A Salute To Youth

Have you been following our Ones To Watch series? Twenty-five up-and-coming growers–and some of them already well established for their ages–have graced these pages over the last five months, sharing their stories and insights with us so we can relay information to you from a few growers eager to make a difference in tomorrow’s world.

Some of our Ones To Watch are barely 25 years old, yet they have visions of the next 25 years–for their careers, their growing operations and the industry. Their resumes are obviously impressive, but their enthusiasm and fortitude in a time of economic uncertainty should be even more encouraging to industry insiders–and outsiders.

The young growers profiled don’t sit around waiting for others to develop solutions. Instead, they’ve formulated the templates for others to follow. They’ve become inventors, innovators and voices for change. They’ve put a new or unique spin on marketing, taken advantage of new technology and opened their doors to share ideas.

This issue closes the door on our Ones To Watch series, but we’ll keep an eye on those already profiled and another on prospects you’ll need to know about.

It’s Elzinga In ’08

President Mark Elzinga and Head Grower Roger Rosenthal were a little too experienced to qualify for our 25 Ones To Watch, but they certainly caught our attention this year. Their commitment to organics and geothermal energy were big reasons why their operation, Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses, earned Grower of the Year honors for 2008.

On a visit to the company’s Portage, Mich., location back in March, I felt like I had stepped into the future after crossing through a sterilizing chamber and into Elzinga’s brand-new facility built solely for organic production. A guided greenhouse tour brought us to benches of the operation’s branded organic herbs and veggies, which reflects more than 40 years of continuous business between Elzinga and the Meijer retail chain.

Two 500-gallon onsite compost tea brewers to feed organic plants, a collection of 200 solar panels and a heat exchanger that includes 26 miles of polypropylene tubing were other highlights of the tour. The investment was an extraordinary one, but the payback for the operation and the environment should come sooner than later judging from the rapid global growth of organic food sales and the skyward direction of heating costs.

Winter is bound to slam Michigan soon. It might not hit Elzinga’s pocketbook quite as hard this time around.

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