May 8, 2009

Greenhouse Fire Costly For Allegheny County

A fire at Allegheny County’s (Pa.) main greenhouse late last week destroyed flowers destined for Greater Pittsburgh, county parks and area airports. It also resulted in a total estimated loss of $250,000 between the structure and plants. The replacement value of the flowers destroyed is estimated between $20,000 and $30,000, and it is likely there will be far fewer flowers decorating county parks and facilities around Allegheny County this summer. “You never want to see a greenhouse burn down, but this is the worst time,” says Andrew Baechle, Allegheny County Parks director. “This is when the absolute most damage could be done. It’s a real shame.” The county county fire marshal’s office has not determined an exact cause of the fire but investigators do not believe it was arson. For more information on the fire, read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story.

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April 29, 2009

Online Only: Two Way Street

One thing most people know about Lloyd Traven of Peace Tree Farm is that he doesn’t have a problem speaking his mind. His weekly “Rants,” sent out by eMail, touch on just about anything that he finds worthy of his two cents. They are generally well-received (sometimes not) and often conjure up discussions and feedback from those who read it. Lloyd Traven has a good grasp on what customers expect of him. But what about retailers? They aren’t off the hook. Here are a few things he expects back: 1. “Get back to me when you say you’ll get back to me.” 2. “Look at your vendor as somebody that’s very interested in your success. I cannot do anything but fail as long as they look at me as an adversary. We’re not trying to steal their money. We’re trying to make money for them.” 3. “I expect loyalty. When […]

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April 27, 2009

USDA Releases Floriculture Crops Summary

According to the Floriculture Crops 2008 Summary presented by the USDA and National Agricultural Statistics Services, the 2008 wholesale value of floriculture crops is down 2 percent from the revised 2007 valuation. The total crop value at wholesale for the 15-state program for all growers with $10,000 or more in sales is estimated at $4.22 billion for 2008, compared with $4.32 billion for 2007. California continues to be the leading state with crops valued at $1.02 billion, but it is down 2 percent from the 2007 value. Florida, the next largest producer, is down 5 percent from the previous year to $922 million in wholesale value. California and Florida account for 46 percent of the 15-state total value. For 2008, the top 5 states are California, Florida, Michigan, Texas and North Carolina, which account for $2.8 billion, or 66 percent, of the 15-state total value. The number of floriculture producers […]

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April 27, 2009

ANLA Testifies On Federal Crop Insurance

Steve Bennett of Riverbend Nurseries in Tennessee represented the American Nursery and Landscape Association at a House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management hearing, offering his concerns about the effectiveness and operational efficiency of the federal crop insurance program. Bennett told the committee about the challenges he and other nurseries faced following an Easter weekend freeze in 2007. He noted the importance of federal crop insurance yet explained that more could be done to support growers. “At present, the federal crop insurance program falls short of adequately addressing the extreme diversity and unique situations presented by a free-market segment of agriculture that grows thousands of varieties–in every state,” Bennett says. “Despite these challenges, federal crop insurance programs remain a valuable component of the nursery industry’s risk management practices.” In addition, Bennett complimented the committee on its past successes involving the program, including: – Using a grower’s wholesale price […]

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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: 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 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 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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