Regina Coronado: Head Grower Of The Year

Regina Coronado: Head Grower Of The Year

She came for three months and ended up staying for 20 years. That’s how Regina Coronado’s journey began from an agronomist in Guatemala to becoming one of the leading ornamental plant growers in the United States.

Regina is the head grower at Stacy’s Greenhouses in York, S.C. Ranked at No. 87 on our Top 100 Growers, Stacy’s has 815,000 square feet of greenhouse production and 250 acres of outside growing area. The company founded by Louis Stacy, Jr. specializes in perennials, pansies and mums and serves the nation’s largest retailers directly and indirectly through many of the largest bedding plant growers. Stacy’s also has two retail garden centers and is in touch with consumers.

Our panel chose Regina among a pool of 17 nominated growers and four finalists for our very first award recognizing an outstanding Head Grower of the Year as part of our Grower of the Year awards program. More greenhouse operation owners are relying on talents of head growers. The award sponsored by BASF was presented July 12 at the OFA Short Course in Columbus, Ohio, and recognizes high-level employees who lead production while elevating the value of their profession.

Regina earned her U.S. citizenship in 2008 and is a shining, but humble, example of how hard work and a dedication to education leads to a brighter future. She feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to pursue higher education and is very proud of her adopted sister, who is 26 and studying biochemistry.

“In Guatemala, only 10 percent of the children go to school and only 1 percent of those who go to school have a college degree,” she says. “There are a lot of kids under age 10 working. They quit school to support their families.”

Regina attended a German school in Guatemala from age four through 18. This is where her disciplined foundation in science began. The agronomy school Regina attended focused on cotton, soybeans and coffee and had a research relationship with Auburn University in Alabama. “I chose to study soils with a focus on testing and plant tissue analysis,” Regina says. “We used to study soil and conduct big trials in cotton and fertility programs.”

One day a friend asked if she’d like to go to Florida to learn greenhouse production as part of a free, three-month training program. Regina then met Roger Vasquez, a grower from Honduras, who taught her how to grow ornamental plugs for Speedling in Florida. She also tried growing herbs and spices in Mexico before returning to grow vegetable transplants for Speedling in Texas.

She transferred to Speedling’s Blairsville, Ga., facility, which has a strong focus on pansy plugs. It was in Blairsville where Regina met “Mr. Stacy,” who came to visit and inspect the plugs as a potential customer. “He asked me several questions and said, ‘If you ever need a job, call me first,’” she says.

Regina kept his card and gave him a call when she was interviewing at several operations in the Southeast. She started at Stacy’s as a section grower for three years and then was promoted to head grower in charge of all the finished plant production. “I didn’t know anything about perennials but he assigned me 100 acres and I started learning,” she says. “It was a great experiment. Like with anything else, there were ups and downs. I learned by watching and doing it myself with people.”

Working with Mr. Stacy and taking direction from him made her a better employee, she says. “He and I used to ride the farm together. We’d get to certain beds and he’d ask me what I had done to the crops. Most of the time, you have to keep track of what you’re doing, so I always have a notepad, pen and scissors, in case pruning needs to be done.”

Outstanding In Her Field

Regina spends 95 percent of her time in the field, where she likes to be, with her notepads, laptop, and mobile file cabinet on her golf cart. Her staff includes three senior growers, four assistant growers, seven irrigators and nine chemical applicators, all of whom she trained herself.

“I take care of the chemicals and have developed programs that are mostly preventative, but people are the ones who make a difference in being successful. I love the people here,” she says, adding that teams come together for fun, educational activities and to celebrate progress. One initiative has been safety. “We went from 50 accidents two years ago to 22 last year,” she says. “This year we’ve only had one and it was a merchandiser at the stores.”

Stacy’s President Tim Brindley commends Regina for her positive and hands-on approach. “She teaches as well as anyone I have ever encountered. She listens very well. Her work ethic and hands-on interaction keep her staff at a very high level.”

Regina spends most of her time perfecting production and developing programs specific to Stacy’s growing conditions. She works with leading industry consultants and technical advisors. “When we start a new crop, we get guidelines from the vendors but use them only as a guideline,” she says. “Not everything they tell me works here. You have to develop your own program because the growing conditions are so different.”

Hydrangeas have been a hot crop, along with Knock Out roses, clematis, phlox, peonies, callas and Asiatic and LA lilies. While mildew is the disease to watch for in phlox up north, in the south it’s aerial phytophthora. Another big project has been converting all the outdoor mums to drip irrigation. Other trials in the works include testing Configure to see if it stimulates branching in perennials and slow-release fertilizer trials.

Testing, Testing, Testing

Regina believes in monitoring soils and crops with laboratory testing. This was part of her training in Guatemala, and while she worked at Speedling, she worked with Fafard’s Dr. Hugh Poole in Florida. Today she uses Fafard’s lab in nearby Anderson, S.C., for soil plant tissue and water analysis.

“Here, when we have issues, the first thing we do is check soil and water and send samples to Fafard,” she says. “We can do some things here but not the whole list of things to check. Certain products need professional recommendations.”’

Stacy’s produces more than a million hostas a year and checks each variety for Hosta virus X in house. “If it’s positive, we retest. And if it’s positive again, we put a hold on the variety and send a sample to Agdia labs,” Regina says. “If it comes back positive, we send the plants back to the supplier.” Daylilies are another big crop to screen for diseases and samples are sent to Clemson University.

Testing early and often helps nip problems in the bud and determine where they originate. “My rule is if the plugs die within 10 days of transplant, it’s a plug problem,” Regina says. “We’re good at killing plants, but not that good. After 10 days, then it’s something else.”

The cultural practices Regina learned in agronomy and in plug growing have served Stacy’s well. “Regina has helped to annualize and modernize the thinking and production in today’s perennial market,” says Rick Grossman of Express Seed. “Never-ending quality improvement has been the goal with testing new varieties, PGRs and more efficient growing methods. Her leadership in production quality has been the foundation for continued success of this growing operation.”

Brindley adds: “As detailed as any grower in the world, Regina is able to apply a small grower mentality at a very large growing facility. She treats every crop individually. Regina uses a variety of methods to achieve her ultimate goal – every plant grown to the highest quality, ready to perform for the consumer. From 250 miles of drip irrigation to 20 acres of lit growing beds to new chemical experimentation, Regina does it all.”

Leave a Reply

More From Grower of the Year...
Sheridan Nurseries

September 3, 2015

Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Operation Of The Year Sheridan Nurseries Raises The Bar

Ontario-based Sheridan Nurseries has long been an innovator in the Canadian market, but during the economic downturn, CEO Karl Stensson says the company decided to take things a step further. “We have survived the Great Depression, two World Wars and many other downturns in the economy,” he says. “During this last recession, our staff set out at being the best at what we do.” The company’s efforts have paid off. Sheridan Nurseries was named Operation of the Year at Greenhouse Grower’s Evening of Excellence, held July 13, at Cultivate’15 in Columbus, Ohio. The company was also awarded for Excellence In Perennials Production, based on its reputation for plant quality and the activities the nursery has led and been a part of, both within its company and in the industry at large. “We are elated and proud of our staff accomplishments,” says CEO Karl Stensson. “Over the last five years, we […]

Read More
Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Head Grower Of The Year Tom Wheeler - Feature image

September 1, 2015

Bell Nursery USA Cultivates New Growers Through Internships

Bell Nursery USA started its internship program two years ago with the aim of identifying and training the growers of the future. Each season, the company’s internships give interns a broad overview of the company, exposing them to everything from growing and production to distribution, retail and finances.

Read More
Tom Wheeler, Bell Nursery USA

July 15, 2015

Tom Wheeler Of Bell Nursery Named Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Grower Of The Year

Tom Wheeler of Bell Nursery is Greenhouse Grower's Head Grower of the Year for 2015. His leadership on a company level and throughout the industry and his willingness to share his knowledge to help others makes him a worthy recipient for this reward.

Read More
Latest Stories
Sheridan Nurseries

September 3, 2015

Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Operation Of The …

Ontario-based Sheridan Nurseries has long been an innovator in the Canadian market, but during the economic downturn, CEO Karl Stensson says the company decided to take things a step further. “We have survived the Great Depression, two World Wars and many other downturns in the economy,” he says. “During this last recession, our staff set out at being the best at what we do.” The company’s efforts have paid off. Sheridan Nurseries was named Operation of the Year at Greenhouse Grower’s Evening of Excellence, held July 13, at Cultivate’15 in Columbus, Ohio. The company was also awarded for Excellence In Perennials Production, based on its reputation for plant quality and the activities the nursery has led and been a part of, both within its company and in the industry at large. “We are elated and proud of our staff accomplishments,” says CEO Karl Stensson. “Over the last five years, we […]

Read More
Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Head Grower Of The Year Tom Wheeler - Feature image

September 1, 2015

Bell Nursery USA Cultivates New Growers Through Interns…

Bell Nursery USA started its internship program two years ago with the aim of identifying and training the growers of the future. Each season, the company’s internships give interns a broad overview of the company, exposing them to everything from growing and production to distribution, retail and finances.

Read More
Tom Wheeler, Bell Nursery USA

July 15, 2015

Tom Wheeler Of Bell Nursery Named Greenhouse Grower&…

Tom Wheeler of Bell Nursery is Greenhouse Grower's Head Grower of the Year for 2015. His leadership on a company level and throughout the industry and his willingness to share his knowledge to help others makes him a worthy recipient for this reward.

Read More
Ron Van der Hengst, South Central Growers

June 19, 2015

Ron Van der Hengst Of South Central Growers Is A Finali…

Ron Van de Hengst’s concentrated focus on improving production practices and finding better ways to turn out a top quality product makes him a deserving finalist for the 2015 Head Grower of the Year and recipient of the 2015 Excellence In Production award.

Read More
CEO Karl Stensson, Sheridan-Nurseries

June 18, 2015

Sheridan Nurseries Is A Finalist For 2015 Operation Of …

Sheridan Nurseries is Canada’s largest grower of hardy nursery plants and has been in business since 1913. It is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Perennials Production award for 2015.

Read More
Casey Houweling Houwelings Tomatoe

June 18, 2015

Houweling’s Tomatoes Is A Finalist For 2015 Operation O…

Houweling’s Tomatoes is an innovative greenhouse operation based in Delta, British Columbia that grows a full array of tomato and cucumber varieties. It is the winner of Greenhouse Grower’s Excellence in Vegetable Production for 2015.

Read More
Tom Wheeler, Bell Nursery USA

June 16, 2015

Bell Nursery USA’s Tom Wheeler Is A Finalist For …

Tom Wheeler’s individual-based and broad scale industry leadership and innovative ideas for high-quality production makes him a deserving finalist for the 2015 Head Grower of the Year and recipient of the 2015 Excellence In Leadership award.

Read More
Ed van Hoven and family_American Color

June 9, 2015

American Color Awarded Excellence In Annuals Production…

American Color, a grower located in Orange, Va. that started with one acre of land, received the Excellence In Annuals Production award for 2015 at Greenhouse Grower’s Evening of Excellence held July 13 during Cultivate'15.

Read More
Nick Gerace/Welby Gardens

June 3, 2015

Welby Gardens’ Nick Gerace Finalist For 2015 Head…

Nick Gerace’s enthusiastic leadership and focus on smarter growing with less hours on the job makes him a deserving finalist for the 2015 Head Grower of the Year and recipient of the 2015 Excellence In Innovation award.

Read More

November 11, 2014

2015 Grower Of The Year Awards Nominations Now Open

The Grower of the Year program encompasses two distinct awards: Operation Of The Year and Head Grower Of The Year. Tell us about an operation or head grower you believe we should consider today.

Read More

August 27, 2014

2014 Head Grower Of The Year Ivan Tchakarov: An Enthusi…

Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Grower of the Year Ivan Tchakarov accepts challenges, embraces the latest technology and leads his team with a positive attitude.

Read More

August 27, 2014

Henry Mast Greenhouses/Masterpiece Flower Company Build…

Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Operation of the Year builds long-standing, mutually beneficial customer relationships that last.

Read More

August 22, 2014

Highlights From Greenhouse Grower’s Evening Of Ex…

Greenhouse Grower’s Evening of Excellence, held at Cultivate’14’, celebrated outstanding efforts in breeding, growing, and marketing, but more than that, it was a celebration of individuals and operations that strive for excellence in their daily work.  

Read More

July 15, 2014

Greenhouse Grower Thrilled To Honor 2014 Medal of Excel…

Check out the breeders, growers and new varieties that earned the Greenhouse Grower Medal of Excellence awards for 2014.

Read More

July 15, 2014

Ivan Tchakarov Of Metrolina Greenhouse Named Greenhouse…

Metrolina Greenhouse's Director of Growing Ivan Tchakarov was named Grower of the Year at Greenhouse Grower's Evening of Excellence, held July 14 at Cultivate'14 in Columbus, Ohio.

Read More

July 15, 2014

Henry Mast Greenhouses Named Greenhouse Grower’s …

Henry Mast Greenhouses is named as Operation of the Year at Greenhouse Grower's Evening of Excellence on Monday, July 14 at Cultivate'14 in Columbus, Ohio.

Read More

June 13, 2014

Ron Godden of Wenke Greenhouses Is A 2014 Finalist For …

Ron Godden of Wenke Greenhouses enjoys the challenge of growing and has a genuine love for the intensity of the spring season.

Read More

June 12, 2014

Andy Buist of Micandy Garden Greenhouses Is A 2014 Fina…

Head Grower Of The Year Finalist Andy Buist is a hardworking grower with over 50 years of experience who encourages his employees and spreads his passion to everyone around him.

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