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...
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means For Greenhouse Growers

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More
Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of AmericanHort - Feature image

October 25, 2016

Contribute To HRI To Help Honor Industry Advocate Craig Regelbrugge

In honor of Craig Regelbrugge's extraordinary contributions to the horticultural industry, AmericanHort and the Horticultural Research Initiative created a special HRI endowment fund in his name: "The Craig Regelbrugge - Advocates for Horticulture Fund."

Read More
Lucas Greenhouses Shipping

October 6, 2016

Greenhouse Shipping Costs Down, But Concerns Remain

Lower gas prices have led to lower shipping costs for some growers, but many continue to seek out ways to become more efficient.

Read More
Latest Stories
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means F…

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More
Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of AmericanHort - Feature image

October 25, 2016

Contribute To HRI To Help Honor Industry Advocate Craig…

In honor of Craig Regelbrugge's extraordinary contributions to the horticultural industry, AmericanHort and the Horticultural Research Initiative created a special HRI endowment fund in his name: "The Craig Regelbrugge - Advocates for Horticulture Fund."

Read More
Lucas Greenhouses Shipping

October 6, 2016

Greenhouse Shipping Costs Down, But Concerns Remain

Lower gas prices have led to lower shipping costs for some growers, but many continue to seek out ways to become more efficient.

Read More
Pansy ‘Cool Wave Blue Skies’ (Wave)

September 20, 2016

PanAmerican Seed Settles Alleged Trade Sanction Violati…

PanAmerican Seed, a division of Ball Horticultural Co., has been charged with violating trade sanctions to Iran over a number of years. According to a release from the U.S. Treasury department, PanAmerican Seed made 48 indirect sales of seeds to two Iranian distributors. The company shipped the seed to consignees based in countries in Europe and the Middle East. PanAmerican Seed’s customers then arranged for the re-exportation of the seeds to Iran. The release states that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) determined PanAmerican Seed did not voluntarily self-disclose the alleged violations to OFAC, constituting an egregious case. “We believe that the settlement was extreme; however the alternative was to litigate with the U.S. government, which would take months, if not years,” says Todd Billings, Chief Financial Officer for Ball Horticultural Co. When asked what Ball Horticultural Co. has done to ensure that violations to trade sanctions do not […]

Read More
young-plants

September 20, 2016

The Top Young Plant Growers, And Four Critical Challeng…

In Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Top Young Plant Growers Survey, growers discuss the latest challenges and opportunities in fulfillment, shipping, labor, and crop protection.

Read More
Cavicchio Greenhouses

September 6, 2016

Cavicchio Greenhouses Wins Inaugural Sustainability Awa…

The Sudbury, MA, growing operation sustains more than 250 acres of annuals, perennials, and nursery stock, with a number of practices to mitigate its impact on the environment.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

September 6, 2016

10 Insights From Charlie Hall’s Green Industry Economic…

With the uncertain current economic climate, Texas A&M economist Charlie Hall says now may be the perfect time to invest — as long as you do it smartly.

Read More
Penn State Plant Bud

August 23, 2016

AmericanHort Is Helping Plant Importers Adjust To New R…

A report from Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort says the government is implementing a streamlined system for imports, in which all required data will be submitted electronically through a single window.

Read More
Plug Connection Assortment

August 9, 2016

AmericanHort’s Plug And Cutting Conference Will Feature…

This year’s conference, which takes place Sept. 19-21 in Carlsbad, CA, features discussions on water, pest and disease control, and production inputs, as well as a biocontrols workshop and tour of local cuttings facilities.

Read More
Cannabis In Greenhouse

July 27, 2016

The Top 5 Myths About Cannabis Production Cleared Up

There is a lot of misleading information going around about growing cannabis. Industry insider James Lowe makes sure you know the truth about cannabis production.

Read More
Joe Bischoff

July 26, 2016

SAF Partners With Cornerstone Government Affairs To Adv…

A new partnership between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and Cornerstone Government Affairs ensures that SAF will continue its highly effective work advocating for issues that affect the floriculture industry. “SAF and Cornerstone together provide experienced voices on Capitol Hill to protect our growers’ interests,” says SAF CEO Peter Moran. “We’ll continue to move major policy priorities forward on behalf of small business and agriculture.” Cornerstone is a public affairs firm specializing in government relations, strategic consulting, and advocacy. Its team of more than 50 senior professionals includes former senior professional staff from both authorization and appropriations committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as veterans of the horticulture industry. Agricultural and horticultural issues of primary concern to SAF members include access to labor, immigration, crop protection, international trade and other matters related to the day-to-day operations of growers. Before she retired this year, SAF lobbyist Lin […]

Read More

July 26, 2016

AFE Releases New Videos Highlighting Industry Successes

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) recently released five new videos, created to highlight floriculture successes through industry collaboration, support, and participation. “Each video shares real stories from industry members on career development through scholarships and internships, and true examples of research solutions that have shaped how the industry operates today,” says Laura Shinall, President of Syndicate Sales, Inc., and AFE Public Relations and Development Chair. “We’re excited to be able to share some great success stories in an effort to increase industry participation.” The introductory video “Heard of the American Floral Endowment?” helps educate those who aren’t currently aware of AFE’s programs, while other segmented videos (retail, wholesale, grower) share how Endowment programs complement each group and why it’s so important that everyone in the industry participates: Retail Florists Share Why They Turn to AFE New Resources for Floral Wholesalers and Suppliers AFE Helping Growers Profit Ready for a Career in Floriculture or Horticulture? […]

Read More
Briscoe White, Growers Exchange

July 6, 2016

The Grower’s Exchange Unlocks The Secret to E-Commerce

In the Internet era, Briscoe and Kenan White knew they had to adapt or die and specialize to survive. Here’s how they took The Grower’s Exchange online.

Read More
Brie Arthur

July 6, 2016

5 Can’t-Miss Events To Watch For At Farwest 2016

Whether it’s classes on biocontrols and gardening trends, or networking opportunities in and around the trade show floor, there’s plenty happening at Farwest 2016 in Portland, OR, in August.

Read More
Cannabis states 2016

July 1, 2016

Adult Use Of Cannabis On The Ballot In 2016

25 states have legalized cannabis and public opinion is increasingly positive. Here’s where things may be headed as we move toward the fall elections.

Read More
Practical Software Grower Vertical

June 18, 2016

Practical Software Solutions Increases Accessibility, E…

Practical Software will demonstrate Grower Vertical, its customizable and scalable enterprise management system for the horticulture industry, at Cultivate’16 in July.

Read More
Battlefield Farms Company shot

June 14, 2016

Battlefield Farms Is A Finalist For 2016 Operation Of T…

Battlefield Farms in Rapidan, VA, is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Innovation award for 2016.

Read More

June 7, 2016

Ball Seed Offers Full Mobile Ordering Capabilities With…

The latest update for Ball Seed’s WebTrack To Go mobile app now includes full ordering capabilities for the industry’s largest assortment of seeds and plants. App users can also complete order fulfillment via seed count or package size, find product substitutions, get personalized “contact us” information, request plant tags, and more. “Upgrading WebTrack To Go to the full suite of ordering and management tools is where we’ve always wanted to be,” says Mark Morris, Director of IT for Ball Seed. “With this new roll-out, we’re keeping up with our customers on-the-go and providing them the information and access they need –- even while away from their desks.” The Ball Seed WebTrack To Go app lets customers: Check order status and shipment tracking 24-7 Access up-to-the-minute product inventory from hundreds of suppliers Place orders by seed count, packet size, and more Find product info, culture and photos when and where they […]

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