How You Can Embrace Greenhouse Food Production With Confidence

Lettuce in a Greenhouse
The popularity of hydroponic and controlled-environment food crop production has increased dramatically in recent years, which means more growers are adding vegetables to their production schedules.

Transition is an interesting thing. Leaving the old and familiar for the new and less known, or unknown, is riddled with challenges and opportunities. I am no expert in transition in an academic sense — all of my degrees are in horticulture. However, moving from graduate student to faculty member, and from single and childless to married with twin daughters, have provided fairly notable recent transitions. While I could certainly write articles about these experiences, I want to focus on another change we likely have in common — the transition from flowers to food, and what that means for greenhouse growers.

The popularity of hydroponic and controlled-environment food crop production has increased dramatically in recent years. There is a myriad of factors contributing to the rise (or return) in popularity of growing food crops. Regardless of the reason, with each passing week, more food crops are being grown in greenhouses. But this transition is also creating challenges for growers and testing their strengths, knowledge, and facilities.

Learning balance, maintaining a learning mindset, and seeking out support are some key factors in transition that will best serve you in times of change.

Learn Balance

Shifting from floriculture crops to food crops poses a definite learning curve. To me, part of that is learning to balance production cycles to consistently turn out harvestable crops. With floriculture crops, we tend to think of discreet crop production periods. We go from poinsettia season, to bedding plant season, to mum season (or maybe just summer vacation season).

With food crops, the same crops are produced year-round, across the seasons. We also tend to think of crop production that begins with planting and ends with plants flowering and becoming marketable. You may have a few crop turns are at different stages in the greenhouse. When growing food crops, whether it is a house full of butterhead lettuce or cluster tomatoes, production does not neatly and discreetly begin and end. Rather, we are always in a continuum of harvest, trying to have consistent weekly yields. We also see the need to balance the growth of food crops. For leafy greens and herbs, we are trying to balance out yield across the seasons as light and temperatures change, while we try to balance between vegetative and reproductive growth with fruiting vine crops.

Maintain a Learning Mindset

A learning mindset is another tool for transitioning into food crops. I would like to start by saying: “Yes! Your knowledge of producing floriculture crops will absolutely help you!”

I tell students it shouldn’t matter what type of plant they are learning about growing; they can translate their knowledge of plant production to different crops. The fundamentals do not change. That being said, there are definitely differences between growing food and flower crops and these differences should be recognized and respected. This is where the learning mindset comes to the rescue. The transition into growing food crops will require you to learn new production systems, new environmental and cultural management, and new species. While many growers have produced tomatoes before, a 6-pack or 4-inch container is very different from a 12-foot-tall fruiting plant. There is a wealth of resources out there to take advantage of for learning.

Seek Out Support

Another important part of a successful transition is to solicit support. Having twins has definitely driven this lesson home. But, to get back to plants, look for support to assist with your transitions.

This support can come in a number of different forms. It may be the same materials you are using to learn. The support of people can also help you transition. This type of support can come from employees who are ready to transition with you on your journey. Support can come from your fellow growers, who can act as a sounding board for ideas or for your frustrations. Extension educators and faculty members working on food crops are another great source and may be able to provide some insight on your plans and suggestions for how to proceed.

Transitions are not always easy. Rather, it can be hard to leave the familiar and well-known for the new and unknown. Yet there is an excitement about transitions, such as the stimulation of a new crop or the promise of new revenue and income streams. Finally, getting through a transition period to see a new venture blossom successfully is one of the most gratifying experiences, as it is a reminder of the promise and potential we all hold.

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

More From Greenhouse Grower's GROW...

April 20, 2018

Your Weekly Chance to Market the Positive Vibes That Flowers Bring

Each week between now and the end of the year, American Floral Endowment will post a new video promoting flowers.

Read More
Dual Income No Kids (DINK) Young Couple

April 10, 2018

Make Plans to Attend the NICH Annual Conference in Atlanta in June

Everyone in every aspect of consumer horticulture is invited to attend and help create a unified, strategic plan around industry-wide priorities.

Read More
2016 Massachusetts Horticultural Society Field Trials

March 31, 2018

Save the Date for the 2018 Northeast Greenhouse Conference

This year’s conference takes place Nov. 7-8, 2018, and offers growers a great opportunity to learn, share, and connect with other industry professionals.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 26, 2018

How Dickman Farms Used a New Event to Expand Its Custom…

Last fall, Dickman Farms hosted “Carve & Brew,” a new event in which young adults were able to carve a pumpkin, taste craft brews from two local microbreweries, and relax with friends and neighbors.

Read More

March 22, 2018

Why Your Efforts to Sell Plants Fall Short and What You…

It’s time to look at outside industries for ideas and inspiration on what we can do to operate more efficiently in today’s economy.

Read More

March 20, 2018

Seed Your Future Dinner Celebrates Focus on New, Young …

During a Seed Your Future Leadership Meeting Fundraiser dinner at Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania's Ag Secretary thanked the Seed Your Future initiative for its efforts to create awareness of horticulture and careers in horticulture.

Read More

March 1, 2018

7 Ways You Can Control Your Business Destiny With Lawma…

As business owners and industry leaders, your job description should include being active and engaged in our political system.

Read More
Steve Garvey, Dallas Johnson Greenhouses

February 25, 2018

How Two Leading Greenhouse Growers Are Committed to Qua…

Greenhouse Grower recently asked its two most recent Head Grower Excellence in Quality award winners about the steps they take to improve plant quality. Here’s what they had to say.

Read More

February 21, 2018

Four Ways to Get Your Staff to Care About Quality

It can be a challenge to convince your employees to care as much as you do about your business and the quality of products you are providing. Here are four suggestions for making this happen.

Read More

January 22, 2018

Four Ways to Attract Employees With a New Approach to C…

AgBiome is a participative, self-managed organization where no one has a boss. Instead, employees self-assemble as teams around organizational issues that need to be tackled, and internal experts help drive important decisions.

Read More

December 27, 2017

How CareerUp Helps Young Professionals Level-Up

The mission of CareerUp is to equip young professionals with the skills to maximize their career potential.

Read More

December 26, 2017

Richard T. Meister Scholarship Winner Encourages Indust…

This year’s scholarship winner says young people need experiences that challenge them and allow for creativity and innovation.

Read More

December 21, 2017

Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Initiative: How You Made…

To create a competitive advantage, you must consistently experiment with and learn from new ideas. Greenhouse Grower’s GROW initiative provides you with cutting-edge ideas and actionable advice that results in greater profits in everyone’s pocket.

Read More

December 15, 2017

Your AFE Donations Will Be Matched Between Now and the …

Between now and December 1, any donations made to the American Floral Endowment will be matched up to $20,000.

Read More

December 8, 2017

HortScholars Program Now Accepting Applications for 201…

Do you know any college students currently in a horticulture-related program? This unique program gives them a chance to connect with industry leaders and make new connections at Cultivate.

Read More

December 5, 2017

GROW Summit 2017 Tackles Marketing and Business Managem…

This year’s think-tank style event brought together leaders from across the green industry to deliberate on topics such as disruptive marketing, cost accounting, and Millennials, to name a few.

Read More

November 27, 2017

Why It’s Important to Get to Know Consumers at th…

One way to learn about consumer behavior is to get boots on the ground and engage with them.

Read More

November 9, 2017

Dümmen Orange Throws Support Behind Seed Your Future In…

Dümmen Orange has announced it will pledge $450,000 over the next three years to Seed Your Future, the non-profit organization whose mission is to promote horticulture in the U.S. and inspire people to pursue careers working with plants.

Read More

November 1, 2017

Thanks to the 2018 GROW Sponsors

There are a number of industry organizations that help make Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Initiative a success.

Read More
Marshall Dirks, Proven Winners

October 28, 2017

5 Rules for Creating a Lifetime of Outdoor Garden Memor…

Many customers are time starved. Their most important asset is time, not money, so be realistic about the investment of both when they are buying plants.

Read More
Living Umbrellas

October 25, 2017

Why Living Umbrellas May Have a Bright Future

Sometimes innovation strikes by chance. Such was the case with David Tilley, developer of the “Living Umbrella.”

Read More