25 And Counting: Our Industry’s Future

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The last 25 years have been a fascinating journey for Greenhouse Grower and the floriculture industry. It’s hard to imagine what the next 25 years will bring and we’re asking you to join us in contemplating our collective future.

When Greenhouse Grower was born 25 years ago, we were tied closely to the bedding plant segment of floriculture. While the cut flower, blooming potted and potted foliage segments were well established, bedding plants were really taking off. And like many bedding plant growers, our roots were in vegetables.

We had covered bedding plants in American Vegetable Grower for 10 years with our now senior editor, Michigan State University’s Will Carlson. We witnessed rapid growth that was just beginning in the 1970s and would explode in the 1980s. As executive director and founder of Bedding Plants Inc., Carlson was leading the way. Our close relationship with him continues to this day, and we feel privileged to be associated with one of our industry’s greatest visionaries.

For the first 10 years, greenhouse crop production and technology dominated our content as growers perfected production systems and built plant powerhouses. Advances included widespread use of plugs, automation and computerized environmental controls.

Once supply was well established, the next 10 years would focus on market-driven production with the rise of mass merchants, big box retailers and pull-through marketing programs.

More recently, leading growers have become experts on the logistics and service side with their own people in the stores replenishing shopworn displays. Contracted production is playing a bigger role in providing the complete assortment to retailers without requiring a single grower producing it all. Big growers are becoming the customer of choice for smaller growers.

On the independent garden center side, we continue to see very strong grower-retailers who are the authorities on gardening in their regions. In Portland, it’s Al’s Garden Center. In Cleveland, Petitti’s; Detroit, English Gardens; and Boston, Mahoney’s. The very largest is Armstrong Garden Centers in California, which just purchased Pike Family Nurseries in metro Atlanta.

We’re also seeing more grower consortiums serving independent garden centers by supplying nationally branded plants on a regional basis. These include the Novalis Plants That Work program, Stepables creeping perennials and a new upscale line called Hort Couture. Growers can accomplish more serving the marketplace together than on their own.

The sustainability movement has created yet another opportunity for growers to differentiate their offerings in the marketplace and present plants as relevant solutions for a sustainable lifestyle. We are happy to see the grower supply chain responding on the input side to make these programs possible.

What Will The Future Hold?

When we talk about the future of the industry now through the year 2033, we have to look at the next generation of industry leaders. As part of our 25-week countdown, we’re featuring 25 we have identified as “Ones To Watch.” We will feature five at a time in the July through November issues and one at a time through 25 weeks of our e-newsletter, Benchrunner.

We will also have some features that are just for fun. These include lists like the one on page 34 for the Top 25 States. We’ll also have Top 25 Crops, Top 25 Labor Savers and Top 25 Energy Savers along with our Top 25 Young Plant Growers we publish in our Mid-September Young Plants Issue. On the varieties side, we will have a “Who’s Who” in perennials with 25 Perennial Personalities and even a variety ID contest.

The grand finale will be our December issue, when we ask 25 industry leaders to share what they think it will take to grow the industry over the next 25 years. These topics will cover the full spectrum of grower and allied industry perspectives on technology, crops and markets. We will contrast life today with 1983 and even go out on a limb to predict the news headlines of the year 2033. 

The Best Is Yet To Come

The greenhouse floriculture industry has grown by leaps and bounds to arrive at where it is, and it can still make quantum leaps forward. Who says we’ve reached a plateau? Think of the possibilities we have to put plants and flowers in every home and office, on every city street and on the roofs of every building. Plants are the ultimate solution in reversing carbon footprints while also creating atmospheric, social and emotional well-being.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could bring the best, brightest and most talented and experienced together to jumpstart our industry’s next growth phase? There are more possibilities and opportunities than ever before to create new markets and revitalize existing ones. New technologies and innovations will drive efficiencies for growers and create even better products and uses for consumers.

Today’s challenges will become the springboard for even more sophisticated innovations that will take our industry to new heights. We’re looking forward to writing the next chapters and sharing success stories for the next 25 years.

Delilah Onofrey directs Flower Power Marketing for the Suntory Collection. She can be reached at donofrey@gmail.com

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