September 16, 2013

The State Of The Head Grower

All of the management positions in a greenhouse business contribute to the overall success of the operation. Perhaps none has a more direct hand in the ultimate quality of the company’s product, however, than the head grower. It’s a position that has evolved over time from skilled plantsman to grower, trainer, communicator, business manager and leader. We asked the four finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2013 Head Grower of the Year award — Dennis Crum, Four Star Greenhouse; Rob O’Hara, Rainbow Greenhouses; Ivan Tchakarov, Metrolina Greenhouses; and Corwin Graves, Rocket Farms — for their opinions on what the job is today, how growers can improve and how prospective head growers can prepare for the position. GG: What is the job of the head grower today? How has it changed over the years? Corwin Graves: In its simplest form, the head grower’s responsibility is to finish a crop or set of crops […]

Read More

September 10, 2013

What Were The Biggest Opportunities Greenhouse Growers Missed In 2013?

One of the best ways to improve your business can be to look at the opportunities you’ve missed, or, if you can, look at the opportunities that others have missed. Growers who answered our 2013 State of the Industry survey shared some of the opportunities they missed this year. We Could Have Sold More Inventory With a late spring and increasing demand for certain plant categories, 30 percent of respondents say they could have grown more plants. “For almost eight years, demand for our early summer annuals steadily decreased, but this year, the late start to spring and cool early summer temps created a demand we were not prepared for. More than a few customers expressed their disappointment over not being able to find product,” one respondent says. “Some went so far as to say, ‘Growers are dictating the season.’ I find that terribly frustrating since it’s the steady decrease […]

Read More

September 3, 2013

Spring Crops Recap: Sales Are Up In 2013

The 2013 spring season was a success, overall, according to 83 percent of the 197 growers who completed Greenhouse Grower’s 2013 Spring Recap Survey. Our survey respondents were grower retailers (51 percent), wholesale growers (43 percent) and young plant growers (6 percent). Most were based in the Midwest (31 percent), Southeast (20 percent) and Northeast (20 percent), but also represented the Southwest (9 percent), West (9 percent), Northwest (3 percent) and growers outside of the U.S. (8 percent). Sales Were Stronger In 2013Sales for spring 2013 were the same (26 percent) or higher (46 percent) than last year’s sales figures, growers reported. A combined 27 percent said sales decreased from 2012. Seventy-one percent of respondents said they grew enough product to meet demand this spring; however, 29 percent reported that demand outpaced their supply. Growers’ expectations for the season were obviously high. Even with the strong results year over year, […]

Read More

August 16, 2013

The Even-Higher-Tech-Future Of The Top 100 Grower

As part of Greenhouse Grower’s 30th anniversary celebration, we’ve been taking a look at the current state of various segments of our industry in 2013. But there’s also value in looking ahead at — and preparing for — the next 10, 20 or 30 years. “The Even-Higher-Tech Future Of The Top 100 Grower” was the theme for Greenhouse Grower’s annual Top 100 Growers Breakfast, held during OFA Short Course. The Top 100 program was sponsored by BASF. The breakfast featured a panel discussion with experts in web technology, robotics and production: Gary Falkenstein, president and CEO of ePlantSource, Charles Grinnell, COO of Harvest Automation and Paul Pilon, owner of Perennial Solutions Consulting. Each shared his vision of the future and identified readily available technologies and opportunites that growers should be exploring for their business today. Where are the Top 100 Growers on the technology curve? Falkenstein: On the technology side, […]

Read More

August 14, 2013

Growing With Ecology In Mind

North Creek Nurseries, based in Landenberg, Pa., is making a name for itself providing sustainably grown plants for ecological installations, including working with LEED-certified engineers and landscapers. We talked to the operation’s owner, Steve Castorani, about how this market impacts his business, and how you can take advantage of the growing ecological trend. GG: When did North Creek Nurseries begin growing native plants and plants for ecological applications? Castorani: We founded our nursery with an emphasis on ecological plantings. One of our bylines is, “Where horticulture meets ecology,” and we’ve stayed true to that value statement. We use it as a barometer when we introduce plants to determine how sustainable they are and what their life span is in the market. Our mission is to propagate and market plants that develop a relationship between people and sustainable outdoor environments, so we look for plants that will thrive and last for […]

Read More

August 13, 2013

State Of The Supply Chain

The greenhouse supply chain has evolved since 2000 like no other time in industry history. These dramatic changes were driven by a number of factors, including: • Consolidation at all levels of the chain • The massive explosion of retail space in the 1980s and 1990s • Power shifts from growers to retailers • The declining size of the grower base • Changing levels of support between the breeder/producers and the brokers • The economy Let’s take a look at some of these changes, and how they’re impacting you and your business. Retail: The Box Stores In the ’70s and ’80s, Kmart was the market leader in bedding plant retail. That changed by 1995, when Home Depot, Walmart and Lowe’s combined had 2,913 stores with 33 million square feet of outdoor garden selling space. By 2000, these giants grew to 4,228 stores and 72 million square feet of outdoor space. […]

Read More

August 13, 2013

Three Keys To World-Class Customer Service

Are you doing everything you can for your customers? Dennis Snow thinks you can step it up a few notches and wow your customers with world-class customer service. As a veteran employee at Walt Disney World, where customer service is essential to creating magical, memorable experiences for the popular theme park’s guests, Snow was on the front lines of dealing with customers every day.  At OFA Short Course, Snow delivered a funny, irreverent and enlightening keynote address during the Sunday morning session, setting the tone for the event. Now a business consultant at Dennis Snow and Associates and an author of two books, Snow has built on his experience working at Disney and counsels organizations worldwide. Snow thrilled and engaged the audience with humorous stories about Disney customers, and how his team worked to create solutions that would infuse a little bit of magic and wonder in every Disney experience. […]

Read More

July 31, 2013

Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show Changes Dates

The Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS), now in its 44th year, has announced a change of date for its January 2015 trade show event. Due to scheduling concerns, MANTS will swap show dates with North Carolina-based Green & Growin’ Show for January 2015 only. In 2015, MANTS will be held January 14-16 at its home venue, the Baltimore Convention Center. MANTS, one of the largest trade shows serving the horticulture industry, is sponsored by the state Nursery and Landscape Associations of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, and brings together 1,000 vendors of top industry products from across the U.S. and internationally. “These shows collectively support our industry and the fact that the Green & Growin’ Show and MANTS are able to work together is good for our exhibitors, good for our attendees and good for the industry,” says MANTS Executive Vice President Vanessa Finney. The Green & Growin’ Show will […]

Read More

July 30, 2013

Box Stores And Facebook: How Social Media Has Changed Sales

How many box stores are seeing direct sales in plants from social media? That was a question on the minds of attendees at OFA Short Course’s Grower Town Hall. Here are the thoughts of the grower panel.  “I am a Facebook advocate. We don’t get a lot of Likes each week, but we see visits and unique visits from it over a week. I can tie sales to what we’re doing on Facebook. We’re trying to get potential customers into Home Depot stores. We do talk about pricing, what’s hot this week and what’s shipping. We get a good reaction to Facebook.” “Our goal is to get on the Facebook pages of Walmart or Lowe’s. This will have huge impact on our business. It doesn’t always benefit the stores we serve, but that doesn’t bother us. It’s better for everyone involved [when plants are featured on their Facebook pages].” “The […]

Read More

July 16, 2013

Garden Retail 2013: Chicago

The weather in Chicago was perfect and the shoppers were out in huge numbers filling almost every garden center we visited on May 18 to 19, 2013. Home Depot was the most crowded, with a busy parking lot. In looking closely at a number of shopping carts, customers were buying a wide variety of items, including large patio containers and hanging baskets. In this market, there has been seemingly no impact on the sale of Impatiens walleriana. We observed large inventories in all retail locations. The main objective of this retail tour was to see the initial launch of the Miracle Gro Syngenta branded annuals. They were on the shelves in every Home Depot, with larger displays in the suburbs than the city stores. Here is what we saw: • Two SKUs: a 5-inch annual retailing for $6.98 and a 12-inch fiber hanging basket with Calliope geraniums retailing for $19.98. […]

Read More

July 16, 2013

What Is The Place Of The Box Store In Horticulture: OFA Town Hall Meeting

The Grower Town Hall at OFA Short Course took a critical look into the relationship between the larger and smaller growers and the retailers they serve. The audience asked questions of a panel of Hort Couture’s Jim Monroe, Bemis Farms’ Tina Bemis, Bell Nursery’s Gary Mangum and Metrolina’s Art Van Wingerden. An audience member asked about the strengths of the box stores, what they offer to customers and what they contribute to the horticulture industry. Here’s how that conversation flowed. – They offer buying power and advertising. Whether we like it or not, it’s part of the planting season for the consumer. People who see the big box commercials make it into the independent garden center eventually. It’s a cause and effect benefit. – Vendor-controlled merchandising. You’re controlling your own destiny about what product looks like in the store. The box stores carry so many categories and plants benefit from […]

Read More