Some Things Never Change

You can read many business magazines and see how they are looking back over the years to explain what is happening now. There is a saying that you can talk with economists and they can tell you where we have been and what trends have gotten us to this point, but they have great difficulty in forecasting what will happen in the future.

I would like to share some old cultural, marketing, and management information that may be of interest to you. You may find it useful in planning for next year’s production. 

Cultural Facts

1. Mercury and many of its components emit vapors that are toxic to plant growth.
Zimmerman and Crocker in 1934 reported that roses are extremely susceptible to injury from vapors containing mercury. In their findings they showed that mercury-containing insecticides, fungicides, broken thermometers and paints caused problems (Zimmerman Hitchcock, 1956; Butterfield, 1954).

The use of paint with mercury in it caused significant damage in greenhouses in New England in 1954.

In 1968 significant damage occurred in a rose greenhouse in Michigan when a mercury thermometer was broken in one section of the range. After that event, an all-out effort was made to eliminate mercury thermometers from all greenhouses in the state.

The reason I mention this information is that the energy-saving light bulbs that many of us have changed to in order to save energy have been found to contain mercury. If one of these bulbs is broken, mercury fumes may be emitted. This may be a problem for plants in a confined area. I don’t know the quantity of mercury in each bulb or the potential hazard it represents, but I do know the damage can be severe to roses and other plants if small quantities of mercury are released in greenhouses.

2. Recycling can lead to severe plant damage if not done properly.
Subirrigation was researched and developed in the late 1890s and early 1900s at The Ohio State University. The mechanics of the system worked, but it was never widely adopted. The non-sterile soil in the pots, the reused containers and the lack of sanitation resulted in all the insects and diseases being spread throughout the various parts of the system.

The newer systems we have in greenhouses today have made great strides to correct these limitations. However, when you introduce new types of pots, flats or media or use them in an organic system, be sure to monitor for insects, diseases and all pathogens. Remember, the final product must be of acceptable quality to be marketed successfully.

3. Time is money — money is time.
Next year, fuel costs will be higher and the more time it takes to grow a crop, the more expensive it will be. The more space you need to grow a pot or flat will also increase the costs.

When I first came to Michigan, Dr. Sylvan Wittwer, who at that time was a plant physiologist, took me to a greenhouse in Jackson, Mich., right next to the federal prison there, to see lettuce and spinach being grown in a cold greenhouse with some of the first use of carbon dioxide being injected into a production system. Dr. Wittwer proved the carbon dioxide increased growth and decreased time to harvest, but it was not economically viable to use this method in Michigan.

Today, we see a trend to go organic. Buying organic food makes sense if you believe it is tastier, more nutritious and safer. There are many conflicting opinions on this, but it is well known that it takes more acreage to produce organically because yields are less per acre and the amount of labor is higher. Therefore, you must get a higher price for organic food products.

The longer the time to grow, the more your labor costs will be unless you have access to very cheap labor. Therefore, many of these ventures can only work if your labor costs consist of your family members and a few part-time employees.

Marketing Facts

1. Watch out for “green washing.”
It is a fact that some companies use the “green hype” as a sales tool and only as a sales tool without any integrity or belief in it.

Nowadays, it seems that “green” is being used as a marketing tool for new products and sales schemes. There has to be science behind the claims that are being made. Many people use the touchy-feely approach and testimonials to sells products or services, but this will not replace the need for scientific experiments to prove or disprove their claims. It comes back to the basics: where is the data, who are the people making the claims and what are their credentials.

Remember, if all you see is green, you must be suffering from blurred vision!

2. It is important to have the data to support your claims.
For example, if you sell an organically grown plug or small plant or a best practices grown plug or small plant to a customer whose garden is not organically maintained, what will be the difference? If it is put in an organically maintained garden, what is the difference? Or if it is organically or best practices grown all the way, what is the difference? The answer is either there is no difference, the organically grown plug or plant has better characteristics or the best practices grown plug or plant has better characteristics. Where is the data?

No data? Their answer is that it’s touchy feely.

If the answer is obtained from a valid experiment based on a valid hypothesis, then the data will provide validity for your conclusions. 

Management Facts

1. The business remains the same.
Every year there seems to be a new spin on how to manage a business. New books are written about it, but there are some timeless rules that are as valid today as they were a generation ago.

2. What are these timeless rules?
• The best marketing technique is a great product.
• Be determined to be the best — sufficient money will almost automatically follow.
• Boldness in business is the first, second and third commandment.
• Don’t believe that the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
• Don’t be an egoist, that is someone who burns down the house just to cook a couple of eggs.
• The future belongs to things that can grow, whether plants or people.
• To survive, you need faith. To destroy a business, use fear.
• Identify the opportunities. Decide if they are fads or trends. Do your best to lead the trends and avoid the fads.
• Knowledge is power — use it or lose it. To be successful in your business, you need to know more about it than anyone else.
• Enjoy what you are doing — in business, family, friends and community. A well-balanced leader will have a well-balanced business and life. 

A last thought — be aware of the world situation today. Over 850 million people are starving. Many are rioting to get food and most are unable to even get enough to survive. They even eat dirt to get the minerals they need. They don’t care if their food is organically or inorganically grown. They have no way of feeding themselves.

Massive amounts of food, water and staples are needed, or we won’t have to worry about carbon footprints because there will be one billion fewer people on the planet.

If we were on the Titanic and we knew we were about to hit an iceberg, we wouldn’t be rearranging the deck chairs. We would be thinking about how to avoid the collision. Everyone thought that the ship was unsinkable. Guess what? It wasn’t!

We need to use all our talents to grow plants to provide food, shelter and safety as well as beauty to help sustain life. Don’t get caught up in what techniques are being used to grow the plants, but rather concentrate on producing enough to sustain the population that exists.

People were starving hundreds of years ago, and people are starving today. I guess some things never change.

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Colorado State University 2015 Container Field Trials

November 29, 2015

2015 Colorado State University (Fort Collins, Colo.) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.

Read More
Coleus 'Colorblaze Velveteen' (2015 University of Tennessee Field Trials)

November 28, 2015

2015 University of Tennessee Gardens (Knoxville and Jackson, Tenn.) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for University of Tennessee Gardens in Knoxville and Jackson, Tenn.

Read More
Feature Image Cob 700 (NewLux)

November 28, 2015

16 LED Lighting Solutions For Your Greenhouse

Narrowing in on the right LED lighting product often comes down to considering your specific crop needs and growing requirements to see what works best for your application. Here are 15 LED products to take into account when choosing the right fit for your greenhouse.

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"]