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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August 25, 2008

Winter Tire Tips

With temperatures continuing to dip and clouds beginning to form, it won’t be long till Old Man Winter’s wrath of rain, sleet and snow begins to pelt roadways. Combine nature’s moisture with cold temperatures and you have many factors to consider in preparing for winter driving. Below are tips from Tim Miller, Goodyear’s commercial tire marketing communications manager, on how to prepare for winter driving. Choose the Right Tread Having an “aggressive” drive-axle tread pattern is very important for single drive-axle tractors and straight trucks. A pattern with lots of lugs will dig into snow and provide better traction. If you run a tandem-axle rig, you’re doubling the drive and traction and, depending upon the severity of weather, can get enough grip with traditional over-the-road drive tires that are designed for good traction and long miles to removal. The key thing for traction is having lots of gripping edges for […]

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August 25, 2008

Ones To Watch: Alex Fell

As part of Greenhouse Grower’s 25th anniversary celebration, we are profiling industry people we expect to shape the industry for the better over the next 25 years. Now in its ninth week online, our Ones To Watch series continues with Alex Fell of Kraft Gardens. Age–35 His Job–Alex is sales manager at Kraft Gardens, his uncle’s greenhouse operation in Florida. He graduated from Florida State in 1996 and held a sales management position outside the industry before joining the family business in 1999. Satisfaction - Rolling out new products with success is gratifying to Alex, especially because the indoor foliage segment of the industry doesn’t enjoy as many new introductions as the color or outdoor landscape segments do. Staying Up To Speed–In the last few years, the development of Lean Flow manufacturing processes has improved productivity in all areas of operations. Optimizing efficiency in plant movement and production has also […]

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August 25, 2008

Wal-Mart Sticks With Politics

Wal-Mart is preparing to launch a series of TV ads during the Democratic and Republication National Conventions that will highlight how consumers worried about the economy can save money by shopping at its stores. Reuters reports ads will run on cable news networks like CNN and MSNBC through September 7. The conventions are ideal for Wal-Mart ads, a company spokesperson says, because more than half of all Americans surveyed by Voter/Consumer Research of Washington, DC said they are more likely to shop at Wal-Mart now compared to six months ago.  “Americans are facing unprecedented financial challenges and we see them in our stores every day–working men and women living paycheck to paycheck and faced with difficult decisions,” says Eduardo Castro-Wright, a Wal-Mart CEO. “This new advertising campaign reinforces that we will continue to be there for them.” To read the full Reuters story, click here.

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August 25, 2008

USDA Objects To Sustainability Standards Movement

The wheels are in motion toward the establishment of a national standard for sustainable agriculture, but USDA recently spoke out against the potential impact of the proposed standard and the process that will create it in a letter to Leonardo Academy President Michael Arny. OFA revealed the letter in a recent e-bulletin. USDA Deputy Secretary Charles F. Conner wrote the letter to Arny, arguing inconsistencies exist between the proposed draft standard and United States domestic and international policies. “The wording of the law indicates a broad definition of sustainable agriculture, recognizing sustainability can be achieved by employing various methodologies and practices,” Connor wrote. “The definition is intentionally broad and does not exclude particular practices or technology that may contribute to achieving that sustainability. “We believe that standards developed for U.S. agriculture, whether public or private, need to be consistent with U.S. laws and policies.” Connor also wrote USDA has always […]

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