November 13, 2009

Times Change Quickly

The entire United States financial system was on the verge of bankruptcy. If it had not been for the federal government’s intervention, the whole system would have collapsed. Some unscrupulous individuals stole hundreds of billions of dollars at the expense of all of the honest workers and citizens. In only days, the government printed the money to cover these criminal acts. The debt of our country almost doubled in one month.   The recession got worse and unemployment hit new highs. As I write this, the unemployment rate is 10 percent nationally. In Michigan, it is 15.8 percent and in Detroit it is over 29 percent.   In the September 2008 Produce Business magazine, Dave Dever indicated that, based on his most recent statistics of income for the 2006 tax year, approximately 55 percent of tax filers had adjusted gross income of less than $50,000 with an average discretionary income […]

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November 9, 2009

Greenhouse Grower A Winner At ASBPE’s Digital Azbee Awards

Meister Media publications Greenhouse Grower and Today’s Garden Center were big winners at the 2009 Digital Azbee Awards presented by the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). Greenhouse Grower received an honorable mention in the Multi-Platform coverage category for its 2009 California Pack Trials reporting in the print magazine and online and a silver award for step-by-step how-to podcast for the Proper Handling Of Unrooted Poinsettia Cuttings episode of FloriCAST, the podcast for greenhouse growers. Sister publication Today’s Garden Center won the 2009 Multi-Platform gold award for its 2009 Revolutionary Garden Centers coverage. Today’s Garden Center also won a national silver award in the category Integrated Social Media Community for integration between TodaysGardenCenter.com, Fresh Air Forum, blogs, Facebook and Twitter. ASBPE presented awards in 15 new digital categories at its first digital-only national conference. The awards were announced on November 6 during the luncheon at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport.

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October 28, 2009

Viability Secures $1.3M In Energy Grants

Viability reaped the reward of a national focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, securing $1.3 million in clean energy grant funding and leveraging $31.5 million in overall project investment for its clients as part of USDA’s Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP). The federal REAP grant funds up to $250,000 for efficiency projects and $500,000 for renewable energy projects in designated rural areas. Viability assists companies prepare and submit grant applications that promote sustainability through several programs. “Businesses are seizing the opportunity to lower operational costs and reduce their environmental footprint through clean energy technologies,” says Viability President Chris Byrnes. “Even though these energy projects pay for themselves in time, the grant helps overcome the initial capital investment that accompanies new technologies.” Altogether, Viability’s REAP clients will reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 33,519 tons annually, the majority of which results from its greenhouse clients. That amount, according […]

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October 21, 2009

Color Spot Buys El Modeno Assets

Another major California growing operation is exiting the business. El Modeno Gardens will close its doors after Oct. 31 and Color Spot Nurseries is purchasing the operation’s equipment, raw materials and inventory. Ranked at No. 41 on our Top 100 Growers, El Modeno Gardens specializes in perennials, flowering shrubs, bedding plants and blooming potted plants. The business was founded by the Groot family in 1958 as a specialty fern grower in an area called El Modena, which is now part of the city of Orange. The company began growing color in 1-gallon and 5-gallons to fill an emerging market niche in the 1960s. The company moved to its current headquarters in Irvine, Calif., in 1967 and expanded to multiple facilities in Northern and Southern California–Hollister, Valley Center, Watsonville, Lake Mathews and Imperial County. In 2003, El Modeno added a Tyler, Texas facility, which has been leased by Seville Farms the […]

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October 19, 2009

Horticulture: A Reason For Thanksgiving

We all have heard the old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” Well, I think many of us can’t see our profession because we are only interested in one facet of this great industry. This notion was brought home to me a few months ago when I read a garden design magazine. It showed how to create a meditation garden, a pharmaceutical garden, a service garden and a beauty garden, as well as an art garden.   There were many different plant species used that I had not seen before. I began to remember what I was taught at the university: There are so many plants on this earth that it would be impossible to learn all the genetics, physiology, pathology and uses of even a small percentage of them.   For some of us, it has taken a lifetime to master all the information we need […]

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October 16, 2009

Bringing High-Tech Marketing To Hort

Former McGregor Plant Sales vice president Doug McQueen has founded Your Results Marketing in Encinitas, Calif., and forged an alliance with UV Com in India to offer low cost creative design and advanced marketing tools to horticultural companies. The spectrum of media options span traditional to cutting edge. “Traditional print, modern electronic and professional video production are offered,” McQueen says. “Campaigns will integrate across touch points in magazines, catalogs, trade shows, websites, cellular networks, YouTube channels, blogs and social sites, among others.” There is a technology component to the venture, as well. As customers’ walk aisles of garden centers and greenhouses, they’ll have connective reach through cellular networks. This venture embraces tools that let them bring their friends and referral communities along for decision support. New RSS feeds, Tweet-like Widgets, design apps and on-demand cultural information are on the menu to enhance the experience and success rate. At some point, […]

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October 6, 2009

Walmart CEO Predicts More Price Slashing

Wall Street Journal writer John Jannarone warns of the Walmart effect. The company’s CEO Mike Duke told The Wall Street Journal last week that he expects gross margins to become more stable, which means Walmart will continue to slash prices and put its competitors on the “defensive.” Jannarone made grocery stores an example. A study was done with shopping baskets at three different grocery stores (Walmart, Kroger and Safeway) full of the same 31 products. For those 31 products, prices have fallen 14.4 percent between January and September at Kroger, and Safeway’s prices dropped 9.7 percent during that same time period. Meanwhile, Walmart’s prices declined only 2.6 percent. With those decreases intact, Walmart was still the cheapest store for all 31 products, with an end total of $92.77. Kroger’s and Safeway’s totals were $109.98 and $113.03, respectively.

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September 16, 2009

Economy Poised For Glacially-Paced Recovery

Optimism about the apparent ending of the recession has been tempered by the reality of substantial further deterioration in employment conditions and ongoing struggles with state and local government budgets. Real GDP is expected to rise slightly during the third quarter, as inventory liquidations slow dramatically and consumer spending is revived. The end of the recession, however, does not mark the end of the economy’s troubles. Economic activity will likely remain somewhat subdued well into 2010, and the unemployment rate will likely rise through the middle of next year, topping out at around 10.5 percent. On the upside, there is a great deal of stimulus in the pipeline, including the $787 billion economic recovery act, low interest rates, the completion of a colossal drawdown in inventories and the prospect of falling gasoline prices. On the downside, employment losses remain massive and the unemployment rate continues to increase, albeit at a […]

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September 16, 2009

Longevity With Lowe’s

Walmart’s decision to downsize its vendor base forced more than a hundred large greenhouse operations into a mad scramble for buyers over the last year. Many mid-sized operations were forced to regroup, too, begging the question as to whether or not mid-sized operations have a place serving the big box stores. The answer, if you’re a mid-sized operation like Ohlman Farm & Greenhouse in Toledo, Ohio, is a resounding yes. Ohlman Farm was one of first operations to serve Lowe’s home improvement stores in the mid-1980s, and it continues to serve Lowe’s today. So much for the theory that big box business is only for the big grower. Ohlman Farm expanded its business with Lowe’s because it lives by producing quality crops and delivering those crops on time − just as any large operation would − but Ohlman Farm stands out from many large operations because it’s carried out those […]

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September 16, 2009

Life Is A Challenge

Here we are in October, planning for the spring of 2010. If you’re like me, you read the business papers, check the stock market, find out how many people are unemployed and what our national debt is. You also look at interest rates and whether bank credit will be available in order to finance your 2010 plan. The government has initiated plans to stimulate the economy. These plans have involved everything from bailing out the financial institutions and banks to supporting the automobile industry by taking in “clunkers” and giving people $4,500 to help them buy new cars. The government is now focusing on universal health care and many other issues that will affect our businesses. I wish the government would give people a rebate for buying nourishing foods like fruits and vegetables to keep their families healthy and well. Most of these issues are beyond our control, and we […]

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September 16, 2009

Digitizing The Catalog

Cheri Markowitz didn’t think Emerald Coast Growers needed an online ordering option. She was the naysayer. But then the orders came, and they came in full force for Cheri and her brothers Paul and Mark Babikow, the three minds behind Emerald Coast’s electronic marketing strategy. Since Emerald Coast launched a website in 1995, the Pensacola, Fla.-based business has developed a multi-pronged strategy of carefully targeted and meticulously selected digital tools that simultaneously build business and service existing customers and brokers. “As a business today, you have to be poised to respond to the growing need for electronic communications,” Paul says. And respond Emerald Coast has. It now has a website (ECGrowers.com), an electronic product database, e-newsletters, online availability updates, electronic ordering and a downloadable catalog to give customers an all-access pass to the true ease and convenience of doing business with Emerald Coast Growers. “We want to be the easy […]

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