Guidelines To Success by Will Carlson

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Guidelines To Success by Will Carlson

It may be that no one can accurately predict the future 25 years from now or even imagine what our industry will look like. However, 25 years ago, when Dick Meister and I decided to start Greenhouse Grower magazine, his words of wisdom were, “If it is to be, it’s up to me,” so here are my thoughts on what a “grower” will be in 2033.

I’ll never forget what Neil Mast, a good old Dutch grower, told me about 25 years ago when I said, “You need to get a computer.” He said, “Will, my mother and father gave me a computer when I was born.”

I said, “Neil, they didn’t have computers 60 years ago.” He smiled at me and said, “Oh yes they did. My computer is between my two ears and it has more data, information and knowledge in it than any computer you have.” Neil was right. He knew that “if it is to be, it’s up to me.”

Audio: Will Carlson

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Today, a grower must be more than someone who can grow plants. In a small operation, a grower is also the owner and must understand all aspects of the business, from production to maintenance to human resources to financial management to distribution of the product to sales and marketing to any other area that needs attention. Needless to say, 25 years from now, no one person will be able to handle all aspects of a viable business. What will the grower’s role be?

Will family-owned and operated greenhouses be a thing of the past? Will capital be provided by large corporations entirely removed from the growing process? Will a computer operator in Michigan use voice-activated commands to direct computers and robots growing plants in South America? Or, will the scarcity and prohibitive cost of fossil fuels and the development of alternative energy sources result in growing becoming more local? Will the produce that feeds a community be grown on site in the supermarkets or in locally owned and operated greenhouses, warmed and cooled by energy produced by the sun and the wind?

Whatever the future looks like, there are steps that growers need to take to ensure our industry’s survival. These steps were valid 25 years ago, and they’ll be valid 25 years from now.

- Vision. If you can envision what will happen in the next year, five years, 10 years or 25 years, then you can develop a plan to make your vision a reality.

- Dream. Imagine all the possibilities for the greenhouse industry’s role in the future. I spend a great deal of time now thinking about all the things greenhouse growers could be doing and how we could help our society and the world.

- Gleam. Once you have a dream, talk about it with anyone who will listen. Will it work? Is it worth pursuing? If you can get other people to support your idea, then you can move on to the next step.

- Beam. As you discuss the idea or concept, you will find others who disagree or say it is impossible to do. You have to decide if their comments are valid and if you can overcome their perceived obstacles.

- Scheme. When you pass the beaming stage, develop a scheme. How can you accomplish your idea or project? At the scheming stage you need to work with people who are detail oriented. You have to work out all the specifics to determine how your dream can be implemented. Remember the devil is in the details.

- Team. Once you know the details, develop a team of people who will be able to accomplish your goal.

My brother Robert is 81 years old and has run between two and four miles a day for 10,000 days. When I asked how he could do it, he said, “I take one day at a time and I try to be steady. Inch by inch, everything is a cinch!”

My vision for the greenhouse industry in 2033 is that it will be made up of self-sufficient energy collectors that provide food, fiber and beauty to this world.

Will Carlson is a Michigan State University emeritus professor who has devoted his career to educating growers. He also had the vision to launch Greenhouse Grower magazine with Dick Meister more than 25 years ago.

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