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

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 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 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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June 12, 2008

An Unconventional Path

Have you ever wondered what happens to all the money that the American Floral Endowment disperses in grants and scholarships each year? Has it done any good or changed any lives? Well, Kim Hoffer, director of marketing for Baisch & Skinner Wholesale in St. Louis, Mo., is one such beneficiary with a rather unique career path. While pursuing a horticulture degree at the University of Wisconsin–River Falls, Hoffer explored both the production and retail environments without finding the right career inspiration. It wasn’t until she started participating in the National Intercollegiate Floriculture Floral Crop Evaluation and Design Competition that she realized the wholesale/distribution side of the industry was the right fit. She just didn’t know her love of cut flowers would lead to a successful career in marketing.  Critiquing Crops Held in a different location each year, the annual crop evaluation competition uses a contest environment to teach university students about […]

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June 4, 2008

Nickelodeon & NGA Promote Gardening To Children

Wow! Wow! Wubbzy, the popular preschool children’s show on Nick Jr. and Noggin, has teamed up with the National Gardening Association (NGA) to promote the benefits of gardening to children and their parents. According to NGA, children who garden have higher self esteem, get better grades in math and science and appreciate the environment. Wow! Wow! Wubbzy has helped spread the word about the benefits of gardening by sponsoring the Wuzzleburg Preschool Garden Awards, which awards 75 preschools with $1,000 worth of gardening products and educational resources from the NGA. “We are delighted to partner with the NGA to give this special award to these preschools,” says Amorette Jones, executive vice president, worldwide marketing for Starz Media, which produces the show along with Bolder Media, Inc. “Gardening is a proven tool in enriching children’s lives. It educates, sparks curiosity, beautifies schools and helps the environment. This award and these 75 […]

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May 28, 2008

Michigan Greenhouse The First Verified By MAEAP

Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses in Portage, Mich., joins more than 500 Michigan farms that are verified by the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). But it is the first greenhouse operation in the state of Michigan to become verified by MAEAP. To become verified, Elzinga & Hoeksema completed the Greenhouse*A*Syst risk assessment that pinpoints best practices in water, fertilizer and pesticide use. For more information on MAEAP, click here.

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