June 23, 2008

Hola Amigos!

Finding enough good workers has always been a problem. Today, though, employers have reached a tipping point. Anyone needing more help is faced with a labor pool that’s almost exhausted. "Many employers now find they can’t hire a sufficient number of capable people or they can’t get anyone at all," reports Tom Maloney, a human resources educator specializing in the Hispanic workforce at Cornell University’s Department of Applied Economics and Management. The only solution for many, according to Maloney, is to look for workers from Mexico, as well as El Salvador, Guatemala and other Central American countries. Interest in Hispanic workers has only grown as they’ve proven themselves capable and enthusiastic. "Hispanic workers have a positive attitude and a strong work ethic," says Maloney. "Because their whole idea in coming to the United States is to get a job to support their families, they are highly motivated to perform well." There’s […]

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June 23, 2008

Keeping Variety Alive

While walking me around her Blooming Nursery, Grace Dinsdale makes sure to point out the old dairy barn that now houses the offices for her floriculture business. It’s recognizable to customers, she says. A loyal and long-time staff works hard at keeping flower varieties alive that are threatened by commoditization and keeps a sense of professionalism and community flowing through the business. A background in farming meant Dinsdale was keenly aware of commodity growing and its challenges. From its beginning in 1982, she envisioned a Blooming Nursery that would be free to make its own choices. “I knew we wanted to be in a market that was more under our control,” Dinsdale explains. “We can make decisions based on what we want our price to be, how many of something we’re going to grow, how we we’re going to schedule it and who we we’re going to sell to. I […]

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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 20, 2008

Peace Of A Puzzle

    It was a strange thing…” So begins Lloyd Traven’s explanation of exactly how he embarked down the path of merging his Kintersville, Pa.-based Peace Tree Farms with Dave Eastburn’s Chalfont, Pa.-based Gro ‘n Sell. Traven and Eastburn had known each other for 30 years, and being only 20 miles apart, they had even done some business together over the years. Each was wrapped up in the day-to-day needs of their growing businesses while thinking daily about plans for future expansion.  Two Growers Walk Into A Bar… For his part, Traven was busy designing and building his new greenhouse facility when one day, a visitor stopped by. “More than two full years ago, Dave Eastburn’s partner and manager, Dave Newberry, the logistics guy at Gro ‘n Sell, stopped by to see what we were up to,” recalls Traven. “Dave Eastburn was literally out of the country, in Siberia, at the […]

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June 20, 2008

Moving Plants Without Losing Profits

Pushpins in a wall map may not be the best way to track logistics of perishable products like plants. Rising costs for fuel and drivers, all while growers are trying to cut costs, have led growers and transportation pros to look for new efficiencies. Packing each truck to capacity is key, according to Richard Martins of Peninsula Trucking. That’s why the company uses a multi-decked trailer system. Shelves are adjusted to plant height and Peninsula trucks sizes from cell packs to 3 gallon pots with this setup. Trucks are loaded last in, first out and the shelves are broken down as plants are offloaded. The shelves also allow growers to ship foliage without boxing, saving packaging costs as well as labor. There’s less waste, also. Growers Take On Transportation Masterpiece Flower Company has taken on shipping for itself and other growers through its Peak Transportation division. Here are some tips from […]

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June 20, 2008

Outsourcing Transportation And Logistics

Distribution is one of the biggest issues faced by growers – and a business in which many growers have been forced to operate in to be effective. From the very first day you opened your doors, you grew beautiful material – but at some point you had to get that material to your customer. As you grew, so did your "trucking business," and the expenses and headaches that came with it. Owning a "trucking business" was not by choice but came through necessity. Adam Smith, the famous Scottish economist of the mid 1700s, is well known for a simple yet effective concept known as the "division of labor." I guarantee you use it every day in your business. The basic concept is simple, people are more effective and efficient if given one task and taught to do it well. For example, Ford does not make cars by having one person make […]

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June 20, 2008

Storytelling

This past July, the 15th American Horticultural Society (AHS) National Children and Youth Garden Symposium was held in Minnesota. The keynote speaker was Eric Jolly, president of the Science Museum of Minnesota. The noted author indicated, "There is a need in our culture to celebrate diversity and reach those who don’t have the answers." Jolly encouraged the practice of storytelling. He said, "Stories are like seeds, planted by one generation to be harvested by another." Also speaking at the conference was professional storyteller Sherry Norfolk. She said planting stories will improve a person’s imagination. Norfolk explained that there are many types of intelligence, for example, linguistic, mathematical, musical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, existential and naturalistic. She indicated that we all don’t think the same way. We use the skills we have based on the information we have obtained. By telling stories, we allow people to use their brains to decipher what information […]

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June 20, 2008

Go Green, Get Rich, ‘Kiasu’

An article in the January/February 2007 issue of Business 2.0 lists nine of the biggest problems facing our society: global warming, oil dependency, hunger and malnutrition, dirty air, dirty water, overfishing, epidemics, drug-resistant infections and waste disposal. If you can solve these problems, any one of them, you can make millions! How can we tackle these problems? Since we have always been an industry that has the only product that takes carbon dioxide and water and produces carbohydrates and oxygen in the process, it seems to me that we should take time to tell our story. In the 1960s and 1970s, my colleague Bill Carpenter worked on cut rose production. He grew roses at different levels of carbon dioxide and found that the greatest growth occurred at 1,500 to 2,000 ppm. At that time, the ambient level was about 320 ppm. He actually showed that in the winter time, low CO2 […]

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June 19, 2008

The Networking System

For Gary Mangum and Bell Nursery, quality is job one. “We all have to keep our eyes on quality, because if we don’t, that’s what will kill our industry,” he says. “And by quality, I mean letting something sit on the bench long enough to be ready. Send it when it’s ready and not before.” Co-owners Mangum and Mike McCarthy saw the pinch their Bell Nursery was heading for when customer Home Depot began increasing its needed supply of live materials. So seven years ago, Bell Nursery began investigating network growing — setting up a pool of associate growers. The network was based on that of the poultry market in Maryland. Initially working with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and with input from USDA, the network began with one farm family. Instead of investing in new greenhouses, Bell Nursery has invested in people — 550 of them in 88 Home […]

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June 19, 2008

The Numbers Add Up

A recent survey in our BenchRunner e-newsletter found that, of 121 respondents, 57 percent had a Web site, 50 percent either had or planned to host e-commerce on it and 72 percent either placed orders online already or planned on starting up the practice. With such business trends in mind, it was not surprising to see all the technology vendors pitching products on the tradeshow floor at this year’s OFA Short Course. At this point in the 21st century, there is no longer any looking back, and like any other industry, floriculture must embrace the information superhighway in order to keep from becoming roadkill upon it. But how is that done? What resources are needed, and where should they be invested? One company that is leading the way in actively pushing the Internet envelope is BFG Supply Co., based in Burton, Ohio. With its Supply Management Advantages in Real Time […]

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June 19, 2008

The Good Old New Days

Here at Meister Media, our magazines cover a broad swath of agriculture–fruits and vegetables, cotton and ornamental plants. It can be very interesting to hear the point of view of growers in other crop areas. I was surprised to hear the difference of opinion among growers in these areas on the issue of immigration until I heard the whole story. Everyone laments the end of the “good old days”–the steel mills, the family farm, American-produced goods–but not enough people are willing to do what it takes to keep the old way alive. What growers are asking for is a new old way–saving agriculture in America with new employment rules. How can any legislator who is pro-business be against that? The dividing line in agriculture runs through automation. In markets that have fully automated processes, you’ll find loud and vocal objections to immigration reform that includes a guestworker program. Use automation, they […]

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