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

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

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

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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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

Using Distribution Technology To Save Money (And Make Your Life Easier)

Transportation is often referred to as “logistics.” Computers are great at “logistics” — people are not. I have yet to see a human being route and optimize customer orders for shipping better than a computer. Computers are designed to quickly run through millions of permutations in order to arrive at the most efficient result.  Talking Trucking  Tim Higham of Interstate Transport was one of our expert panelists during an industry luncheon hosted by our sister magazine Ornamental Outlook at the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on Jan. 19. Our other expert was industry consultant Bob Jacobson, who worked for The Home Depot for 20 years and is considered the architect of modern lawn and garden retailing. As senior director of outside garden, Jacobson brought order to the marketing, merchandising and distribution of plants. The discussion topic was, “Transportation and Distribution — Spend Less Starting Today.” This event was sponsored […]

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June 17, 2008

The Labor Question

 Since the mid-1980s, agricultural employers have been well-advised to accept worker identity and employment authorization documentation that appear to be reasonably genuine, when reviewing employment eligibility of workers under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). IRCA contains several anti-discrimination provisions, where employers can be sued for citizenship discrimination if they take action over employment authorization documentation for impermissible reasons. Following the inception of the requirement that employers verify employment eligibility through the use of Form I-9s, many employers have received no-match letters from the Social Security Administration indicating the combination of name and social security account number the employer has submitted for an employee does not match the agency’s records.  Change On The Horizon Similarly, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) more recently has been sending letters notifying certain employers that the immigration-status or employment-authorization documentation presented by the employee is not consistent with this agency’s records. […]

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