Horticulture: A Reason For Thanksgiving

We all have heard the old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” Well, I think many of us can’t see our profession because we are only interested in one facet of this great industry.

This notion was brought home to me a few months ago when I read a garden design magazine. It showed how to create a meditation garden, a pharmaceutical garden, a service garden and a beauty garden, as well as an art garden.
 
There were many different plant species used that I had not seen before. I began to remember what I was taught at the university: There are so many plants on this earth that it would be impossible to learn all the genetics, physiology, pathology and uses of even a small percentage of them.
 
For some of us, it has taken a lifetime to master all the information we need to grow five or six species of plants for commercial production. Most of us spend our time producing large quantities of annual or perennial flowers, vegetables, grasses or woody ornamentals that we sell to homeowners to provide food and beauty around their homes or on small areas of land.
 
The article in the garden design magazine made me realize people garden for different reasons. Today’s garden centers have to acknowledge this and then see how great the demand is for each area.

Try Something New

In the Harvard Business Review for September 2003, the authors suggest that, to be a resilient business, you must learn how to repeatedly reinvent yourself and develop new strategies as circumstances change instead of just responding to a crisis. The article suggests cultivating this ability that depends on variety. Explore a wide array of ideas on a small scale. Companies should steer clear of grand, imperial strategies and devote themselves instead to launching a swarm of low-risk experiments.
 
So plant more seeds, get more ideas, capture the best and exploit that plant or garden idea. My advice has always been to try a lot of new ideas but fail quickly, and then implement the best ideas on a small scale. 
 
It is important you understand what the customer wants or needs before you try to give them the solution. Let me share one of my most memorable lessons in knowing what the customer wants before you give them the answer.
 
About 20 years ago, I was asked to visit a dairy farm to meet with the owner who wanted to put up a small greenhouse. Before the trip, I gathered all my articles about how to start a greenhouse business, the cost per square foot, all the equipment that was needed and how much he could make per square foot on his investment.
 
When I arrived at the farm, he welcomed me and I began to give him the information. He said, “I want to build a greenhouse that is 20 feet by 50 feet.” I said, “You’ll never make money on this venture.” 
 
He responded: “Son, I don’t want to make money on the greenhouse. I have a large dairy farm and I do quite well financially. But I have a problem. My wife is always interfering with my work. She bothers the help and disrupts the operation. I asked her what her hobbies were, and she said she would like a greenhouse so she could raise plants for our house and garden.
 
“Therefore, you are not here to help me build a greenhouse that is profitable. You are here to help me build a greenhouse that will keep my wife out of my dairy. I basically don’t give a darn about the price. Just get us something that can keep her busy growing flowering plants and vegetables.”
 
I think the greenhouse wound up costing him about $50 per square foot. The next time I saw him, he said it was the best investment he ever made. So you can see, even a dairy farmer can be thankful for horticulture. 

On The To-Do List

At Thanksgiving, I am always thankful for horticulture and the people who work in this profession. Together, we have achieved great advancements in producing and marketing our products.
 
But our job is never done, and we have a chance over the next 10 to 20 years to solve some of our production problems. Here is a list of discoveries I feel would be of great value to our industry:
 
1. Find the gene that controls flowering so we can have a given species in flower any time.
 
2. Find the gene that controls vernalization, so vernalization will not be needed.
 
3. Find the gene or genes that control ethylene formation so we can extend flower life.
 
4. Find the genes that will make plants resistant to our major diseases and insects so we can work toward pesticide-free production. If we knew these answers, perhaps we could develop the following products and make millions with them:
 
1. A day-neutral chrysanthemum
 
2. An Easter lily that flowers without a cold period
 
3. A day-neutral poinsettia
 
4. A seed geranium that does not shatter and does not get Xanthomonas campestris pv. pelargonii
 
5. A lily that does not shed pollen
 
6. Geraniums, marigolds and vinca that are not affected by high or low pH
 
I’m sure you could add to this list with production problems you presently face. Sure, you can say, it’s easy to list the problems, but they are hard or impossible to solve. It reminds me of a little story I read in the April 2009 Bits and Pieces that was adapted from Mike Wills’ Learning Services website, titled “Theory vs. Action.”
 
A grasshopper went to the old owl, who was the wisest and oldest leader in the forest, for advice on surviving winter. The owl listened and said, “It is simple. Change yourself into a cricket and hibernate.” However, the grasshopper soon came back complaining he couldn’t change. The owl shrugged and said, “I supply the strategy. It’s up to you to implement it.”
 
During this month of Thanksgiving, I hope you will take time to think about the millions of people on this earth who are starving. Thousands of people starve every day  because they have no food to eat.
 
There are so many in our country who go to bed hungry. I want to share with you a story of help for the poor and hungry in my state of Michigan. 
 
In inner city of Detroit, the children get few or no fruits and vegetables to eat. They eat a lot of junk food. That is because there are no stores in the very poor areas that carry fresh fruits and vegetables. In one of these areas, they started a community garden, and it has helped a small part of the neighborhood have fresh produce available.
 
One woman said, “If the people can’t come to the garden, we will take the produce to them.” She got an old truck with shelves and painted it on the outside with the name of her group, “Peaches and Greens.”
 
She developed a route and rang her bell. People came from their buildings and shopped in the truck for vegetables from the community garden plus fruits and some vegetables from the growers’ farm market. It works! The people now have access to fresh produce. This model is such a success that it is being tried in other Michigan cities.
 
There are solutions to the hunger problems. Let’s solve them in the United States and then take that model to other countries.

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...

October 10, 2017

Sharpen Your Skills in Cost Management and Profitability With This Online Course

The University of Florida is offering a new online course on costing and profitability. The course will take growers through the process of how to accurately evaluate cost of production, labor efficiency, pricing, and equipment investment decisions.

Read More
Willoway Nurseries Team

October 1, 2017

How Willoway Nurseries Gets Its Staff Engaged in The Company’s Future

Willoway Nurseries in Avon, OH, is creating a culture with people who think, act, and feel like owners. Learn how its team is taking the business to the next level.

Read More

September 21, 2017

Horticulture Is All About Connections

The beauty of our industry is that we are more than willing to reach out and help those around us. What connections can you make today to help your business, and what can you offer to help another grower?

Read More
Latest Stories

October 10, 2017

Sharpen Your Skills in Cost Management and Profitabilit…

The University of Florida is offering a new online course on costing and profitability. The course will take growers through the process of how to accurately evaluate cost of production, labor efficiency, pricing, and equipment investment decisions.

Read More
Willoway Nurseries Team

October 1, 2017

How Willoway Nurseries Gets Its Staff Engaged in The Co…

Willoway Nurseries in Avon, OH, is creating a culture with people who think, act, and feel like owners. Learn how its team is taking the business to the next level.

Read More

September 21, 2017

Horticulture Is All About Connections

The beauty of our industry is that we are more than willing to reach out and help those around us. What connections can you make today to help your business, and what can you offer to help another grower?

Read More
Worker taking cuttings at Vivero Internacional.

September 11, 2017

Vivero Internacional Elevates Clean Cuttings to New Hei…

One of the last independent cutting operations, this fast-growing company raises the standard for delivering clean, high-quality unrooted cuttings.

Read More
Selecta Sponsor bed at Raker trial gardens

September 5, 2017

C. Raker & Sons Acquired By Roberta’s Unique Garden…

Ownership will change hands in December, and Raker will supply young plants for the 2018 season. Beyond that, leadership of the two operations say they are excited to move forward with a partnership that will continue to supply the industry, and gardeners, with top-quality plants.

Read More

August 1, 2017

MPS Honors D.S. Cole Growers for 10 Years of Sustainabi…

At Cultivate’17, a ceremony to mark a 10-year milestone since D.S. Cole Growers became involved with More Profitable Sustainability (MPS), as the first U.S. grower to achieve MPS certification, took owner Doug Cole by surprise. Separate celebrations also recognized Metrolina Greenhouses and Dümmen Orange for achieving MPS certification.

Read More
Nexus greenhouse construction for Knox Cannabis Facility

July 27, 2017

Ornamental Growers Will Revolutionize Cannabis Industry…

Professional growers have much to offer the emerging cannabis market, according to the co-owner of Knox Medical, one of the licensed cannabis producers in Florida.

Read More
Ball ColorLink logo

July 11, 2017

Get Guidance on Running Your Business from Ball ColorLi…

Representatives from Ball ColorLink will be on-hand at Cultivate’17 to answer questions and present business-building tools and industry insights to growers.

Read More
Lean Consortium in Washington

July 10, 2017

Washington Growers Join New Horticulture Lean Consortiu…

The group of growers has committed to learning and applying the principles of Lean, a method for eliminating waste that results in more value to customers delivered at a lower cost, in a shorter time, with fewer defects and less human effort.

Read More

April 11, 2017

Jerry Halamuda of Color Spot Nurseries Retires

The co-founder of Color Spot Nurseries has retired, effective immediately, and has named a replacement.

Read More

March 21, 2017

How Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Can Prepare for a Prod…

The United Fresh Produce Association is holding a Recall Ready Workshop in April that is designed to help growers properly manage a recall, from liability to communications.

Read More

March 14, 2017

Expanded Customer Footprint, E-Commerce, Succession Key…

Costa Farms' acquisition of indoor foliage producer Delray Plants rocked the industry, but the story behind Delray Plants' sale is the same as for many growers struggling with succession planning. For Costa Farms, the strategic purchase expands its customer footprint and also fast tracks its foray into e-commerce.

Read More

March 10, 2017

Costa Farms Expands With Purchase of Indoor Houseplant …

Costa Farms annnounced March 10 that it has acquired Delray Plants, one of the leaders in the indoor houseplant industry. The two operations are committed to the same values, principles, and goals to grow the industry, and will fit well together to accomplish this, say Randy Gilde, CEO of Delray Plants, and Joche Smith, CEO of Costa Farms.

Read More
Ken and Deena Altman

March 7, 2017

Altman Plants in Escrow to Purchase EuroAmerican Propag…

Ken Altman, a co-owner of Altman Plants based in Vista, CA, has confirmed that the operation is currently in escrow to purchase EuroAmerican Propagators, the Bonsall, CA-based young plant and finished plant grower that filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on Jan. 23, 2017. Ken and Deena Altman are co-owners of Altman Plants and The Plug Connection, along with their son Matthew, who has recently bought into the family business. The 55 acres of land and all of the facilities on it, which were previously owned by Jerry Church, a partner in EuroAmerican Propagators, are part of the purchase agreement currently in escrow, Altman says. However, it would not be absorbed by Altman Plants, which in 2016 was number 3 on Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers list with more than 11 million square feet of environmentally controlled greenhouse production, 62 acres of shade production, and 400 acres of outdoor field production. Altman Plants’ property […]

Read More
EuroAmerican Propagators Greenhouses

February 14, 2017

Suppliers Comment on Plant Genetics’ Fate After EuroAme…

Since the operation’s bankruptcy filing on January 23, 2017, suppliers associated with EuroAmerican Propagators have updated Greenhouse Grower on what the operation’s bankruptcy means for them – and how it will impact grower customers.

Read More
Stephanie Whitehouse

January 17, 2017

Stephanie Whitehouse Takes Her Passion for Plants to Di…

Stephanie Whitehouse, who has spent the last seven years as the Sales and Marketing Director for Peace Tree Farm in Kintnersville, PA, recently joined Dickman Farms Greenhouse and Garden Center in Auburn, NY, as the company’s new Retail General Manager.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means F…

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More