Saluting Tomorrow’s Leaders

For 24 years, Greenhouse Grower has been honored to present the Grower of the Year award, recognizing growers who are moving the industry forward. The recipients have been the best and brightest in our industry and reasons why we are gung-ho looking to the next 25 years. Who will be our 25th Grower of the Year? You can help decide.

To commemorate this milestone, we will take this award to a new level by presenting it during the OFA Short Course in July. This award will become part of an “Evening of Excellence” and add a strong grower component to our successful Medal of Excellence program, which recognizes innovative varieties, marketing programs and the organizations and individuals behind them. Together, Grower of the Year and our Medal of Excellence program become a fascinating floriculture hall of fame.

When we consider candidates for Grower of the Year, we not only think about why this grower or operation, but also why this year. When the award ties in with pressing industry issues and developments, timing is more critical. To get an idea of which growers have won in the past, here are the past 24 Growers of the Year:

1985–Jack & Peter Van de Wetering, Ivy Acres, Calverton, N.Y., for their entrepreneurial spirit and leadership in the bedding plant industry.

1986–Jim Youngsman, Skagit Gardens, Mt. Vernon, Wash., for ingenuity turning problems into opportunities, including embracing infrared heating.

1987–Arne Thirup, Pajaro Valley Greenhouses, Watsonville, Calif., for efforts to form the Floral Trade Council to represent cut flower growers on trade issues.

1988–Sonny Connor, Heritage Greenhouses, Mt. Dora, Fla., for leadership promoting foliage plants through the Foliage Marketing Institute. 

1989–Tim Haley, Pikes Peak Greenhouses, Colorado Springs, Colo., for fighting for fair international trade in cut flowers.

1990–Norm White, White’s Nursery & Greenhouses, Chesapeake, Va., for leadership growing blooming potted plants and efforts developing grades and standards.

1991–Kee Kitayama, Kitayama Brothers, Union City, Calif., for spearheading the formation of the California Cut Flower Commission.

1992–Kalamazoo Valley Plant Growers Cooperative, Kalamazoo, Mich., for its growers serving markets together while setting standards for quality, packaging and pricing.

1993–Larry Windham, Windham’s Greenhouse, Glenwood, Ga., for leading the Georgia Commercial Flower Growers’ efforts to get a state law passed, requiring manufacturers to label contents of growing media.

1994–Russell Weiss, Kurt Weiss Florist, Center Moriches, N.Y., for mass-market leadership and his efforts to uphold Quarantine-37 restrictions.

1995–Tom Smith, Four Star Greenhouse, Carleton, Mich., for embracing innovations from computer software and cutting-edge production to the Magic Planter flat.

1996–David Wadsworth, Suncoast Greenhouses, Seffner, Fla., for excellence in young plant production and industry leadership.

1997–Jim Leider, Leider Horticultural Co., Buffalo Grove, Ill., for national industry leadership and dedication to business management and focused, high-quality production.

1998–John Rader, EuroAmerican Propagators, Bonsall, Calif., for his vision creating the Proven Winners brand and more markets for growers driven by innovative plants. 

1999–Lorence Wenke, Wenke Greenhouses, Kalamazoo, Mich., for leadership among Michigan’s growers and as an elected official and community leader.

2000–Terry Smith, Smith Gardens, Bellingham, Wash., for vision, enthusiasm and success leading his family business into a new century.

2001–Gary Mangum, Bell Nursery, Burtonsville, Md., for setting a new standard serving large retailers and breathing new life into contract growing networks.

2002–PJ Ellison, Ellison’s Greenhouses, Brenham, Texas, for her passion promoting our industry and the endowed floriculture chair at Texas A&M in her family’s name.

2003–Ken & Deena Altman, Altman Plants, Vista, Calif., for their innovative marketing programs for large retailers, including the VIVA! brand.

2004–Jeff & Henry Huntington, Pleasant View Gardens, Loudon, N.H., for making customers successful and leadership in Proven Winners.

2005–Lloyd & Candy Traven, Peace Tree Farm, Kintnersville, Pa., for championing small, successful wholesale growers and embracing technology.

2006–Raker Family, C. Raker & Sons, Litchfield, Mich., for their progressive corporate culture and leadership in young plants.

2007–Tim Wada, The Plug Connection, Vista, Calif., for creating opportunities for growers in organics and leadership in young plants.

2008–Mark Elzinga & Roger Rosenthal, Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses, Portage, Mich., for their investment in sustainable production and alternative energy.

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