Denise Godfrey of Olive Hill Greenhouses in Fallbrook, Calif., shares her take on the state of the industry this week.
How would you describe the state of the greenhouse floriculture industry today?
Like the rest of the economic sectors, we are suffering from decreased demand and we hope to maintain during this uncertainty by looking at old and new ideas and technology; by relying more on relationships and working together with fellow growers, suppliers and customers to better define and react to what is happening; to take advantage of opportunities; and to maintain a positive outlook in order to overcome adversity and persevere.
Has our industry entered a new era or paradigm shift? Please explain why or why not.
We no longer grow in a vacuum, growing and selling plants and the customer deciding their purchase on beauty and a fair price. The public is having more and more influence on how we grow our plants. We are having to defend our choices of what plant material we grow, what growing practices we employ, where we buy our starts and how far our plants travel in terms of sustainability and impacts to the environment.
Has there been a changing of the guard in industry leadership? Please explain your answer.
I am thinking it is not exactly a changing of the guard, but rather more reinforcements to fight individual challenges to our multi-front battle.
When I think about leaders in our industry, I thought of my dad (Olive Hill owner Tony Godfrey) and other growers who grow beautiful plants and run clean, efficient operations. They are the nurseries you walk through in awe of the awesome job they do.
The operations of yesterday had the autonomy to make decisions toward a single goal: grow great-looking plants that are easy to sell at a fair price. As we become more urbanized and the access to information grows, we have to grow with consideration of how we are impacted by outside influences, and we have to remind the consuming public what we are providing. We are cultivating happiness and smiles.
In order to be successful in the future, the industry must have all types of leaders employing different techniques and strategies to engage with environmental groups, legislators, the general public and young students. Leaders need to communicate our accomplishments, goals and aspirations to get them excited about the floriculture community and to help them recognize the importance of our industry. Our success is more tightly tied to their perceptions and their willingness to help us thrive.
What are the greatest challenges growers are facing today?
We are fighting a multi-front battle. On the sales front, growers are working to identify how the demands of their customer bases are changing. They are looking for assistance from their suppliers to optimize the quantities and number of varieties grown to meet this changing demand, and they are evaluating new and old ideas to better interface with their customers to help them sell more plants and be more successful.
On the general operations front, growers are concerned with accumulating enough capital to make improvements that will satisfy environmental regulations (clean water and clean air), as well as keeping up maintenance schedules for existing infrastructure.
On the growing side, growers are making adjustments to growing practices and what is grown to better utilize resources like water, energy, fertilizer and pesticides to reduce costs, as well as meet water use and run off restrictions and mitigate concerns on the threat of quarantine to invasive pests.
The business climate may be further impacted by legislative agendas, consumer confidence and the public’s short-sided desires. We must allocate some resources toward activism and education to better shape our future.
With so many challenges in this depressed economy, it has given more clarity to who we are, what we need, and where we want to be. Through these times, we determine the intensity of our desire to engage and strategically mobilize our resources in order persevere.
What are the greatest opportunities for growers to build their business?
These last years, the public was in a ravenous, delusional state indulging itself on “unlimited” resources. Then, it rudely woke to a new reality in which the security of employment, investments, and the ability to provide for their family was called into question.
Visibly shaken, they are intensely seeking answers to redefine this new reality of limited resources and diversity of needs, yet desire a coherent solution. Material needs are being differentiated from wants, and each is evaluated for its potential return on investment.
While we perceive ourselves to be differentiated from a commodity, it is in these times we keep falling into the definition of a commodity. We need to change our own perceptions of what we do. We are not just growers of flowers and plants, but rather we provide service of cultivating smiles and happiness. We need to work harder to get out of the indulgent “want” category and into satisfying our “need” to be around nature and natural things–our “need” for a healthy, productive, and creative environment for our children to grow, and our “need” to be happy and to bring smiles to others by gifting flowers and plants.
Why not be the solution for gaining a bit of happiness out of a stretched budget?