Head Grower Of The Year Joe Moore: The Best Growers Lead By Example

Joe Moore

Dedicated. Innovative. Enthusiastic. Thoughtful. Leader. All words that describe an ideal employee in any business, and they have all been used to describe Joe Moore, recipient of Greenhouse Grower’s 2012 Head Grower of the Year Award.

As head grower for Lucas Greenhouses in Monroeville, N.J., Moore is responsible for everything that happens in 22 acres of heated space and 30 acres of outdoor growing area. He directly oversees 15 growers and is also head of production, which means responsibility for planting and production lines and liner pulling crews — about 100 people in all. Lucas propagates 24 million rooted cuttings and grows a full line of prefinished poinsettias and spring material. Lucas also produces finished crops for independent garden centers and landscapers, including annual flats, 4.5-inch pots, hanging baskets, patio planters, spring bulbs, pansies, mums and other fall crops.

Moore not only handles all of this, he handles it well, as evidenced by the fact that Lucas Greenhouses won Greenhouse Grower’s Operation of the Year award in 2009.

“Joe has a very good reputation in the industry as a very good grower,” says George Lucas, owner of Lucas Greenhouses. “But he is much more than that. Lucas Greenhouses would not be in the Top 100 if it weren’t for his leadership and determination. He treats the business as his own, and his relentless search for perfection and attention to detail is uncommon.”

Moore has been with Lucas since the tender young age of 11, working up in the company as his responsibilities (and he himself) grew. He has been head grower for 24 years and has developed a reputation for pursuing new technology and mentoring his own employees, as well as being helpful to other growers who ask for his advice.

Empowerment Is Key

Moore, however, is quick to give credit to the team for his success.

“I’m just one key piece in the puzzle that makes up Lucas Greenhouses,” Moore says. “A lot of times George and I get the press and attention for what happens here, but it’s really important for people to know that there is an entire team of key employees that make this whole thing work. Neither of us could pull this off without them. I really do rely on my key management people to take our ‘recipes’ and put them into action and make them work. I may put together a growth plan for a crop that works great, but I’m no longer the guy dragging the spray hose around every day, or mixing the feed or doing the watering. We all know you can have a great plan, but if the execution is poor, the results will be, too.”

A Perfect Partnership

It’s obvious that Moore and Lucas have a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. Moore credits Lucas with giving him incredible opportunities for growth and responsibility; Lucas credits Moore with the overall success of his business.

“Joe understands what it takes to get where we are today, and I value his opinion very much,” Lucas says. “Other than financial decisions, he is in on all other major decisions and runs the entire operation, except sales, every day. He is very active in the propagation part of our business and is in touch with breeders and stock facilities all over Central America and Mexico. Joe makes all the cultural and variety decisions for all crops with input from me and the sales team.”

Moore says he knows how fortunate he is. “Most people aren’t given the opportunities I’ve been given here, or the same level of equipment and technology to do the job that I’ve been given. I’ve been very fortunate, and I’m very aware of that. George gives me, in essence, final say on almost all areas of production and growing, which is pretty rare in most operations. There are a lot of really good growers out there who don’t work for someone who would trust them to do what I do or who would be comfortable with the grower getting as much credit as I get as an employee. It’s been a win-win situation for both of us when you look at it.”

Regarding his reputation for mentoring employees, Moore says empowering
others benefits him as well.

“The biggest benefit comes when you can’t be around for some reason, and those people are able to act and react without having to come to you for everything,” he says. “The biggest challenge for me at times is getting the information they need out of my head into a format or system they can access and understand, so they can make decisions on their own. So much of what I do is based on making decisions on the fly and always being around to fix a problem or communication error that I may have created by not having something as well organized as it should have been. As we move forward, this is probably the area I need to concentrate the most on improving.”

Staying Current Is A Priority

Lucas says Moore puts a high priority on researching and understanding new technology and how it will help his business. “Joe is always looking for a better way to do something,” he says. “He and his team stay on the cutting edge of the best technical growing practices.”

Moore says he accomplishes this by partnering with some of the best minds and companies in the industry, citing their recent greenhouse expansion as a prime example.

“We have worked very closely with Jeff Warshauer and the folks at Nexus as we have grown rapidly over the last 10 years. Our latest expansion is a perfect example of a greenhouse company and a grower sitting down and designing a structure to meet the exact needs of what the grower is looking for at that point in time.”

Moore also says one of his favorite things to do is visit growers around the country to see how they are doing things and if they have systems or ideas that might work for his business. “You can’t be afraid of trying something new and having it not work out,” Moore says. “It’s not easy spending money on something and having it not work, but sometimes you have to take a chance. Not all ideas are hits, but we usually hit more than we miss.”

A typical work day for Moore varies based on the time of the year. Because he also handles production, it is usually a blend of looking at crops, planning crops and crop inputs, organizing production schedules and getting information out to planting line crews. A good layer of management at each area of production keeps those areas running smoothly, allowing him to concentrate on areas that require his direct attention. In the summer and fall, he devotes more time to crop planning, while winter and spring are more focused on the actual crops and production lines.

As is typical for this industry, challenges arise unexpectedly. One recent challenge Moore had to deal with was a mysterious phytotoxicity on spring finished crops. It was eventually traced back to wood glue used in the manufacturing of the coco fiber baskets that they were using. Moore also handled a bacteria problem on poinsettias a few summers ago.

Appreciating Success

As for the high points, Moore says being selected as the Head Grower of the Year is right up there at the top. “It’s one of the highest honors that someone in that position can get in our industry,” he says. “I was also honored to have had the opportunity to serve on the OFA Board of Directors.” His work in partnering with Syngenta Flowers and Pleasant View Gardens developing a highly successful young plant propagation business over the last 12 to 15 years is also something he is proud of.

Moore continues to give to an industry that has given much to him by participating in the Short Course and helping other growers, customers and sales reps with thoughtful, candid answers to their questions. He remains humble despite his success, saying, “If I would have sat down 25 or 30 years ago with a blank piece of paper and wrote down the craziest, wildest, most forward-thinking plan that I could have, I still would never have come up with where we have gone here over the last 32 years.”

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Head Grower Of The Year Joe Moore: The Best Growers Lead By Example

More From Grow Initiative...

April 17, 2015

Sakata Seed Uses California Spring Trials Display Plants To Give Back

Sakata Seed America is putting its post-CAST (California Spring Trials) plants and flowers to good use to support events in local California communities of Salinas and Morgan Hill. The plants, along with donations through Sakata's Charitable Giving Program, will support three fun-filled community events that promote healthy lifestyles and support the agricultural industry.

Read More
Hakonochloa macra Aureola v

April 17, 2015

Ornamental Grasses — A Few Thoughts

Grasses have been embraced by growers, landscape architects and retailers, and are an important component in wholesale and resale sales. Allan Armitage shares some popular grasses, one to avoid and a few to use with caution.

Read More
PW_CAST15

April 17, 2015

Allan Armitage’s Favorite Plants From Proven Winners, Syngenta And Danziger

Between visiting California Spring Trial giants like Proven Winners, Syngenta and Danziger, Allan Armitage saw a lot of great plants in one day. Despite the size of the challenge, Dr. Armitage finds a few favorites he thinks you should try.

Read More
Latest Stories
Todd Woodfield

April 8, 2015

Sustainable Horticulture Pays Off

Practicing holistic horticulture has saved money and improved plant quality for Abby Farms. Its manager shares where the operation has seen differences from conventional production.

Read More

April 1, 2015

Philadelphia Flower Show Draws More Than 250,000 Attend…

With more than 250,000 consumers attending the prestigious Philadelphia Flower Show in March each year, it's a great opportunity to get flowers and gardening products into the public eye. This year's show displays took on family favorites at the movies, with a focus on Disney and Pixar films. Check out some of the highlights in our slideshow.

Read More

April 1, 2015

Peace Tree Farms Grows Its Customer Base

Over the past five years, Peace Tree Farms in Kintnersville, Pa., has concentrated on growing its business by providing plant material for the displays at the illustrious Philadelphia Flower Show. We caught up with Peace Tree Farms’ Lloyd Traven to ask about how the Flower Show figures into his business plan.

Read More
Bloomtown_Screen Shot 2015-03-10

March 24, 2015

Bloomtown Exposes Consumers To The World Of Horticultur…

A new web series called Bloomtown is all about the mud, sweat and tears of horticulture. Filmed in St. Louis, Mo., it chronicles the world of horticulture using local flower growers, greenhouses, wholesalers, florists, consumers, retail shops and arborists, with the goal of opening consumers’ eyes to the world of horticulture around them.

Read More
SAF CAD

March 18, 2015

Growers Ask For Immigration And Healthcare Reform Durin…

Nearly 90 growers, retailers, suppliers and wholesales attended the Society of American Florists' (SAF) 2015 Congressional Action Days March 9-10. The delegation, representing 18 states, arrived on Capitol Hill at a time when two major industry issues - immigration and healthcare reform - are especially prominent in national headlines.

Read More
Nexus Corporation's Cheryl Longtin Encourages Women To Seek Volunteer Leadership Opportunities

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Wom…

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More
Smart Herb Garden

March 2, 2015

Smartpot Uses Sensors And Cartridges To Ensure Success …

Click & Grow helps make it simple for consumers to grow their own herbs and spices at home, even if they have little experience with plants.

Read More

March 2, 2015

Student Flash Mob At TPIE Has Roots In Floriculture

The local FFA students who entertained TPIE attendees in 2014 and 2015 received industry donations of plants and a greenhouse structure to help expand their horticultural program.

Read More

February 12, 2015

GROW Perspective: What Is It You Do Again?

The industry is very good at talking about what we do and how we do it, but has almost completely lost touch with talking about why this work is important. As an industry, we need to promote our professions as vital to healthier living.

Read More
bee photo

February 11, 2015

26 Ways Growers Improve The Green Industry

In Greenhouse Grower’s annual State Of The Industry Survey, we asked how your operation is living the GROW Initiative’s five pillars: How are you driving consumer success, cultivating new customers, demanding quality, investing in the industry and sharpening business management? Through your candid responses, we learned about some of the ideas you’ve implemented and steps you’re taking for 2015. Here are just a few.

Read More
Noble Foundation

February 3, 2015

Lloyd Noble Scholars Program Application Period Now Ope…

The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation is offering college students an opportunity to work side-by-side with the Noble Foundation’s renowned agricultural consultants and researchers through the Lloyd Noble Scholars in Agriculture program, a summer internship that provides students the opportunity to enhance their in-class education with real-world application and experiences.

Read More

January 7, 2015

GROW Summit 2014 Homes In On The Issues That Keep You U…

During Greenhouse Grower’s third annual GROW Summit in December a number of ideas, questions and calls-to-action transpired. Here are a few of the highlights.

Read More
GROW Logo

January 6, 2015

Growers Resolve To Educate Public About Their Operation…

See what growers plan to work on for their 2015 business resolutions.

Read More

December 22, 2014

National Garden Bureau Launches Therapeutic Garden Prog…

National Garden Bureau has chosen the Growing Solutions Farm in Chicago as the first beneficiary of its annual fundraising effort "Growing For Futures."

Read More

December 19, 2014

Hydroponic Food Production Course Serves Up Life Lesson…

Students in the new HORT 331X Hydroponic Food Crop Production course at Iowa State University are producing more food than they can eat, so they began donating the vegetables they produce to a local food pantry and free meal program.

Read More
GROW Logo

December 8, 2014

“The Cheapest Generation” Will Be Tomorrow&…

Members of the Millennial generation aren’t buying cars and houses the way their parents did, and according to a recent article from The Atlantic titled “The Cheapest Generation,” it might be more than an effect of a bad economy. So what does this mean for horticulture? Industry members weigh in.

Read More
Katie Nickolaus

November 25, 2014

Proven Winners Names 2014 Scholarship Winners

Looking to promote industry leaders of the future, Proven Winners has established a $15,000 scholarship program that awards students in three distinct areas - breeding, marketing and growing.

Read More

November 24, 2014

GROW Perspective: We Need To Think Bigger

Garry Grueber of Cultivaris and Global Breadfruit says the horticulture industry must evolve to help solve the problems of world hunger and food insecurity.

Read More