June 15, 2011

5 Steps To Improving Your Financial Performance

With the onset of the real estate recession and significant changes in the dynamics of the nursery market, growers have faced severe financial difficulties. Fifteen percent of nursery, greenhouse and floriculture crop production companies in the United States have recently filed for bankruptcy or ended up liquidating. Companies that continue to operate have struggled with cash flow, fought with funding sources and worried they may not have sufficient liquidity to satisfy customer needs. In view of these challenges, this article offers five steps to take to improve the performance for financially-strapped growers. Step 1: Get Some Breathing Room With Your Lender When companies get short on cash, it results in them tripping financial performance covenants with their lenders that typically need to be maintained and exceeded to be in compliance with lending requirements. When financial covenants are broken, lenders worry whether or not the company will be able to support […]

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June 6, 2011

Silver Vase Debuts Updated Web Site

Silver Vase has redesigned its web site with a fully searchable integrated online database and plant care tips. Users can quickly find what they need by searching for product, color or keyword. “With this new site we focused on enhancing the user experience for the fastest product access,” says Silver Vase CEO Andrew Bartha. “We’ve built an intuitive, content-rich database that makes it easy to build a successful orchid or bromeliad program.” The new SilverVase.com features an interactive product database with detailed information plus full color close-up and full length photography for the company’s orchids, bromeliads and gardens. Silver Vase has also expanded the site’s content to include decor and display ideas, company and production information and news updates. See the redesigned site at www.silvervase.com.  

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May 27, 2011

Study Shows Regional Trends In Horticulture

Three professors at Texas A&M University recently published an updated study of U.S. nursery industry sales and marketing practices, which shows an industry heavy on small businesses. More than 3,000 firms answered questions from professors Charlie Hall, Alan Hodges and Marco Palma about their green industry businesses. The results show more than 50 percent of those who responded were firms with less than $250,000 in annual sales. Only 17 percent had sales of $1 million or greater, including 2.2 percent of firms with sales totaling between $10 million and $49 million. All told, respondents reported a collective total of $4.45 billion in sales for 2008, or an average of $1.73 million per firm. They collectively employed more than 48,800 permanent and temporary workers. Based on an adjusted population of validated active firms, total U.S. nursery industry sales (representing all facets of nursery from supplier to retail) was estimated at $27 […]

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May 26, 2011

Is A Container Recycling Program In Your Future?

Like many urban areas, we hear complaints every spring about the number of plastic garden containers consumers collect and have to deal with for disposal. Across the United States, millions of pounds of agricultural plastics, including flower and vegetable containers, are discarded into local landfills every year. As in many states, the nursery and greenhouse industry is one of the few growth sectors in Virginia agriculture. With increasing focus on promoting the nursery and greenhouse industry as the original “green” industry, we wanted to address container recycling. Initially, we contacted most of the recycling centers in Virginia and found only a few that accepted plastic garden containers for recycling. In September 2008, Greenhouse Grower Editor Delilah Onofrey wrote, “Since we don’t have the power to influence the entire garbage collection industry, the best we can do is create programs that make it easier for growers and consumers to recycle plastic […]

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May 23, 2011

Tax Credits, Not Alternative Systems, Key To Success

In response to Greenhouse Grower’s February article “Saving With Solar,” Centerton Nursery’s R. Denny Blew points out that the grower with conventional fuel systems could achieve as much with a tax credit as the grower receiving them for alternative systems: Sometimes we get so obsessed with what we can grab with one hand that we completely forget what we have in the other hand. In regard to your February cover story “Saving With Solar,” I won’t knock any grower for looking for alternative energy sources. However, give me a 50 (percent) tax credit and I can find a way to make my conventional fuel system a whole lot better. Give me a 50 (percent) tax credit and I’ll make it cheaper. Give me a 50 (percent) tax credit and I’ll make it more efficient. Give me a 50 (percent) tax credit and I’ll make it more feasible. Give me a […]

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May 3, 2011

USDA Investing In Ohio Organic Farmers

Ohio farmers transitioning to organic, as well as established organic producers, now have an opportunity to apply for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative funding to assist their organic efforts. The USDA recently announced another $50 million in funding for the EQIP Organic Initiative, which provides a 75 percent share of the cost of implementing organic conservation measures to those who qualify–90 percent for beginning, limited-resource and socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. This is the third year of the Organic Initiative. In 2010, NRCS obligated $24 million nationally with more than $440,000 going to Ohio organic farmers. This year, even greater funding is available for Ohio producers to plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns in ways that are consistent with organic production. The deadline for this application period is May 20, 2011. “The Center for Rural Affairs has a long history of assisting family farmers and […]

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May 3, 2011

Auction Cautions

Whether you’ve participated in an auction yourself or you’ve seen one on TV, it’s easy to understand how bidders get spend happy and pay exorbitantly large sums of money for items they might otherwise buy elsewhere or not at all. The same goes for growers and the increasing number of industry auctions taking place these days. Say a grower attends an auction with no specific needs in mind. All he wants to do is pounce on items he perceives as bargains. The grower establishes a price he’s willing to pay and tells himself he won’t spend a penny over that price. When no one even approaches the grower’s set price, he seizes the moment and makes a sudden bid–on a greenhouse. “Sold!” the auctioneer declares. The grower pumps his fist and puts on a beaming smile, thinking he just made a steal that would make Bernie Madoff proud. The deal […]

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April 25, 2011

Globetrotting Grower: Europe Versus The U.S. In Floriculture

One benefit of traveling around the world on business is the chance to write these articles while flying. For the last four years, I have been learning intensely about a huge part of ornamental horticulture: the annual or bedding plant business. It’s been an intense learning curve thanks mostly to traveling with LJ Contillo, who heads up our annual business at Costa Farms. LJ has spent his entire professional career on the color side, so I have been fortunate to learn that part of the business from him, and he has learned the indoor houseplant portion from me. The color side is a huge and diverse industry. The difference between indoor houseplants and color items boils down to this: annuals are developed faster and the demand is much greater. But the indoor breeding side has upside too. Development of the criteria was refined as we have advanced in the indoor […]

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April 20, 2011

Higham: Freight Rates Soaring, Capacity Tightening

A perfect storm of issues are affecting available truck capacity, causing freight rates to soar and growers to scramble for capacity. Interstate Transport’s Tim Higham explores the challenges many growers are facing. For those growers reaching into the common carrier pool this year, in order to move material to customers they are finding trucks impossible to find–at any price in some regions. A perfect storm of issues are just beginning to show their effect on available truck capacity, causing freight rates to soar and growers to scramble for capacity. This week, I have been inundated with calls from growers nationwide looking for help. One grower, who did not want to be named, stated: “I have loads sitting on the dock for days while we look for trucks. I am at the point where I will pay anything to service the customer or I will lose them. The problem is that […]

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April 19, 2011

Perpective: Dave Foltz: President of Ivy Acres

Back in 2003, we knew Dave Foltz was one to watch when we featured him as one of our “40 Under 40″ at age 32. He directed sales and marketing back then for Kurt Weiss Greenhouses, the largest greenhouse operation on the East Coast. Today, he is 40 and leading legendary Ivy Acres. Foltz started at Kurt Weiss as an in-store service rep and rose through hard work, determination and being hands-on and engaged in the business every day. His drive was to make a difference in the organization and grow the business. Now he’s doing the same with Ivy Acres as the company expands geographically, adds new product lines and diversifies its customer base. As we went to press, Ivy Acres was acquiring Conard-Pyle’s production facilities in Pennsylvania to produce roses, perennials and groundcovers. GG: What are some of the key lessons you’ve learned serving large retailers? DF: Always […]

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April 15, 2011

USDA Reveals 2011 REAP Program Details

USDA has officially announced rule changes for the 2011 Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). This competitive program assists eligible growers by providing funding for renewable-energy and energy-efficiency projects. The program provides funding up to 25 percent of the total project cost, with a maximum incentive of $250,000 for energy-efficiency projects and $500,000 for renewable-energy projects. Important Rule Changes 1. Agricultural producers in urban areas are now eligible. Agricultural producers are eligible if directly engaged in production of agricultural produce and obtain at least 50 percent or more of their gross income from their agriculture business.  Previous guidance mandated that agricultural producers in urban areas were ineligible for the program regardless of location within a previously designated   2. Flexfuel (blender pumps) are now qualified as an eligible technology. The USDA REAP program will aggressively promote these projects. Eligibility Eligibility for a grant falls under two categories.  1. Agricultural producers (individual […]

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