Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Behind the Scenes: How (and Why) We Do It

2016 Top 100 Growers ListEvery year, the Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Growers Survey is a bit of a struggle to compile. While we usually have great responses from the majority of our Top 100 Growers, no matter how early (or late) we send the survey out, we always have a few stragglers sending late answers. And then, once it’s published (here’s a link to this year’s report), we’ll inevitably have a handful of people from around the industry tell us that our list isn’t accurate because we missed someone, or because it doesn’t include some of the really big nursery growers out there.

Then we go through the whole process of explaining that this is a voluntary ranking of the largest greenhouse growers in the country, not of all of the nurseries in the country, since we are, in fact, called Greenhouse Grower, and we don’t currently cover nursery production. All data is self-reported by the growers themselves. We do not do web searches to gather information on square footage, and then place a grower on the list without warning. Or at least, that has never been our practice in the past. And sure, it would likely be more compelling to rank growers based on sales or profit, rather than on their sheer size. But of the growers who took our survey this year, only about half shared that information with us. We ask for both hard numbers and a sales range, so in case these growers aren’t comfortable listing their actual annual sales, then they can tell us approximately where they fall. Yet some of them aren’t even comfortable with that!

It’s in this debate with our critics (who we love and admire, by the way, because they keep us honest and striving to do our best) that we begin to question whether we should change the way our Top 100 Growers Survey and ranking is done. After all, it’s true that there has been a bit of blurring of the lines between greenhouse and nursery producers in the last several years, as retailers ask growers to be one-stop shops so they can reduce the number of suppliers they have to deal with, and as growers continue to move crops outdoors to reduce production costs and harden off plants, including annuals. So if they’re growing outdoors, does that negate our ranking by environmentally controlled square footage? We don’t think so, because we do, by the way, also list production in acres of shade greenhouses and field production in our annual ranking, next to environmentally controlled square footage.

So why continue to rank the Top 100 Growers? We’ve contemplated that, honestly. (Probably every year while we’re in the thick of it.) But ultimately, it comes down to this: The information is just too good. We use the data and the anecdotal answers from our Top 100 Growers Survey to track floriculture trends and get an overview of where the industry is headed, led by the nation’s largest growers. With guidance from the results of the Top 100 survey, the State of the Industry Survey, and other surveys we do, we set our priorities and business direction each year, and we’re able to provide insights to the rest of the industry, as well, through our survey analysis, whitepapers, webinars, and market trend analysis.

Plus, this survey with the Top 100 Growers also has established a deep, valuable, and trusted connection with these extraordinarily innovative growers, which we wouldn’t give up even if we had to do 100 surveys!

For the first time this year, we didn’t have up-to-date information from USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service Floriculture Crops Summary to compare our Top 100 Growers data against. Why? Because USDA decided to stop compiling it due to budgetary restrictions. It’s not likely that we’ll get it back, either, unless we all write to our respective members of Congress, and even then. This means it’s now more important than ever that we continue our surveys, to provide good, reliable data that will allow us to accurately measure the size and scope of our industry. But our survey results are only as good as you make them, so next time you get a survey notice from us, please make sure you take it.

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