Oil, Onions & Other Tidbits

This spring season was a mixed bag. Depending on which part of the country you’re in, Mother Nature was either very kind or very temperamental. For the most part, growers reported sales were especially good during the good weather and surprisingly strong otherwise.

The same could be said about the country economically, as well. Some areas of the country continue to recover from the economic downturn nicely and others are progressing slowly, if at all. Some improvements in the labor and housing markets have been experienced this year, but not as quickly as some had hoped.

Much attention has been placed on oil prices and their supposed influence on consumer purchases. However, a recent study debunked this notion, finding that consumer purchases of other discretionary items are less influenced by gasoline prices than originally thought. Instead, they tend to substitute regular gasoline for premium when prices rise above their tipping point. But these findings are not dissuading the government from scrutinizing the role that speculators may have played in driving up fuel and food prices. Still, the investigators may want to take a look at price swings in a commodity, not in today’s news such as onions!

The Importance Of Supply & Demand

According to a recent article in Fortune, the bulbous root is the only commodity for which a futures market is banned. Back in 1958, onion growers convinced themselves futures traders were responsible for falling onion prices, so they lobbied an up-and-coming Michigan congressman named Gerald Ford to push through a law banning all futures trading in onions. The law still stands.

And yet even with no traders to blame, the volatility in onion prices makes the swings in oil and corn look tame, reinforcing academics’ belief that futures trading diminishes extreme price swings.

Since 2006, oil prices have risen 100 percent, and corn is up 300 percent. But onion prices soared 400 percent between October 2006 and April 2007 (when weather reduced crop yields), only to crash 96 percent by March 2008 on overproduction and then rebound 300 percent by this past April.

OK, so why am I spending the time to write about onions? First, to illustrate that, left unchecked, the effects of supply and demand in determining prices can be quite volatile. Second, to make the more subtle point that these price swings would not occur if onions were not a staple purchase in consumer lives. If they weren’t, folks would simply substitute something else for onions when the price got too high. But what else would go so well with that nice juicy cheeseburger?

No, people don’t stop buying onions just because they cost a bit more and that’s a lesson we in the green industry should contemplate once more. People afford what they want and we need them to want roses and zinnias and daylilies and dracaena in the same way they want onions. In other words, and you’ve heard this before, we need consumers to view our products and services as necessities instead of mere luxuries – and we do this by emphasizing the economic, environmental and health benefits of what our industry offers. Be sure to check out the America in Bloom website and my Making Cents blog for more on that subject.

To Be Successful

Through the years I have heard sage advice from various industry leaders, consultants and motivational speakers that pontificated on various keys to success. However, I recently read a blog post that struck a chord as soon as I read it. The blogger was talking about the top 10 things we should be teaching high school students today, but if you review the list, I think you’ll agree it fits what we should be training our greenhouse employees as well:

  1. How to focus intently on a problem until it’s solved.
     
  2. The benefit of postponing short-term satisfaction in exchange for long-term success.
     
  3. How to read critically.
     
  4. The power of being able to lead groups of peers without receiving clear delegated authority.
     
  5. An understanding of the extraordinary power of the scientific method, in just about any situation or endeavor.
     
  6. How to persuasively present ideas in multiple forms, especially in writing and before a group.
     
  7. Project management. Self management and the management of ideas, projects and people.
     
  8. Personal finance. Understanding the truth about money, debt and leverage.
     
  9. An insatiable desire (and the ability) to learn more. Forever.
     
  10. Most of all, the self reliance that comes from understanding relentless hard work can be applied to solve problems worth solving.

Heck, now that I’ve reviewed the list again, I think it applies to all of us.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Oil, Onions & Other Tidbits

  1. Great article Charlie. Always providing legitimate insight for the industry. Greenhouse Grower…you need a share option for Twitter on all articles. I don’t see it if it’s here.

More From Finance/Operations...
Katherine Wolper

January 24, 2016

Ludvig Svensson Hires Katherine Wolper As West Coast Sales Manager

Wolper says she looks forward to listening to growers and understanding the concerns, obstacles, and opportunities they face.

Read More

January 20, 2016

Tips For Overcoming Challenges In Family Business From The Owners Of Costa Farms

Our industry is run by a collection of family businesses, and every one, no matter how big or small, has its share of management issues. But there are several differences between one that is run successfully as a business and one that allows family politics to distract from the organization’s goals. In this year’s State Of The Industry Survey, we noted that labor recruitment and succession are two areas where growers struggle. In talking with the owners of Costa Farms for this month’s cover story, I thought some of the values they have incorporated into the operation’s management structure really stood out as practices that other family businesses could use. The participatory management approach to business and team building is one that Tony Costa, the second-generation owner of Costa Farms, instilled in his children, Maria Costa-Smith and Jose Costa, and son-in-law, Joche Smith, the current owners of Costa Farms. In […]

Read More
I-9 Form

January 13, 2016

Proposed Changes To I-9 Form Important For Greenhouse Growers

AmericanHort’s Government Relations and Grassroots Representative Davi Bowen says growers need to become familiar with the new form and should be prepared to make comments if necessary.

Read More
Latest Stories
Katherine Wolper

January 24, 2016

Ludvig Svensson Hires Katherine Wolper As West Coast Sa…

Wolper says she looks forward to listening to growers and understanding the concerns, obstacles, and opportunities they face.

Read More

January 20, 2016

Tips For Overcoming Challenges In Family Business From …

Our industry is run by a collection of family businesses, and every one, no matter how big or small, has its share of management issues. But there are several differences between one that is run successfully as a business and one that allows family politics to distract from the organization’s goals. In this year’s State Of The Industry Survey, we noted that labor recruitment and succession are two areas where growers struggle. In talking with the owners of Costa Farms for this month’s cover story, I thought some of the values they have incorporated into the operation’s management structure really stood out as practices that other family businesses could use. The participatory management approach to business and team building is one that Tony Costa, the second-generation owner of Costa Farms, instilled in his children, Maria Costa-Smith and Jose Costa, and son-in-law, Joche Smith, the current owners of Costa Farms. In […]

Read More
I-9 Form

January 13, 2016

Proposed Changes To I-9 Form Important For Greenhouse G…

AmericanHort’s Government Relations and Grassroots Representative Davi Bowen says growers need to become familiar with the new form and should be prepared to make comments if necessary.

Read More

January 13, 2016

Wenke Greenhouses Buys Zylstra Greenhouses

Two Kalamazoo, MI-based greenhouses have merged after Wenke Greenhouses closed on Zylstra Greenhouses at the end of November. The additional property and facilities will allow Wenke Greenhouses to expand its young plant business, among other areas.

Read More

January 13, 2016

Costa Farms Wins With Its Emphasis On Team, Solutions, …

Based in Miami, FL, Costa Farms has gone global by focusing on strategy, systems, and vertical integration. See how the operation continues to expand through its emphasis on team, solutions, and growth.

Read More

January 11, 2016

New Transportation Funding Bill Is Good News For Floric…

According to AmericanHort, perhaps the biggest benefit of the new bill is what it doesn’t include: a proposed amendment that would have prohibited the use of federal funds for vegetative enhancements.

Read More

December 29, 2015

The Home Depot Says No To Neonics

The Home Depot plans to phase out neonicotinoids by 2018, according to a recent statement on the company’s website. The large home improvement retailer stated that its live goods suppliers have reduced the number of plants that they treat with neonicotinoids, and now more than 80% of all flowering plants sold at The Home Depot are not treated with neonicotinoids. The retailer said it will continue this decrease unless: Treatment is required by state or federal regulation, or Undisputed science proves that the use of neonicotinoids on live goods does not have a lethal or sub-lethal effect on pollinators Aside from these exceptions, the retailer has implemented a complete phase-out of neonicotinoid use on live goods by the end of 2018. Meanwhile, The Home Depot has required all of its live goods suppliers to label plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids. “The Home Depot is deeply engaged in understanding the […]

Read More
Gardeners of all ages enjoyed the annual plant sale at McCorkle Nurseries

December 22, 2015

Allan Armitage Explains Why People Will Always Want To …

We may believe that an appreciation for gardening and plants is rapidly draining away, but there is reason to hope.

Read More
Canadian Greenhouse Conference 2015

December 21, 2015

Presentations From Canadian Greenhouse Conference Avail…

Many of the talks that took place at this year’s Canadian Greenhouse Conference in Ontario focused on improving production efficiencies in the greenhouse.

Read More
Sanitation programs are essential to preventing and removing food safety concerns.

December 7, 2015

How The Finalized Produce Safety Rule Will Affect Green…

While the new rule from FDA has many exemptions that will likely apply to greenhouse growers, the reality is that buyers may still require strict adherence to food safety standards.

Read More
Smith Gardens Marysville outdoor field production

November 30, 2015

Why Smith Gardens’ Marysville, WA, Facility Is A Great …

Labor rates in Washington State are some of the highest in the nation, making competition for labor fierce. This is why Smith Gardens in Marysville, WA, wants to strengthen its reputation as a great place to work.

Read More
Great Lakes Expo

November 30, 2015

6 Reasons You Should Attend The Michigan Greenhouse Gro…

The Michigan Greenhouse Growers Expo, held Dec. 8-10 in conjunction with the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo, will feature an expansive trade show and several educational sessions aimed at greenhouse growers.

Read More

November 25, 2015

Everything You Need To Know About the New England GROWS…

Held In Boston December 2-4, New England GROWS includes a comprehensive conference program, a trade show, and with six special programs that teach new skills and provide opportunities to network with colleagues.

Read More

November 20, 2015

Lessons Learned From The California Drought

For those of us who live in the areas of the country that experienced harsh winters and significant rain over the past three seasons, water has become a nuisance in some cases, rather than a blessing. I can’t count the number of times I have wished to be able to send the snow or the rain to the West Coast, tied up with a big red bow. But think about how we’d feel if we didn’t have the snow and the rain, and we were experiencing the same dry conditions that the residents of California, Oregon and Washington have. With fresh water supplies dwindling in regions of the world, and the resistance of residents in states like Michigan to share water from the Great Lakes, it’s likely that the next civil or world war could be fought over our most precious resource. California’s epic drought should cause everyone to look […]

Read More
Jill Calabro

November 3, 2015

AmericanHort Names New Research And Science Programs Di…

Jill Calabro will bring strategic direction and oversight to research funding by the Horticultural Research Institute, the research affiliate of AmericanHort.

Read More
SBI’s ANY Device Application allows growers to quickly determine availability-featuer

November 2, 2015

SBI Software’s Solutions Help Simplify Logistics For G…

The company focuses on helping growers improve their existing processes with solutions for site fulfillment, replenishment, inventory management and more.

Read More
Griffin Expo15 seminar

October 28, 2015

Griffin’s Hits Record Attendance With 2015 Expos,…

Griffin Greenhouse Supplies set new attendance records with its 2015 Expos. Its 2016 Expos are set for August 31 and September 1, 2016, in West Springfield, Mass., and September 21-22, 2016, in Lancaster, Penn.

Read More

October 28, 2015

Possum Run Greenhouses Taken Over By New Owners

Justin and Lynn Marotta have placed Possum Run Greenhouse and Gifts into the hands of new owners. John and Caroline Bletner, a newly married couple, took over the Bellville, Ohio, property October 2, according to an October 24 article in the Mansfield News Journal. The Marotta family has run Possum Run Greenhouse and Gifts for 41 years. When the Marottas announced in April the greenhouse operation was for sale, they said they were looking for an energetic couple to take the business to the next level, which is what they found in the Bletners, the article reports. The Bletners have hinted they’ll be “opening to a larger market” and that the retail side will “look different.” They’ll hold a grand re-opening the week of April 22, 2016. Staff are staying on board and the Bletners are maintaining many of the suppliers. The 200-plus varieties of fuchsias Justin brought to the greenhouse […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]