Ones To Watch

Ones To Watch

John Bonner

Age – 30

His Job–John is general manager of Eagle Creek Wholesale in Mantua, Ohio. After he graduated from Capital University, where he majored in economics and finance, John entered another family business with his father: realty management. Six years ago, though, his family began constructing its retail greenhouse, and now John manages a separate growing location.

All In The Family – John’s mother’s grandfather founded BFG Supply Company, and John’s father founded Dillen Products. His family, obviously, has enough history in the industry, so it was easy for John to transition into it when the time came several years ago. “The family history made this a natural fit for me,” John says. “There are a lot of people between both sides of the family whom I met over the years, and they’ve helped guide and support me with the knowledge and advice I need.”

Pioneering Practices–Eagle Creek has adapted the philosophy that highly automated processes work better toward costs. John, for example, recently returned from Germany, where he learned more about wind power. “We’re putting our first wind turbine up this month,” he says. “Wind turbines are everywhere in Europe, and I would like to see our business become a model not just in the greenhouse business with energy, but across industries.”

Serious About Sustainability – Eagle Creek started a line of sustainably grown plants this year called Earth’s Choice. The plant line didn’t necessarily sell as John and others had hoped, but it’s an example of his willingness to take balanced risks in the name of sustainability. “We don’t want to say we’re all about sustainability without actually getting down the road far enough and implementing it.”

Twenty-Five Years From Now–As a result of this new energy wave, John believes there might be an opportunity to grow food and flowers in the greenhouse. Personally, he has struck up enough interest in energy to help develop new ideas and see them through.

Why He’s One To Watch–John isn’t afraid to try new practices or learn from failures. Progressive production practices and an interest in sustainability drive him forward, and he’s willing to play a role as a grower in the development of new energies.

Peggy Van De Wetering

Age – 39

Her Job–Peggy is marketing manager at Ivy Acres in Baiting Hollow, N.Y., where she’s been active creating brand awareness for the StrawPot. Peggy earned a Certificate of Horticulture at Michigan State University, and she holds a bachelor’s degree from Colby-Sawyer College. “It was always my plan to work in the family business,” she says.

Packaging Comes First – One factor that separates Ivy Acres from other operations is packaging, Peggy says. She enjoys searching the world for new ideas and believes Ivy Acres has always challenged the industry with truly unique packaging creations. “We strive to stay outside the box.”

At The Moment – The StrawPot is at the forefront of Peggy’s marketing duties. She plans to market the StrawPot globally on behalf of Ivy Acres and play a role in creating different sizes for more segments of the industry. “In the long term, our focus will be on creating a certified organic StrawPot.”

Tough Task–Reconfiguring automation processes for natural containers like the StrawPot is probably the biggest challenge that faces Peggy, but she plans to spend a chunk of her time in production and with manufacturers making sure equipment is available to produce natural containers properly.

Twenty-Five Years From Now–Nearly all product available to the consumer will be grown in eco-friendly and biodegradable containers, Peggy says. Organic items will be staple products, and small independent garden centers will be the hot place to shop. She also believes consumers will purchase most of their products online and have them delivered to their homes.

Why She’s One To Watch–Eco-friendly packaging is one wave of the ongoing sustainability movement, and the StrawPot has kept Peggy and Ivy Acres out front as one company offering alternative packaging solutions to growers.

 Dominik Neisser

Age – 34

His Job – Dominik is the assistant lead grower at EuroAmerican. He was born into a horticultural family in Germany, where he worked in greenhouse production before becoming an intern with EuroAmerican through The Ohio State University. Aside from his role of grower, Dominik is also a member of a Proven Winners grower group that exchanges information about Proven Winners varieties.

The Plants Of Tomorrow–At EuroAmerican, Dominik is one person who’s constantly in search of new varieties, and he’s trying to develop the perfect production practices–if there is such a thing–to provide the highest quality liners possible for the market. To enhance production, Dominik trials new pesticides, soils, pots and trays, and he’s willing to offer customers an objective opinion about what works and doesn’t work for him.

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation – The industry will have to reintroduce people to nature. “We need to show them that flower decoration can be beautiful and support the next generation with our passion and enough information so they can succeed in their homes,” Dominik says.

Quotable – “I try to eat as much meat as possible because killing plants is against my principles,” Dominik jokes.

A Constant Challenge–Labor is a common challenge in the industry, and it’s no different at EuroAmerican for Dominik. His challenge is a tad different, though. “If I can establish a working team that knows the right thing to do without my constant instructions, we can complete much more work together,” Dominik says. Another challenge is growing in different climates and the reaction of plants in those conditions.

Twenty-Five Years From Now–Industrial countries will occupy themselves with other matters and become too busy to grow plants, and brokers will be the gateway between the United States and other countries for information and transport of new and exciting varieties.

Why He’s One To Watch–Dominik is a grower to watch because he strives to master production and make his employees better. He also voluntarily managed the international internship program at EuroAmerican.

Lawrence Olhlman III

Age – 29

His Job–Lawrence is part of the fifth generation family business, Ohlman Farm & Greenhouse, in Toledo, Ohio. He’s currently studying at the University of Toledo, pursuing an MBA in finance and marketing.

An Eye For The Future–Innovation and creativity will determine how growers develop over the next quarter-century. Making more local purchases will also become more of a trend. “Working together with local grower groups is imperative to competing in today’s marketplace,” Lawrence says. “The industry needs to be more business-minded for the long haul. Many times, it’s not about growing plants, but business strategy, product development and financial wherewithal.”

Twenty-Five Years From Now–RFID integrated into flats will be the norm, and the industry might be more specialized by crop. “I hope there is still a base of independent garden centers and family-owned establishments, because they are the trend setters to the local economy.”

Why He’s One To Watch
–Lawrence is passionate about green issues–from eating organic foods to caring for global issues to supporting environmentally responsible businesses–enough that he started his own venture, Ecologic Products, which is based on developing sustainable products for everyday life. And some Ecologic Product, because of his involvement with Ohlman Farm & Greenhouse, might benefit growers some day.

Andy Ambrosio

Age – 50

His Job–Andy is sales and marketing manager for Wenke Greenhouses in Kalamazoo, Mich. Years ago, he was district and regional sales manager for the Sony Corporation of America. Andy obtained an MBA from DePaul University.

Taking A Unique Path–Wenke focuses a high percentage of its production toward independent garden centers, landscapers and landscape wholesale operations, even though it is one of the largest growers in the country–29th on our Top 100 Growers List. Wenke, of course, also serves its own retail store, and it’s heavily involved with the young plants segment of the industry.

Gotta Haves
–The keys to a successful future for Wenke, Andy says, are understanding production costs, working with new branded programs and developing a faster, more effective order-entry process. “The ability to greatly reduce energy usage and the development of new, bio-friendly packaging are of high importance.”

Twenty-Five Years From Now – Diesel must be priced around $2.50 per gallon, and natural gas will have to be around $6 per MCF for greenhouse operations to remain successful. Consumers will also have to express interest in wanting to plant flowers, as well. “Like any other industry, we have to understand our cost structure, price our products accordingly, minimize all transaction costs, manage our logistics and always strive to have superior customer relationships.”

Why He’s One To Watch – Andy is very active and plays a key role with the revamped Kalamazoo Flower Group brokerage division. He believes in serving independent garden centers, and he’s focused on delivering value specifically for them and landscapers.

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