Two Steps To Hiring Future Growers

When looking ahead to the future of greenhouse operations, one issue that concerns me is that of trained grower managers. To play off one of the most overused terms from late 2012, I believe that we are facing a “growers cliff.”

The History Of The Grower Shortage

Not to age myself more than necessary, but I do remember the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s when students were graduating from universities trained in greenhouse operations. The numbers of students were growing at such a level that all growing operations’ needs could be filled. In the dawn of the new millennium, however, the situation began to change rather dramatically.

Between the tech boom, multiple economic downturns, increasing college costs and low starting-pay levels, we are encountering an overall lack of interest in the profession.  As a result, there seem to be fewer and fewer students graduating each year with an education based on greenhouse operations.

For quite a few years, I was fortunate enough to speak to a production class at one of the major universities in the country. Fifteen years ago or so, there were 40 to 45 students in the class and many were actually planning on a career in growing. We would host two or three interns at Four Star each year, and we often had to turn away more. As the years went by, the class size and chosen career path of the class changed. Five to seven years ago, the class was down to 12 to 15 students. Most of them were interested in a different area of our industry.

What The Shortage Means Today

This situation concerns me for two reasons.

1. It reflects the upcoming generations’ overall lack of interest in gardening. We must create and nurture an interest in plants and gardening. We need to bring attention to the positive improvements in quality of life and self-satisfaction that growing experiences can provide. Instead of raising virtual plants and animals on an electronic device, go outside in the sunshine and fresh air to do it for real.  Experience life; don’t live a simulated one — get real!

2. We aren’t doing enough to get young people interested in green industry jobs. We must show people looking at career options that good jobs are available.

As an industry, we have two options. We can find, train and develop new growers from within our own operations, or we can support the universities that train them for our future needs. This support can include scholarships, internships, tours, guest speaking, plant material for class use and, of course, hiring students upon graduation.

When considering hiring someone for a grower manager position, we must provide a salary that matches the investment the person has made to acquire the knowledge required. The salary should also reflect the commitment a company is willing to make toward this person’s future training and development.

Take the time to look around your operation and the industry in general. We are about more than growing plants. The time has come to grow the interest within people to garden and consider a career in the greenhouse industry.

Leave a Reply

More From Grow Initiative...

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Women To Seek Volunteer Leadership Opportunities

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

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and Suppliers Together in San Diego This October

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s New

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Latest Stories

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

November 13, 2014

NY SunWorks’ Greenhouse Project Aims To Build 100 Labs …

NY SunWork's Greenhouse Project aims to build 100 labs by 2020. With 15 greenhouse project labs built and 11 more in development, it’s on its way to reaching that goal.

Read More

November 4, 2014

Millennials Rank Gardening Among Top 5 Leisure Activiti…

United Kingdom consumers, aged 25 to 35, have rated gardening as a top five favorite leisure activity.

Read More
Ken Altman

October 27, 2014

GROW Perspective: Why I Give Back To The Industry

Ken Altman of Altman Plants knows a thing or two about the green industry, including the importance of contributing to the industry he loves.

Read More

October 21, 2014

Plants, Gardens Of The Future Will Be Radically Differe…

Over the next 20 to 30 years, Garry Grueber of Cultivaris and Global Breadfruit says the horticulture industry will need to address such issues as population growth, feeding a hungry world, less availability of water and land resources, rampant climate change and increased focus on the environment and sustainability.

Read More

October 13, 2014

Costa Farms Celebrates Indoor Plant Week With A College…

Cost Farms kicks off 2014 Indoor Plant Week by sharing plants with college students amid song and dance.

Read More