October 6, 2008

Ones To Watch: Stephen Barlow

As part of Greenhouse Grower’s 25th anniversary, we are profiling people we expect to shape the industry for the better over the next 25 years. Now in its 15th week online, our Ones To Watch series continues with Stephen Barlow of Barlow Flower Farm, who was featured in our September issue. Age–30 His Job–Stephen is part of the second generation at grower-retailer Barlow Flower Farm in Sea Girt, N.J. He is currently general manager at Barlow’s, which encompasses 6 acres, after graduating with a bachelor’s in horticulture from Michigan State University and a master’s from Monmouth University. Think Big–Stephen envisions the development of a growing location where Barlow Flower Farm can become more self-sustained, and he would like to help expand the retail portion of the business. “We are on the brink of some really exciting programs and opportunities, including display gardens, children gardens and other programs,” he says. Quotable–”It […]

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September 30, 2008

Wal-Mart Simmering Out Plastic Bag Use

Wal-Mart plans to cut its worldwide plastic shopping bag waste by an average of 33 percent per store by 2013, an effort the world’s biggest retailer said could eliminate more than 135 million pounds of plastic waste. To meet that goal, Wal-Mart will give out fewer bags and encourage shoppers to use reusable ones. The announcement, published in a Reuters story, is part of Wal-Mart’s goal of one day creating zero waste. It also comes amid a global push to curb the use of plastic bags, which environmentalists say can take up to 1,000 years to disintegrate and pose threats to marine life, birds and other animals. Earlier this year, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to outlaw non-biodegradable plastic bags from large supermarkets, and the state of California has enacted a law that requires large stores to take back plastic bags and encourage their reuse. Wal-Mart said its […]

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September 29, 2008

Hortica Names New Board Chair

Hortica Insurance & Employee Benefits recently announced former chairman of the board Jim Leider will reassume his role of chairman until the company’s February 2009 policyholders meeting. Leider replaces Todd Bachman, who was tragically killed at the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer. Leider served as chairman of the board from October 1997 to February 2008. He is also chairman & CEO of Leider Horticultural Companies based in the Chicago area. His company operates a commercial greenhouse operation and seasonal retail garden centers in Buffalo Grove, Ill., a nursery and farm in Knox County, Ill., and a foliage plant nursery in Boynton Beach, Fla. In addition to serving Hortica, Leider has also served as past chairman for the Society of American Florists (SAF) and the American Floral Endowment (AFE). For more information on Hortica, click here. 

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September 22, 2008

Control Your Energy Costs: Dont Fear The Meter

With the financial scars from last winter’s record-breaking natural gas price peaks still fresh in mind, many growers are looking to get smarter about buying fuel instead of getting burned again this winter. But how to do this? Trading gas futures is a difficult enterprise, like picking a winner in stocks but without some of the clues (such as earnings, history, management etc.) that allow stock market investors to calculate a company’s true  investment potential. Even the big energy traders, staffed with meteorologists and political scientists, really know no more than the little guy. It makes for a playing field full of potential dangers. Logic-Free Zone “I could show you the NYMEX (New York Mercantile Exchange) numbers for the last 15 years, and I defy you to make any sort of sense out of them,” says Bob Bordone, a 32-year veteran of the natural gas industry. Bordone has spent the […]

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September 22, 2008

Strength In Numbers

Contracts can have many negative connotations, whether talking about negotiations, fees or lawsuits. Greenhouse growers across the country are making contract growing into a positive, working cooperatively to deliver products to satisfy demand. In our Under Contract series, we’ll investigate how growers are making contract growing work. Large greenhouses hire contracts to fill orders of products that they can’t quite reach  and small greenhouses supply to large operations to get a piece of the mass merchandiser pie. Has contract growing reached your operation? We’ll supply you with insights into how other growers are doing it. If you’re not on the contract scene yet, take a peek. Maybe you’ll read something that could work for you. Group Cooperation The Kalamazoo Valley Plant Grower’s (KVPG) Cooperative has been in operation for 38 years, beginning as a way for growers to standardize packaging, labeling and pricing of products. Today, it unites owners of greenhouse […]

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September 22, 2008

Home Depot Cutting Prices To Win Back Customers

As the world continues to raise prices, Home Depot plans to lower them. The hardware chain plans to cut prices on an assortment of items this week–possibly as many as 1,200–to boost anemic sales and win back customers who’ve ditched it for Lowe’s and Wal-Mart. Prices will be cut between 5 and 50 percent and last through the next quarter at the very least, the Associated Press reports. Although Home Depot did not not say what the average reduction will be or indicate which items in its garden centers will specifically be lowered, a spokesperson says one of every 25 items found on store shelves will be discounted. “We’re trying to gain market share in the process,” says Craig Menear, Home Depot’s executive vice president of merchandising. “Absolutely, we’re trying to drive sales and productivity. During the second quarter this year, Home Depot’s same-store sales fell 7.9 percent. One analyst, […]

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September 22, 2008

Managing Your Bottom Line

It’s no secret profit margins have eroded to levels that threaten the future of many greenhouse operations. Costs continue to rise, prices continue to stagnate and growers struggle to maintain a sustainable level of profitability. So OFA, in cooperation with the Michigan Greenhouse Growers Expo, will be offering strategies for managing your bottom line profitably at the growers expo in Lansing this November. Bridget Behe, a professor in the department of horticulture at Michigan State University (MSU), and Peter Konjoian, president of Konjoian’s Floriculture Education Services (KFES), will discuss key topics of financial concern at a 3 ½-hour workshop November 11 from 1:30-5 p.m. Behe and Konjoian will discuss cost accounting, revenue analysis and calculation and evaluation profit. A discussion of marketing and economic factors governing current industry behavior will also be presented. Cost of the workshop is $75, and the registration deadline is October. Click here for more information.

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September 22, 2008

60 & Savvy

Most 60-year-olds you’ll meet may not be hip to the trends of the day, nor will they necessarily be the most innovative-minded. But that isn’t the case for the now 60-year-old Walters Gardens, in Zeeland, Mich. One of the country’s largest perennial producers, Walters Gardens has a talent for reinventing itself to keep business booming and maintain its leadership position. Founded in 1946, the business started as a small flower farm owned by Dena and John Knoll, which served as a contract grower for a larger producer. After John passed away unexpectedly, Dena Knoll hired a young man, named Dennis Walters, whose four brothers also joined the company. When Knoll retired, Dennis Walters took over the business. He eventually married Knoll’s only daughter Harriet, and the couple’s five children have been involved in the business. Today, Walters Gardens remains a family business that sits on 2,100 acres of land and employs […]

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September 18, 2008

Reading Chapter 11

The rest of this year, we will be watching to see how Hines Horticulture emerges from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company could be up for auction as soon as November, and the repercussions could be huge. Hines owes millions to prominent industry suppliers, who if unable to collect, could be put in a very precarious position. These suppliers will have no choice but to pass their recovery costs onto other growers. When the news broke, we received an overwhelming response from readers on www.greenhousegrower.com, laying blame to the box stores for putting our entire supply chain at risk, as well as lenders and brokers who offer extended terms that allow highly leveraged giants to operate and compete against growers who pay their bills and don’t take on a lot of debt. The rest of the industry ends up subsidizing companies like Hines, they say. Based in Irvine, Calif., Hines […]

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September 17, 2008

Hard Times Will Go, Strong Growers Won’t

Twenty-five years ago I wrote an article trying to predict what would happen in the next 25 years. To my amazement, all that I predicted came true. It is a fairly simple process to predict. If you believe, what your mind can conceive will be achieved! Let’s take a brief look back to 1983 and see what the major concerns of our industry were. The ‘Greening’ Of America The use of the words “greening” of America or “greening” of China and other countries was a major topic of interest to our industry 25 years ago. It was used in a positive manner to show the great contributions our industry made to the environment and mankind. When Dr. Sylvan Wittwer addressed the Bedding Plants Inc. conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., in October 1983, he stated: “Home and landscape beautification has taken hold not only in the United States during the past […]

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September 11, 2008

Raising Young Plants

For many years, this Mid-September Young Plants Issue has been my baby. If an editor isn’t careful, the content of a bonus issue can be more of an afterthought, but this is an issue I look forward to publishing all year. It’s an opportunity to really focus and capture what is going on with our supply chain for live inputs–our pipeline to profits. I can still recall the first time I heard the term, “young plant grower.” It was during an interview with Tom Smith of Four Star Greenhouse about 14 years ago. He said, “As a young plant grower … ” and I wondered what he had meant. Sure, he was younger than a lot of the grower owner-entrepreneurs at the time. Then I found out that’s what they called plug and liner growers in Europe. This issue started out as a Plug Guide. We presented the latest university […]

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