Eighteen years ago, when we featured Mike Rimland on our cover, he was the youngest president of the Florida Foliage Association (FFA) at age 33. FFA has since merged back into Florida Nursery Growers & Landscape Association and Rimland continues to be a loyal supporter of the National Foliage Foundation, which funds industry research and scholarships.
Today, his operation, Rimland’s Nursery in Goulds, Fla., is one of the largest producers of potted anthuriums in the world, with 1 million square feet of production. The beautiful plants are all under contract for Costa Farms, which is right next door. In June, Rimland also became a Costa employee and top advisor as director of research and development.
In our 1990 interview, Rimland praised Costa as a company to emulate and he laughs at the irony that he is working there today. He also smiles when he sees Costa’s 22-year-old aglaonema ‘Cecilia,’ named after his beloved wife who passed away three years ago.
Q: Please explain your role in research and development (R&D) at Costa Farms.
A: We’re really spending a lot of money on structured R&D. We’re exploring genuses for the indoor plant business to introduce in a structured way, whether they be hybrids or mutations. They’re not just plants that look better, but make the end consumer more successful. We’re looking at plants in other parts of the world. Can we produce them here? Are they better? I see a new dieffenbachia every month. Even if it looks like an old variety, we’ll trial it. It might have an advantage. I know the criteria and exactly what we’re looking for in most indoor plant genuses. Over the years I’ve failed so much that I learned the things I’m looking for. It’s taken a lot of failure to become a plantsman.
Q: What can Costa do that a typical growing operation wouldn’t be able to do in the marketplace?
A: We have the best distribution channels because we do have a trucking company with 100 trucks. We also have a great marketing department and can think outside the box. Marta Garcia comes to us from Bacardi and Charlie Acevido is from Anheuser-Busch. I went to Horti Fair with Marta. It’s exciting to listen to her thinking process on packaging, presentation and POP (point-of-purchase). I was amazed.
Q: What has been the most significant change in the industry since 1990?
A: Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI). We’re being held accountable. As an industry, we didn’t get it, we tagged along, got our P&L and got our check. That’s why we’re in the position we’re in today. VMI is going to clear up who understands you are only as good as you are at satisfying the success of the customer. That has not been the case. Just like with bread, milk and potato chips, we need to ship consistent product to make the customer successful.
Q: In 1990, you said talking negatively about the industry leads to more negativity but being positive is contagious, too. Are you still positive about the industry?
A: I think the No. 1 thing wrong in the industry is the industry isn’t passionate about the industry. How many other industries produce a product that puts a smile on someone’s face? I think we forget and people get stuck in a sea of production. We produce something for one reason and that’s to make people smile.