September 16, 2008

Grow Your Own Fuel

If you’re situated on acres of farmland, you just might be able to grow your own fuel to heat greenhouses. That’s what Arie Van Vugt, owner of Plainview Growers is doing at his more rural facility in Allamuchy, N.J. Van Vugt just purchased a 500-hp burner that will burn wood pellets and pellets made out of grasses, like switchgrass and miscanthus, from Crone Boilers in Holland through Total Energy Group. He will be planting 200 acres of miscanthus in open fields and using wood pellets in the mean time, while waiting for those yields. GG: What made you consider growing miscanthus as an alternative fuel? “At our Allamuchy facility, which is farm country, there is no way of getting natural gas–just propane or fuel oil. When we started there nine years ago, we were paying $1 per gallon for No. 2 fuel oil. This past season, it was $4 a […]

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July 23, 2008

Last Call For Surveys!

Purdue University wants to know how sustainable your operation is and how knowledgeable you are on the topic. Even if you didn’t attend Short Course and pick up one of Purdue’s sustainability surveys, you can fill one out online. Click here to participate in the online survey. If you have a hard copy and need to mail it in, Purdue asks that you do so by August 15. You can mail your survey to the following address: Attn: Dr. Jennifer Davis Purdue University Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture 625 Agriculture Mall Drive West Lafayette, Indiana 47907-9981 If you have questions about the survey, direct them to Jennifer at jhdennis@purdue.edu or Roberto Lopez at rglopez@purdue.edu.

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July 9, 2008

Product Donations Support Local Charities

Habitat for Humanity and the Columbus Housing Partnership will use the plant material to provide landscaping to homeowners to showcase the power of plants to improve one’s quality of life. The Ronald McDonald House and local nursing homes, meanwhile, will have approximately 500 fresh floral arrangements delivered courtesy of the designers, volunteers and FTD Flower Exchange. The floral delivery is being coordinated by event volunteer Jody Brown-Spivey, owner of Expressions Floral Design Studio in Columbus. For more information on OFA, click here.

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June 23, 2008

Coming Together

Frank Lloyd Wright said, “I know the price of success: dedication, hard work and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.” Changing a town’s quality of life doesn’t happen overnight. Making the commitment to improve quality of life marks the beginning of major improvements that may take years to complete. The America In Bloom (AIB) program, supported by our industry, offers a framework and a way to jumpstart those improvements, so projects that might have ordinarily been done “sometime” can be completed in time for the judges’ arrival. Why do some towns keep coming back, year after year? Some recognize the importance and synergy of expanded volunteer efforts. Others are excited by the progress made possible via business involvement.  Educating The Community Buffalo, Minn., returned for its third time and a win this year. As Laureen Bodin, assistant administrator for the city puts it, “Our community has […]

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June 20, 2008

Gone Green

Sustainability. Everyone is talking sustainable. Why? Sustainability is being driven by many of the largest retailers out there. Earlier this year, we heard from the main hort buyer at Wal-Mart at the Grower Talks Greenhouse Experience, and everything at Wal-Mart is about sustainability. Even down to the LED lights in the refrigerated cases in the chain’s frozen food sections. It’s a scary proposition for many growers, because there are several definitions for sustainable. Setting up sustainable production can be tricky too–there are many choices to make. If you’re shipping biodegradable pots from across the country or overseas, are you still contributing to the environment? Every retailer is going to have its own standards and practices they’d like to see you use, but really the way to make any change is one baby step at a time. Rice hull pots this year, increased use of biologicals next. Improved distribution and logistics […]

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June 20, 2008

Is Your Glass Half Full?

As editors, we’re often asked what we’re hearing related to what’s going on out there — how our industry is faring in general and how growers are doing in particular. I try not to be a fence-sitter, but I can never give a simple answer. Just how our industry is doing really varies with whom you talk to, where they are located, how the weather was this spring and how successful their business strategies are. While some growers are closing up shop, others are having their best spring ever. Pessimists and optimists are defined by whether they see half a glass of water as half empty or half full. There are many reasons to feel the glass is half empty. Rising energy, labor and transportation costs have eliminated profits growers would have had in increased sales. We’re also seeing a contraction in supply, which indicates things aren’t going so well. According […]

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June 20, 2008

Greening Up Our Image

For the last five months, I’ve been wondering what our industry can do to recover the plastic waste it generates and promote a more environmentally responsible image. It all began in June, when Beth Botts, garden writer for the Chicago Tribune, took our industry to task and even recommended gardeners reduce the number of plants they buy in plastic pots and start propagating their own plants from cuttings. Just what our growers want, right? More than half a million readers get the Tribune and the column was widely circulated in the industry, but we did not have an effective way to respond with a united voice to address this matter. Ed McConkey, president of McConkey Co. in Sumner, Wash., did write Botts a letter to present our industry’s side of the story through his experiences as a container manufacturer and distributor. So did Jessie Atchison on behalf of Ball Horticultural Co. […]

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June 19, 2008

Is It Time To Reinvent Ourselves?

Does our industry need a makeover? Gardening and landscaping feel too much like work for many consumers, but decorating with flowers and enjoying your outdoor living space while eating home-grown food–well, that sounds like a lot of fun. The activities are different but the end results are almost the same. One question posed at the Grower Town Meeting at OFA’s Short Course was, “What business are you in? We all think we grow plants, but what business are we really in?”  Living The Good Life One grower declared he’s in the lifestyle business. “People want plants. It’s all about how we package them and market them. Our products must fit into their life,” he said. “We need to provide the wow factor so consumers want to take it home. Do our products deliver the wow factor?” He shared that during a consumer focus group at an independent garden center, one […]

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June 18, 2008

Make Your Competition Irrelevant

My dad is a rocket scientist. Seriously, and at 80 years of age he’s still a very sharp-thinking guy. He’s also a passionate gardener who, as he says, must spend at least $80 a weekend at the garden center or it feels like someone took the seatbelts out of his car. He told us about this great book he was reading, but it was taking him forever to finish. The problem he faced was that it kept inspiring him with so many ideas. “I am one-third of the way into the book and I have written myself over a hundred notes,” he explained. He hooked us on his next statement. “It tells you how to make your competition irrelevant.” Since then, I bought the book and I have read it. I have sent copies to friends and customers. This book does not disappoint. The title is “Blue Ocean Strategy: How to […]

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June 16, 2008

Gracious Giving

A few months ago, I got a call from an industry member who was looking for opportunities to volunteer in the floriculture industry. She said she was on the verge of retirement, looking for something to do with her newly found free time. Did I know of any? Well, sure. There’s America In Bloom, the community improvement project, scholarship foundations like Shinoda and the American Floral Endowment, and Master Gardener programs, which all can hook professionals up with tons of volunteer opportunities. In this magazine, as in your local television station or newspaper, the feel-good stories get pushed to the end. During this season of giving and sharing, here are some great things that are going on in the industry. Happy holidays! USAID Since 2000, USAID has funded economic and social assistance programs for displaced people. One of these programs in Colombia is building flower cultivation skills. Run in partnership […]

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June 13, 2008

Connected By Shinoda

No matter your age or experience, if you’re in school, every extra resource counts and is appreciated. For two of this year’s Shinoda Scholarship Foundation winners, the scholarship and their appreciation for what it means to their careers connects two dissimilar lives. Kelly Norris, Living The Horticultural Life At 19, Kelly Norris of Bedford, Iowa, is the youngest recipient of the 2006 Shinoda Scholarship. But at such a young age, his resume already reads like a horticulture industry veteran. Garden writer. Newspaper columnist. Lecturer. On top of these activities, the Iowa State University sophomore juggles a more-than-full 21-credit-hour schedule that includes classes, labs and a hosta genetics research program. Did I mention he manages a seven-acre specialty iris nursery, too? Like many who encounter gardening and plants as a child, horticulture has become Kelly’s life, with everything else merely a hobby. “My earliest garden memories trace back to when I […]

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