The Case For Locally Grown

Tomato-Genuwine-PanAmericanSeedWe’ve all read the statistics, but they’re so dramatic — and impact our industry so much — that I think they’re worth repeating. Within 40 years or less, we’ll have another billion or more people on the planet, and farmers and growers nationwide will be required to produce twice as many crops with 30 percent less land available to keep up with the fast-growing world population.

That’s where greenhouse food production — or controlled environment agriculture — is growing to become more important with each additional year. Greenhouse food production is more efficient and less dependent on weather, providing more crop turnover through year-round production in any climate, and has a smaller environmental footprint, according to Gene Giacomelli, director of the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC).

“Yield data show that tomato production is 600,000 pounds per acre in the greenhouse, versus 60,000 pounds per acre in the field; or 60 pounds per plant in the greenhouse versus 6 pounds per plant in the field,” Giacomelli says.

Add consumer concern for the environment, distrust in traditional food channels and desire for locally grown produce to these statistics, and it’s easy to see whey greenhouse ornamentals producers should at least consider vegetable production.

In August 2013, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that 8,144 farmers markets are now listed in USDA’s National Farmers’ Market Directory, up from about 5,000 in 2008.

“Due to consumer demand for local food we are seeing an increase in the diversity of market offerings, and more participation from small businesses and farms,” says Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo. “We are focusing on the sustainability and maturity of farmers markets — keeping new and old markets thriving and improving. Farmers markets around the country continue to be popular social events for families and communities.”

Local food and direct marketing opportunities, including farmers’ markets, are one of the fastest growing segments of agriculture. Worth an estimated $1 billion in 2005, local food sales grew to $4.8 billion in 2007 and nearly $7 billion in 2012.
This is extending to floriculture, too, through the Slow Flowers Movement. It all started with a book by garden writer Debra Prinzing, who was inspired by the slow food movement and challenged herself to put together bouquets of locally sourced bouquets for a year, then wrote Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden, Meadow and Farm.

The idea grew into a movement via social media, and will soon be an online resource at, to connect floral customers with American floral designers who take the “no imports” pledge. Back in the ‘80s, when the U.S. cut flower industry was struggling due to the growing import business, you probably never thought that a few decades later, consumers would be asking for local cut flowers. But according to, consumers want to know where their flowers are grown, how far they had to travel to get to them, and even want to meet the flower grower.

“When you choose locally grown, American flowers, they are in-season and definitely more sustainable than any product that was shipped here on jumbo jets from another continent,” the website states.

How much longer will it be before the same is true of consumers buying bedding plants, perennials, potted plants and shrubs and trees? Transparency is key to your operation, no matter what you grow. Consumers will increasingly want to know where, how and by whom the products they buy are produced.

Grower Homework: Transparency is the key to profits with slow food and flowers customers. Buld or enhance your company website to provide your community with a clear understanding of who you are and how you operate. Feel free to share your ideas via eMail, or tweet @Laura_GG_TGC.


Leave a Reply

More From Editorial...
Yoshimi And Grace Shibata

November 26, 2015

American Floral Endowment Establishes Fund To Honor Legacy Of Yoshimi Shibata

Yoshimi “Shimi” Shibata, a flower grower and wholesale florist, passed away in October at the age of 100.

Read More
Vinca 'Valiant Lilac' (2015 Texas A&M University Field Trials)

November 25, 2015

2015 Texas A&M University (Overton, Texas) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton, Texas.

Read More
Capsicum 'Basket of Fire' (2015 University of Georgia Field Trials)

November 25, 2015

2015 University Of Georgia (Athens, Ga.) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga.

Read More
Latest Stories

October 23, 2015

Consider Your Options With Greenhouse Cannabis Producti…

I’ve been thinking a lot about Cannabis. But wait, there’s more! All jokes aside, Cannabis is certainly a crop that comes fraught with controversy. Over the past few months, while we have been learning and reporting about the federal legality issues, financial risks and considerations and even the work and expense that goes into the application process to obtain a license to produce this crop, we have tried to remain as objective as possible. We’re not advocating that you produce Cannabis, nor are we opposing your choice to consider this crop as a future direction for your operation. Our goal in publishing eNewsletters and the print report found in the pages of the October issue of Greenhouse Grower, is simply to inform you of what production of this crop would include, from the challenges and risks to the opportunities. And no matter how you feel about the issue, as a business […]

Read More
Laura Drotleff

September 14, 2015

Develop New Growers In Your Own Backyard [Opinion]

One of the greatest parts of my job is having the opportunity to honor ingenuity in breeding, marketing and innovative growing in this industry at Greenhouse Grower’s Evening Of Excellence, a premier event held during Cultivate in July. The work leading up to the event is just as rewarding, from attending California Spring Trials to see all of the beautiful new varieties released to the marketplace to inspire consumers and solve problems for growers, to selecting the best of the best varieties for Medal Of Excellence In Breeding Awards. I humbly learn about and choose the Marketing and Industry Achievement Awards through industry nominations, and serve as a member of the selection panel for the Grower Of The Year Awards, on which we review nominations from people across the industry about creative, hardworking, dedicated operations and individuals who not only love their work but also live it. The Evening Of […]

Read More

July 30, 2015

Spread Your Risk Beyond Spring Sales [Opinion]

Growers who participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Recap Survey said they have had enough of the uncertainty that the weather brings. They said it’s time to build up sales in other seasons like fall so we’re not so dependent on spring. As a couple of wholesale growers, both from the Southeast, very eloquently stated, our industry has mastered squeezing everything we can out of the spring season. And while this year happened to be a very successful one, thanks to the improving economy and elevated consumer confidence, they said, “now is no time to celebrate.” “Spring is still Christmas in the horticulture industry, but we have done such a good job focusing on spring that we have neglected other seasons,” one grower said. “Having so many eggs in the spring basket is dangerous. Fall will never be what spring is, but having a solid second season is in […]

Read More
Laura Drotleff

July 11, 2015

Get Creative With Grower Recruitment

There’s a shortage of grower talent in our industry — that’s no secret. But a recent employment outlook led by Purdue University’s Agriculture Department, with support from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), reported 57,900 ag-related jobs are slated to open annually across the U.S. over the next five years. With an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture-related fields, that makes us 22,500 people short of the jobs available. So not only do we have to compete with industries outside of agriculture for highly skilled job candidates, but our fellow farmers are also hurting for qualified people to fill their empty positions. It’s time to get creative with grower recruitment, and that means opening up the realm of possibilities beyond the traditional channels of four-year, land grant universities. It doesn’t help matters when institutions like Cal-Poly, long heralded as a […]

Read More
Laura Drotleff

May 27, 2015

Growers Working Hard To Protect Pollinators — And Their…

Editor’s Note: This editorial was written and published just prior to the news coming out about Lowe’s phasing out neonicotinoids by 2019. However, that news doesn’t change the fact that growers have a long history as good stewards of their land and of the environment. As evidenced by the 2015 Top 100 Growers Report, the nation’s largest growers continue to adapt their production practices to be cognizant of environmental factors, worker safety, retailer preferences and consumer concerns. In light of Lowe’s announcement, growers who produce for the retailer are certainly working toward that mandate; but they’re also hopeful that the research currently underway will provide scientific reason for decisions made on production going forward. When the news broke last year that growers would be required to label plants treated with neonicotinoids at The Home Depot, and that other retailers were mandating growers to produce crops without neonics, I sucked in air and […]

Read More
Laura Drotleff

April 10, 2015

STEM Curriculum Ideal For Teaching Horticulture [Opinio…

STEM curriculum in the schools offers the perfect opportunity to intertwine horticulture with learning.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

March 4, 2015

Celebrate Women In Horticulture

Women have always played a crucial role in the horticulture industry, not only from a consumer point-of-view, where traditionally our biggest customers have been women, but also as prominent business leaders and owners, growers, breeders, marketers, researchers and matriarchs of industry family empires.

Read More
Janeen Wright

March 2, 2015

Deliver Plant Quality That Trumps Price [Opinion]

The industry's goal is to have loyal customers who return to the same plants time and time again, not because of price, but owing to a plant brand that shouts top-notch garden performance and is synonymous with excellence, which gives them the secure knowledge that their investment will be worth every hard-earned cent.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

February 10, 2015

Biocontrols Aren’t Scary [Opinion]

Crafting a softer pest management program is likely in everyone’s future — if it’s not here already, especially due to increasing regulation and growing consumer concern over pesticide use. Learn more about biocontrols to determine how they could fit in with your goals and production practices.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

January 5, 2015

“Growers Are Artisans” [Opinion]

We need to elevate the craft of growing to attract young talent to our industry.

Read More

December 1, 2014

Consumers, Retailers Only Hearing Voices Of Protest

Speak up about your operation's responsible practices.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

November 12, 2014

5 Ways Growers Can Be More Sustainable [Opinion]

While you're still preparing your operation for spring and investing in new ideas, consider employing some of these improvements to save money and resources.

Read More

October 1, 2014

Greenhouse Grower Issues A New Challenge To The Industr…

Let's rally behind the healthy pollinators initiative. How will you step up to the challenge?

Read More

September 15, 2014

What Does Precision Horticulture Mean To You?

Precision horticulture is what you do every day — growing with precision for efficiency and profitability.

Read More

July 28, 2014

How Gen X & Y Horticulturists Will Change The Indus…

Seek out young professionals in the industry and in your operation to develop new ways to do business, improve communication and address consumers. How have you cultivated ideas from younger generations?

Read More
Laura Drotleff

July 8, 2014

Consider Hiring Non-Traditional Growers To Secure Our I…

Your operation can benefit from hiring returning veterans, professionals changing careers and non-traditional students, in addition to horticulture graduates. Where have you had luck recruiting?

Read More
Carol Miller

June 3, 2014

Consumer Success Is Key To Industry Success [Opinion]

Many breeders are aware of the problem and are striving to ensure that plants in a customer’s home garden will live up to the visual appeal the plant has on a store display bench. A lot of the resulting plants were on display in California.

Read More

June 3, 2014

Active Grower Voices Are Invaluable To Retailers, Consu…

Creating our own advocacy is an important tool in areas like presenting science-based knowledge about pollinator health, and informing the public about how growers already preserve natural resources through responsible practices like integrated pest management (IPM), water reclamation and recycling, plastic recycling and sustainability initiatives.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]