Carole Barton

February 7, 2013

Prepare Your Greenhouse Operation For Potential Immigration Changes

Immigration is once again in the national news as bipartisan efforts to address the issue are suddenly a priority in Washington. No matter what direction a potential agreement takes, chances are that greenhouse and nursery businesses will be impacted in some fashion. That was certainly the case during the last significant round of immigration legislation at the state level following the 2010 elections. Alabama, for example, passed regulations in 2011 that mandated strict enforcement of immigration standards and required employers to use the eVerify program to ensure the legal status of prospective employees. We spoke with Carole Barton, co-owner of Barton’s Greenhouse and Nursery in Alabaster, Ala., who adapted to the new regulations in late 2011 and 2012. She described how they managed through the changes and offered some advice for other growers who might find themselves in a similar situation. GG: When we met at Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Summit […]

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January 31, 2013

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 […]

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November 7, 2012

Communicate For Better Grower-Manager Relationships

During his 21-year stretch at Battlefield Farms, Marc Verdel, a two-time Greenhouse Grower Head Grower of the Year nominee, has learned a few things. Here are his thoughts on experience, communication and working closely with the boss. Experience, Peers Help Decisions I can say now that a lot of my decisions are based on experience. In the past, I would consult more with my peers. I still do that of course, but the beauty of my position at Battlefield Farms is that management has given me a lot of freedom to do what I need to do. I use my resources, whether that’s people in the business or outside consultants. If there is something that I’m not sure of or don’t feel good about, I will get a second opinion or consult with other growers at Battlefield — and we have people with a good amount of experience — or […]

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September 12, 2012

McConkey Consolidates Distribution Operations

McConkey has announced plans to shift distribution responsibilities from Wilsonville, Ore., to Sumner, Wash. “The move better leverages our assets and ensures we offer the most competitive long-term pricing,” says President Derek Moeller. Effective Aug. 1, 2012, there will be no more Will Call pickup or walk-in sales in Wilsonville, Ore. Regular customer delivery services will be offered through the Sumner, Wash., manufacturing and distribution center. Will Call is available from the Sumner, Wash., location for customers interested in picking up orders. The company anticipates no disturbance in business during the short transition. Oregon customers will continue to enjoy full support from sales representative Dan Inglish and the Wilsonville customer service team.

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July 14, 2012

Understand The Motivations Of Other Generations

Working with other generations is something we all do, whether it’s an employee, a boss, or even a customer. But let’s face it, it often seems hopeless trying to understand how these people see the world, let alone effectively communicate with them.  Firestone Speaking’s Denise Ryan says there are actually good reasons (from the way their parents raised them to socio-economic conditions) why the World War II generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y see the world the way they do. She offered some tips at OFA Short Course to help you interact more effectively with these different generations. The World War II generation prefers face-to-face communication. They value organization, formality and experience and want you too as well. They don’t need a trophy when they accomplish something, but thrive on the satisfaction of a job well done. When communicating with them, try to be polite and avoid slang, […]

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June 26, 2012

Hiring, Disciplining and Firing

This article might be titled “Opportunity, Dilly-dallying And Failure.” Allow me to explain. Hiring is an opportunity to add new strength to your business, address nagging problems of underperformance and bring in new energy and ideas. The need to discipline someone who is breaking the rules frequently leads to dilly-dallying. This should be no surprise because discipline is an unpleasant responsibility for many managers. It is often easier to dream of magic solutions to problems with rule breakers than to take necessary action. Firing usually results in failure rather than an easy shortcut to a personnel problem. There are many reasons to fire someone, but regardless of the reason, neither the employer nor employee wins. In order to avoid the pitfalls associated with lost opportunity, dilly-dallying and failure, this article offers tips to help managers deal with the challenges of hiring, disciplining and firing. Hiring Great Employees Means Asking The […]

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April 26, 2012

Make Your Employees A Lean, Mean Team

Walter Gravagna, the president of Van de Wetering Greenhouses, a Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Grower located on Long Island, N.Y., had heard of the lean manufacturing concept, but he found it to be rather elusive. Lean manufacturing is the idea that eliminating waste, be it incidental work or damage to products, allows businesses to operate at maximum efficiency. After increasing his plug tray sticking production by more than 20 percent just two hours after implementing a new progressive sticking method, Gravagna feels differently about the concept. “If you would have told me we’d get those kinds of results, I would have said forget it,” Gravagna says. “But you have to be open-minded.” The lean manufacturing process all started when Gravagna noticed one of his longtime customers received Van de Wetering shipments much faster. Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses of Kalamazoo, Mich., was transplanting more product – a lot more. “They had […]

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April 26, 2012

How To Develop & Maintain A Growing Team

Even in the best of times, developing a cohesive, professional team of growers is crucial to ensuring a successful greenhouse operation. When economic times are tough, this task is even more critical. The role of the head grower transcends growing quality plants. The most important thing head growers can cultivate is their team. When growing strong plants, it is understood that you need a good start. Seed quality, germination and vigor all must be present, or the plant will struggle and possibly never recover. The same is true for developing your team. It all begins with good hiring practices. In an interview, there is one key question that must be asked: “What do you want to do with your life?” If applicants just want a job, then keep searching for someone else. A background in agriculture or the horticulture industry is a good start. Even if applicants don’t have the […]

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April 18, 2012

Van Wingerden Intl’s Lemkes Testifies On Immigration Policy

Bert Lemkes, co-owner of Van Wingerden Intl., Mills River, NC is testifying today before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. The subcommittee is holding a hearing on the E-Verify program and identity theft issues. Lemkes’ operation, which employs 350 people at peak season, is using the federal E-Verify program and has learned first-hand of the challenges it poses for agricultural employers. Lemkes cautioned Subcommittee members that making E-Verify mandatory without broader reforms could have the opposite of its intended effect, since false documents that feature a legitimate name and Social Security number routinely clear the E-Verify system now. It would also deprive greenhouses, nurseries and farms of much of their labor force. Most of Lemkes’ testimony, though, focused on the need for Congress to create a viable and practical visa program for agricultural workers desperately needed by farmers across the country. “This spring…had us experiencing terrible problems […]

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March 9, 2012

Make Your Business A Lean, Mean Machine

Walter Gravagna, the president of Van de Wetering Greenhouses, had heard of lean manufacturing concept, but he found it to be rather elusive. After increasing his plug tray sticking production by more than 20 percent just two hours after implementing a new progressive sticking method, Gravagna doesn’t feel that way anymore. “If you would have told me we’d get those kinds of results, I would have said forget it,” Gravagna says. “But you have to be open-minded.” The lean manufacturing process all started when Gravagna noticed shipments from Van De Wetering, a Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Grower located on Long Island, N.Y., were more efficiently being received by one of his longtime customers. Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses of Kalamazoo, Mich. was transplanting more product – a lot more. “They had become so much more efficient in terms of how much they could receive in one day,” Gravagna says. So Gravagna […]

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September 27, 2011

DOL Delaying Wage Increases In H-2B

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which was expected to implement a higher wage scale for workers with H-2B visas, announced late last week it is delaying the implementation while a number of legal challenges against the increases are addressed. According to Craig Regelbrugge, vice president of government relations for the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA), H-2B is an important source of seasonal workers, especially in the landscape and landscape distribution sectors. “In our view the new wage rule is arbitrary and indefensible,” Regelbrugge says. “It will dramatically increase costs. Many users have workers on the payroll and are bound by contracts. They have few if any good options.” Wages were expected to increase between 40 and 70 percent, Regelbrugge adds, but a number of groups are currently challenging the rule in court. “Proponents of DOL’s actions believe they will improve opportunities for American workers,” he says. “In reality, […]

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August 30, 2011

Can’t Dissect All These Legislative & Regulatory Issues?

OFA and ANLA (American Nursery and Landscape Association) are hosting grassroots education events in and around Connecticut, Michigan and New Jersey over the next few weeks to brief growers on key legislative and regulatory issues facing the industry right now. The three events are scheduled for: • Sept. 7 at Imperial Nurseries in Granby, Conn.; • Sept. 19 at Spring Meadow Nursery in Grand Haven, Mich.; and • Sept. 28, 2011 at Overdevest Nurseries in Bridgeton, N.J. OFA CEO Michael Geary will join ANLA Executive Vice President Bob Dolibois, Vice President of Government Relations Craig Regelbrugge and Director of Research Marc Teffeau for the briefings. Kip Creel, president of StandPoint, will also present new research on what America’s population demographics mean to the future of the green industry and our prospects for economic recovery. “The debt ceiling debate was just the beginning,” says ANLA President Bob Lyons of Ohio’s Sunleaf […]

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