ears and it has more data, information and knowledge in it than any computer you have.” Neil […]
October 17, 2008
Count Your Blessings
As we approach the end of the year that marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Greenhouse Grower magazine, it is time to stop and reflect on what has happened in the last 25 years and to be thankful for all of those people who have made it possible. I have a friend who sends cards for Thanksgiving rather than Christmas. She thanks those who have helped her during the past year and indicates how grateful she is to have them as friends. She considers each of her friends a blessing, and she makes it known to them how special they are. While I don’t send cards to everyone, I do count my friends as blessings. I spent this month thinking about all the people who have helped build Greenhouse Grower magazine. I believe that I have had 10 editors who have helped turn my scribbles into meaningful articles. […]
September 17, 2008
Hard Times Will Go, Strong Growers Won’t
Twenty-five years ago I wrote an article trying to predict what would happen in the next 25 years. To my amazement, all that I predicted came true. It is a fairly simple process to predict. If you believe, what your mind can conceive will be achieved! Let’s take a brief look back to 1983 and see what the major concerns of our industry were. The ‘Greening’ Of America The use of the words “greening” of America or “greening” of China and other countries was a major topic of interest to our industry 25 years ago. It was used in a positive manner to show the great contributions our industry made to the environment and mankind. When Dr. Sylvan Wittwer addressed the Bedding Plants Inc. conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., in October 1983, he stated: “Home and landscape beautification has taken hold not only in the United States during the past […]
August 20, 2008
Adjust Is A Must
Our country has gone from being on top of the world to working its way toward the bottom. The Wall Street group has gone from making millions to losing billions. The housing industry has followed the same pattern from boom to bust and foreclosure. I’ve pondered how the bedding plant industry should react to this period of time when the entire economy goes from boom to bust. This year will also be recorded as one of the worst plant seasons because of very poor weather conditions. You had wildfires in the West, record floods along the Mississippi River, late frosts in the Midwest and northeastern states and drought in the Southeast. It’s hard to sell plants to people whose houses have just burned down. It’s also hard to sell plants to people whose yards are under 10 feet of water. While we can’t control the economy or the weather conditions, […]
July 22, 2008
Vegetables Are Bedding Plants
In the June 12, 2008 Lansing State Journal, the comic strip Arlo & Janis surely hit home! It shows an old fellow planting vegetables and saying to himself, “Why haven’t we grown vegetables before?” He thinks they are healthy, creative and so green! His wife tells him they are going to be the next big thing. He looks at her and says, “I thought this was my idea.” After reading the statistics from the USDA on the 15 percent decrease in vegetable plant sales from 2006 to 2007 and having it reported in another trade magazine, growers thought they should reduce vegetable plant production. Unfortunately, reading a report that is almost two years old is like reading what the stock market was valued at two years ago. With the increases in the price of food and the tomato-salmonella scare, going back to having vegetable gardens became to many people not […]
July 7, 2008
Some Things Never Change
You can read many business magazines and see how they are looking back over the years to explain what is happening now. There is a saying that you can talk with economists and they can tell you where we have been and what trends have gotten us to this point, but they have great difficulty in forecasting what will happen in the future. I would like to share some old cultural, marketing, and management information that may be of interest to you. You may find it useful in planning for next year’s production. Cultural Facts 1. Mercury and many of its components emit vapors that are toxic to plant growth.Zimmerman and Crocker in 1934 reported that roses are extremely susceptible to injury from vapors containing mercury. In their findings they showed that mercury-containing insecticides, fungicides, broken thermometers and paints caused problems (Zimmerman Hitchcock, 1956; Butterfield, 1954). The use of paint with […]
August 16, 2017
Looking to Host an Intern This Year? Consider AFE’s Sch…
The American Floral Endowment is accepting applications for its Vic and Margaret Ball Intern Scholarship Program and Mosmiller Intern Scholarship Program until Oct 1. Interested companies can apply anytime to become a host employer.
August 15, 2017
Greenhouse Environmental Sensor is Truly “Out of This W…
Delta-T’s multi-parameter WET Sensor has been used by Chinese astronauts aboard the Tiangong-2 Space Lab to cultivate lettuce plants within the weightless atmosphere.
August 15, 2017
Griffin Becomes Newest Distributor for Master Nursery G…
The agreement allows Griffin to join Master Nursery’s network of more than 150 supplier partners, while giving Master Nursery access to new product and service options for member businesses in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain, and Pacific Northwest regions.
August 15, 2017
AmericanHort Has a New Director of Government Affairs
Tal Coley, a U.S. Air Force veteran who has an extensive background in issues advocacy, will play an active role in AmericanHort’s upcoming Impact Washington event in September.
August 15, 2017
How to Know Which Plastic Containers You Can Recycle
Michigan State University’s Garrett Owen offers tips to help you properly dispose of plastic containers, flats, and trays.
August 15, 2017
Ornamental Seed Scientist Francis Kwong Dies at Age 65
Kwong was most recently the Director of Seed Technology for PanAmerican Seed, and his research was instrumental in the development of calibrachoa, angelonia, and other plants.
August 15, 2017
Why Consumers May Be More Interested in Plants Than You…
A visit to a local lavender event is a reminder that when you tap into something consumers are excited about and want to experience, the reward can be long-lasting,
August 14, 2017
Canadian Greenhouse Conference Features Focus on Techno…
This year’s Canadian Greenhouse Conference kicks off on October 4, and there is no shortage of presentations devoted to how growers can implement new technology in their greenhouses.
August 14, 2017
How Young’s Plant Farm Invests in New Structures and Eq…
The Auburn, AL-based Top 100 Grower operation is improving its production infrastructure so it can continue to efficiently produce quality plants and keep up with demand.
August 11, 2017
Greenhouse Bench Systems Designed to Handle Any Space
HOVE bench systems from HOVE International can accommodate multiple levels while allowing for run-off water collection.
August 10, 2017
New Sensors Can Help You Manage Your Greenhouse Crop 24…
The wrong environmental conditions in your greenhouse can potentially lead to significant crop loss. Here’s how sensor technology manufacturers are helping you safeguard your greenhouse.
August 9, 2017
Lighting Technology Under the Microscope at Production …
Here’s a sneak preview of three lighting trends that will be discussed by Erik Runkle at the Production Technology Conference.