July 2, 2008

Vandals Strike Nursery, Cause $1 Million In Damages

Clear Zone Nursery, a wholesale nursery located in Alexandria, La., suffered devastating and intentional destruction June 22. Vandals set fire to more than $250,000 worth of planting pots, and they bulldozed 10 greenhouses, several acres of container plants and, most importantly, irrigation pipes, well and pumps. Due to the damage sustained at the nursery, it is believed that Clear Zone was targeted and not a random act of vandalism. “The water system was strategically and specifically targeted and taken out, so whoever was involved knew just what they were doing,” says Jay Pearson, majority owner of Clear Zone. “They knew exactly where to find the wells and the pumps in the dark.” The total cost of damage to the nursery is still being assessed, but it is expected to reach more than $1 million. Nobody has been arrested just yet, and a motive behind the act is still unknown. Authorities […]

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June 25, 2008

Acres Of Imagination In Oregon

A hobbit house, a weird plants display and the “pot people” are among the recent additions to the Oregon Garden’s Children’s Garden, which offers its kid visitors plenty of opportunity to laugh, play and enjoy the nature around them. “Gardens aren’t just to look at,” says Jeff Pera, staff horticulturist at The Oregon Garden. “These days when I hear laughter and screaming coming from the Children’s Garden, I am assured the kids are playing on the new hobbit house.” The hobbit house, found at the center of the garden, sits atop a submerged tunnel with round door coverings, which allows children to peek in and scuttle through, if they choose. “We are also adorning the tunnel area with plants that are a bit odd in order to enhance the magic of the hobbit theme,” Pera says. The Oregon Garden began making additions to the children’s garden last fall, when it […]

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June 24, 2008

A Whole Lot Of Hot Air

“The cheapest thing to buy isn’t always the best thing to buy,” says Jim Kramer of Delta T Solutions, echoing one of the truest statements ever made. The bottom line always looms large in any investment decision, but what initially seems like the cheapest solution to your heating problem can actually be a deceptive mirage, with the true costs of your inefficient equipment lost in the heat shimmer coming off your pipes. With a background that encompasses more than 25 years in the greenhouse industry, first as a greenhouse facility manager at the University of Illinois and the last 6 years in the greenhouse heating side of the industry, now with Delta T Solutions, Kramer can see through the haze to the underlying structure of heating systems in the North American market, both as they currently stand and where he thinks they should be moving. “A lot of growers have been […]

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June 24, 2008

Business Among Friends

The seeds of contract growing at Timberline Nursery, Hillister, Texas, were planted long ago. General Manger Victor Vasquez helped his contract growers get their starts in the floriculture industry 15 years ago. When Vasquez joined Timberline, those growers decided they’d like to continue growing for him. Timberline, live goods supplier to Wal-Mart, The Home Depot and Kmart, saw the opportunity to supply niche products a volume grower can’t usually cover. "With seasonal sales, sometimes you don’t have enough product to keep your area full, so that’s how we decided to do contract growing, which we do only during the growing season, and that’s it," Vasquez explains. "We’re not obligated to maintain these places during the summer or fall." Mom and pop-type contract growers can raise crops that require more attention than a volume grower can give. The company now hires four contract growers, each located within three miles of the company’s […]

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June 23, 2008

The Soul Of Horticulture

Is horticulture dying? Is floriculture declining? Why can’t we have double-digit increases in sales? Recent articles have asked these questions about floriculture and indicated that because the industry has lost 2,000 growers and sales have not experienced double-digit increases, it is doomed! I have been reading articles about genetic engineering, talking about how they have mapped the human genome and that they may be able to clone humans. My two cents is that they may be able to clone a physical body or even a human mind, but they will never be able to clone a human soul. A colleague and friend of mine, Allen Hammer, who graduated from Cornell University and has been at Purdue University for over 30 years, captured the essence of soul in a recent article, "A Lesson from 1888." He indicated that we have to learn from the past and referred to a biography of […]

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June 23, 2008

Tales Of Two Growers

For this issue of Greenhouse Grower, I wrote stories on two companies with mindsets and philosophies that are quite different — but are somehow still similar. Our cover story subject, Blooming Nursery, in Cornelis, Ore., is a mid-size operation, dedicated to independent garden centers, that prides itself on never having sold to a big box store. Timberline Nursery, the grower featured in our Under Contract series this month, is a big supplier to Wal-Mart, The Home Depot and Kmart. Down in the heat of Texas, Timberline contracts 300,000 square feet of growing area. Blooming Nursery supplies liners to other growers. How are they alike? They’re not just surviving. They’re thriving. Victor Vasquez, general manager at Timberline tells me the company is planning to add 300,000 square feet of greenhouse area in the next year. Expansion is also in Blooming Nursery’s future. Owner Grace Dinsdale says her company needs a few more […]

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June 23, 2008

Uncertainty = Opportunities (And Threats)

Planning is an ongoing process and adjustments have to be made on a regular basis. Some businesses try to develop a 5-year plan. Others are so far-sighted that they have identified what they would like to achieve in 10 to 20 years. On the other hand, I know of businesses that do little or no planning and prefer to "fly by the seats of their pants." There is no doubt that with all the uncertainty today and the negative mood of many people, it is difficult to predict what conditions will be with us next spring. We see economic conditions that are very unstable, for example, huge government deficits, increasing inflation, rising interest rates, the war on terrorism, incompetence in big business and government, as well as unsound business practices throughout our society. This causes enough anxiety to keep everyone awake at night. While most of these factors are beyond […]

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June 23, 2008

Do I Use My Own Trucks Or A Common Carrier?

Many growers call me here at Interstate and tell me they have their own trucks and drivers and they only use common carriers for the “occasional load.” They justify this by telling me how common carriers are too expensive, so they bought their own trucks and trailers. My next question to them is always, “What is the cost of your freight as a percent of your shipped goods?” Surprisingly, few growers know or, even worse, they guess. If you are shipping on your own trucks, you need to know what the true cost is. What is interesting about our business is the seasonal component. Consider this: if you were shipping a consistent amount of freight over 12 months, you would be getting near 100 percent utilization of your equipment. That means your trucks and drivers would be used five days (or more) each week for 12 months of the year. However, […]

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June 23, 2008

Software Solutions

•  Direct-To-Store Advanced Grower Solutions: A browser-based software solution called Direct-to-Store (DTS) by Advanced Grower Solutions (AGS) is designed specifically for growers that sell directly to large national or regional retailers and controls all aspects of vendor-managed inventory. DTS takes the guesswork and time out of managing your supply chain by taking data used everyday in the back office and putting it where it’s needed most–in the hands of your sales team, store merchandisers and management. DTS does not replace your existing accounting or production system, but extracts and exposes critical data — putting information in the hands of decision makers. Growers track product in real-time as it leaves the dock, through delivery to the store. At the store, inventory deliveries are updated, waste is recorded and replenishment orders created. Visit RSXpress at www.greenhousegrower.com        •  NiceLabel Pro OnSyte Printing Systems, a division of Horticultural Marketing & Printing: […]

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June 23, 2008

Planning Made Easy

    Dan Foster, a grower and site manager for Proven Winners’ Four Star Greenhouse, was receiving request upon request from customers for help putting together their production programs. Foster was already planning Four Star’s production using Excel, and it eventually became too time consuming for him to cater to each of those grower’s needs. In search of a solution, he approached George Strimpel, director of marketing for Four Star Greenhouse. Strimpel came up with a plan. His knowledge of Excel allowed him to create a software program growers could use themselves to plan production. The user-friendly software, born out of Foster’s original method for planning Four Star’s production, is called PW Plan-It. It runs in Microsoft Excel and is free to anyone who grows PW product. Based on a customer’s needs, PW Plan-It calculates the number of trays necessary and automatically creates an order form based on those numbers.  How […]

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June 23, 2008

The Transportation Headache

Never in this industry has the pain of getting your product to the customer been so great and there seems to be little relief in sight. The transportation and distribution challenge has always been one forced upon growers — a necessary evil of sorts that was just part of the business process. The problem? Cost and capacity. The former is rising and the latter falling, making for an unsure future when planning any transportation budget. The issues stem from the underlying costs of running a truck or trucking company. If you run your own trucks, you know some of the numbers. If you use a common carrier, then you truly feel the numbers, especially in the spring shipping season when drivers and their brokers seem to be in control and you have to play by their rules. The obvious question to ask is, "Why has transportation become so costly and […]

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