Active Grower Voices Are Invaluable To Retailers, Consumers, Drotleff Says [Editorial]

Laura Drotleff
Laura Drotleff, Editor, Greenhouse Grower

The 2014 Top 100 Growers Report revealed that the largest growers are taking their operations’ profitability and success into their own hands.

Sixty-four percent are involved in merchandising or caring for their own product at retail, 84 percent say having control over merchandising is a good thing and 74 percent want to market their own crops. They know the limitations of the big box stores and that to keep plants looking good and improve sales, they might need to further invest in merchandising, if they haven’t already. Several mentioned they are starting their own merchanding services and even teaching retailers how to market plants more effectively.

The growers are communicating with consumers on social media about plant sales and new varieties — and they’re feeding the trends and creating new ones. Growers like Costa Farms, Rocket Farms, Bell Nursery and Parks Brothers Greenhouses are all great examples of how to do this well.

These active grower voices help translate to customers what they can do with all the new varieties that come on the market each year. Breeders are helping with that message, as well, feeding ideas into Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus and other media to create pull-through demand from the consumer level. We saw some impressive ideas and examples of this at California Spring Trials.

Creating our own advocacy is an important tool in other areas, as well, like presenting science-based knowledge about pollinator health, and informing the public about how growers already preserve natural resources through responsible practices like integrated pest management (IPM), water reclamation and recycling, plastic recycling and sustainability initiatives.

Groups like the Xerces Society, SumOfUs and Friends of the Earth, are all over social media, spreading misinformation about how our industry is poisoning bees by promoting shoddy studies about plants at national
garden centers.

This week alone, I read an article posted on Facebook from the National Wildlife Fund, encouraging gardeners to avoid pesticides and plants that aren’t grown organically. I observed a friend’s request for others to sign a SumOfUs.org petition to ban neonicotinoids. And I saw countless other negative references to pesticides and calls for action to save the bees.

The floricuture industry’s message needs to be out there, too. Maybe not in the form of petitions, but posting articles, providing commentary about issues of concern, sharing science-based information and research and providing facts about what growers already do every day to protect the environment and the living things that inhabit it.

Industry organizations, like AmericanHort, SAF, RISE, FNGLA and many more work hard and advocate for your interests. Ultimately, however, your operation’s success is up to you.

Like the large growers stepping in to merchandise their plants at retail and the breeders and growers creating pull-through demand for their plants on social media, you are your operation’s best champion. Your community is waiting for you to educate them about your products and practices, and when you speak, they’ll listen.

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