As The World Turns

This article marks the beginning of my 34th year writing with Meister Media. I take pride in working with this fine organization. I have tried to provide useful information and also share some of the human experiences I have had over the years. Some columns have conveyed the high points of our industry and some have related its trials and tribulations.

I’ve written articles about great people who have served our industry and are examples for us to follow. It is somewhat ironic that my main mentor, Dr. John Carew, was the person who introduced me to Meister Publications when John and I took our first trip to Willoughby, Ohio, in the early 1970s to meet Ed and Dick Meister. John and Dick graduated from Cornell University, Ed from Yale. John did his undergraduate work at Penn State and it was because of him and Dr. Ken Sink, another Penn State grad, that I was hired at Michigan State.

My first meeting with the Meister brothers was very intimidating. Both were very competitive, both were great golfers, and both could take command of anything and anyone around them. Neither John nor I could play golf, but I will never forget that when we entered Ed’s office, John picked up a putter, placed a ball on the floor and putted it into a hole. I was shocked, impressed and completely overwhelmed by what he did. It really took both Ed and Dick by surprise, and both said, "Do that again, John!" John just smiled and said, "Why do it again if you’ve done it right the first time?" That was one of the best lessons I learned from John Carew.

Unfortunately John died on Nov. 1, 1977 at the age of 57. I have written about him in my book, One To Grow On, and in the November 1977 Bedding Plant Newsletter.

As fate would have it, John’s wife, Patty Carew Isaac, passed away on Jan. 9, 2007 at the age of 82. She was a great lady and she was the reason my wife Barbara and I came to MSU. My interview lasted 15 minutes and I was offered the job. Then John, Patty and I had to spend the next two days convincing Barb that we should come here.

With all their skills, it was not Dr. Sink or Dr. Carew who made it happen, but Patty. Barbara considered Patty to be her mentor, and Patty helped her greatly when we first started working at MSU. Our son was just 10 months old when we had to leave Penn State and come to Michigan.

When Bethel Dewey called to let us know that her close friend Patty had died, Barbara and I spent the night recalling all the great times we had together and how much she helped us. We remembered how she could handle the greatest problems, create new things, take care of her family and be extremely grateful and helpful.

When John was diagnosed with a brain tumor, she took responsibility for her family and, with Don Dewey and his wife Bethel, managed to keep things working normally in the horticulture department.

I’ve called a number of her friends and asked them to give me 10 positive traits they would use to characterize Patty. Here is what they told me.

  1. Be meek – Patty never showed anger and she always remained cool. Even if there were pressures or problems or very difficult times, she would always be the stabilizing force.
  2. Be calm – She always knew how to bring calm to a situation. John could come home with 10 problems and the kids, Bill, John, Shelly and Jackie, could bring home 10 more and Patty could have 10 of her own, but she could handle them all.
  3. Be controlled – Patty ruled by law and order. My wife Barbara summed it up when she said, "Patty was always a lady!" She was a mentor to the women in the horticulture department. She was caring to everyone who worked with John. 
    Here is one of Barbara’s and my personal stories: John wanted me to go to England to give a talk at Lee Valley Experiment Station. This was to be my first foreign travel experience. I came home and told Barbara that I needed to go. She said, "How can you do this? We have a 2-year-old son and I’m going to have a baby in less than three months." I felt that Barbara was right, so I went to see John to tell him that I couldn’t go. Within two days, Patty visited Barbara. They had a chat and I was on an airplane to England within two weeks.
  4. Be a coach – Patty was able to provide constructive criticism. She was very charming and could suggest changes without threatening people. She helped establish a potter’s guild in Lansing. She took an idea and worked with people to develop a group that produced pottery. This group still exists today. She was able to do this because she worked well with people and could get things done.
  5. Be a questioner – Patty used this technique to accomplish her goals. She would make a positive statement and then follow it with questions. What should be done? What’s not right? What would you do? She used this talent to help start Eastminster Presbyterian Church in East Lansing.
  6. Be charitable – She served her community by starting a church, a potter’s guild and other service organizations. But more than that, Patty was charitable in giving to her family, her friends, the horticulture department, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Michigan State University.
  7. Be courteous – Patty got to know people personally. She would go out of her way to do simple things that will never be forgotten. Here is another example of how she impacted our family. When our second child was born, she and John dropped by the house and delivered a gift for our new son, Wayne. Barbara thanked her. Then Patty turned to our older son, Will, and said, "We didn’t forget you, Will. Here is your gift. We love you all!"
  8. Be kind – Patty always had a smile. She would shake your hand or give you a hug. She made you feel important. She hosted many gatherings and parties at their home while John was chairman of the horticulture department. Guests included international visitors, visitors from the United States, groups and university personnel. She was the social chairperson of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Patty and John loved people and they were the ambassadors of the horticulture department and Michigan State University.
  9. Be grateful – Unfortunately, in the prime time of their lives, John got brain cancer and died in less than two years. It was a tough time for Patty, but she kept the family together and her close friends provided support and comfort for her. 
    Because of her strength and the help of her sons Bill and John, her daughters Shelly and Jackie, close friends Don and Bethel Dewey and many others, she moved on to another stage in her life. She met Alfred Gerald Isaac, who had also lost his spouse, and they married and lived happily for the next 25 years.
  10. Be God-like – She lived her life to help others and to show the love of God through her life.

I realize that, as the world turns, some new people get on and some people have to leave.

Life is short, but eternity is forever and the world will still turn. As John told me before he died, he was just moving to a new address. I hope that someday I will get Patty and John’s new address so we can keep in touch! 

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Feature image The 2015 Perennial Plant Of The Year, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

August 27, 2015

The Perennial Plant Association’s Regional Symposium Will Be This October In Dallas

The Perennial Plant Association plans to hold its Regional Symposium October 5 in Dallas, Texas, in conjunction with the All-America Selections/Home Garden Seed Association's Summer/Fall Summit held October 5 to 8.

Read More
september_grow_rodale institute

August 25, 2015

Hospitals Are Getting Into The Organic Food Business

Growers investing in the organic food movement could serve a growing new area with vegetable transplants and starts, as well as produce, as hospitals begin to prescribe healthy diets and nutrition, and even go so far as to grow their own food. As part of a new phenomenon among progressive hospitals, health professionals are beginning to realize that without health and nutrition, programs and techniques may be done in vain or worse — obsolete. As more patients seeking a healthy diet turn to nutritionists, who recommend sugar-free, alkaline diets to prevent disease and aid in recovery, hospitals recognizing this trend are taking action. St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa., recently contracted with the nearby Rodale Institute to manage an organic farm, established in 2014. The hospital, part of a six-campus network, aims to provide excellent healthcare, part of which includes educating patients about the benefits of a plant-based, organic diet. […]

Read More

August 21, 2015

Proven Winners Announces Roadshow Events For 2015

Proven Winner's Roadshow Events, held across North America, provide growers and retailers with the opportunity to learn how to grow Proven Winner's newest varieties and receive information about industry trends.

Read More
Latest Stories
AmericanHort logo

August 20, 2015

David Savoia To Serve As AmericanHort’s Interim P…

Following Michael Geary’s announcement that he has resigned as president and CEO of AmericanHort, the association has announced that CFO and Senior Vice President for Operations David Savoia will serve as interim president and CEO while the board conducts a search for a new staff executive. Craig Regelbrugge, the senior vice president for advocacy and research, will support Savoia with the association’s external affairs. Geary announced August 12  that he will be leaving his position after September 30 to serve as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, an organization dedicated to creating business opportunities in the architecture, engineering and construction industries. “As some of you know, I grew up connected to the horticulture industry so this was not an easy decision for me,” Geary said in an eMail. “I have loved working with our organizations and our talented members, staff and partners. However, my choice to return full time to Washington, D.C. will allow me […]

Read More
Geary-Michael

August 18, 2015

Michael Geary Is Leaving AmericanHort

AmericanHort president and CEO Michael Geary announced last Wednesday that he will be leaving his position at the end of September to serve as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. “I am writing to share with you that on October 8 I will begin a new professional chapter as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, an organization dedicated to creating business opportunities in the architecture, engineering and construction industries,” Geary said in an email. His last day with AmericanHort will be Sept. 30, 2015. “As some of you know, I grew up connected to the horticulture industry so this was not an easy decision for me,” he said. “I have loved working with our organizations and our talented members, staff and partners. However, my choice to return full time to Washington, D.C. will allow me to be closer to my family and aging parents and to re-engage with another industry […]

Read More

August 15, 2015

Ball Horticultural Co. Buys Conard-Pyle/Star Roses And …

Ball Horticultural Co. plans to add Conard-Pyle/Star Roses and Plants to its family of breeding and distribution companies, according to a press release dated August 14, which announced the company’s recent acquisition of the famous introducer of Knock Out Roses and other perennials and woody plants to the market. Ball plans to capitalize on the expertise of its Ball Ornamentals woody ornamentals division, as well as Conard-Pyle’s market-leading position as a top rose breeder to strengthen its product line. The sale is scheduled to close by the end of September 2015. Conard-Pyle’s in-house breeding division NovaFlora, along with its intellectual properties and the distribution, production and administration facilities of its wholesale division are also part of the acquisition. NovaFlora is the driving force behind the Star Roses and Plants brand. “Conard-Pyle has been the leader in roses in its market and has been actively diversifying its offering with other woody […]

Read More
cannabis, marijuana plant

August 7, 2015

Big Banks A Step Closer To Financing Cannabis — Or Not

A key Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill on July 23 that allows the nation's capital to establish regulated medical marijuana stores and lets banks provide financial services to state legalized marijuana dispensaries.

Read More

July 30, 2015

Spread Your Risk Beyond Spring Sales [Opinion]

Growers who participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Recap Survey said they have had enough of the uncertainty that the weather brings. They said it’s time to build up sales in other seasons like fall so we’re not so dependent on spring. As a couple of wholesale growers, both from the Southeast, very eloquently stated, our industry has mastered squeezing everything we can out of the spring season. And while this year happened to be a very successful one, thanks to the improving economy and elevated consumer confidence, they said, “now is no time to celebrate.” “Spring is still Christmas in the horticulture industry, but we have done such a good job focusing on spring that we have neglected other seasons,” one grower said. “Having so many eggs in the spring basket is dangerous. Fall will never be what spring is, but having a solid second season is in […]

Read More
Berns_Roberto Lopez_Purdue6

July 22, 2015

Cultivate’15 Greenhouse Learning Tour Showcases G…

Growers took advantage of the Greenhouse Learning tour held Saturday, July 11 at Cultivate'15 to see the strategies and technology two successful growing operations are using to tackle production challenges and come out ahead of the game.

Read More
thermoflor

June 16, 2015

Philip Schaafsma To Represent Thermoflor In The U.S.

Philip Schaafsma is a new sales representative for Thermoflor, a company with a lot of experience building garden centers worldwide. The history of the Dutch construction company Thermoflor goes all the way back to 1877. Since then, the company has been through a lot of changes, from simple conservatories to complex glass and steel turnkey projects. With a new sales representative, Thermoflor is well equipped to service the American market. Previously, Petitti Garden Center (Avon, Ohio), Chuck Hafner (Syracuse, N.Y.), Jacob’s Garden (Ottowa Lake, Mich.), Hicks Nurseries (Westbury, N.Y.) and Holes (Alberta, Ca.) were all built by Thermoflor. After a period of absence, the company is now  represented in the U.S. and Canada by Schaafsma, who has more than 40 years of experience in retail lawn and garden, greenhouse growing and the floral industry, and is a former board member of the Garden Centers of America. Schaafsma is the former owner […]

Read More

June 15, 2015

Hortica Insurance To Become Member Of Sentry Insurance …

Upon completion and approval of an affiliation agreement, Hortica Insurance (Florists' Mutual Insurance Company) will become a member of the Sentry Insurance Group, based in Stevens Point, Wis. As a member of the Sentry Insurance Group, Hortica keeps its name and brand and will continue doing business from its current headquarters in Edwardsville, Ill.

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

June 2, 2015

Cal-Poly Students Seek Continued Industry Support To Sa…

Agriculture students and faculty at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, want industry members to continue to stand with them in their effort to preserve Class 1 agricultural land from being repurposed. The university recently released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential and/or recreational space. According to Joel Leonard of Students For Agriculture, an organization of Cal-Poly students in favor of saving the land, the Master Planning Committee will be meeting over the summer to form a final version of its plan and present it once more to the public in the fall, before it is submitted for final approval to the California Board of Trustees. Students For Agriculture’s goal in the meantime is to increase awareness and rally industry supporters to continue to send their input to the planning committee. Visit studentsforag.com to see more […]

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

May 27, 2015

Cal-Poly Students And Faculty Ask Industry To Help Save…

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential, and/or recreational space. According to a letter from Scott Steinmaus, the horticulture and crop science department head, the proposed changes directly affect the current orchard plantings and other long term plans for the department. The department is committed to making sure that its facilities remain invaluable teaching environments that enable its students to learn about crop, fruit and horticulture production, food safety and pest protection, in addition to providing sites for externally funded research projects that benefit the industry. Industry members are invited to submit comments to the university. According to Steinmaus, a recent eMail to the Cal-Poly community from the university president indicates that all of the input gathered through the end of May will be studied by the planning […]

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
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

April 30, 2015

North Creek Nurseries Welcomes Nikki Drake As New Finan…

Nikki Drake will fill the role of new financial administrator at North Creek Nurseries, with responsibility for the accounting department. She will also serve on the strategic planning committee.

Read More
Andy Huntington Pleasant View

April 29, 2015

Pleasant View Gardens Promotes Andy Huntington to Natio…

Pleasant View Gardens recently announced that Andy Huntington will be the company’s National Sales Manager. Huntington, who has years of horticulture industry experience, will oversee national territory and inside sales departments, while fostering strong partnerships with customers. “Our relationships with customers are central to all that we do at Pleasant View,” Huntington says. “In my new role, I am excited to work with a broader base of broker, grower and retail partners to understand their business needs. Pleasant View’s goal is to be so in tune with our customers that we are able to anticipate their problems before they arise.” Huntington has a history of growing sales and forming long-lasting relationships with a diverse customer base. For the past two years, he has been working as a territory account manager for Pleasant View Gardens, responsible for young plant liner sales in New England and New York. Prior to that, Huntington was […]

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Syngenta logo

April 15, 2015

Syngenta Names Chris Freeman Senior Key Account Manager…

Chris Freeman is the new senior key account manager for Syngenta Flowers, Home & Garden's Commercial Sales business in the Americas, effective March 2015. Freeman, who joined Syngenta in 2006, carries more than 25 years of experience in the agriculture and floriculture business.

Read More
Lake Buchanan_LCRA

April 10, 2015

USDA Designates Areas Of West And Southwest As Drought …

The ongoing drought has resulted in disaster area designations in counties across nine Western and Southwestern states, including Texas, where some reservoirs are at or near historically low levels.

Read More

April 9, 2015

Altman Plants’ Online Cactus Shop Shows Strong Sa…

Altman Plants recently opened its new Cactus Shop, an online retail store that sells a variety of cactus and succulents. The store is a take-off of Altman’s original wholesale business, as the company started as a mail order catalog.

Read More