February 19, 2009

Protect Crops By Updating Records, Hortica Says

Growers can learn from crop insurance incidents of 2008 by retaining required records to substantiate inventories, according to Hortica Insurance. The USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) says the best tool growers can use is the Crop Inventory Valuation Estimate Report, a software program commonly known as DataScape, to develop their Plant Inventory Value Reports. Hortica assisted many growers in 2008 by entering their inventory reports in the DataScape program, and will provide the same service in 2009. To take advantage of this assistance, customers should have their inventory reports to Hortica by April 1, 2009.

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February 18, 2009

Al’s Alternative To Dumping Plants

Whether you’re a grower, a retailer or some mesh of the two, there’s no avoiding the fact you need to do something with your excess plants once they’ve passed the sellable point. Dumping them probably seems like the most logical next step, but as Al’s Garden Center & Greenhouses demonstrates, there are alternatives to simply making your plants compost in any season. Every fall, Al’s Garden Center and Greenhouses grows about 50,000 poinsettias for the Christmas season. Last November, Al’s happened to grow a bumper crop of poinsettias because of fantastic fall weather in Oregon. Al’s could have attempted to sell the extra 1,000 or so poinsettias that grew, but having budgeted about 50,000 for retail in past years, there was no guarantee the extras would sell at its local garden centers. So, rather than push the extras at retail, Al’s decided to build some good will in the community […]

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February 17, 2009

Walmart Cutting Jobs At Headquarters

Apparently, all is not well at retail giant Walmart, which plans to eliminate 700 to 800 positions at company headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. The cuts won’t impact store operations like Walmart’s garden centers, the company says. The cuts are, however, the first sign of trouble for Walmart in a struggling economy. “As the new fiscal year begins, we find ourselves living in unprecedented times,” Walmart CEO Mike Duke wrote in a memo to employees. The particular positions being eliminated are in merchandising, real estate, marketing and support divisions in Walmart’s U.S. division and in Sam’s Club merchandising unit, according to the memo.

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February 10, 2009

Consumer Attitudes On Organic

The Garden Writers Association Foundation (GWAF) surveys people to get a feel for what the average person thinks about various subjects related to gardening. My son Will is the chairperson of the survey committee, and he discussed GWA Foundation’s 2008 fall survey of 1,000 people on consumer attitudes on organic. TechnoMetrica, a market intelligence group from Oradell, N.J., conducted the survey. Will and I usually get together once a week to discuss things related to horticultural business. He provided me a copy of the survey report, which is a well-done, professional account of the findings. He gave me a condensed version and then reviewed each area with me. I have been involved with the Garden Writers Association for more than 40 years, and I served as the director for the Great Lakes area for more than four years in the 1980s. I’m proud to see how the association has developed […]

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January 19, 2009

A Look At Live Goods Buying Habits

Some growers have been buying hard and live goods more conservatively this year as a result of 2008. What are the reasons? How will their buying habits affect the spring season? We recently caught up with Dave Watt of Express Seed Company, general manager for the live goods broker based in Oberlin, Ohio, who offered a few thoughts on recent buying trends he’s seen. Why are buying habits more conservative for live goods this year compared to past years? “Growers are viewing this year as a correction with their planning. I think we’ve had unusual circumstances in the way we’ve broadcasted concerns over the economy. The action being taken is just a maturing of many discussions that have been going on over the years–discussions about pay by scan, at-once ordering, cost-effective planning and maybe most importantly, the shrink factor. The reaction is all part of that, and it’s come a […]

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January 19, 2009

A Step Forward For The Supply Chain

The Integrated Horticultural Alliance, a group comprised of BFG Supply, BWI Companies and Griffin Greenhouse Supplies, has launched a two-year training program that will enhance the expertise of its representatives in selecting product, chemical application and best business practices. The program should help standardize practices for the supply chain. “The training we conducted at MANTS was a fabulous start to our program,” says Joe Farinacci, IHA managing director. “We will continue training prior to OFA Short Course and supplement it with webinars and testing.” When participants complete the program, they will be IHA certified as experts in the horticultural and ornamental industry. For more information on the education initiative, contact Farinacci at 440-498-8319 or jfarinacci@bfgsupply.com.

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January 16, 2009

Avoid Root Rot

One of my former students visited me over the Christmas holidays. He is now what I consider to be one of the best grower-managers of one of the premier greenhouse ranges in the United States. As old professors often do, I asked him questions just to stimulate his thoughts. I asked, “How do you avoid root rot?” We then had a half-hour discussion about all the symptoms, the chemical controls and the environmental conditions that could be used to control root rot problems in plants. It was a very good and valuable exchange of information during which I probably learned more about the recent advancements in this area of plant pathology than he did. I complimented him on his thorough knowledge of the subject. Then, just to keep him on his toes, I said, “You know a great deal about root rot in plants, but I was trying to determine […]

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January 16, 2009

When It Counts Most, Be Bullish

What’s the mood out there? It’s a question I’ve tried to incorporate into every dialogue I’ve had about our industry over the last few months. Recently, I posed a version of the question to a handful of hard and live goods brokers with hopes of drawing conclusions about the upcoming spring season and the state of our industry at the distribution level. Here’s what I concluded: - Growers are taking conservative approaches to buying because of carryover and credit concerns. - In some cases, growers are waiting until the very last minute to make purchases, which could put a rift in their production schedules. - Low-cost production and effective selling are, however, still the driving factors of profitability, and some growers are making buying decisions based on their view of 2009 as a course-correction year. At its core, our industry is no different than most others. Business management decisions are […]

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December 22, 2008

Opportunity In China

Over the past 30 years since the opening of markets in China, the flower industry has continued to develop. In recent years, the development has escalated to a point where almost every province is aggressively developing its flower industry niche. China’s 1.33 billion people want a better life, and some regions are closer to that dream than other areas. Each area wants to be recognized as the largest in the country. Some areas like Yunnan province are best known for their cut flowers, and Guangdong province is best known for its tropical foliage. Each geographical area seems to have its strong points. The rapid development of China’s economy is in the Yangtze River Delta consisting of Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang areas. The population was 16,740,000, 74,380,000 and 46,770,000 in Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang, respectively, for a total of 137.8 million people in the region as reported in 2006. The population […]

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December 16, 2008

Sifting Through Labor Issues

Mas Labor’s Libby Whitley As federal agencies, labor recruiters and employer agents gathered in Dallas at the end of October to discuss the H-2 visa programs, a renowned labor expert offered her thoughts on the demand for temporary non-immigrant labor and outlined the ways employers can hire reliable workers in a difficult economy. Libby Whitley, president of MasLabor, is actively involved in legislative and regulatory matters affecting both the H-2A agricultural and H-2B non-agricultural seasonal labor programs. She was the only employers’ agent invited by federal officials to speak at the second annual H-2 forum held Oct. 28-29, 2008. Most of Whitley’s career has been devoted to labor issues, from work in Congress and the White House, to handling legislative matters for the American Farm Bureau and running the national Council of Agricultural Employers. A no-nonsense businesswoman, Whitley sees overreaching government intrusion and confusing, often contradictory regulations, as the greatest […]

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December 16, 2008

An Icon Is Gone

Dr. Henry Marcellus Cathey died on Oct. 8, 2008 after 79 years here on earth. His life is a great contribution not only to ornamental horticulture but to our whole society. In the past few years, there have been many articles, notes and blogs describing his many accomplishments to our industry and the general public. But all the information written about Dr. Cathey is well known and shows the great depth of knowledge and skill he had in the fields of science, communications, consumers and people. So rather than repeat his accomplishments, I would like to share several stories that show how Dr. Cathey was an icon in our industry. Marc Cathey–The Mentor When I was working on my Ph.D. thesis on plant nutrition of ‘Better Times’ roses, my adviser, Dr. Ernest Bergman, and I decided to research the effects of 16 essential plant elements on the yield of this […]

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