Consider Hiring Non-Traditional Growers To Secure Our Industry’s Future [Opinion]

Grower Homework: Your operation can benefit from hiring returning veterans, professionals changing careers and non-traditional students, in addition to horticulture graduates. Where have you had luck recruiting? Feel free to share your ideas via eMail, ldrotleff@meistermedia.com, or tweet @Laura_GG_TGC.

Laura Drotleff
Laura Drotleff

Labor continues to be the number one constant pressure that keeps growers up at night. Aside from weather, it’s the one industry issue that growers can’t control, yet they spend the most money and resources on it, either to recruit and train, to develop housing and living wages for migrant workers or to automate to reduce their need for workers.

And that doesn’t even begin to address the scary situation we face in developing head growers, growers and managers to replace the aging owners and managers currently leading the industry. The median age for greenhouse managers is 58, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. When you consider that many growers may have children who don’t want to work as hard as their parents do, and the legions of Millennials heading to urban areas to live and work, you start to wonder who will be the industry leaders of the future.

Meanwhile, fewer students are coming our way. Enrollment in agriculture programs is down across the board, and horticulture students, particularly, have reduced in number. This could be due to less interest in the field due to a lack of knowledge about horticulture, but it’s likely that skyrocketing tuition rates are also a big contributor. Who wants to spend $100,000 on a four-year degree that will land you a job starting at an average of $35,000, with a median mid-career salary of $50,000?

Plus, admission requirements are stricter than ever. At Land Grant institutions like Michigan State University (my alma mater), the minimum grade point average for acceptance is a 3.4 up to 3.9. There are no exceptions for ag students in this state where the number two economy is agriculture. Surely, these numbers are intimidating to students considering horticulture degrees or two-year, technical certificates.

Interest in growing sustainable food crops is quickly gaining interest among floriculture crop growers, perhaps because of the tremendous local food movement, providing year-round demand for safely produced, fresh food, a growing population that will reach more than nine billion by 2050 and 438 million in the U.S., not to mention currently higher margins on food than flowers.

All of these reasons are why entities like Circle Fresh Farms’ Circle Fresh Institute and AgVets have developed their own proprietary educational models to train individuals interested in hydroponic greenhouse produce. Low enrollment in ag colleges plus high tuition costs, plus professionals changing careers who don’t want to head back to the classroom, plus military veterans reintegrating into the economy, plus growing interest and demand for locally grown, year-round food production equals a potentially high demand for fast-track, skill-based education programs that ensure employment placing.

They’ll benefit other growers, too. Floriculture operations looking to recruit growers and head growers will want to pay attention to these highly skilled individuals coming into the workforce. Mike Walker and Andy Higgins of AgVets say they fully expect their AgVets trainees will be recruited by other operations. (Read the story about AgVets.)

There’s an opportunity there for AgVets, who could tweak the educational model to custom-train veterans for floriculture and other greenhouse industry segments. Circle Fresh Institute, the training program established by Circle Fresh Farms, could also cater to this need for growers.

While it’s important to continue to support traditional horticulture education programs and recruit growers with four-year degrees, it may be worth your while to pay attention to returning veterans and non-traditional students, who could prove to be invaluable team members in your operation.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Business Management...

May 22, 2015

Nexus Greenhouses Is Optimistic For Expansion Into New Markets

Cheryl Longtin and Mike Porter, who own Nexus Corporation, say they were excited to attend the grand opening of Gotham Greens’ new structure atop the new Whole Foods grocery store in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., when it opened in December 2013. The project is just one example of some of the new and expanding markets that Nexus Corporation has expanded into over the past few years. Jeff Warschauer, vice president of sales for Nexus, says the company has enjoyed getting to know and working with the founders of Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri and Eric Haley, and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark, the chief agriculture officer, on their innovative approach to business. “They are very excited and work hard internally – just great people,” he says. “From our perspective, it’s great to see that excitement and vision. The employees there are happy and there’s no turnover; they’re only adding new people […]

Read More
Farwest2015

May 20, 2015

2015 Farwest Show Announces Second Annual Equipment Innovation Day

The second annual Equipment Innovation Day will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, prior to the 2015 Farwest show, which will be August 27-29 in Portland, Ore. Equipment Innovation Day, which was enthusiastically received in 2014, offers a real-time opportunity to see new heavy and automated nursery equipment in action. The demonstrations take place in manufacturing and nursery settings, adding value to the showcase. Attendees will be able to talk with participating manufacturers and learn first-hand from innovative growers who use the equipment in daily operations. The day-long event will be held at the main manufacturing plant of GK Machines, Inc., Donald, Ore. Further demonstrations of field equipment will take place at the nearby nursery of A&R Spada Farms, LLC. Bus travel to and from the event is planned, starting at and returning to the Oregon Convention Center. Attendees are welcome to provide their own travel to and from the site. Preregistration is required. The cost […]

Read More
Bee On Flower

May 20, 2015

White House Task Force Releases Pollinator Health Strategy

An interagency Pollinator Health Task Force commissioned by President Obama released its “Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” on May 19. The strategy, released in accordance with the Presidential Memorandum issued last June, is accompanied by a Pollinator Research Action Plan, which outlines needs and priority actions to better understand pollinator losses and improve pollinator health. The recommended actions will be supported by a coordination of existing federal research efforts and accompanied by a request to Congress for additional resources to respond to losses in pollinator populations. Pages 47 through 52 specifically address pesticides and pollinators. The report calls out plant production, native plants, mosquito control and all urban uses in its Pollinator Action Plan. RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) says it supports the goals of improving pollinator health and habitat contained in the White House Pollinator Task Force’s release of its National […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Farwest2015

May 20, 2015

2015 Farwest Show Announces Second Annual Equipment Inn…

The second annual Equipment Innovation Day will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, prior to the 2015 Farwest show, which will be August 27-29 in Portland, Ore. Equipment Innovation Day, which was enthusiastically received in 2014, offers a real-time opportunity to see new heavy and automated nursery equipment in action. The demonstrations take place in manufacturing and nursery settings, adding value to the showcase. Attendees will be able to talk with participating manufacturers and learn first-hand from innovative growers who use the equipment in daily operations. The day-long event will be held at the main manufacturing plant of GK Machines, Inc., Donald, Ore. Further demonstrations of field equipment will take place at the nearby nursery of A&R Spada Farms, LLC. Bus travel to and from the event is planned, starting at and returning to the Oregon Convention Center. Attendees are welcome to provide their own travel to and from the site. Preregistration is required. The cost […]

Read More
Amy Daniel with daughters

May 20, 2015

Fall Creek Farm & Nursery’s Amy Daniel Suppor…

Amy Daniel, marketing and brand manager at Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, has a passion for marketing and branding that led her into the green industry early in her career, when she and a friend started their own agency, and she began helping her parents — then owners of a retail nursery — with marketing services. Daniel’s career in the field started in the 1980s, after she finished college with degrees in journalism and advertising. It wasn’t long before she began to feel frustrated with the status quo in the industry. She and a friend from college, agreeing there was a better way to do things, decided to start a business. “I guess now looking back, we were probably young and naive, but it all worked out really well,” Daniel says. “We started our own advertising agency/marketing and PR firm. I ran that for two decades. It was very successful.” […]

Read More
CCGGA-Scholarship-Winners

May 20, 2015

Central Coast Greenhouse Growers Association Awards 201…

The Central Coast Greenhouse Growers Association (CCGGA) is awarding 20 scholarships this year to high school and college students. CCGGA-member nurseries raised money for the scholarship fund and each donated a portion of the fundraising sales to the fund, which is open to students currently enrolled in college for the following year. The scholarship program is also available to students of employees who work at CCGGA-member nurseries One of the organization’s goals is to continue encouraging future generations to enter the horticulture field and to promote higher education within the families that work in the local nursery business. The 2015 CCGGA scholarship recipients are: Aloysia Shea – Nipomo High School Andrew McHaney – CSalinas High School Angel Flores – Righetti High School Beatriz Barajas – San Jose State University Carolanne Garibay – Monterey Peninsula College Cladia Lavina – Salinas High School Erica Marquez-Ibarra – San Jose State University Jorge Zarate […]

Read More

May 18, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Top 100 Growers…

Greenhouse Grower‘s Top 100 Growers Survey revealed that our projections in the 2015 State Of The Industry report were correct: Growers, at least the large ones, are expanding. Greenhouse Grower’s annual Top 100 List ranks the largest U.S. growers by total square feet of environmentally controlled greenhouse space, although this year, we have also listed shade and field acreage, to give perspective on how large these operations are beyond the greenhouse. In total, the 2015 list represents 228,906,001 environmentally controlled square feet of U.S. production, a 5 percent increase over 2014. All told, 26 growers reported that their operation grew between 2014 and 2015. Several growers reduced their production over the past year, as well, and while some operations’ downsized numbers were significant, most were slight and probably typical of the give-and-take in the horticulture industry. Greenhouse Grower‘s 2015 Top 100 Growers Whitepaper includes all the results of the survey, […]

Read More
New Guinea Impatiens

May 14, 2015

10 Tips To Improve Retail Shelf Life Of Bedding Plants

Good-looking plants at retail lead to stronger sales and less postharvest shrink. Try these 10 ideas for maintaining quality and keeping plants looking beautiful.

Read More
Vegetables with knife

May 14, 2015

Keeping Your Fruits And Vegetables Safe: Best Practices…

Part three of the food safety series focuses on worker hygiene, visitor policies and other biosecurity measures to safeguard the greenhouse.

Read More
Janeen Wright

May 13, 2015

Don’t Let Labels Be A Limitation To Your Greenhou…

Whether you label yourself or your business as average, extraordinary or innovative, make sure that what you don’t do is let that label define who you are and what your business can become.

Read More
USDA Logo

May 13, 2015

New Report Shows College Graduates With Agriculture Deg…

A new report from the USDA shows high demand for recent college graduates with agriculture degrees, with an estimated 57,900  high-skilled job openings annually in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environment fields in the U.S. According to an employment outlook report released by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Purdue University, there is an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture related fields, 22,500 short of the jobs available annually. “There is incredible opportunity for highly-skilled jobs in agriculture,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Those receiving degrees in agricultural fields can expect to have ample career opportunities. Not only will those who study agriculture be likely to get well-paying jobs upon graduation, they will also have the satisfaction of working in a field that addresses some of the world’s most pressing challenges. These jobs will only become more […]

Read More
people-of-Battlefield

May 13, 2015

Battlefield Farms Receives MPS-A Qualification

Battlefield Farms, Inc., in Rapidan, Va., has been awarded the MPS-A qualification after becoming a participant for MPS-ABC in 2010. After four years of showing effort and improvement, the company has been awarded the qualification.

Read More
Amanda and Janeen

May 12, 2015

Two Greenhouse Grower Team Members Are Promoted

Janeen Wright is now Managing Editor and Amanda Gallagher is Associate Editor / Online Editor, reflecting their hard work on Greenhouse Grower.

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

May 12, 2015

Suntory And GrowIt! Garden Socially Partner On A New Se…

Suntory Flowers and GrowIt! Garden Socially are working together on a new photo contest that both retailers and their customers can get involved in. GrowIt! Garden Socially is a free garden photo sharing app, and the photo contest is designed to promote Suntory’s plant brands and help consumers interested in those plants find them at local garden centers. Consumers who want to enter the contest can take these four steps: 1. Download GrowIt! for free from the App Store or Google Play store 2. Sign up with a username 3. In the app, add a photo of their favorite Senetti plant 4. In the comments, tag it #SenettiRocks The first photo contest featuring ‘Senetti’ pericallis runs from May 7-18. Three entrants will win gift certificates from their favorite local garden retailer — one $100 prize and two $50 prizes. After Senetti, the next featured brand will be ‘Million Bells’ calibrachoas […]

Read More
Barry_Sturdivant_columnpic

May 8, 2015

How To Survive Succession Planning And Resolve Conflic…

If you work in agriculture, you most likely work with family-owned businesses. This is especially true within the greenhouse industry. I’m fortunate to work for a company that specializes in financing and supporting such businesses. Family-owned businesses often have a level of commitment and support that helps during lean times. This is important for a company exposed to seasonality and events that are sometimes beyond management’s control. Business owners and management are constantly looking for solutions to the unique issues faced by these small but complex businesses. Specifically, how these issues affect the transition from one generation to the next. There are many family enterprise success stories, cases of harmony, health and longevity. Yet it’s no secret that family businesses can struggle with governance, leadership transitions and even survival. According to the Family Business Institute, only 30 percent of family businesses last into the second generation, 12 percent remain viable […]

Read More
Top 100

May 8, 2015

The Top 100 Growers Tackle Crop Protection Challenges

We asked the Top 100 Growers how they have changed their production practices to address consumer concerns about pollinator health, as well as how integrated pest management and the use of biocontrols have changed their operations.

Read More
Top 100

May 8, 2015

2015 Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Growers: Reading The Ran…

For the second straight year, Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers survey shows the largest growers are rapidly expanding.

Read More

May 6, 2015

Orange Is The New Green: An Interview With Dümmen Orang…

The day the news came out about the name change of DNA Green Group to Dümmen Orange, and everything that meant for the large flower breeding conglomerate, Greenhouse Grower Editor Laura Drotleff talked with Dümmen Orange Operations Manager Kate Santos about what the identity shift would mean for the company, its customers and ultimately for consumers. What’s going to happen to the brands and what was behind the decision to do away with those brands and consolidate? A key objective for our organization in moving to one corporate brand is to continue to stay true to the heritage and history of the individual brands that have made us what we are today and what we will build the future of our company upon. For this reason, some of those brands that have a deep-rooted history and much more recognition within the market, will have a longer persistence in our overall […]

Read More
USDA Logo

May 6, 2015

USDA Awards $10 Million In Grants To Universities To Ad…

More than $10 million has been awarded to U.S. universities to address critical water problems, such as water quality and availability, in rural and agricultural watersheds across the country. The awards were made through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Water for Agriculture challenge area and the National Integrated Water Quality Program (NIWQP). “Water is our most precious resource, one that is essential for both human survival and well-being and for our ability to grow our crops and livestock,” says Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “By funding research, Extension and education for citizens and the agriculture community, we are able to proactively create solutions to water-related issues like drought and its impact on food security.” The AFRI Water for Agriculture challenge area was first introduced in fiscal year (FY) 2014, and these grants represent the first year of funding for the program. Funded […]

Read More
Suzi McCoy with GM Logo

May 6, 2015

Garden Media Group’s Suzi McCoy Urges Women In Horticul…

When Susan McCoy, owner of Garden Media Group, started promoting roses and shrubs for The Conard-Pyle Co. (Star Roses and Plants), she knew the horticulture industry was the right place for her. What she didn’t know was how much the journey would reshape her business for the better. Now, she encourages women in horticulture to invite others to be a part of the industry.

Read More
fngla

May 6, 2015

Florida Nursery, Growers And Landscape Association Name…

Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) has awarded a group of individuals through its FNGLA Industry Awards Program for their contributions to the industry. This year’s winners will be honored during FNGLA’s Annual Convention in Coral Gables on June 13, as part of FNGLA’s Annual Meeting. FNGLA’s Industry Awards Program acknowledges both FNGLA and industry service, with varying criteria geared for each award. Nominations are accepted from the industry-at-large and winners are selected by a committee of industry peers. The Wendell Butler Award and the FNGLA Hall of Fame are recognized as the most prestigious awards given by FNGLA. The Wendell Butler Award is presented for service to FNGLA and the FNGLA Hall of Fame Award is a lifetime achievement award. Nominations are accepted from the industry at large. FNGLA Hall of Fame Inductee: Hugh Gramling, Tampa Bay Wholesale Growers (Plant City, Fla.), retired Wendell E. Butler Award: Theresa & Kevin Riley, […]

Read More