Guiding Lights

As I was working on our tribute to Metrolina Greenhouses’ Tom Van Wingerden (page 14), I received sad news that our own Dr. Will Carlson was placed on hospice care for a terminal illness. Will is older than Tom, who was taken from us suddenly, but both were visionaries who contributed greatly to making the bedding plant industry what it is today.

As a grower, Tom led with a drive for excellence and never-ending investment in innovation in a quest to produce the best quality plants as efficiently as possible. He also set an inspiring example through his values, putting people first and giving back.

“He was a good husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend,” his brother-in-law Jim Gapinski of Heartland Growers says. “His desire to help the underprivileged and poor of the world will also be a testament of a man who let his actions speak louder than his words. We will miss him very much, but the memories that all of us had with him will help carry us through this difficult time. Tom would want us to ‘get back to work,’ ‘grow good quality,’ ‘watch those input costs’ and ‘have fun.’ So, Tom, we have a lot of work to do.”

Will emerged from the ranks of academia, when he became Michigan State University’s (MSU) floriculture Extension specialist in 1966. Although most of his research had been on roses, he saw great potential in vegetable growers converting to bedding plants. In addition to conducting research to create recipes for bedding plant production, Will founded Bedding Plants Inc. (BPI), a national association that brought bedding plant growers together for 30 years.

Groundbreaking research focused on key crops, like seed geraniums, and later extended to new crops, like purple fountain grass, and forcing perennials into flower. But above all, he was determined to make growers good businessmen.

When Will retired in 2002 and was reflecting on the early days in grower Extension, he said, “Things growers take for granted today were a major challenge back then. Production information was so critical in the early days, because there was none. But by the late 1980s, I found most of the problems growers were encountering were no longer technical in nature, but were people, business and money problems–areas that I could not provide scientific answers to. So I then seriously started getting more interested in the business side of things.”

Will took courses from American Management Association to understand business strategies and principles. In addition to developing a required business management course in horticulture at MSU, he helped growers one-on-one with strategic planning. Last spring, when I visited Jack Van de Wetering on Long Island, he smiled when he told me Will helped him write his first business plan. Thousands of growers owe a debt to Will Carlson.

When leaders and visionaries as influential as Tom and Will complete their circle of life and cycle out of our industry, it’s time to reflect on who will lead the charge forward.  I don’t think we are going to see the iconic individuals that we saw in the past. Instead we will see talented teams from progressive companies and organizations making the investments necessary to strive for excellence.

The biggest challenge is going to be the ability to devote time, which is becoming increasingly difficult to share. All of our great leaders gave of themselves and devoted a considerable amount of time outside their businesses and day jobs to the greater industry good. Organizations at the state, local and national levels provide the opportunity and framework to give back by fostering unity and supporting research, education and collective initiatives. It’s up to us to step up and be those leaders, get involved and give back.

Leave a Reply

More From Top 100 Growers...
crider-rd2-internal_Rough-Brothers_featured

July 1, 2015

Rough Brothers Is Acquired By Gibraltar Industries

RBI Solar Inc., Rough Brothers Manufacturing Inc. and affiliates have been acquired by Gibraltar Industries, a manufacturer and distributor of products for residential and industrial markets, for $130 million. Capitalizing on its 80 years of design-build experience and leadership as the largest greenhouse manufacturer in North America, Ohio-based RBI has established itself during the past five years as North America’s fastest-growing provider of photovoltaic (PV) solar racking solutions. The transaction will enable Gibraltar to leverage its expertise in structural metals manufacturing and materials sourcing to meet global demand for solar racking solutions. The company also announced that it anticipates its second-quarter 2015 financial results will be in line with its previous expectations. “Acquiring RBI is an important step in the transformation of Gibraltar into a company with a higher rate of growth and best-in-class financial metrics,” says Gibraltar CEO Frank Heard. “This acquisition directly aligns with key end markets and product platforms […]

Read More

June 30, 2015

Opportunities Abound For Women In Horticulture, Says Dosatron International’s Lela Kelly

My love for horticulture goes back to my grandparents who were farmers in upstate New York. My family’s involvement in agriculture left a lasting impression that has spanned decades, and still drives my passion for our industry today. I started my career in horticulture when I owned a greenhouse, nursery and garden center in Sayville, Long Island, N.Y. We specialized in ground cover production, later branching out to producing perennials and bedding plants.     I then went onto wholesale hard goods distribution. In the 1980s, I was the first woman salesperson on Long Island. What an eye opener that was! New York is a very special place, different from anywhere else in the country. You cannot imagine how difficult it was walking into greenhouses and nurseries as a woman, in a man’s world. Luckily, I grew up in New York City in an Italian family, who taught me great […]

Read More
Medal of Excellence Award

June 30, 2015

Get To Know The 9 Variety Finalists For Editor’s Choice And Industry’s Choice Awards

Greenhouse Grower‘s Evening Of Excellence reception is rapidly approaching. Here, you can learn more about the varieties that are finalists for the Medal Of Excellence Editor’s Choice and Industry’s Choice Breeding Awards. Thank you to the 2015 sponsors of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence Awards, Landmark Plastic, Nufarm and Stockosorb. Editor’s Choice Asclepias ‘Monarch Promise’ (Hort Couture) Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Salvia Grandstand Series (Green Fuse Botanicals) Scabiosa ‘Kudos Pink’ (Hishtil Nurseries) Industry’s Choice Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Bidens BeeDance Series (Suntory Flowers) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Lobelia ‘Starship Deep Rose’ (Kieft Seed) Vinca Valiant Series (PanAmerican Seed)     Join us Monday, July 13 in Ballroom 2 at the Columbus Convention Center to find out which varieties will receive the coveted awards. The reception begins at 5:15 p.m. and the ceremony […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Top 100

May 8, 2015

2015 Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Grower List

The 2015 Top 100 Growers list represents the largest greenhouse operations in the United States. Greenhouse Grower magazine puts out a list annually based on environmentally controlled greenhouse space.

Read More
Top 100

May 8, 2015

The Top 100 Growers Tackle Crop Protection Challenges

We asked the Top 100 Growers how they have changed their production practices to address consumer concerns about pollinator health, as well as how integrated pest management and the use of biocontrols have changed their operations.

Read More
Top 100

May 8, 2015

2015 Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Growers: Reading The Ran…

For the second straight year, Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers survey shows the largest growers are rapidly expanding.

Read More
40

May 1, 2015

2015 Top 100 Growers: Young’s Plant Farm (No. 40)

Learn more about Young's Plant Farm, No. 40 on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top 100 Growers list.

Read More
39

May 1, 2015

2015 Top 100 Growers: Dewar Nurseries (No. 39)

Learn more about Dewar Nurseries, No. 39 on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top 100 Growers list.

Read More
36

May 1, 2015

2015 Top 100 Growers: Garden State Growers (No. 36)

Learn more about Garden State Growers, No. 36 on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top 100 Growers list.

Read More
35

May 1, 2015

2015 Top 100 Growers: Plant Marketing (No. 35)

Learn more about Plant Marketing, No. 35 on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top 100 Growers list.

Read More
48

May 1, 2015

2015 Top 100 Growers: Van Wingerden International Inc. …

Learn more about Van Wingerden International Inc., No. 48 on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top 100 Growers list.

Read More
50

May 1, 2015

2015 Top 100 Growers: Bailey Nurseries (No. 50)

Learn more about Bailey Nurseries International Inc., No. 50 on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top 100 Growers list.

Read More
26a

May 1, 2015

2015 Top 100 Growers: Bela Flor Nurseries (No. 26)

Learn more about Bela Flor Nurseries , No. 26 on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top 100 Growers List

Read More
34

May 1, 2015

2015 Top 100 Growers: Battlefield Farms, Inc. (No. 34)

Learn more about Battlefield Farms, Inc., No. 34 on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top 100 Growers list.

Read More
44

May 1, 2015

2015 Top 100 Growers: Post Gardens, Inc. (No. 44)

Learn more about Post Gardens, Inc., No. 44 on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top 100 Growers list.

Read More
43

May 1, 2015

2015 Top 100 Growers: Grower Direct Farms (No. 43)

Learn more about Grower Direct Farms, No. 43 on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top 100 Growers list.

Read More
2015 Top 100 Growers 75

May 1, 2015

2015 Top 100 Growers: Harts Nursery (No. 75)

Learn more about Harts Nursery, No. 75 on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top Growers list.

Read More
2015 Top 100 Growers 71

May 1, 2015

2015 Top 100 Growers: Van de Wetering Greenhouses (No. …

Learn more about Van de Wetering Greenhouses, No. 71 on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top Growers list.

Read More
2015 Top 100 Growers 71

May 1, 2015

2015 Top 100 Growers: Welby Gardens Co./Hardy Boy Plant…

Learn more about Welby Gardens Co./Hardy Boy Plants-Hardystarts, No. 71 on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top Growers list.

Read More
2015 Top 100 Growers 65

May 1, 2015

2015 Top 100 Growers: Corso’s Perennials (No. 65)

Learn more about Corso's Perennials, No. 65 on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top Growers list.

Read More
2015 Top 100 Growers 64

May 1, 2015

2015 Top 100 Growers: Bob’s Market And Greenhouse…

Learn more about Bob's Market And Greenhouses, No. 64 on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top Growers list.

Read More