June 19, 2008

Borrowing Trouble

The banking world has created another mess the public is going to have to pay for through higher interest rates. For growers and everyone else, subprime loan scandal means it will be more expensive and more difficult to borrow money. Likewise, more consumers are facing foreclosures, losing equity in their homes and stretching to make ends meet for the bare necessities. How inclined are they going to be to buy plants when they can barely pay for food and gasoline? Debt wise, growers tend to fall into three categories: • Older operations that are debt free • Expanding operations that borrowed money to increase size and invest in technology • Others are very leveraged just to pay for operating costs to run the business. Warning to growers with considerable debt: If you’re borrowing short-term money, you’re going to pay more for it. And those who have credit lines with variable rates […]

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June 19, 2008

Blueprint For Success

Norm still entered the training program and in a few short years became a naval architect. His career at the shipyard was very exciting, as he was working on high-profile missile programs like Polaris and Poseidon, and flying to Washington, D.C., every week to give reports to the Navy Department. But in 1972, when the shipyard halted its work on the Triton Missile defense programs and took on more monotonous jobs, Norm decided it was time to get out. All the while, Norm had been simultaneously building his growing operation and in 1972, he had about an acre of greenhouses. He threw himself into floriculture head first and today, White’s Nursery & Greenhouses ranks at No. 78 of GG’s Top 100 Growers with 20 acres of greenhouses and 10 field acres. “I have no regrets,” he says. “I have fun every day. And when I was working in the shipyard, […]

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June 19, 2008

Grown By Al’s

As many growers were cutting back on selection and raising quantities on a select few varieties in the early ’80s, it’s no surprise that’s when the innovative Jack Bigej and Al’s Garden Center began growing its own plant material. “We picked up on the trend toward the mass merchandisers and knew we had to diversify in order to stay ahead of the tide,” Bigej says. That’s exactly what he has done. The grower-retailer now produces between 1,500 and 2,200 varieties of perennials, and as an example on the annuals side, around 125 varieties of petunias and calibrachoas. “We may have gone to an extreme, but we’ve certainly kept up diversity,” says Bigej. Having total control over what you grow is only one advantage of being a grower-retailer. Other advantages include the possibility of branding your product and the ability to set your own pricing. Branding At Al’s It is obvious […]

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June 19, 2008

Farewell, Brother

On Friday, June 23, 2006, my brother, Victor E. Carlson, died at Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne, N.Y. at the age of 82. He was born in Kingston, Penn., on Sept. 15, 1924 and was the son of Victor E. and Marie (Jensen) Carlson. Victor was the owner and operator of Carlson’s Greenhouse in Cold Spring, N.Y., which he and his wife founded in 1962. He served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946 in the Pacific theater on a destroyer escort. Victor received two bronze stars for battle against the kamikaze aircraft in the war effort and his ship was the first American vessel to come into Tokyo harbor after the bombing of Hiroshima. When Victor returned after the war, he started working with our uncle, Hugo Carlson, as an assistant gardener on estates in Westchester County, N.Y. My uncle Hugo came to the United States from Sweden and was […]

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June 19, 2008

Raising The Bar

In the two years we’ve been tracking global cuttings production, we’ve seen the baseline volume jump by about 30 million cuttings each year. In 2005, GroLink/Athena ranked at No. 10 producing 64 million cuttings. The next year, the number climbed to 90 million, and now we have a three-way tie at 120 million between GroLink/Athena, Paul Ecke Ranch and GGG International. (Turn to page 44 to learn more about Athena’s production in Brazil.) We also welcome two new companies to the ranking–Oro Farms of Guatemala and GGG International of Germany. Ranked at No. 4 with 220 million cuttings, Oro Farms has emerged as the largest licensed producer. Unlike the three companies above it, Oro is not a breeder producer, but is licensed with many breeders to produce cuttings. Based in Germany, GGG International is strong in Europe, shipping 80 percent of its cuttings there, but building more business in the United […]

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June 19, 2008

Ruling By Region

After following the grower consolidation movement the last 10 years, I am convinced that we will not see a dominant national player. The latest headlines surrounding California-based conglomerates Color Spot Nursery and Hines Horticulture reinforce that. At one point, Hines Horticulture was poised to be the dominant national player with production facilities on the West Coast and East Coast in New York, South Carolina and Florida. While its western production was more nursery oriented, the eastern acquisitions were bedding and blooming potted plants, creating a foundation for a color division. Just observing the big-box action and growers supplying nursery and greenhouse crops, the bedding plant growers are much more dedicated to servicing their products at retail. There is a greater intensity with seasonal bedding than nursery, especially on the replenishment side. Bedding growers have their own people in the stores. Nursery growers tend to use third-party merchandisers. Part of this is […]

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June 18, 2008

Two Decades Of Dedication

In the early 1980s, Shemin Nursery, owned by Weyerhaeuser, Inc., began a grower supply business in Homestead, Fla., including a Young Plants division supplying plant cuttings from Europe and Central America to Florida growers. In 1987, Weyerhaeuser/Shemin withdrew from the area, and Foremost Foliage was born. From 1987 to 1992, Foremost Foliage, Inc. imported foliage cuttings to supply Florida growers. And then came Hurricane Andrew. “Virtually all Foremost employees lost their homes or suffered severe damage,” says Randy Natalino, co-owner and vice president of marketing for ForemostCo. “The damage to Foremost Foliage was also very severe–much of its market and customer base were simply gone.” But, when some would’ve given up, Foremost moved on and flourished. Natalino attributes much of the business’s ability to survive to the help and confidence of suppliers and customers. “During this time, a decision was made to diversify both geographically throughout North America, and also beyond […]

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June 18, 2008

A Thousand Years

On June 21, I received the Thomas Roland Medal from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. The society was started in 1829. I was the 80th person to receive this award, which Thomas Roland established in 1927. Roland was a well-known breeder of orchids, roses and acacias. He also was president of the Society of American Florists in the early 1920s. This event gave me time to reflect on what we do as horticulturists and why. One of our most famous colleagues, Luther Burbank (1849-1926), said, "Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul." I had time to visit the Elm Bank Gardens of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in Wellesley, Mass. Over the past 10 years, they have built a great area for teaching and culturing gardens for people to see and become involved in horticulture. Another place I had always wanted to […]

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June 18, 2008

Going Lean

The automotive and horticulture industries have a lot in common. Well, they can, anyway. It’s all about streamlining the production process. Toyota is one of the most successful examples of a "lean" company — one that does what the customer wants, and only what the customer wants — in order to reduce waste. The concept is called lean manufacturing, and it’s catching on in the green industry. "It’s about not overproducing in terms of finished product, but also in terms of daily activities," says Andy Rogish, quality systems manager for Yoder Brothers, Inc., which has implemented lean practices in its greenhouses. "For instance, if I double or triple handle pots in my delivery process, the customer will eventually care, whether they realize it or not, because the more I handle the pots and deliveries, it’s going to require more labor. If I’m touching a pot two or three times, I’m adding no value […]

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June 18, 2008

Eco Economics

Over the course of a year, it seems like the interest in sustainability and organics has gone from a quiet niche to surround sound. In the most simplistic sense, sustainability is eliminating negative environmental impacts as much as possible by reusing, reducing and recycling. It touches every aspect of our lives — the food we eat, our daily commutes, the types of cars we drive and the materials our homes, offices and all the products we buy and throw away are made of. Although more socialistic economies and governments in Europe and Canada have had a collective interest in sustainability for many years, it most likely will be capitalism and a more benevolent big-business environment that makes it mainstream in the United States. Wal-Mart and The Home Depot are more powerful than EPA. In a report I read about Wal-Mart’s sustainability strategy, I learned that of the world’s 100 largest economic […]

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June 18, 2008

Ready…Set…Go!

So, you’ve read all the Greenhouse Grower transportation articles, conducted meetings with your staff, readied your carriers, fired up your new technology – and you’re ready for a smooth (and less expensive) shipping season. Right? Good! Then please read on. Most of you reading this are not directly involved with the daily transportation, logistics and distribution functions of your company. The first thing you should have done during the off-season is to have engaged the right people in your organization. The success of your program will come down to being organized and whoever is in charge of your shipping function needs to be fully onboard with the refined procedures. These procedures will save you money starting today. So, I have compiled a short checklist to help you get ready, set and go! Each of these tips are outlined more fully in my articles published in Greenhouse Grower over the last […]

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