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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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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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

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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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 9, 2008

Thrive In Any Economy

OFA, along with other green industry partners, are sponsoring a one-hour long webinar Thursday, Dec. 18 at 1 p.m. EDT to help you succeed despite the current state of the economy. Registration is free. The webinar’s speakers are Jim Paluch, Mark Hjelle, Blake Smith, Jim McCutcheon, Stephen Hillenmeyer and Paul Olsen. They’ll address strategies to retain the best employees, develop the next leaders and build a foundation for a great business while strategically planning and looking toward the future. Register online to reserve your spot.

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December 3, 2008

Oregon, Washington Nursery Associations Considering Merger

Representatives from the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN) and the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association (WSNLA) are having more serious discussions about a possible merger of the two associations. The two groups had discussed the idea casually for eight or nine months. A merger makes sense for the two organizations because they share similar climates, geography and population profiles. Retailers, growers and landscapers in the states face some of the same marketing challenges, and they contend with many of the same legislative and regulatory issues. If a merger does happen, an Oregon-Washington combination could result in more than 1,800 individual members. Oregonians could draw on Washington’s strength in the retail sector, and Washingtonians could benefit from Oregon’s strength in wholesale. “A merged association would provide Oregon’s retailers and landscapers a larger community of interest with Washington retailers and landscapers,” says OAN President Tom McNabb. Tom Quigley, president of WSNLA, […]

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November 24, 2008

Walmart Making Wind Energy A Priority

Walmart executives have made it known they’re serious about the company operating completely by renewable energy. Last week, it took another step toward achieving that long-term goal with its commitment to purchasing and using wind power that will supply up to 15 percent of Walmart’s total energy load in about 360 Texas stores. The purchase means Walmart will avoid producing more than 139,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year–the equivalent of taking 25,000 cars off the road. “Walmart’s action shows that low-carbon technology is increasingly competitive and long-term sustainability is a winning business strategy,” says Andrew Aulisi, director of the markets and enterprise program at the World Resources Institute. “Walmart’s smart and innovative approach should be used more widely.” The commitment to wind energy adds to Walmart’s sustainability portfolio. Last year, Walmart announced several locations in Hawaii and California would be equipped with solar panels that help reduce […]

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November 12, 2008

Van Wingerden On Schedule Despite Summer Fire

Van Wingerden International in Mills River, N.C., held its annual poinsettia open house last weekend despite an accidental greenhouse fire Aug. 10 that had the potential to slow business dramatically. Authorities initially believed the fire was not naturally occurring and later ruled it an accident. However it occurred, Van Wingerden has managed to remain on schedule as the holiday season approaches. The operation managed to obtain replacement plants for all poinsettias that burned, owner Bert Lemkes told The Times-News. Van Wingerden currently has 380,000 6-inch poinsettias. “They never found accelerant,” Lemkes says. The fire burned the last section of one of Van Wingerden’s greenhouses and the loss totaled $2.5 million, including structure damage and the cost of the poinsettias. To read the full Times-News story, click here.

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November 12, 2008

Wal-Mart Envisions Going Green Globally

Wal-Mart is likely to be one of the last retailers that comes to mind when you think green, but the retail giant is now demanding its suppliers live up to environmentally friendly practices and product-safety guidelines to make that vision come true. To that end, The New York Times reports Wal-Mart recently brought together more than 1,000 of its leading suppliers in Beijing to tell them that big changes were in store. All of the suppliers in Wal-Mart’s universe are soon going to be held to higher manufacturing and operations standards to “build a more environmentally and socially responsible global supply chain” at Wal-Mart. “A company that cheats on overtime and on the age of its labor, that dumps its scraps and chemicals in our rivers, that does not pay its taxes or honor its contracts, will ultimately cheat on the quality of its products. And cheating on the quality […]

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November 11, 2008

Driving Home A Point by Tim Higham

Transportation and logistics are going to get worse–a lot worse. I don’t want to paint a bleak picture, but the outlook for traditional transportation and distribution will make grown men and women cry. Why? Two major reasons: First, trucks run on oil, and oil prices are going to rise for decades to come. That’s right–decades, given the growing demand for oil from China, India, South America, Central America, Europe–everywhere. This is a fact. It won’t change no matter how much we want it to. Second is the aging population in the United States. This quantifiable fact means fewer truck drivers–a lot less. So, that was the bad news. At least we got it out of the way. Now to the good news. These challenges create opportunity as we all look for different (and better) ways to accomplish things. For example, technology that can help you manage your distribution efforts can […]

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