January 31, 2013

2013 Could Be The Turnaround Year

The Great Recession began more than five years ago now (December 2007). It also ended more than three and a half years ago (June 2009). Yet some 12 million Americans are still looking for a job, and millions more would say it hasn’t felt like much of a recovery at all, including folks who have seen their incomes stall or have been drowning in mortgage debt for years. Since the start of 2010, economic growth has averaged 2.2 percent, which would be just fine in normal times but is less than stellar considering the starting point was a time of mass unemployment and general economic despair. The nation is poised to approach the fourth anniversary of economic recovery this coming June with an output gap — the difference between what the economy is capable of producing and what it is actually producing — approaching $1 trillion.   It will take […]

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January 29, 2013

Targeted Plant Selection Creates Better Sell-Through

Advances in technology and better understanding of the dynamics of consumer sales at the retail level are changing the way growers decide what plants to grow. “I think we are learning that a lot of what we as growers thought were good plants for us may not necessarily be the best for our specific situations,” says Tim Brindley, president of Stacy’s Greenhouses in York, S.C “We used to looked at that differently. My favorite plant was always Dianthus ‘Firewitch.’ It had flowers. It was short. It was easy to grow. It didn’t get diseases. And I could put a lot on the carts. I liked it because it was easy and efficient for me. That’s not the way we look at plant selection anymore.” Today, he focuses on what plants will be successful for consumers and for Stacy’s customers. “We look at what is best for the consumer — what […]

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January 16, 2013

Peace Tree Farm Adds Greenhouse Vegetables

Peace Tree Farm, well known as a grower of high-end finished ornamentals as well as prefinished and young plants, is getting into greenhouse produce. Greenhouse Grower talked with co-owner Lloyd Traven to find out why he thinks vegetables look like a good business decision.   GG: Why do you see produce as an opportunity for Peace Tree Farm? Traven: We sell herb plants and potted vegetable plants to Whole Foods already, so it’s not a completely new idea. Our son, Alex, is coming into the business and he is a big proponent. He will work this summer for a cut flower farm that grows some vegetables. Two summers ago, he managed The Dilmun Hill organic student farm at Cornell and grew all vegetables. We’ve become more convinced every day about the potential for success here. We will be very selective with what we do. We are talking about converting some […]

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January 10, 2013

Paying It Forward (opinion)

Maybe it’s the time of year that’s putting me in a reflective mood, but I want to express how grateful I am to have been involved in horticulture for so long. While it’s a competitive industry, it is also collaborative, as evidenced by the trade and professional associations that are such an important part of our business. When we announced plans to expand our GROW program, more than a dozen companies signed up almost immediately, eager to participate in solutions for the problems facing the industry today. Growers and suppliers I talk with are, without exception, willing to share their expertise with others. While I don’t have direct experience, my impression is that few other industries are as forthcoming.   Supporting Land-Grant Research Writing the article about Dick Meister and the new scholarship bearing his name was particularly pleasurable for me. As a graduate of a land-grant university myself, I […]

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January 10, 2013

Plants Bridge The Generation Gap (opinion)

This month I have a front-row seat to watch a demographic shift. My parents are moving from their house in Columbus, Ohio, to a condominium closer to me near Cleveland. Since they have been avid gardeners for decades, it means they are leaving behind many beds filled with perennials and unusual shrubs.  I doubt the new owners will know the names of all those plants, but hopefully they will appreciate their beauty as well as the excellent soil in the double-dug beds and continue to take care of the gardens. My parents, at ages 92 and 83, are part of the Greatest Generation but are joining the Baby Boomers in the downsizing shift beginning to take place in that large population. They are transitioning to a new form of gardening for them — container and small-space gardening. They, and the Boomers, will likely be joined by a population decades younger […]

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January 8, 2013

Eco-Friendly Greenhouse Racks For Your Operation

Many growers who ship locally and nationally use some type of metal carts or racks to deliver their plants. Some growers will tell you that carts are a necessary evil when it comes to moving a large quantity of plants relatively quickly. Maintaining and tracking carts during the busy spring shipping season can sometimes be overwhelming. When trying to fill orders in a timely manner, growers can be hindered if they don’t have an adequate inventory of carts and can’t recover them quickly enough to keep plants moving out to customers. Growers also have to be concerned with cart loss and theft. Packaging companies have seen the love-hate relationship growers have with carts and are working to develop economical, recyclable shipping systems to make it easier for growers to avoid the issues with cart recovery and theft. Grower-Designed Shipping System Andy Krieger, co-owner of Krieger Greenhouses in Jefferson, Iowa, started […]

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Richard Jones

January 7, 2013

Is Your Greenhouse Business Indispensable To Your Customers? [Opinion]

Quality should, obviously, be a priority for every greenhouse business and manager. But it’s not enough just to produce excellent product today. There are a lot of other growers doing that, too, and many of them are calling on your customers, trying to take some of your business for themselves. Successful growers today are finding something additional to bring to the table. This month’s cover subject, Sam Rambo, is a great example. His business, Rambo Nurseries, was a finalist for Greenhouse Grower’s Operation of the Year Award in 2012 because he has uncovered ways to offer products and services to his customers that others can’t, or at least haven’t. The model that is working well for this operation — being a single-source supplier for 54 Home Depot locations in the Southeast and maintaining a full-time staff of merchandisers in the stores — isn’t unique to Rambo Nurseries. But it has […]

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January 3, 2013

Rambo Nursery Eliminates Confusion With One-Stop Shop Concept

Sam Rambo says his company started offering single-source supplying before it was called single-source. “We were buying in shrubs, perennials and annuals that stores would need on the weekend knowing that they were going to run out and call us for more plants,” says Rambo, president and CEO of Rambo Nursery. “We officially became known as a single-source supplier in 2008, but we had been doing it prior to that. I’m talking about all categories of ornamental plants, including annuals, perennials, foliage, poinsettias, trees, shrubs, roses and bulbs.” Rambo Nursery operates three production facilities in Georgia and services more than 50 Home Depot stores in Georgia and Alabama. Creating Order From Chaos Rambo says the main reason his company agreed to become a single-source supplier was the lack of consistency he saw in stores. For example, a wide variety of pot sizes and colors were being offered in the Home […]

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Richard Jones

December 12, 2012

Setting Milestones For The Future Of The Greenhouse Industry [Opinion]

Calling attention to your own milestones can be tricky business. Like birthdays and wedding anniversaries, they’re fun to celebrate as a group, but in the end I suspect they’re always most important to the person whose milestone is being celebrated. Our staff spent a lot of time going back and forth as to how we should approach Greenhouse Grower’s 30th anniversary in 2013. We decided we didn’t want to focus everything on our own brand and accomplishments over the last three decades or generally spend a lot of time looking in the rearview mirror. We’ve done some of that with previous anniversaries. And really, poring over old issues of the magazine might be a fun way for me to pass a few hours down in our archives, but there are other things we can do that will be more helpful for you and your business. Setting A Course For A […]

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December 11, 2012

Willoway Nurseries Tests Robots

Willoway Nurseries is one of a small number of growers testing robots from Harvest Automation as a more efficient and cost-effective method of moving plants in the greenhouse and nursery yard. We asked Willoway’s Tom Demaline for an update on the testing process. GG: How are the robots working? Demaline: It has been good. We worked with Harvest Automation on the alpha and beta testing and working out the kinks with that. We trialed the first production models in October. We ran them about 6 weeks, focusing on consolidating plants for winter. We’re still in the learning curve on how to use the technology. Did the robots physically pick up a plant and move it? Yes. But in these trials they didn’t seem to like to consolidate the plants as much as they like to space them. We just have to learn how to make them more efficient. We’re really […]

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December 11, 2012

The State Of The Greenhouse Grower In 2013

The world of the greenhouse ornamentals producer has changed dramatically since 1983, when Greenhouse Grower magazine published its first issue. Thirty years ago, small growers served independent garden centers with seed-based production of bedding plants. They sold everything they could grow at nice margins and spent much of their time focused on the plants. Today, mega growers serve the big boxes with vegetative production of broad crop mixes. Business plans call for zero shrink and razor-thin margins. And the grower spends as much time on the numbers as on the plants. These operations are still serving their original purpose: growing ornamentals for U.S. gardening consumers. But the business is now fundamentally different. So, for this State of the Industry issue, we’re asking the question: Who exactly is the American greenhouse grower in 2013? Changing Makeup Of The Market Much has been made of grower consolidation in recent years. For reasons […]

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