The Soul Of Horticulture

Is horticulture dying? Is floriculture declining? Why can’t we have double-digit increases in sales? Recent articles have asked these questions about floriculture and indicated that because the industry has lost 2,000 growers and sales have not experienced double-digit increases, it is doomed!

I have been reading articles about genetic engineering, talking about how they have mapped the human genome and that they may be able to clone humans. My two cents is that they may be able to clone a physical body or even a human mind, but they will never be able to clone a human soul.

A colleague and friend of mine, Allen Hammer, who graduated from Cornell University and has been at Purdue University for over 30 years, captured the essence of soul in a recent article, "A Lesson from 1888." He indicated that we have to learn from the past and referred to a biography of Liberty Hyde Bailey. Bailey is widely known as the "Father of Horticulture."

If you read his works, you realize that he was truly a Renaissance man. Bailey was interested in research and education, including teaching children horticulture. He was involved in rural development and wrote extensively about horticulture and rural life.

Hammer quoted Bailey from the biography, "One does not begin a garden until he wants a garden. To want a garden is to be interested in plants, weather, soils, insects, diseases and wildlife."

I believe that Dr. Hammer hit the nail on the head when he said, "We must convince consumers they need our product to improve their lives." The soul of our business is to have our customers know that plants and flowers help provide a deeper meaning to our lives and can help not only with our basic needs of food, shelter and energy, but also with our spiritual needs. It is the soul of our lives that will never be cloned. Dr. Hammer’s last statement in his article is, "Liberty Hyde Bailey’s story can inspire and stimulate us to promote horticulture as a lifestyle." 

Optimistic Souls

Further proof that the "soul" of horticulture will never be cloned is found in the life of Howard Hunter. Howard was featured in the Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006 issue of my local newspaper, The Lansing State Journal. He is 101 years old and is pictured spraying his Delta Township orchard. The article indicates this is the last time he will spray them. He is quoted as saying, "The trees are getting too old," then he chuckled and said, "I guess I am, too."

For the last few years, Howard had a sign on his orchard that said, "Free apples, pick your own." He said in the article, "I can’t keep going forever. There aren’t a lot of trees and the ones that are there need to be replaced. I can’t see doing that."

Wow! How do you clone Howard? How do you put his soul into every grower, wholesaler or buyer? I’d like you to send me a list of growers, wholesalers or buyers who still work at 100 years old and love their jobs, their customers and their friends.

Is horticulture dying? I don’t think so! Its soul is alive and well, even in a 101-year-old man. I received an e-mail last month from Charles (Chuck) Heidgen, who owns Shady Hill Gardens in Batavia, Ill. He commented on my article about "Deal Or No Deal." He provided me with even more proof that our industry is not dying.

"Like any industry, we grow and then plateau. Each plateau is usually much higher than the previous one," he said. "No market of any product or service can grow at double-digit rates continuously." His point is great! Horticulture is not dying. It’s only catching its breath!

Chuck and I talked on the phone for over half an hour and I again saw the soul of horticulture. I won’t forget one final statement that Chuck made: "We are farmers. We have to be perpetually optimistic." Wow! How do you clone that soul?

I also remember Peter Drucker, writing in the February 2006 issue of the Harvard Business Review. In "What Executives Should Remember," he indicated that if you see a profitable, well-run business, it was made possible by a person who has put his or her total effort – soul – into it.

I’ve seen people who have made millions of dollars in our business. I’ve also seen people who have worked all their lives and made just enough money to survive.

I’ve seen people who have raised their children and have been able to keep their horticulture businesses in the family for more than 100 years. I’ve also seen people who have not been able to keep their family or their business intact.

Both Heidgen and I agree that the ten most important two-letter words are: "If it is to be, it is up to me." Today, most growers have planned or are planning for spring 2007. Most buyers are making commitments for what will happen in spring 2007. All factions from growers to logistical people to buyers and retailers will have to work together to make our industry grow.

And don’t forget the people we are really working for, the ultimate consumers who will use and enjoy our products. Remember these folks aren’t there just to buy your product so that you can make money. They are there expecting you to provide them with a product that will improve their lives. 

Horticulture’s On The Move

The bottom line is horticulture is not dying! Sometimes it may be flying! If you have the right product in the right place at the right time, you can make a great deal of money and have great satisfaction. Those folks, whether they be growers, wholesalers or retailers, who keep on trying are the ones who will keep our industry growing.

I leave you again with one of the best lessons that I learned at Michigan State University. Dr. Al Kenworthy, a professor in fruit crops, gave the same final exam for over 15 years. Most students had a copy at the beginning of the course. When I found out what was happening, I went to Al and said, "Do you know that every one of the students has a copy of your final exam?" Al smiled at me and said, "I’m not worried about that, Will, because the questions are the same but the answers change every year."

At the time, I thought Al’s comment was ridiculous, but now I know that it is true. Here is your final exam for next year:

• How much should you grow?

• When should it be available?

• What should you charge for it?

There are about 20 more questions that I could ask, but, if you get the right answers to these three, you’ll be off to a good start! Good luck!

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
PP&L CAST 2015 intros

April 22, 2015

6 Breeding Companies Serve Up New Varieties At Pacific Plug & Liner

Pacific Plug & Liner’s theme this year, Labyrinth, a conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants, was perfectly topped off (pun intended) with fascinators for the women and newsboy caps for the men. The PP&L team dressed their part to act out the gothic “conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants.” Truly, the displays looked like they practically popped out of a catalog, and the costumes were a nice touch. Retailers take heed, the fully merchandised displays at Pacific Plug & Liner are worthy of emulating. We’ll let the pictures tell the story of all the fabulous variety introductions presented at  Pacific Plug & Liner’s 2015 California Spring Trials, where Cultivaris, Cohen Nurseries, Histil Nurseries, Jaldety Nurseries, Southern Living/Sunset Collection and Pacific Plug & Liner all highlighted their 2016 introductions.  

Read More
Speedling 2015 CAST intros

April 22, 2015

Speedling Inc. Presents New Varieties From ABZ Seeds, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Vista Farms & PSI

You name it, we saw it at Speedling's California Spring Trials location in San Juan Bautista, where five companies showed off their new introductions for 2016.

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Latest Stories
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Syngenta logo

April 15, 2015

Syngenta Names Chris Freeman Senior Key Account Manager…

Chris Freeman is the new senior key account manager for Syngenta Flowers, Home & Garden's Commercial Sales business in the Americas, effective March 2015. Freeman, who joined Syngenta in 2006, carries more than 25 years of experience in the agriculture and floriculture business.

Read More
Lake Buchanan_LCRA

April 10, 2015

USDA Designates Areas Of West And Southwest As Drought …

The ongoing drought has resulted in disaster area designations in counties across nine Western and Southwestern states, including Texas, where some reservoirs are at or near historically low levels.

Read More

April 9, 2015

Altman Plants’ Online Cactus Shop Shows Strong Sa…

Altman Plants recently opened its new Cactus Shop, an online retail store that sells a variety of cactus and succulents. The store is a take-off of Altman’s original wholesale business, as the company started as a mail order catalog.

Read More
Dummen

April 8, 2015

Dümmen Group Welcomes Jim Devereux And Andrew Konicki T…

Dümmen group recently announced the addition of Jim Devereux and Andrew Konicki to its team. They are the newest members of the Key Account and Broker Support team for Dümmen, and will be responsible for building, developing and maintaining current broker and grower customer relationships.

Read More
Gov._Jerry_Brown_California

April 8, 2015

California Institutes First Ever Statewide Mandatory Wa…

California Gov. Jerry Brown announced April 1 that, for the first time in state history, action will be taken to implement mandatory water restrictions, with the ultimate goal of reducing water usage by 25 percent. As Californians are pushed to conserve more, growers will need to think about how demand for products will be affected.

Read More
DNA-logo

March 31, 2015

DNA Green Group Will Acquire Rijnplant

DNA Green Group and Riknplant have finalized DNA Green Group's acquisition of Rijnplant, meaning that the breeding and propagation activities in pot and cut anthurium, bougainvillea and heliconia will transfer to DNA Green Group.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadl…

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More

March 23, 2015

UF/IFAS Appoints Joseph Albano As Director Of Mid-Flori…

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has a new directors for its Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (REC) on Apopka, Fla. The role has been filled by Joseph Albano, a research horticulturist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with more than 25 years of experience.

Read More

March 17, 2015

Pike Nurseries Implements Employee Stock Ownership Plan

Independent garden retailer Pike Nurseries has announced it will become an employee-owned company. Pike Nurseries management has combined with its sister corporation in California, Armstrong Garden Centers, to operate under an established Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

March 10, 2015

GrowIt! Mobile App Now Available For Android

The mobile app GrowIt! Garden Socially can now be used by gardeners with Android-based smartphones. Now available on the Google Play Market, GrowIt! helps users find plants to fit their lifestyle and connect them with other local gardeners.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and …

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Maryland Green Industry Associations Unite

The Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association recently announced that it is expanding its reach to include the greenhouse industry, meaning it has become The Maryland Nursery, Landscape and Greenhouse Association (MNLGA). The change comes as a result of the planned dissolution of the former Maryland Greenhouse Growers Association and the invitation for those members to join the existing and renamed association.

Read More
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Ann…

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More
myers industries Lawn and Garden Logo

February 24, 2015

Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn And Garden Business Sold, N…

The management of Myers Lawn and Garden Group, along with Wingate Partners V, L.P. have recently acquired the Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn and Garden business. The new company is named The HC Companies, and will continue as a North American leading provider of horticulture containers supplying the greenhouse, nursery and retail markets.

Read More
american-hort-logo

February 17, 2015

AmericanHort Announces New Board Members

AmericanHort recently announced the election of new officers and members to the board of directors. Each will assume their positions on the board during Cultivate’15, July 11 to 14 in Columbus, Ohio.

Read More
All American Selections

February 17, 2015

All-America Selections Elects New Officers, Names New J…

While meeting during the Flower and Vegetable Seed Conference in Tampa, Fla., hosted by the American Seed Trade Association, All-America Selections elected new officers for a two-year term. Read on to learn about the new officers, as well as all of the new judges that were added in 2014.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower.com on your desktop, on your phone, on your tablet

February 11, 2015

GreenhouseGrower.com Relaunches With Responsive Design …

Greenhouse Grower magazine, the nation’s leader in profits, production and education for greenhouse growers, announces the launch of its completely redesigned website, GreenhouseGrower.com. The new design is the product of direct user feedback and GreenhouseGrower.com analytics, and includes responsive design for ease of mobile use.

Read More