March 27, 2009

Online Only: Labor Strategies In Uncertain Times

Growers know that in good times and bad, they only get one payday per year. Making it count means having the right number of workers, on time, for seasonal labor. If you miss your window and your paycheck once harvest season is finished, it’s over until next year. In the current economic climate, growers really have only three options (and only two are legal) when it comes to hiring temporary help: • Employ U.S. workers and then pray enough of them show up to complete the job. • Hire illegal aliens and hope Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) doesn’t stage a raid, which could effectively shut down the grower’s business, perhaps permanently, and at minimum trigger a ruined season. • Craft a winning solution and get a good night’s sleep: Work with an employer agent specializing in the H-2A program, the only legal avenue for employing temporary, non-immigrant laborers. Why […]

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March 27, 2009

Online Only: Alternatives To Dumping Plants

Normal0falsefalsefalseMicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Don’t grit your teeth just yet. It’s certainly not the most pleasant thought if you’re a wholesale grower or a grower/retailer, but there’s no avoiding the fact something needs to be done with your excess plants once they’ve passed the sellable point.   Most times, the unsaleable are likely pitched into a dumpster, stacked onto a compost mountain or tossed into a plant pit somewhere outside your greenhouse. A plant’s life doesn’t have to end because it’s less than perfect, though. Sure, the plant lost its potential to make you a profit, but it still has value in somebody’s garden as a local donation or giveaway – and your good will could indirectly lead to profits later on. Even if profits won’t be had, your donation is a great promotion of all your products and our entire industry. Just think of all the people who could view your plants […]

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March 23, 2009

USDA Preparing To Eradicate Apple Moth

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is preparing to breed millions of sterile male light brown apple moths in Moss Landing, Calif., in hopes of disrupting reproduction of the Australian pest. According to the Mercury News, USDA is preparing to breed enough sterile moths to release over a 500-square-mile radius. The technique has never been used to eradicate a pest with as many hosts as the light brown apple moth, says James Carey, a UC Davis entomology professor. He argues the spray should be stopped. “They can’t eradicate these things,” Carey says, “but it lets (the state agriculture department) throw public money down a rat hole.” The idea behind the USDA effort comes after yet another quarantine expansion. More than 2,400 square miles, including Santa Cruz County, now fall under quarantine, which prohibits the movement of nursery stock and cut flowers unless they are certified pest-free by an agricultural official. […]

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March 23, 2009

Abandonment Or Revolution?

For more than 10 years, our industry has heard that we must change. The word “change” is probably used most often related to production or marketing our product. The fact is that change is a continual process that happens whether we want it to or not. Many changes that occur are beyond our control. We must accept and adapt to them or reject them in order to do what is best for our businesses or ourselves. We must remember that not all changes are for the better, and, in fact, many may drastically damage or destroy our businesses or our lives. I’m a great fan of Tom Peters. I have most of his books, including “In Search of Excellence.” And I attended one of his seminars in Chicago in 1984. Another book he wrote was “Tom Peters’ Seminar: Crazy Times Call for Crazy Organizations.” Peters wrote, “We must move beyond […]

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March 20, 2009

Signs Of Vibrancy

Now, after months of seemingly nonstop bad news, there are hopeful economic signs on the horizon. Charlie Hall, chairholder of the Ellison Chair in International Floriculture at Texas A&M University, shared the signs sourced from IBD Editorial in his blog.  They include: – A broad rally in stocks, confirmed last Thursday, continuing into this week and led by the beaten-down financials. – A surprising 22 percent surge in February housing starts to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 units. – A back-to-back jump in retail sales ex autos, in both January and February. – A return to profitability at several major banks, including Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan. – A doubling in the obscure but important Baltic Dry Index, a key indicator of global trade flows. – An upwardly sloping yield curve, which Fed research suggests all but ensures a rebound by year-end. – A Housing Affordability Index that has hit […]

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March 17, 2009

Hold Prices Steady

Cutting prices to try and drive revenue probably isn’t the best solution for small businesses, according to a recent article on Entrepreneur.com. Contrary to popular belief, charging less rarely boosts sales. “If you’re selling a high-value product or service that your customers can’t easily source from another vendor, slashing prices will only slash your profits. And if you cut your prices too often, you’ll educate your customers to simply wait for the sales and never pay full retail,” the article says. “If you provide an exceptional product or service, people will buy from you–even in a tough economy,” says Laura Allen, co-founder of 15secondpitch.com, a website that helps people “pitch themselves” better. “You’d be better off increasing the value that your clients get for their money. It’s much easier to add a few useful extras than it is to get by on even smaller margins.” While price setting is never […]

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March 17, 2009

Economic Stimulus: Help For Small Businesses

Charlie Hall, who holds the Ellison Chair in International Floriculture at Texas A&M University, recently shared his insight into what the economic stimulus means for the green industry. He pointed out the following major provisions of the stimulus package of interest to small businesses, according to the Small Business Legislative Council: –It allows small businesses to take upfront deductions of up to $250,000 of the cost of equipment–such as computers, vehicles, furniture and manufacturing machinery–instead of depreciating the investment over a number of years. The deduction was slated to end in 2008, but was extended through 2009. –It extends a bonus depreciation allowing small businesses to deduct half the cost of new qualifying capital equipment expenditures purchased in 2009, if the equipment is put into use by Jan. 1, 2010. –It temporarily broadens the “carry-back” period for 2008 net operating losses from two years to five. This allows small businesses […]

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March 10, 2009

Q&A With Ace Hardware CEO

A hardware industry publication recently sat down with Ace Hardware CEO Ray Griffith and asked him about the company turning 85, and how it can stay relevant to today’s consumers. Some of the interview, conducted by Home Channel News, also touched on the lawn and garden side of the business, which he anticipates growing in the future. Here’s a segment of the conversation: HCN: What do the hardware stores have going for them? Griffith: “The consumer is cocooning more. They are thinking about their homes still as their biggest financial investment. And cocooning involves making the home a more enjoyable place to be. Some of that goes with outdoor living, more than just lawn and garden. It involves patio furniture and grills, certainly gardening. “I think there is another factor, at least across the North. After all the bad economic news and as spring hits, people are ready to get […]

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March 2, 2009

A Webinar Series With Charlie Hall

Charlie Hall, the current chairholder of the Ellison Chair in International Floriculture at Texas A&M University, will kick off a webinar series next week designed to help growers make more informed managerial decisions in the midst of the current economic downturn. Hall’s first webinar, “Action Points to Survive the Downturn,” will take place next Tuesday, March 9 at 11 a.m. CDT. Two other webinars–one on differentiating by being sustainable and the other on green marketing–are respectively scheduled for April and May. Click here for more information.

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February 19, 2009

Interstate Transport Growing Larger

Freight management and logistics company Interstate Transport is adding space and staff to its headquarters in Saint Petersburg, Fla. It also recently opened a software division for InMotion Global TMS, its Web-based transportation management system that’s now available in one model for $50 per month. InMotion Global TMS requires no software or hardware installation and can be implemented in minutes. The system includes hundreds of features that centralize and streamline the entire transportation process from load inception through final delivery, and it allows shippers to seamlessly manage their entire transportation operation. Whether the logistics operation is conducted out of one location or across multiple locations, users log in through their Web browsers and have instant access, in real-time, to every aspect of their operation, providing them with total situational awareness. “We have been very fortunate to enjoy tremendous success with both our products and services,” says CEO Tim Higham. “We […]

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February 19, 2009

Protect Crops By Updating Records, Hortica Says

Growers can learn from crop insurance incidents of 2008 by retaining required records to substantiate inventories, according to Hortica Insurance. The USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) says the best tool growers can use is the Crop Inventory Valuation Estimate Report, a software program commonly known as DataScape, to develop their Plant Inventory Value Reports. Hortica assisted many growers in 2008 by entering their inventory reports in the DataScape program, and will provide the same service in 2009. To take advantage of this assistance, customers should have their inventory reports to Hortica by April 1, 2009.

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February 18, 2009

Al’s Alternative To Dumping Plants

Whether you’re a grower, a retailer or some mesh of the two, there’s no avoiding the fact you need to do something with your excess plants once they’ve passed the sellable point. Dumping them probably seems like the most logical next step, but as Al’s Garden Center & Greenhouses demonstrates, there are alternatives to simply making your plants compost in any season. Every fall, Al’s Garden Center and Greenhouses grows about 50,000 poinsettias for the Christmas season. Last November, Al’s happened to grow a bumper crop of poinsettias because of fantastic fall weather in Oregon. Al’s could have attempted to sell the extra 1,000 or so poinsettias that grew, but having budgeted about 50,000 for retail in past years, there was no guarantee the extras would sell at its local garden centers. So, rather than push the extras at retail, Al’s decided to build some good will in the community […]

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