May 25, 2010

Modeling Greenhouse Efficiency Virtually

When you’re comparing structures and coverings, wouldn’t it be great to know which styles and materials will perform best for you before you make a change or start to build? USDA’s free Virtual Grower software program allows you to do that by analyzing the efficiencies of your current structures and constructing models for new ones–all from the comfort of your office. The idea began in 2003, when plant physiologist Jonathan Frantz joined USDA’s Agriculture Research Service at the University of Toledo in Ohio. His background was in vegetable crops and he started asking local flower growers how they make decisions related to the greenhouse environment–light, temperature and air movement. With energy efficiency becoming a top concern, Frantz and programmers Bryon Hand and Lee Buckingham set out to develop computer-generated models that would help growers make informed decisions that directly impact energy consumption. The model allows growers to compare styles of […]

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May 24, 2010

Webinar: What Does The New Health Care Law Mean For Your Business?

Now that the health care reform bill has been passed, you need to know how your business is affected. Does the new health care law require you to offer insurance to your employees? Do you get a tax credit if you do? Will you be penalized if you don’t? How do the rules differ for companies with more or less than 50 employees? How does the insurance exchange system work? Those are just a few of the key questions attorney John Satagaj will answer during the SAF Health Care Webinar scheduled for Wednesday, May 26. The hour-long event begins at 7 p.m. Register here to reserve your place.

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May 13, 2010

Benches Or Floors?

From rolling benches to Dutch tray systems to moveable containers, benching technology has improved significantly in recent years. More and more, though, it seems growers are looking to the floor as their first option for production. “It’s absolutely a trend I’m seeing,” says Bill Vietas, vice president of sales for Rough Bros. “You go to most places and you’ll see people growing on the ground again.” For Rough Bros., which sells both greenhouse structures and benches, that shift has been very apparent. “We do flood benches, rolling benches and Dutch tray benches, and we have seen a decrease in all three of those areas,” Vietas says. “Our bench sales are maybe a third of what they used to be. It’s very interesting but you just don’t see them as much anymore.” But why? “I don’t think they’re doing it because it necessarily produces a better quality product. I think the […]

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May 3, 2010

Monrovia Putting Transportation Safety First

The California Trucking Association (CTA) recently honored Monrovia for its outstanding safety record on the road with the Fleet Safety Award, marking the third year in a row Monrovia has been recognized as such. According to Lee Zwahlen, head of shipping, Monrovia has one of the largest privately operated fleets of any nursery in the United States, with 17 trucks and 50 trailers. “From our 1,100-acre Visalia and Venice Hills nurseries, we delivered 2,400 trailer loads of Monrovia plants with an estimated 12,000 deliveries last year,” Zwahlen says. Safety professionals from the CTA safety staff review accident statistics of the top contenders and audit their safety programs each year. The awards program judges companies on issues such as accident frequency, personnel and hiring systems, documented safety policies and procedures, driver-safety training, internal accident handling procedures and participation in the association’s safety activities. “While Monrovia is often recognized for its high […]

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April 27, 2010

How Will The Health Care Bill Affect Your Business?

Health care reform legislation signed into law by President Obama has generated lots of questions from business owners about what the new law will mean to them. “Even those people most involved in the debate have questions about how the bill will affect their businesses,” said Drew Gruenburg, chief operating officer of the Society of American Florists (SAF). “They wonder if premiums will go up or down. Who’s covered and who’s not? When does it all take effect? How will this affect their employees…family…customers? There are just so many unknowns at this point as the final regulations are being written.” To answer some of these questions and help make sense of the law’s impact on employers, SAF details the provisions most likely to affect small businesses and when those changes will start to occur. Employer Requirements Effective: Jan. 1, 2014: In the strictest sense, the law does not force employers […]

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April 27, 2010

Pursuing An Energy-Efficiency Project?

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) unveiled its financial grant and loan guidelines earlier this week. The program is intended to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy development for rural small for-profit businesses and agricultural producers. REAP grants of up to 25 percent of the total eligible project costs are available this year, and REAP loan guarantees can help finance an additional 50 percent of eligible project costs. The maximum grant available is $500,000 for renewable energy projects and $250,000 for energy efficiency improvement projects. Projects requesting less than $20,000 will receive priority consideration this year. The deadline to apply for a REAP grant or loan this year is Wednesday, June 30 at 4:30 p.m. Applications must be in our office by that date and time to receive consideration. Applications received before June 30 may, however, be processed and funded on a competitive basis. Learn more about your’s operation’s […]

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April 21, 2010

South Carolina Rescinds Strict Nursery Regulations

The California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers (CANGC) and the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN) successfully resolved a federal lawsuit against South Carolina on Monday. The two associations filed a lawsuit March 10 challenging a regulation that disrupted shipments of plant material from California and Oregon growers. South Carolina chose to rescind the contested regulation rather than fight in court. Shipments of nursery products are expected to resume immediately. The suit stemmed from actions South Carolina took last year. In 2009, the South Carolina Assembly enacted a regulation that prevented California and Oregon growers from shipping plants that could be host to Phytophthora ramorum (Sudden Oak Death). The regulation required nurseries in California, Oregon and Washington to perform special inspections, provide extra documentation, and give advance notice for all shipments. Such requirements are illegal under the federal Plant Protection Act and unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. […]

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April 15, 2010

10 Retailer Likes And Dislikes

– It’s nice to be able to call someone’s cell phone,” says Stephen Barlow of Barlow’s Flowers in Sea Girt, N.J. Using Lloyd Traven of Peace Tree Farm as an example, “It can be 6 o’clock in the morning or 8 o’clock at night and he’ll pick up his phone.” – “Sounds funny, but we don’t have a huge place and smaller growers usually have smaller trucks – and I like that,” says Barlow. – For growers looking to earn Barlow’s or Seuberth’s business, wait until after the busy season. “They should know spring is not a good time,” says Amy Seuberth of The Farm at Green Village. Barlow says, “Stopping in on a busy, sunny day will leave a bad taste in my mouth. It shows they don’t understand my business and my situation.” – For those same growers, be sure to stop in with a sample. And remember […]

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April 15, 2010

Communicating With Retailers

From video updates, off-hours contact and exclusivity, today’s retailers are expecting to work with a more proactive grower in exchange for their loyalty. Virtually Improved It’s not unusual for growers of smaller operations to wear many hats. From marketing and customer service to deliveries and growing, today’s growers are faced with days that leave little time for a coffee break or even to catch one’s breath. Lloyd Traven of Peace Tree Farm knows he is a busy guy. And rather than have his busy schedule detract from the relationships he has with retail customers, Traven chose to be proactive and hire Stephanie Whitehouse, Peace Tree Farm’s new sales and marketing manager. “I’m pretty much the go-to contact now for all our customers,” Whitehouse says. “This has helped free up time for Lloyd so he can focus on his creativity and look for new and interesting plants. I’m constantly on e-mail […]

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April 5, 2010

San Diego Event Focuses On Strategies

The HortSmart Trade Fair, held June 2-3 at the South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, is a new educational summit and product showcase geared for horticultural business owners. The educational program features nationally acclaimed speakers, industry professionals and educators. Among them are Greenhouse Grower’s Delilah Onofrey, national marketing consultant Gary Hudson, Armstrong Garden Center’s Gary Jones and Takao Nursery’s Lisa Takao. For more information about the event, visit FlowerAndPlant.org/HortSmart.

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March 30, 2010

Walmart’s Supplier Sustainability Assessment

Walmart plans to develop a Sustainability Index that measures the sustainability of every product it sells. One of the first steps Walmart took toward in the index was aking all vendors 15 questions about their sustainability. The questions, divided into four categories, are as follows: Energy & Climate: Reducing Energy Costs and Greenhouse Gas Emissions 1. Have you measured your corporate greenhouse gas emissions? 2. Have you opted to report your greenhouse gas emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)?  3. What is your total annual greenhouse gas emissions reported in the most recent year measured? 4. Have you set publicly available greenhouse gas reduction targets? If yes, what are those targets? Material Efficiency: Reducing Waste & Enhancing Quality 5. If measured, please report the total amount of solid waste generated from the facilities that produce your product(s) for Walmart for the most recent year measured. 6. Have you set publicly available solid waste […]

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March 29, 2010

The Perennial Farm: Walking In Their Shoes

Realizing quality plants are only the entry point, The Perennial Farm in Glen Arm, Md., delights in raising the bar by out-servicing and out-marketing the competition. In fact, owner Rick Watson takes pride in being what he calls the price-value leader and explains what that means. “We’re not always the cheapest in town but we are the price-value leader,” he says. “For what you pay and what you get, we consider ourselves the best. Selling plants cheaply is easy. Getting value for your product takes talent. Value is not always the cheapest price.” Watson knows his customers’ needs, because he used to be on the receiving end buying plants from growers. He grew up in his family’s retail business, Watson’s Garden Center, still located in Towson, Md. After graduating from the University of Maryland with a horticulture degree and focus on garden center management, he and a partner started Exterior […]

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