Preparation Is Key To Preventing Greenhouse Disasters

A sight nobody wants to see. Proper maintenance and inspection can make sure the greenhouse structure remains strong. Photo courtesy Hortica Insurance

If this past winter’s severe storms and yo-yoing temperatures are an indicator of the new normal, growers need to be prepared to deal with increasing weather extremes. National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini told USA Today in March that the recent wild weather, including more frequent destructive tornados, severe winter storms and drought and flood extremes, appear to part of a “new normal” for U.S. weather patterns. Uccellini says climate change could be contributing to the increased intensity of the storms and heavier amounts of precipitation.

The extreme weather events that have occurred recently are likely to continue. At a May 2011 press conference held by the Union of Concerned Scientists, participants indicated that states, municipalities and businesses, especially the insurance industry, are well aware of the trend toward more frequent extreme weather events. During the conference, Katharine Hayhoe, a Texas Tech University climate scientist, called it global “weirding.” She says many places around the world can expect to see more frequent weather extremes, from more intense storms to prolonged droughts.
U.S. growers in some parts of the country are bearing the brunt of these weather extremes. According to Bob Heffernan, executive director of the Connecticut Green Industries Council, this year’s winter storms destroyed more than 300 greenhouses at 51 Connecticut businesses. The cost to replace the structures was estimated at $12 to $15 million.

Be Prepared Before Disaster Strikes
Tom Richey, vice president of property/loss control at Hortica Insurance in Edwardsville, Ill., says one of the biggest challenges facing growers today is unpredictable weather.

“Whether or not you believe global warming has an effect on the higher probability of more frequent and stronger destructive storms and wildfires, the fact is the destructive power of these events has increased an estimated 50 percent in the last 30 years,” Richey says. “To face the unpredictable weather challenge growers need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Richey offered the following recommendations to implement before a disastrous event occurs.
• Be sure structures, including greenhouses, head houses, production barns and storage buildings are insured to value so you will not incur penalties at a time of loss. Know the difference between replacement cost coverage and actual cash value coverage. Greenhouse structures may be the largest financial investment for a grower, and they are also the most important. The key to sustaining a business is not to lose the structures.
• Know if personal property in open areas is covered by your insurance policy and for how much value.
• Be sure your insurance policy covers loss caused by the weight of snow, wind, power interruption and other perils that lead to loss. Know what specific conditions apply.
• Know what you want insured and ask questions of your agent. If you have a crop exposure, ask about coverage as your business’ income relies on these plants. Ask about future income loss in the case of a catastrophic event that doesn’t allow you to rebuild quickly enough to plant your next crop and maintain production.
• Keep backup greenhouse coverings and temporary bracing on hand. These can help to expedite temporary or permanent closure of a structure or sectioning off of areas so that climate control can be maintained.
• Be sure generators are working properly and that a stabilizer has been added to the generator fuel.

Richey says the condition of the property can affect the insurability of structures and potentially the price paid for insurance coverage.

“Efficiencies and productivity can be maximized in a well-maintained structure,” he says. “From light transmission to energy savings, a well maintained greenhouse contributes to obtaining maximum ROI from employees, equipment and facilities. If a grower currently doesn’t have a greenhouse maintenance program in place, he should ask his insurance provider for suggestions on how to get started.”

Avoid Getting Burned
CJ van Wingerden, general manager of operations at Green Circle Growers in Oberlin, Ohio, knows firsthand the importance of being prepared for a disaster. This past February, the company sustained a fire that caused more than $10 million in damage to structures, equipment and crops. Destroyed in the fire was a 1-acre production barn with four production lines and soil equipment. van Wingerden says at this time of year, the production barn is fully operational and loaded with plastic containers, growing media and plant material.

“We had about 4½ to 5 acres of greenhouses damaged, from Venlo style to plastic fan-and-pad,” he says. “It was our oldest facility that took the brunt of the damage. We consider it to be our workhorse facility. When your workhorse shuts down, it definitely hurts from a production and efficiency standpoint quite a bit.”

The one piece of advice that van Wingerden has been giving to growers since the fire is to have a good insurance policy.

“Make sure you have the Cadillac of insurance,” he says. “It may sound cavalier saying that, but having a good insurance policy for our business, greenhouse and crops has helped us out a lot.

“We had replacement cost insurance, not actual cost. That makes a big difference in the greenhouse business, because things change so quickly. Having the replacement cost coverage is the higher premium end of insurance, but it is well worth it when a disaster like this occurs.

“Actual cost versus replacement value is where most growers skimp on their insurance policies. If they pay the actual costs, it can be considerably less than the replacement costs. The insurance company has a formula regarding paying for the actual cost of the facility or to replace the facility.”

van Wingerden says Green Circle has been dealing with Nationwide Agribusiness and has been very satisfied with the company’s service.
“We are a very unique industry. Make sure the insurance company understands your business and knows how it works,” he says. Nationwide Agribusiness understands the horticultural business. They understood business interruption and what this fire means for our customers. They understand just because there was a fire, we aren’t done for the season. We still need to take care of our customers.”

Green Circle plans to start rebuilding on June 1, and van Wingerden hopes to have the new facilities finished by Nov. 1.

“We have been working with LL Klink & Sons to put as much back together as possible,” he says. “The company is a local contractor that specializes in greenhouse disasters. They have done a fantastic job of putting this back together. The production barn has been completely torn down. Of the 4½ acres of greenhouses that were damaged, we were still able to fill up 3 acres for the spring.”

In Hindsight
The company learned some valuable lessons from the fire, van Wingerden says.
“We had safety procedures in place in case of fire, like having fire extinguishers and specific people to be notified,” he says. “All of those things worked. Our fire department did a phenomenal job. Greenhouse owners need to be sure they are familiar with the local fire department. We have them come out once a year to walk through the facility. We keep them up to date with things as our facilities change.”
One lesson Green Circle learned was the need to have quick disconnects for water in every greenhouse.

“We had 2- and 4-inch lines in every house, and the firemen couldn’t use them because they couldn’t connect their hoses to them,” van Wingerden says. “We’re going to install quick disconnects for hoses in key areas. We are also going to make sure that our production/storage barns are equipped with sprinkler systems. We have too much inventory sitting in these structures not to have sprinkler systems. Nationwide did recommend that we put sprinkler systems in some of our barns. It would have been expensive to do, so we chose not to. Lesson learned.”

A representative from the fire department and Nationwide come out to Green Circle once a year to look for potential problems and to suggest changes.

“Make sure you listen to people who know more than you about your facilities when it comes to fire and accident prevention,” van Wingerden says. “Have someone walk through your operation who understands your facility.”

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Capsicum 'Basket of Fire' (2015 University of Georgia Field Trials)

November 25, 2015

2015 University Of Georgia (Athens, Ga.) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga.

Read More

November 25, 2015

Everything You Need To Know About the New England GROWS Conference

Held In Boston December 2-4, New England GROWS includes a comprehensive conference program, a trade show, and with six special programs that teach new skills and provide opportunities to network with colleagues.

Read More
Giving Tuesday

November 24, 2015

Giving Tuesday On December 1 Is An Opportunity For The Industry To Make Charitable Tax-Deductible Donations

Organizations such as American Floral Endowment and others are encouraging industry members to participate in the generous spirit of the holiday season.

Read More
Latest Stories

November 25, 2015

Everything You Need To Know About the New England GROWS…

Held In Boston December 2-4, New England GROWS includes a comprehensive conference program, a trade show, and with six special programs that teach new skills and provide opportunities to network with colleagues.

Read More

November 20, 2015

Lessons Learned From The California Drought

For those of us who live in the areas of the country that experienced harsh winters and significant rain over the past three seasons, water has become a nuisance in some cases, rather than a blessing. I can’t count the number of times I have wished to be able to send the snow or the rain to the West Coast, tied up with a big red bow. But think about how we’d feel if we didn’t have the snow and the rain, and we were experiencing the same dry conditions that the residents of California, Oregon and Washington have. With fresh water supplies dwindling in regions of the world, and the resistance of residents in states like Michigan to share water from the Great Lakes, it’s likely that the next civil or world war could be fought over our most precious resource. California’s epic drought should cause everyone to look […]

Read More
Jill Calabro

November 3, 2015

AmericanHort Names New Research And Science Programs Di…

Jill Calabro will bring strategic direction and oversight to research funding by the Horticultural Research Institute, the research affiliate of AmericanHort.

Read More
SBI’s ANY Device Application allows growers to quickly determine availability-featuer

November 2, 2015

SBI Software’s Solutions Help Simplify Logistics For G…

The company focuses on helping growers improve their existing processes with solutions for site fulfillment, replenishment, inventory management and more.

Read More
Griffin Expo15 seminar

October 28, 2015

Griffin’s Hits Record Attendance With 2015 Expos,…

Griffin Greenhouse Supplies set new attendance records with its 2015 Expos. Its 2016 Expos are set for August 31 and September 1, 2016, in West Springfield, Mass., and September 21-22, 2016, in Lancaster, Penn.

Read More

October 28, 2015

Possum Run Greenhouses Taken Over By New Owners

Justin and Lynn Marotta have placed Possum Run Greenhouse and Gifts into the hands of new owners. John and Caroline Bletner, a newly married couple, took over the Bellville, Ohio, property October 2, according to an October 24 article in the Mansfield News Journal. The Marotta family has run Possum Run Greenhouse and Gifts for 41 years. When the Marottas announced in April the greenhouse operation was for sale, they said they were looking for an energetic couple to take the business to the next level, which is what they found in the Bletners, the article reports. The Bletners have hinted they’ll be “opening to a larger market” and that the retail side will “look different.” They’ll hold a grand re-opening the week of April 22, 2016. Staff are staying on board and the Bletners are maintaining many of the suppliers. The 200-plus varieties of fuchsias Justin brought to the greenhouse […]

Read More

October 25, 2015

We Could Be Growing More Green Infrastructure Plants Th…

At her Cultivate’15 presentation in July, Shannon Currey of Hoffman Nursery challenged the horticulture industry to get involved while green infrastructure is still developing, saying that a good start is to offer more plants that fit the unique needs of this market.

Read More
Integration Key To Compliance For Specialized Crops

October 22, 2015

Integration Key To Regulation Compliance For Specializ…

Growers considering supplementing ornamental crops with cannabis will enter into a new world of governmental regulations where key business systems will be indispensable for successful crop management.

Read More
Kate Santos Operations Director Dummen Orange

October 21, 2015

Kate Santos Explains What The Sale Of Dümmen Orange To …

Over the weekend, Dümmen Orange announced that the Dümmen family has sold its majority stake in the Dutch flower breeding company Dümmen Orange to European private equity firm BC Partners. The deal is valued at more than $560 million, around 11 times its core earnings, according to a Reuters press release. The company, owned by the Dümmen family and investment firm H2 Equity partners, has locations all over the world, including farms in Central America and East Africa. This is BC Partners’ first foray into the flower business. We caught up with Kate Santos, operations director for Dümmen Orange, to find out how the company’s sale to BC Partners affects Dümmen Orange customers, if at all. Here’s what she told us: Why did the Dümmen family decide to sell their shares? Why to a private equity investment company? Similar to the reason that H2 sold its shares to BC Partners, all […]

Read More
The tradeshow at the Cannabis Business Summit & Expo — outside of the occasional 1960s vibe, perhaps — would feel familiar to most growers

October 19, 2015

Have Cannabis Growing Expertise, Seek ‘Golden Ticket’

Many horticultural growers might start cultivating cannabis tomorrow if they could secure a license, the equivalent of a “golden ticket.” But these are hard to come by, and the number and criteria vary greatly by state

Read More
Lurie Garden Millennium Park

October 16, 2015

Green Infrastructure An Opportunity To Redefine How We …

Green infrastructure is an emerging market that has important ramifications for the horticulture industry. That is, if growers, designers and other industry players take a proactive approach to grasp the opportunities that come their way.

Read More

October 5, 2015

Smart Business Sense At Tidal Creek Growers Yields Succ…

Tidal Creek Growers stays competitive by focusing on what really turns a profit. It helps the large operation successfully balance contract growing with growing for retail garden centers.

Read More

October 4, 2015

ePlantSource Adds 5 New Partner Companies

ePlantSource has announced an additional five companies that have been added to its partner distribution list. Not only do the additional partners offer more supplier options to ePlantSource customers, but the website now also provides a more diverse product list with the addition of bulbs, clematis and many new varieties. New partners added for the 2015 – 2016 season: A.D.R. Bulbs Lennon Farm Greenhouses Micandy Gardens Pacific Growers Roseville Farms “We make it a priority to respond to our customers, and we have had many requests for additional options and a more diverse product line, so we are continually evaluating suppliers that work well with our non-traditional approach to the sale of live goods,” says Gary Falkenstein, President and CEO of ePlantSource. “We feel that it is good for our company, our customers and the industry as a whole to keep looking forward and seeing how we can improve and expand how […]

Read More
Cannabis marijuana

September 8, 2015

Supplemental Lighting Benefits For Growing Cannabis In …

The cannabis industry has moved out of the basement and into the light, and with this shift in politics and regulation occurring worldwide there is a need for growers to change the way they think about lighting and energy consumption.

Read More

September 2, 2015

Delegation Is Key To A Successful Greenhouse Operation

In a packed room at Cultivate’15, speaker Bernie Erven presented key steps growers need to take to improve their delegation skills, the benefits of delegating and the dangers of not learning how to delegate. This is a skill, he says, that everyone needs to learn. “For all of you who are part of a family business, you are choosing not to do things the easy way,” Erven laughed, as he presented a list of ways to know whether or not you’re an effective delegator. The owner of Erven HR Services, LLC, Erven has been working with and observing family businesses for many years. In his presentation, he said, he didn’t share anything that he hasn’t seen first-hand. You might not be a good delegator if you: Tend to be a perfectionist Work more hours than anyone else Lack time to explain clearly and concisely Are often interrupted Enjoy what you used to […]

Read More
AmericanHort logo

August 20, 2015

David Savoia To Serve As AmericanHort’s Interim P…

Following Michael Geary’s announcement that he has resigned as president and CEO of AmericanHort, the association has announced that CFO and Senior Vice President for Operations David Savoia will serve as interim president and CEO while the board conducts a search for a new staff executive. Craig Regelbrugge, the senior vice president for advocacy and research, will support Savoia with the association’s external affairs. Geary announced August 12  that he will be leaving his position after September 30 to serve as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, an organization dedicated to creating business opportunities in the architecture, engineering and construction industries. “As some of you know, I grew up connected to the horticulture industry so this was not an easy decision for me,” Geary said in an eMail. “I have loved working with our organizations and our talented members, staff and partners. However, my choice to return full time to Washington, D.C. will allow me […]

Read More

August 18, 2015

Michael Geary Is Leaving AmericanHort

AmericanHort president and CEO Michael Geary announced last Wednesday that he will be leaving his position at the end of September to serve as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. “I am writing to share with you that on October 8 I will begin a new professional chapter as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, an organization dedicated to creating business opportunities in the architecture, engineering and construction industries,” Geary said in an email. His last day with AmericanHort will be Sept. 30, 2015. “As some of you know, I grew up connected to the horticulture industry so this was not an easy decision for me,” he said. “I have loved working with our organizations and our talented members, staff and partners. However, my choice to return full time to Washington, D.C. will allow me to be closer to my family and aging parents and to re-engage with another industry […]

Read More

August 15, 2015

Ball Horticultural Co. Buys Conard-Pyle/Star Roses And …

Ball Horticultural Co. plans to add Conard-Pyle/Star Roses and Plants to its family of breeding and distribution companies, according to a press release dated August 14, which announced the company’s recent acquisition of the famous introducer of Knock Out Roses and other perennials and woody plants to the market. Ball plans to capitalize on the expertise of its Ball Ornamentals woody ornamentals division, as well as Conard-Pyle’s market-leading position as a top rose breeder to strengthen its product line. The sale is scheduled to close by the end of September 2015. Conard-Pyle’s in-house breeding division NovaFlora, along with its intellectual properties and the distribution, production and administration facilities of its wholesale division are also part of the acquisition. NovaFlora is the driving force behind the Star Roses and Plants brand. “Conard-Pyle has been the leader in roses in its market and has been actively diversifying its offering with other woody […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]