June 12, 2008

It’s Not Easy Being Green

A month ago I told you a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen entitled, "There Is A Difference." The moral of the story was that all types of plants and people receive the same resources, such as sun, air and nutrients, and it is up to them to utilize these resources as best they can to survive, enjoy life and prosper. Andersen wrote the fairy tale more than 200 years ago. In 1970, a "Sesame Street" book and record followed in Andersen’s footsteps when Kermit the Frog said, "It’s not easy being green." I guess our industry feels like Kermit, since we have tried to be green for more than 200 years. We use greenhouses to grow plants that are not native to areas and make it possible for them to be enjoyed in all parts of the world. For example, poinsettias, which are native to Mexico, can be grown […]

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June 12, 2008

How Safe is Your Greenhouse?

A greenhouse worker gets her finger caught in a pot-filling machine and barely escapes losing her entire hand. A different employee rapidly moves her fingers in the same position for hours on end while making cuttings, without taking time for breaks. A third employee is just plain careless. She neglects to roll up unused hoses, clean up spills or put carts and ladders away. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? If so, it’s probably time to take a good hard look at your company’s injury/accident record, any reports of “near miss” incidents (or close calls), and your workers’ compensation costs over the past several years. What you may find are increasing numbers of injuries and/or near misses, trends showing that certain types of injuries continue to reoccur and escalating insurance costs. Safety at your greenhouse is directly related to your company’s profitability. A poor safety record can result not […]

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June 11, 2008

Freakynomics

In the Dec. 10, 2007 issue of Fortune magazine, Stanley Bing wrote an article with the title "Freakynomics." It is a great spoof of all that the so-called financial experts are predicting, everything from recession to depression, stagflation to inflation. His subtitle is "Getting Your Finances Squared Away For The End Of The Year World." I believe Bing hit the nail on the head when he finished his article with this statement: "If I don’t believe everything, it’s possible, just possible, that I might end up believing nothing. That would be bad, wouldn’t it?" I certainly wouldn’t count on financial experts to tell me what to do. Many believe that they have caused the recession, depression and unstable financial situation. The "experts" have pushed sub-prime mortgage markets, student loan schemes and death bond loan scams. They even have developed a scheme where interest rates can be over 100 percent a […]

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June 11, 2008

A Holistic Approach

When Wayne and Chris Mercer bought their 17-acre piece of land in Zellwood, Fla. in 1987, it held less than a half acre of Dutch glass house, 2 1/2 acres of vintage fiberglass greenhouses and several common flat-top shade structures. “We affectionately called the location ‘The Rat Hole,’ because several large rats scampered for their lives as discarded mounds of nursery debris were loaded into dumpsters,” Wayne says. The property, overrun with old garbage, brush and trees growing up through the buildings’ roofs, was given new life over the next three years. The Mercers’ mentor and family member Gene Batson “provided a military style of training and introduction to potted tropicals, turning a dental hygienist and a small-building contractor from Michigan into Florida farmers,” says Wayne. As a result, Mercer Botanicals sold its first plants in 1990 to an already established customer base. Seventeen years later, the operation has grown to […]

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June 11, 2008

Bucking The Trend

    Moving was a major possibility, and Buckley got its best tip from a customer who suggested that the company consider a partnership with Waste Management in Taylorville, Ill. Ultimately, Buckley acted on that suggestion, and it now operates in a single facility that uses hot water produced as a byproduct from a neighboring methane-powered electricity generation plant to heat its own facility. “We are the first greenhouse to take a byproduct of a methane gas energy plant and utilize it to heat,” says Doug Buckley, operations manager at Buckley.  Unique Heat The greenhouse heating process at Buckley actually starts at a landfill that creates methane gas, powers the generation plant and creates hot water as a byproduct. That hot water is then channeled to aerial pipes built along hanging basket lines and through floors of the greenhouse. So far, the system has padded the company’s pocketbooks considerably regarding […]

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June 11, 2008

Secrets Of Succession

Succession planning is one of those things growers would rather not think about. Between production and marketing and getting plants to retail on schedule, it’s one subject that is happily pushed to the back burner. But like all important matters, planning for your growing operation’s future is something that shouldn’t be ignored, unless you are someone who thrives on risk. “Although it is hard to think about your mortality, it is a very necessary process to ensure the longevity of your life’s work,” says Anna Barnitz, chief financial officer of Bob’s Market & Greenhouses in Mason, W.V. “Don’t delay the implementation of discussion, planning and drafting of the necessary paperwork.” The first generation owners of Bob’s Market & Greenhouses, Robert (Bob Sr.) and Corena Barnitz, who founded the business in 1970, had just begun succession planning in 1995 when Bob Sr. suffered a serious heart attack. “Thankfully, he pulled through […]

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June 10, 2008

Profit Equals Sustainability

I’ve taken great delight in following the articles about sustainable agriculture, how we should have green roofs and reduce our use of fossil fuels and leave a negative carbon footprint. There is an old saying that those who don’t know history will be doomed to repeat it. Victor Hanson, scholar, quoted in Bits & Pieces, December 2007, said: "I believe there is an old answer for every new problem, that wise whispers of the past are with us to assure us that, if we just listen and remember, we are not alone; we have been there before." I believe it is time for a little history lesson. There was little or no bedding plant industry in the United States until after World War II. At that time, field vegetable growers started to see the increase in vegetable production in California. While it was small in the beginning, by the late […]

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June 10, 2008

Garden Writers Association – A Rewarding Investment

(Note: This month’s One To Grow On is written by Dr. William H. Carlson’s son William R. Carlson.)  Regular readers of this column know that my dad strongly believes that it is important to spend as much time marketing your products as you do growing them. (For more on that, check out the Marketing Your Product section of his book “One To Grow On,” available through MeisterPro at www.meisterpro.com.) I want to take this opportunity to share a resource that can help you market your products and build your customer base, the Garden Writers Association (GWA). GWA is an organization of more than 1,800 professional communicators. Members include book authors, staff editors, syndicated columnists, freelance writers, photographers, landscape designers, television and radio personalities, consultants, catalog publishers, Extension agents and more. My first experience with GWA was in 2000 when I was managing director of the Flower Promotion Organization (FPO). We were […]

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June 9, 2008

Reliving History

Forty-two years ago this month, I started my career as assistant professor and marketing specialist of horticulture at Michigan State University (MSU). John Carew, the chairperson of the horticulture department, gave me my job description. He said, "Create or discover new knowledge and disseminate it." It sounded easy enough, but I had yet to learn all the stages that were involved in achieving that goal. The major job at hand was that the industry was very small. The total floriculture industry in Michigan was about $8 million in value. About 80 percent of that value was in the hands of 20 percent of the growers. At the time that I started, cut flowers were the largest part of the industry, followed by potted plants. Bedding plants made up a very small part of the business. The traditional flower growers used clay pots and would never have considered growing in flats […]

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June 6, 2008

Sweet Home Alabama

Growing Profits Shed Nursery is a specialist in coleus and perillas, but offers a wide range of products to customers. The business was founded by Robert C. Baker (Spokey) and is now run by his son and daughter-in-law, David and Cheryl Baker. Since the operation changed hands in 1996, a turning point for Shed was when the Huntsville Botanical Gardens took the operation on as a main annual and perennial grower. Baker credits the gardens for discovering Shed Nursery. “From there, doors opened up,” she says. “I won several first-place trophies at the growers’ convention, and had a lot of people looking into my booth who were bigger growers than me, breeders from all over the world.” What they find at Shed is premium plants. A partner and breeder in the Proven Winners program, Shed Nursery recently cleared 10 acres of land for a new ball and burlap yard, which […]

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June 6, 2008

Are You Acting Insane?

You’ll hear it every now and again–the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over expecting different results. While you may never get rid of plant staples like marigolds and geraniums completely, I tend to agree with Tom Batt, our Q&A subject in this month’s BenchPress, on new plant introductions. Batt, Hines Horticulture’s new vice president of sales and marketing, compares plant products to pharmaceutical products. Consumers are always looking for something new, even in the medications they take. Whether the problem is restless leg syndrome or a garden bed lacking pep, new products solve old problems in new ways–sometimes in ways consumers didn’t know were possible. How will we truly know what the best varieties are, from a sales perspective, if growers don’t take risks along with breeders and put new products out in the market? I’ve seen retailers this spring do a good job sharing […]

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May 14, 2008

Hortica Names New Board Chair And Member

Todd Bachman was recently named the new chairman of the board of directors at Hortica Insurance & Employee Benefits, replacing M. James Leider. Bachman is chairman and CEO of Bachman’s Inc., a Minnesota-based floral, gift, garden and nursery retailer and wholesaler. He has served on Hortica’s board of directors since 1996 and on the boards of the Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association Foundation, American Floral Endowment, OFA and North Central Florists Association. In addition, Randy Tagawa joined Hortica as a new board member. He is CEO of Tagawa Greenhouse Enterprises, LLC, a division of the family business founded in 1967 by his grandparents. Tagawa has also served on the boards of the Colorado Floriculture Foundation and Colorado Greenhouse Growers Association.

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