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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April 14, 2011

Akro-Mils Creating A ‘Greener’ Workplace

Akro-Mils, a Myers Industries company, has invested in several energy-saving initiatives for its main plant in Wadsworth, Ohio. New overhead lighting fixtures and electric injection-molding machinery are helping Akro-Mils not only promote an eco-friendly workplace, but also lower costs and improve safety and quality. Based in Akron, Ohio, Akro-Mils is a North American leader in plastic storage bins and organization containers, shelving systems and mobile material handling products. “This is a major undertaking for our Wadsworth plant. We’re excited knowing the outcome will have a positive impact on the environment, as well as increasing the level of efficiency in which our products are created,” says Jeff Gervais, general manager of Akro-Mils. “Akro-Mils is known for providing state-of-the-art plastic products to our customers, so updating our facility and machinery further enhances our pledge to be the best provider of storage and organization container solutions in the industry.” For many years, the […]

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March 17, 2011

Minimizing Freight Claim Headaches

As a grower, you know it can take months or even years to produce a finished product. You put tireless hours, hard-earned money and personal pride into growing products that please your clients. And how unpleasant it is when you get that phone call from one of them reporting a claim on those products. You want nothing more than to make sure your client is happy, yet you know you must minimize your out-of-pocket costs, especially when it comes to claims. The question is then: How do you mitigate most of these claims up front and handle them professionally when they do occur? The answer is to have a claims process in place before you ever load your product on a truck. The two basic components of that process are communication and documentation. If you use your own drivers and local delivery trucks, you have much more control over the […]

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March 6, 2011

2D Bar Code Webinar Set For March 15

Register now for our webinar: Smart Marketing: 2D Bar Codes For Garden Retail, sponsored by SATO and GrowTech Solutions. Everyone is talking about QR Codes and MS Tags–and with good reason. 2D tags for smart phones are one of the hottest new technologies you’ll be seeing in garden retail–and everywhere else–this spring. How can you use this tool to help you make money for your greenhouse operation or garden center business? In this webinar, you’ll learn: – Why 2D tags matter to retailers and growers. – How to integrate the codes into traditional marketing campaigns from direct mail to in-store signage to advertisements. – Real-world experiences with 2D tags and ideas you can use in your own operation. The speakers for this webinar are Kyle Lacy, social media consultant & principal at MindFrame; and John R. Morgan Technologist, Bob’s Market & Greenhouses, Inc. Register now for our webinar: Smart Marketing: 2D […]

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February 15, 2011

Home Depot To Hire 60,000 For Spring Black Friday

Home Depot announced Tuesday it would hire more than 60,000 additional seasonal workers in time for its Spring Black Friday events. Those events are based on the start of the spring season in each market and will roll out during four different weekends in spring. The hirings will occur during February and March. Also, Home Depot will be adding new full-time and part-time positions for the second year in a row. “As we have stated in the past, spring is our Christmas and traffic is at its highest during this season,” says Craig Menear, executive vice president for merchandising, in a statement released Tuesday. “Hiring seasonal associates and offering door-busting deals will ensure our customers have all of the service, know-how and value they need as they look to take on outdoor projects to improve the appearance of their home.” During Spring Black Friday, Home Depot will “significantly” reduce prices […]

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February 2, 2011

Svensson Energy Screen Designed For More Energy, Savings

A new energy screen from Svensson gives growers the power to enhance crop quality by reducing condensation formation and increasing light transmission. The new XLS 10 Ultra Revolux with H2no technology reduces the formation of condensation droplets, which act as mirrors that reflect light and reduce light transmission in the greenhouse. With H2no, water on the screen instead forms a thin, transparent film that is wicked away into the screen’s yarn structure. The result is a considerable increase in light transmission – up to 10 according to Svensson – compared to an untreated screen. More light promotes photosynthesis during dull periods and more energy savings, as screening hours can be increased. “The XLS 10 Ultra Revolux with new H2no technology is ideal for saving energy, night and day,” says Kurt Parbst, president of Svensson’s North and South American subsidiary. “It allows higher light transmission under typical or real greenhouse conditions […]

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February 2, 2011

Midwest Groundcovers Purchases Native Plant Nursery

Midwest Groundcovers, a wholesale nursery headquartered in St. Charles, Ill., has purchased neighboring specialty native plant nursery, The Natural Garden, Inc. The acquisition will increase Midwest’s native plant inventory and will give Midwest customers access to a diverse array of local eco-type native plants. Midwest and The Natural Garden are working together to ensure a seamless transition for customers and a smooth changeover for employees. Midwest will continue native plant nursery production at The Natural Garden nursery site in St. Charles but will transition to sell primarily Natural Garden Natives through Midwest Groundcovers. Natural Garden Natives will be the regional eco-type specific native plants originating from The Natural Garden stock plants and seed beds; these plants were originally collected in the 1970s and 1980s, primarily in Kane County, but no further than 90 miles from the St. Charles nursery site. Together with these new specialty native plant offerings, customers will […]

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January 25, 2011

Iwasaki Brothers Is Energized & Dollar Wise

Oregon growers are lucky they have a state government that makes it attractive to invest in alternative energy systems, essentially cutting the time to recoup the investment in half. An energy project that pays for itself in less than three years is a no-brainer. Iwasaki Brothers in Hillsboro used Energy Trust Oregon (ETO) incentives to reimburse the costs of energy curtains in its newest greenhouse a few years ago and to install a 665-panel solar electric system in 2009. Leaving no stone unturned, the company also explores options with utility companies. Just switching from a firm natural gas rate to an interruptible rate saved enough to pay for a machine that converts propane to behave like natural gas in a backup situation. The fourth-generation family business owned by Jim Iwasaki is one of the leading bedding plant growers in the Northwest. He and Operations Manager Steve Ussery are always looking […]

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