April 24, 2009

Don’t Forget The People Who Made It Happen

My wife Barbara and I recently attended the funeral for my former secretary’s husband, Jim Allen. Sandy worked with me for more than 25 years. She was one of the most important assets I had during my time at Michigan State University (MSU). Barbara and Sandy managed the two businesses I had. They organized conferences for 2,000 people and followed through on the details of the many trips I took to speak all over the country and the world. It didn’t take me long to realize my most valuable asset was not money but the people I had who worked with me. During my tenure at MSU, I had 10 individuals who I held responsible for all the different areas I had to cover. The areas included teaching, research, Extension, the Horticultural Demonstration Gardens, all of the teaching and research greenhouses at MSU, Bedding Plants, Inc. (BPI), the Bedding Plant […]

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April 21, 2009

Eagle Creek Growers Continues Green Effort With Turbine

Eagle Creek Growers in Bainbridge, Ohio, has installed a 50 kilowatt wind turbine to reduce its annual energy consumption by an estimated 30 to 40 percent. The turbine is being funded by alternative energy grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Ohio Department of Development. It was installed by Genesis Energy Systems, and Eagle Creek plans to apply for a second series of grants to install a second turbine to generate an estimated 80 percent of its energy on site and off the public power grid. “We were chosen by both the USDA and the Ohio Department of Development to lead the charge in alternative energy installation and maintenance, and we are honored to do so,” says John Bonner, general manager of Eagle Creek Growers’ Wholesale Division. “Eagle Creek is committed to going green, and it is our goal to become 100 percent self-sustainable. Our energy conservation […]

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April 16, 2009

Walmart CEO See Lots of Consumer ‘Stress’

Walmart CEO Mike Duke said consumers are still under “a lot of stress” in an interview aired Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” program. “We all want to be hopeful,” he said. “We’re all looking for a better day when we start to come out of this.” Duke, however, does not expect the economy to bounce back quickly. He also noted that, as a percentage of sales, more customers are using cash. “What we see is, at the end of the month that’s just before traditional paydays, the customer is in that situation where they’ve only got a few dollars to spend,” he said.

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March 27, 2009

Online Only: Alternatives To Dumping Plants

Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Don’t grit your teeth just yet. It’s certainly not the most pleasant thought if you’re a wholesale grower or a grower/retailer, but there’s no avoiding the fact something needs to be done with your excess plants once they’ve passed the sellable point.   Most times, the unsaleable are likely pitched into a dumpster, stacked onto a compost mountain or tossed into a plant pit somewhere outside your greenhouse. A plant’s life doesn’t have to end because it’s less than perfect, though. Sure, the plant lost its potential to make you a profit, but it still has value in somebody’s garden as a local donation or giveaway – and your good will could indirectly lead to profits later on. Even if profits won’t be had, your donation is a great promotion of all your products and our entire industry. Just think of all the people […]

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March 27, 2009

Online Only: Labor Strategies In Uncertain Times

Growers know that in good times and bad, they only get one payday per year. Making it count means having the right number of workers, on time, for seasonal labor. If you miss your window and your paycheck once harvest season is finished, it’s over until next year. In the current economic climate, growers really have only three options (and only two are legal) when it comes to hiring temporary help: Getting Started With H-2A MasLabor works with state and federal agencies, and dependable labor recruiters in multiple countries to meet all requirements of the H-2A program so employers can rest easier. Employers must meet these requirements in order to file for an H-2A visa: • The job offer must be for an agricultural position in which the employer anticipates a shortage of domestic workers.• The work must be seasonal based on a ‘regularly occurring, annual event.” • There must […]

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March 27, 2009

Online Only: Spreading The Word

Once when I was at a client site, an employee of that client company stopped me and said that the most astonishing thing had just happened. She had been having trouble with a piece of equipment and there was no one around who was familiar with it, so she was forced to read the users’ manual. Amazingly, the manual held the answers to her questions, and she was able to fix the problem. Often, this is how documentation is viewed – as a last resort, if it’s any resort at all. In highly regulated industries, such as organic growing, documentation is required by various regulatory or certifying bodies. But if documents are developed only to fulfill obligations, then they’re not truly serving their purpose and tremendous opportunities are being lost. Documents should not be trotted out for inspection when the auditors come by, then hidden in a computer or desk […]

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March 23, 2009

USDA Preparing To Eradicate Apple Moth

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is preparing to breed millions of sterile male light brown apple moths in Moss Landing, Calif., in hopes of disrupting reproduction of the Australian pest. According to the Mercury News, USDA is preparing to breed enough sterile moths to release over a 500-square-mile radius. The technique has never been used to eradicate a pest with as many hosts as the light brown apple moth, says James Carey, a UC Davis entomology professor. He argues the spray should be stopped. “They can’t eradicate these things,” Carey says, “but it lets (the state agriculture department) throw public money down a rat hole.” The idea behind the USDA effort comes after yet another quarantine expansion. More than 2,400 square miles, including Santa Cruz County, now fall under quarantine, which prohibits the movement of nursery stock and cut flowers unless they are certified pest-free by an agricultural official. […]

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March 23, 2009

Abandonment Or Revolution?

For more than 10 years, our industry has heard that we must change. The word “change” is probably used most often related to production or marketing our product. The fact is that change is a continual process that happens whether we want it to or not. Many changes that occur are beyond our control. We must accept and adapt to them or reject them in order to do what is best for our businesses or ourselves. We must remember that not all changes are for the better, and, in fact, many may drastically damage or destroy our businesses or our lives. I’m a great fan of Tom Peters. I have most of his books, including “In Search of Excellence.” And I attended one of his seminars in Chicago in 1984. Another book he wrote was “Tom Peters’ Seminar: Crazy Times Call for Crazy Organizations.” Peters wrote, “We must move beyond […]

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March 20, 2009

Signs Of Vibrancy

Now, after months of seemingly nonstop bad news, there are hopeful economic signs on the horizon. Charlie Hall, chairholder of the Ellison Chair in International Floriculture at Texas A&M University, shared the signs sourced from IBD Editorial in his blog.  They include: - A broad rally in stocks, confirmed last Thursday, continuing into this week and led by the beaten-down financials. - A surprising 22 percent surge in February housing starts to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 units. - A back-to-back jump in retail sales ex autos, in both January and February. - A return to profitability at several major banks, including Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan. - A doubling in the obscure but important Baltic Dry Index, a key indicator of global trade flows. - An upwardly sloping yield curve, which Fed research suggests all but ensures a rebound by year-end. - A Housing Affordability Index that has hit […]

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March 17, 2009

Economic Stimulus: Help For Small Businesses

Charlie Hall, who holds the Ellison Chair in International Floriculture at Texas A&M University, recently shared his insight into what the economic stimulus means for the green industry. He pointed out the following major provisions of the stimulus package of interest to small businesses, according to the Small Business Legislative Council: –It allows small businesses to take upfront deductions of up to $250,000 of the cost of equipment–such as computers, vehicles, furniture and manufacturing machinery–instead of depreciating the investment over a number of years. The deduction was slated to end in 2008, but was extended through 2009. –It extends a bonus depreciation allowing small businesses to deduct half the cost of new qualifying capital equipment expenditures purchased in 2009, if the equipment is put into use by Jan. 1, 2010. –It temporarily broadens the “carry-back” period for 2008 net operating losses from two years to five. This allows small businesses […]

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March 17, 2009

Hold Prices Steady

Cutting prices to try and drive revenue probably isn’t the best solution for small businesses, according to a recent article on Entrepreneur.com. Contrary to popular belief, charging less rarely boosts sales. “If you’re selling a high-value product or service that your customers can’t easily source from another vendor, slashing prices will only slash your profits. And if you cut your prices too often, you’ll educate your customers to simply wait for the sales and never pay full retail,” the article says. “If you provide an exceptional product or service, people will buy from you–even in a tough economy,” says Laura Allen, co-founder of 15secondpitch.com, a website that helps people “pitch themselves” better. “You’d be better off increasing the value that your clients get for their money. It’s much easier to add a few useful extras than it is to get by on even smaller margins.” While price setting is never […]

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