June 23, 2009

Slideshow: A New Look For Greenhouse Grower

Click through the pages below for a sneak preview of our updated design and some of the new features you’ll find starting in the July issue of Greenhouse Grower magazine.

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June 23, 2009

Walmart TV Ad Causing Stir

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus and H-E-B Grocery Co. are challenging Walmart ads. The Walmart ads in question tell consumers if they spend $100 a week on groceries at a supermarket, they could save on average over $700 a year buying groceries at Walmart. H-E-B is also challenging the Walmart notion of “unbeatable prices,” which the grocery chains says is interpreted by consumers as a lowest-price guarantee. After H-E-B made its claims against Walmart, NAD conducted a study of Walmart’s ads and concluded the following: Walmart could indeed support its “unbeatable prices” advertising claims, but it should clarify its price-matching disclosures in ads where it uses the “unbeatable” claim. NAD also says Walmart should discontinue its $700 grocery savings claim because there’s no evidence supporting the claim. The landscape of grocers varies throughout the United States, NAD says, so there’s no way Walmart […]

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June 18, 2009

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Have you ever had the feeling you were sitting on a gold mine but no one wanted gold? Or that you had a $1 million home but no one could afford to buy it from you? Or that you owned a business but no one wanted to invest in it? Or that you stockpiled fuel at $4.00 a gallon and now it could be purchased for $2.50? If only we knew what was going to happen next year, our decisions would be simple, and we would always choose the right course of action. We must realize everything changes, and we must be prepared for change. Today, you can get a rate of 5-5.25 percent on a home mortgage. When I got my first home loan 40 years ago, the rate was 6.75 percent. However, there were times over the years when you couldn’t get a mortgage loan for less than […]

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June 18, 2009

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Even though the first estimate of the year’s first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) shows overall economic growth contracting 6.1 percent, the latest BEA report contained good news for economic prospects later this year. Businesses dumped $104 billion in inventories, compared to reductions of less than $30 billion in each of the previous two quarters. That means companies will need to stop laying off workers and start producing goods again in order to meet even a modest uptick in demand. Most economists expect gross domestic product to contract 1.4 percent at a seasonally adjusted annualized pace in the second quarter of 2009, compared with the 6.1 percent drop recorded in the first quarter. Slow, but positive, growth is expected to return by the third quarter, with the economy expanding more than 2 percent in the first half of 2010. One bright spot in today’s economy is consumers seem to be spending […]

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June 17, 2009

Putting People First

As Roy den Hollander describes how Garden State Growers has automated itself in recent years, you can hear a strong sense of compassion for his employees in his voice. At a time when minimum wages, health care and workers’ compensation costs are on most people’s minds, den Hollander is talking about adding conveyors as a means of rewarding his hardest-working employees. Equipment and automation are obviously a great way to shrink your labor force and reduce costs. Garden State, located in Pittstown, N.J., has been able to do both. But as den Hollander ponders automation’s value, he also considers the operation’s automation investment an investment in the loyalest people serving it. Before outdoor conveyors were added at Garden State, den Hollander describes employees lugging 2-gallon perennial containers two at a time into a field hundreds of feet away from the greenhouse. Imagine having to do that task a few hundred […]

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May 27, 2009

Secretary, Not Secretary Of State

Our friends Bill and Tammy Kemper were sharing dinner with us in one of the many fine restaurants in beautiful downtown Athens, and Bill was mentioning how things were going at work. He manages to juggle the requirements of maintaining a large medical center, from procurement to installation of new computer systems, while working with the entire staff.   On perhaps our third glass of wine, Bill talked about the frustrations of trying to interact with the dozens of doctors and staff, each of whom had an opinion and to whom he had to listen. Bill is a take-charge kind of fellow, but when all was said and done, he laughingly said, “I thought I was the Secretary of State but I was really only the secretary.”   That’s a statement we all should laugh about, and one that should remind us to never take our chieftain roles too seriously. I […]

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May 27, 2009

To Lease Or Buy

Truck and engine manufacturers have introduced numerous innovations in new truck models responding to ever-changing environmental regulations and the need to reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. With the price of diesel fuel at record levels, they’re working to provide new technologies that maximize driver productivity and fuel economy.   Olen Hunter, director of sales for PACCAR Leasing (PacLease), says the complexities of choosing and servicing these new truck technologies and balancing them with the company’s transportation needs can be challenging.    “Truck leasing can be a crucial strategy in accomplishing your company’s transportation needs, particularly if you want to take advantage of emerging technology, which is rapidly advancing in trucks in shorter and shorter cycles,” he says.     But before making the decision about whether to lease or buy a new piece of equipment, Hunter says there are five questions you should ask yourself. We […]

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May 27, 2009

Be Prepared For Change

As I’ve told you before, I’m a Danish storyteller. Here is a story about my father:  My father was born in Sweden in 1900. He moved with his family to Bornholm, Denmark in 1908 because his father was a stonemason, and there was a quarry on that island.   In 1916, he immigrated to the United States and lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. with relatives. He worked on machines that made cigars. He became an engineer and took care of the machines in several production facilities.   Things went well, and he was able to marry and have two children before the stock market crash hit in 1929. My parents had a third child in 1931, and then the family had to deal with the Great Depression. There were tough times, but he and my mother held our family together.   I was born in 1941, just before the bombing of […]

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May 27, 2009

Passion: The Main Ingredient

Real-world triumphs and success stories are always the most inspiring. I read a great one in the March issue of US Airways Magazine. It was an excerpt from “Rubies In The Orchard,” a marketing strategy book written by Lynda Resnick, the “PomQueen” who defied conventional wisdom when she created a market for POM Wonderful pomegranate juice. She and her husband, Stewart, own Paramount Farms and Paramount Citrus and are the largest farmers of tree crops in the United States, with the nation’s largest orchards and processing plants for citrus, almonds and pistachios. They also have a link to our industry as owners of Teleflora, the world’s largest floral service company. After purchasing Teleflora in 1979, it was Lynda’s vision in 1980 to pair fresh cut floral arrangements with keepsake containers as “Flowers in a Gift.”  This woman has had a fascinating 40-year career in marketing running her own full-service advertising […]

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May 27, 2009

USDA Energy Grant Deadline Approaching

Growers interested in applying for a USDA energy grant this year must have their applications to the appropriate USDA Rural Development State Office by July 31. Growers are urged to submit their energy project’s application at the earliest opportunity because eligible high-scoring projects may qualify to be funded before July 31. Priority consideration is being given to projects requesting less than $20,000. The maximum USDA grant amounts are the same as previous years: $250,000 for energy-efficiency improvement projects and $500,000 for renewable energy projects. Grant requests cannot exceed 25 percent of the project’s eligible costs. The limit for loan guarantees has been raised to $25 million. Loan requests of $600,000 or less are eligible to receive a loan guarantee of up to 85 percent. The Federal Register announcement is available here.

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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. Communication is something Traven does well, and it definitely carries over to his retail customers – New Jersey’s Amy Seuberth from The Farm at Green Village and Stephen Barlow of Barlow’s Flowers can testify to that. And when it comes to contacting each other, all three agree that a good deal of expectation gets involved. Managing Expectations “After chasing a retailer for five weeks with phone calls, eMails, messages left with their secretary…enough already,” Traven recounts a recent experience with one of his buyers. “All I want to hear is ‘yes’ […]

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