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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June 18, 2008

As The World Turns

This article marks the beginning of my 34th year writing with Meister Media. I take pride in working with this fine organization. I have tried to provide useful information and also share some of the human experiences I have had over the years. Some columns have conveyed the high points of our industry and some have related its trials and tribulations. I’ve written articles about great people who have served our industry and are examples for us to follow. It is somewhat ironic that my main mentor, Dr. John Carew, was the person who introduced me to Meister Publications when John and I took our first trip to Willoughby, Ohio, in the early 1970s to meet Ed and Dick Meister. John and Dick graduated from Cornell University, Ed from Yale. John did his undergraduate work at Penn State and it was because of him and Dr. Ken Sink, another Penn State […]

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June 18, 2008

Preventing Slips, Trips And Falls

An employee who is watering plants leaves her hose sprawled across the greenhouse floor. Another worker who is moving large pots trips over a cart that wasn’t put away. Still another employee in a rush to assist a customer slips and falls in a pool of water that wasn’t marked off with "caution" signs or safety cones. These are just three of the many ways slip, trip and fall injuries commonly occur in greenhouses throughout the country. These injuries, which could just as easily happen to a customer as to an employee, can result in high costs to greenhouse growers. "With an employee injury of this nature, the cost to the greenhouse owner will vary. It could range from a percentage or two increase in your workers’ compensation premium rates to a 20 percent increase and possibly even more," says Jeff Graham of LaPorte & Associates, a Portland, Ore.-based insurance agency […]

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June 18, 2008

Supply Chain Survivors

Solve your customers’ problems and you’ll solve your own. This is true whether you’re a grower-retailer serving homeowners, a wholesale grower supplying independent garden centers, a large growing operation providing products and services to the box stores, or an input or equipment supplier to growers. To gain manufacturers’ and distributors’ perspectives, I attended the North American Horticultural Supply Association’s (NAHSA) 20th annual meeting in June. The theme was “Thriving In Dynamic Times.” While this is primarily a networking event, guest speakers were brought in to help the group focus on the big picture of growing and serving our industry while facing formidable obstacles. A lot has changed in 20 years and all indicators point to a maturing market: slowing growth in sales and production output, a shrinking number of grower customers and consolidation at all levels. Everyone in our industry has cause for concern. “Without growers, there’s no need for any […]

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June 18, 2008

Thrive, Don’t Just Survive!

It is obvious we are all experiencing significant change, not only in our businesses but also in our personal lives. Things that were considered the bedrocks of our existence may start to crumble. Things we worked all our lives for, like pensions, health care and Social Security, may not be as secure as we thought they would be. Even our jobs may not be secure. One has only to look at major U.S. manufacturers to see how the once golden production line jobs are being eliminated and manufacturing is being shipped offshore to places where the cost of labor is one-fifth to one-half of what it is in the U.S. I recently read an interesting story about a manager of a manufacturing company who was told his whole section would be terminated. People came to him and expressed their sorrow at the company’s decision. However, the terminated manager said, "I feel […]

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June 17, 2008

Yukon Is Gone

Sixteen and a half years ago, my younger son Wayne asked if Barbara and I could take care of his dog for the weekend. The dog was about a month old, a very cute, small dog. Of course, Barbara said yes. Wayne dropped off the dog, his bed, water dish and 50 pounds of dog food. I looked at my wife and said, "This dog will never eat 50 pounds of dog food in two days!" That was the first indication that we had inherited a dog. My son called about a week later and said, "How’s the dog?" He told us his wife said either the dog had to go or she would. So, at that point, we got the dog! Yukon became a member of our family. I tried to teach him the basics, from potty training to fun things like how to sit up, come to me, play […]

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June 17, 2008

Routing And Optimization Software — You Need It!

If there is one area of transportation that you can get the most from technology, it is reducing the number of miles your deliveries are routed and maximizing how full your trucks are. There is a reason the "C" in "PC" stands for "computing." Computers are designed, by their very definition, to take in data and analyze it according to rules set by the operator or program. For example, let’s take a simple route that goes from point A to point B (one pickup and one delivery). Any reasonable person may think that with this simple scenario they can be as efficient as a computer in calculating the route. This may or may not be correct (and you would probably have to resort to using PC mapping software to get your results in the end). The bottom line is that even between two points on a map, there are literally millions […]

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June 17, 2008

Native & Innovative

It’s a difficult and crowded marketplace these days as growers everywhere struggle to find a niche that matches up well with both their size and strengths. For Riverview Flower Farms, a 25-year journey has founders Rick and Dave Brown and their team comfortably situated at the top of their game, serving their customer of choice with strong branding programs and new products, and tracking it all with innovative software programs.  A Family Affair Like many present-day growers, the brothers Brown had farming in their bloodlines. According to Rick, “growing was where our hearts were, as our grandparents on both sides had small farms to feed large families.” Both brothers attended the University of Florida around the time of the big bedding plant boom, and Rick and Dave cut their teeth in retail and landscaping before joining up at a tomato producer in Ruskin, Fla. After helping move this company into […]

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June 17, 2008

Learning From Each Other

Eight years ago, The Home Depot was hungry for variety. Its customers were looking for new plants and the mass merchandiser was looking for growers who could supply them. At the time, Henry Mast Greenhouse considered itself more of a monocrop grower, with millions of New Guinea impatiens and geraniums filling production during the spring months. A more diversified menu of plants was required to get Home Depot’s business. “We contracted with a couple of growers in Kalamazoo I had known for 20 years,” says Tim Stiles, president of Henry Mast Greenhouses and Masterpiece Flower Company. In Western Michigan, where you can’t throw a rock without hitting a greenhouse, setting up a contract system is a bit different than in other parts of the country, or starting with growers without horticulture backgrounds. Masterpiece Flower Company, the distribution and sales company for crops produced at Henry Mast Greenhouses, had the ability […]

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June 17, 2008

Transportation: Searching For Payback

Every now and then, the media will report that gas prices have dropped, but we’re all still remembering the good old days when you could get one gallon for less than $1. Search online, and you’ll find all kind of opinions on gas prices. Some media stories even try to convince us that high gas prices are good (because they spur online spending and ethanol research). But mostly, gas prices are a burden, especially for small businesses. Our columnist Tim Higham shared some comparative equations in a recent edition of our Benchrunner e-newsletter. “A grower shipping 400 truck loads (averaging 1,250 miles per truck) each year is paying $83,333 more for fuel [compared to 1997 prices], just to ship the product,” he says This doesn’t include the increased costs you pay to your suppliers for their increased fuel costs. A USA Today article reports 20 percent of 1,200 owners and […]

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June 17, 2008

More Fuels For The Fire

Over the past year of coverage, we’ve tried to highlight all the different ways you can keep from burning up fuel, and therefore money, wastefully. From growing cooler to buying larger plugs to fuel purchasing strategies to production zoning and maintenance scheduling, each of our 14 articles confronted a single issue head-on, hopefully giving you something to take away and use in your business. As the survey results from our Benchrunner e-newsletter (available at www.greenhousegrower.com/benchrunner) show, fluctuating fossil fuel prices have many growers looking elsewhere to fulfill their heating needs. For this final installment, we’ve taken this most talked-about and fastest-developing part of the greenhouse business — alternative energy —and provided an overview that may spark one final energy-saving idea for your operation. Close Your Greenhouse The talk at the prestigious Horti Fair Innovation Awards last year was all about the “closed greenhouse” concept. This year, the talk focused instead […]

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