June 19, 2008

Pushing Pallets

Shipping nationally from the Northwest corner of the United States, Northwest Horticulture of Mt. Vernon, Wash., is always looking for ways to drive down delivery costs. Ranked at No. 21 on our Top 25 Young Plant Growers, Northwest Horticulture produces perennials, groundcovers and landscape roses in more than a million square feet of greenhouse space and 600 additional acres of outdoor production. The company’s new Pallet Shipper program has made truck shipping a viable option for growers looking for high quality plugs at a cost-effective price. The rush-resistant packaging system is stacked on pallets, delivering dormant trays to growers’ doors. “The Pallet Shipper stacking system allows air to circulate through the plants during shipping. Traditional boxed shipments don’t allow this,” says Richard Gigot, Northwest Horticulture’s director of sales and marketing. Since the spring of 2006, the company has sent 70 percent of its truck shipments via the Pallet Shipper system. “It’s […]

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June 19, 2008

Cold-Chain Management

Temperature management is the predominant factor that impacts the post-harvest performance of horticultural crops. Over the past several years, we have been working with cutting suppliers to improve the reliability of delivering unrooted cuttings that perform well in propagation. Inevitably, all roads lead back to temperature management. Cutting performance relies on strong cold-chain management. The strength of a chain depends on each of the individual links from the time of harvesting the cutting until the cutting is stuck on a propagation bench. This article will discuss why temperature management is so important and will provide guidelines for growers for handling boxes of unrooted cuttings.  Post-Harvest Physiology 101 Temperature is so critically important because it directly affects physiological processes such as respiration and ethylene production. Let’s take a moment to review some basic post-harvest physiology principles. Respiration is the process by which carbohydrates (sugars and starches) are broken down into carbon dioxide. […]

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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 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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