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...
Lavandula 'Meerlo' (Sunset Western Garden Collection)

March 3, 2015

Why You Will Still Grow Today’s Big Perennial 10 Years From Now

What will be the next big perennial? Breeders say it takes more than a splashy plant to distinguish itself in the market. Therefore, the question is not what will be the next big perennial, but rather what perennial performs well enough in the garden to have staying power in the market for years to come.

Read More

March 2, 2015

Avoid Surprises On The Delivery Dock

A call in advance about problems with a plant shipment to a retailer you supply goes a long way toward customer satisfaction.

Read More
Janeen Wright

March 2, 2015

Deliver Plant Quality That Trumps Price [Opinion]

The industry's goal is to have loyal customers who return to the same plants time and time again, not because of price, but owing to a plant brand that shouts top-notch garden performance and is synonymous with excellence, which gives them the secure knowledge that their investment will be worth every hard-earned cent.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 2, 2015

Avoid Surprises On The Delivery Dock

A call in advance about problems with a plant shipment to a retailer you supply goes a long way toward customer satisfaction.

Read More
Smart Herb Garden

March 2, 2015

Smartpot Uses Sensors And Cartridges To Ensure Success …

Click & Grow helps make it simple for consumers to grow their own herbs and spices at home, even if they have little experience with plants.

Read More

March 2, 2015

Student Flash Mob At TPIE Has Roots In Floriculture

The local FFA students who entertained TPIE attendees in 2014 and 2015 received industry donations of plants and a greenhouse structure to help expand their horticultural program.

Read More
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Ann…

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More
myers industries Lawn and Garden Logo

February 24, 2015

Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn And Garden Business Sold, N…

The management of Myers Lawn and Garden Group, along with Wingate Partners V, L.P. have recently acquired the Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn and Garden business. The new company is named The HC Companies, and will continue as a North American leading provider of horticulture containers supplying the greenhouse, nursery and retail markets.

Read More

February 18, 2015

Range Of Nursery Inspections To Protect Patented Plants…

Plant patents are under protection, and breeders are fighting for their rights to keep growers from illegally propagating protected varieties. It's something you don't want to take a chance on, because the risk is far higher than the reward. More than 300 inspections were carried out last year from New York to British Columbia and from Ontario to Florida to protect plant patents, Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) and branded programs.

Read More
american-hort-logo

February 17, 2015

AmericanHort Announces New Board Members

AmericanHort recently announced the election of new officers and members to the board of directors. Each will assume their positions on the board during Cultivate’15, July 11 to 14 in Columbus, Ohio.

Read More
All American Selections

February 17, 2015

All-America Selections Elects New Officers, Names New J…

While meeting during the Flower and Vegetable Seed Conference in Tampa, Fla., hosted by the American Seed Trade Association, All-America Selections elected new officers for a two-year term. Read on to learn about the new officers, as well as all of the new judges that were added in 2014.

Read More

February 11, 2015

Benchmarks: Find Your Game-Changer

Refuse to accept the status quo in your organization. Explore possibilities until you find what works best for your company.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower.com on your desktop, on your phone, on your tablet

February 11, 2015

GreenhouseGrower.com Relaunches With Responsive Design …

Greenhouse Grower magazine, the nation’s leader in profits, production and education for greenhouse growers, announces the launch of its completely redesigned website, GreenhouseGrower.com. The new design is the product of direct user feedback and GreenhouseGrower.com analytics, and includes responsive design for ease of mobile use.

Read More

February 4, 2015

TPIE 2015: An Electrified Industry Vibe Boosts Cool New…

The general feeling at the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association's 2015 Tropical Industry Exhibition (TPIE) was upbeat and positive. Attendees were inspired by exciting new products and varieties, as well as creative new displays and innovative ideas and left energized for the season ahead.

Read More
Noble Foundation

February 3, 2015

Lloyd Noble Scholars Program Application Period Now Ope…

The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation is offering college students an opportunity to work side-by-side with the Noble Foundation’s renowned agricultural consultants and researchers through the Lloyd Noble Scholars in Agriculture program, a summer internship that provides students the opportunity to enhance their in-class education with real-world application and experiences.

Read More
Andy Higgins

February 3, 2015

MasterTag Names Andy Higgins As Its New President

Former CEO and president of Ecke Ranch, Andy Higgins, joins MasterTag as its new president. He brings more than two decades of industry experience to the position.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

February 2, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 State Of The In…

The Greenhouse Grower 2015 State Of The Industry Whitepaper includes all the results of the survey, including comparisons on 2014 sales to past years, details on how 2015 production volume and prices will compare to 2014, crops that growers will increase and decrease production on, where growers stand on using neonicotinoids on crops, how many growers will pursue growing medical marijuana and more.

Read More
Syngenta Bioline Hires Ronald Valentin For Technical Lead Role

January 28, 2015

Syngenta Bioline Hires Ronald Valentin For Technical Le…

Ronald Valentin has been appointed technical lead for Syngenta Bioline, effective January 2015. He will be responsible for technical support of Bioline biological control agents and will be instrumental in helping growers develop integrated pest management (IPM) solutions.

Read More

January 28, 2015

Innovation Drives Growth At Plantpeddler

Mike and Rachel Gooder, owners of Plantpeddler, a 400,000-square-foot, multi-divisional greenhouse tucked away in Cresco, Iowa, have a unique foresight that allows them to turn potential into profitable reality.

Read More
Carol Miller

January 28, 2015

Retailer To Grower: The Right Plants Are Hard To Find

Retailers say too many growers offer the same plants, leading to a lopsided plant supply. They offer a simple solution: Talk To Your Customers.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Give Equal Time To The Number Crunchers

Before investing in a new business opportunity, check in with the financial gurus of your organization to make certain you have the cash flow to back up your efforts.

Read More