It’s Not Easy Being Green

A month ago I told you a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen entitled, "There Is A Difference." The moral of the story was that all types of plants and people receive the same resources, such as sun, air and nutrients, and it is up to them to utilize these resources as best they can to survive, enjoy life and prosper. Andersen wrote the fairy tale more than 200 years ago.

In 1970, a "Sesame Street" book and record followed in Andersen’s footsteps when Kermit the Frog said, "It’s not easy being green."

I guess our industry feels like Kermit, since we have tried to be green for more than 200 years. We use greenhouses to grow plants that are not native to areas and make it possible for them to be enjoyed in all parts of the world. For example, poinsettias, which are native to Mexico, can be grown in greenhouses in the northern United States and Canada to be enjoyed at Christmas.

We produce a product that takes carbon dioxide and water and releases oxygen into the environment. As I write this article, I look out the window and see 10 contrails from planes flying over my house. How much carbon dioxide do those planes give out into the environment? How much oxygen?

It is interesting that the NBC network changed its peacock logo to all green for one week in November. The parent company of NBC is General Electric. GE is working to reduce its carbon footprint on this planet.

Many of the major companies are now getting to the point where they want to be green. British Petroleum, the World Council for Sustainable Agriculture and probably 100 more are promoting their green efforts. They say they will be the path to a green future. Even some of the business magazines think that we just are going to be greener.

All of these efforts receive a lot of attention. Our industry has always been green, but we are seldom recognized for our contributions.

With all the problems with weather in the United States, wildfires in southern California and droughts in the southeastern states, it is getting more difficult to be green. Firms in the southeast have gone bankrupt. Firms in Michigan have closed their doors and others have been bought out or taken over by other companies.

Also it is interesting to see that the Canadian dollar is equal to or slightly ahead of the value of the U.S. dollar. The last time that happened was about 30 years ago. As a result, product from Canadian growers will probably be less available in the United States as long as American growers can produce it at the same cost or less than Canadian sources. 

Staying Green

All this indicates that, although change will occur, we still have to be green. I have 10 points that I would like to suggest to help you stay green.

1. We are the makers of green.

As I have said many times before, we are in the business of growing plants that take CO2 and H2O in the presence of light and make carbohydrates and oxygen. In fact, we can actually use more CO2 than is present in the atmosphere to produce greater plant growth.

2. We grow green.

We take seeds, plugs or cuttings and grow them to greater size from a 4-inch pot to a 6-inch pot to a 10-inch pot to a 12-inch pot or to any size people want. We can grow grasses, shrubs and forest trees. We can start plants that will live for four or five hundred years.

3. We spend our lives taking care of green.

Keeping plants growing is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job. Anyone who has a business in horticulture knows that one mistake – not enough water, too high or too cold a temperature, air pollution, an infestation of insects or an outbreak of a disease – could kill our plants at any time. A good crop can only be produced by skilled people who not only know how to grow it, but also are willing to take care of it every hour of every day.

4. We have the skill to make more green.

We are the people who create new cultivars. We can breed plants to have the characteristics that our customers want and we want. We can make selections of plants for their productivity, for their beauty, for whatever needs have been identified. If we want plants that will produce more ethanol per acre, that can be done. Perhaps plants that are currently considered weeds will become valuable to produce fuel for cars and money for the growers.

5. We can provide plants for food, shelter and safety for all people.

It’s about time that we realize that oil is not the limiting factor in our society. Water and food are! If we were to stop shipping our food to other countries, they would have great difficulty surviving. We can drink water and eat corn. They would have to drink oil and eat sand. We need to use these facts to our economic advantage.

6. We are a renewable resource.

Every year we produce products that provide food, shelter, pharmaceuticals and beauty. As long as there is life on our planet, the raw materials will be available to grow plants, and we can provide the products that will be able to sustain our society.

7. We should express our outrage at the use of the term "greenhouse effect."

This term is unfair and detrimental to the image of our industry. Greenhouses collect solar energy. They provide a place to grow plants that turn carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates and oxygen to help people survive and improve the environment.

8. We provide a path to a greener future.

People can reduce emissions from engines and make all kinds of improvements in their systems to reduce their carbon footprint. They can also try to control Mother Nature, the volcanoes, wild fires, droughts and other natural disasters that occur. However, they will only reduce the pollution, not eliminate it. The plants that we grow and will continue to grow will be the source of saving life. Remember that in the long run, no plants = no people.

9. We need to make sure that our contributions are recognized.

We can make every effort to see that our industry receives the recognition and appreciation for its contributions to the environment. There are thousands of us who work for years to grow and protect plants. We do more to reduce global warming than all the other efforts to reduce pollution.

10. We need to remember Kermit the Frog.

Kermit told us, "It’s not easy being green. It seems you blend in with so many ordinary things and people tend to pass you over ‘cause you’re not standing out."

You must have a profitable business to stay green. Profit is not a dirty word. It enables you to continue the process of being green.
Two bits of advice: 1) Stay low and keep moving; and 2) Money isn’t everything, but it is way ahead of what is in second place.

Happy New Year! Have a very green and profitable year! 

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