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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January 24, 2011

Inviting Buyers Into Your Greenhouse

Clearwater Nursery serves major grocery store chains, including Kroger, Supervalu and Stater Bros., and get-togethers between Clearwater and its retail customers are no different than most grower-retailer meetings. “Normally, we meet at trade shows,” says Steven Medeiros, Clearwater’s marketing executive. “From there, we have meetings at their corporate locations with presentation material that’s basically just paper and sample product.” Last year, though, Clearwater’s Peter Hesse and Guy Miel developed the idea of inviting its existing buyers–and potential buyers–to a special event at their greenhouses in Nipomo, Calif. Using a traditional mum and poinsettia trial as the core draw, Hesse and Miel invited vendors like Aris Horticulture, Ball Horticultural Co., and Temkin International to exhibit their products on site, where interested retail buyers could make appointments to meet with them between Nov. 30 and Dec. 3. Four poinsettia breeders–Dömmen, Ecke Ranch, Selecta First Class and Syngenta Flowers–were invited to showcase their […]

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January 19, 2011

In Poinsettias, It’s How You Sell, Not What You Sell

Poinsettias looked as good at retail as I have seen in recent years, demonstrating great plant quality and some real consumer value. Take, for example, the 8-inch poinsettia produced by Mid-American Growers retailing at a Chicago Walmart for an amazing $10 value. Poinsettias at other retailers were, for the most part, above average in quality and even a good consumer value. With so many reds on the market, it is difficult to discern which varieties stand out. Fortunately, while I was at Tagawa Garden Center, a Denver retailer that sells poinsettias by variety, I noticed ‘Premium Red’ stood out as very bright and as one of the most attractive reds. I also spotted a number of ‘Premium Red’ at Lowe’s in Northern Wisconsin, which looked good in natural light and under in-store lighting. Colors & Varieties Now that it is clear product quality is improving, what about selection? Although red […]

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January 19, 2011

Get Your Fair Share

The solar energy systems Blooming Nursery and Iwasaki Brothers put in are inspiring and the returns are really attractive. While they’re located in Portland, a progressive metro area, you don’t have to live in Oregon to take advantage of a wealth of state and federal grants and incentives to dramatically improve your energy efficiency or switch to renewable fuels. Now is the time to explore funding programs. The most common energy efficiency projects for growers are lighting upgrades, energy curtain systems and new heating systems. Many utility companies offer incentives and assistance because 30 of 50 states have renewable portfolio standards that require energy providers to draw a percentage of their energy from renewable sources. A number of states also set aside federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money for programs that help businesses invest in energy systems, too. One easy-to-use, comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility and […]

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December 22, 2010

State Of The Industry: 2011 Economic Outlook

The recovery remained lackluster in the third and fourth quarters of 2010, with GDP (gross domestic product) growth coming in at around 2.0 percent. We should, however, start to see the economy begin to reaccelerate in 2011. Consumer spending is expected to regain momentum as long as the increases in employment that are expected actually come into fruition. Housing should start to respond to record-low rates and exports and equipment spending are expected to remain strong. On net, real GDP is forecast to rise 2.5 percent in the first quarter and move back into the 3 percent range in the second quarter. Again, as I have said before, this will be a slow recovery but hopefully a smarter recovery this time around. Two Lifestyles During Recession One very interesting outcome of the Great Recession is that it has divided America into two groups that are roughly the same size yet […]

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December 22, 2010

Perspective: Barry Sturdivant, Bank Of The West

What’s the best way to describe the financial health of the commercial greenhouse industry these days? According to Bank of the West’s Barry Sturdivant, our industry’s financial health as a whole is “very good.” At Bank of the West, the country’s third-largest bank for agricultural production, Sturdivant has seen just about every agricultural commodity encounter stress over the last two years. But the commercial greenhouse industry, perhaps to your surprise, has been a bright spot–at least for the bank. In fact, Bank of the West has identified greenhouse operations as a key area for expected growth this year. Recently, we caught up with Sturdivant to get his perspective on how greenhouse growers are faring compared to nursery producers, what he expects for our industry in 2011 and more. GG: How does the greenhouse industry’s financial health compare to the state of the nursery industry’s? BS: For the past few years, […]

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December 22, 2010

Eye-Tracking Software In The Greenhouse

If you want to create great products, you must add value with benefits that are truly needed. These needs are not only those of your direct customer, but of those all the way down the chain of distribution to the ultimate user. In the case of our industry, it’s the garden center shopper. If they are satisfied, then retailers, growers and input vendors have all done their jobs. To hit this mark of value, there is nothing more important than knowledge and understanding what’s meaningful to the gardener from the point of sale through the life of the product and beyond. To this end, many methods of market research can be employed, from focus groups to store intercepts to online surveys. They all have a place in adding to the collective body of information that can lead you to develop the best product possible. Now, there is another research tool […]

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December 13, 2010

Making Sense Of Monrovia’s Request

Monrovia’s goal of reaching a bank-mandated $20 million in bookings is drawing a mixed reaction from growers, retailers and others in the industry. Some people sympathize with Monrovia and its dilemma while others are more skeptical of its request, concluding that the company will eventually serve the box stores in some form. Almost everyone has an opinion online, whether on GreenhouseGrower.com, our Fresh Air Forum or our sister magazine’s website, TodaysGardenCenter.com. Here’s what a few readers have to say: Monrovia Supporters Speak “Monrovia is a great company. We have to support people like this to keep our industry strong.”–Andy Bittner, Greenwell Plant Farm “I have always been pleased with the product and service Monrovia provides. Yes, they grow a few things as a convenience that could be bought cheaper elsewhere, but their quality has always exceeded my expectations. And they grow many unique varieties that help set the independents apart […]

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December 3, 2010

What Does That Production Input Really Cost You?

 In today’s tight economy, it’s only natural that growers are carefully monitoring all their production costs and cutting back on expenses in the hopes of maximizing margins and profits. It’s easy to understand their motivation; however, some growers may perform an inadequate analysis of their cost structure. This may result in some production decisions that are penny wise and pound foolish. There are a number of approaches growers can take when analyzing production costs, and some may require additional time to conduct. Still, a proper analysis must include sufficient detail to provide growers with the information they need to make a thoughtful, informed decision. There are three common methods used to determine what production inputs (fertilizer, pesticide, fungicide or herbicide, for example) are most likely to contribute to a higher profit margin: Cost Per Bag, Cost-In-Use and Return on Investment. Cost Per Bag Cost per bag is the simplest metric […]

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November 23, 2010

New McGregor Site Focuses On Customer Convenience

McGregor Plant Sales has launched a new website designed around customer convenience and streamlined online ordering. “Along with a fresh new look, we’ve added more of the convenient ordering features our customers expect,” says Cathy McClintock, McGregor Plant Sales CEO. “This enhanced, more user-friendly functionality gives customers easier access to our full range of annuals, perennials, PAC geraniums and other products.” Among the new features are a handy week selector that lets customers order from any weeks, new search and filter criteria to quickly find plants, and detailed product info and pictures for all of McGregor’s standard programs. In addition, McGregor has streamlined some of the site’s most popular features, providing one-page checkout with default ship to and bill to addresses; quick refresh pages; seamless transition from search to rapid order; and customizable search results formatting to view pictures, prices, cultural info and more. “This is just the beginning,” McClintock […]

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October 26, 2010

Big Opportunity In Edibles

Between the economic downturn facing the country and the desire of the consumer to obtain fresh produce that has not been tainted with chemicals, the edibles category has become the fastest growing sector of the green goods industry. According to the National Gardening Association (NGA), 31 percent of all U.S. households (36 million) participated in some form of edibles gardening in 2008. And 43 million households planned to do some kind of edibles gardening in 2009–a whopping 19 percent increase. No other sector of green goods can claim anything close to these numbers. In fact, some would argue most categories are flat to declining. And it seems logical the 2010 edibles figures, along with the figures to come, will continue to show strong growth. Although these numbers are impressive, it was apparent this spring there were a limited number of bedding plant growers participating in the growth of edibles. The dominant […]

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October 21, 2010

Wait & See Is The Wrong Approach

OFA President Danny Takao has heard the theory before and he scoffs at it. The theory: “Wait until they reach the right age and they will start buying our plants,” he says. But the wait-and-they-will-come approach is a risky one, Takao says, and the majority of the readers (84 percent) we polled last month agree. They say our industry can’t afford to sit back and bank its future on kids who currently have no interest in gardening. “You have to go and get them early,” says Susan Petak of Wessel’s Farms. “Once they are in their teens and 20s, I think you’ve pretty much lost them to what has caught their interest, whether it’s a sport or just being a couch potato.” Still, there’s the minority that argues our industry shouldn’t bother worrying about our future consumers because we’ve leaned on a model that’s been a constant through generations: As […]

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