Online Education Empowers Employees to Succeed

Edgar Velez_Costa Farms
Edgar Velez shared his successful experience with online education, which led to his promotion to Grower of Vegetative Propagation, with employees at Costa Farms.

Edgar Velez is an intelligent, hard-working, motivated Costa Farms employee who started out as a truck driver for the company and quickly worked his way up to being a supervisor in propagation. When Velez’s manager offered him the opportunity to take online certificate courses through the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension (UF/IFAS) at the company’s expense, he jumped at the chance to build upon his skills. Thanks to the program, Costa has now promoted him to Grower of Vegetative Propagation.

Costa Farms recognized 40 employees, including Velez, who completed the program this year with a special graduation ceremony. Graduates and staff members from Costa’s locations around the world, some as far as the Dominican Republic, Skyped in for the ceremony, which Costa conducted in English and Spanish. Velez shared his story, and graduates heard from UF/IFAS professors and Costa executives. Afterward, the graduates enjoyed a well-earned lunch.

“The classes helped me to better understand pH, EC, fertility, environmental controls within a greenhouse, and how to increase the profitability in my own department,” said Velez in his speech. “I am now empowered to more thoroughly train new employees in the propagation department.”

Elizabeth Gomez, Learning and Organization Development Sr. Consultant at Costa Farms, says Edgar’s story, of someone who has been growing within the company and through taking the courses received a promotion, speaks to the program and its quality.

Invest in Employees You Already Have

UF/IFAS started offering online certificate courses three years ago to help greenhouse workers make better crop management decisions. This year it added a Costing and Profitability class to its core curriculum that teaches managers how to accurately estimate production costs and profits. The class included videos and lectures in English and Spanish. UF/IFAS Professors Paul Fisher, Alan Hodges, Kevin Athearn, and Rosanna Freyre, Charlie Hall from Texas A&M University, and Bill Swanekamp of Kube-Pak Corp, shared insights on how to interpret income statement data, allocate overhead costs, and calculate crop enterprise budgets.

Paul Fisher, Professor and Extension Specialist at UF/IFAS, says the course is a much-needed addition because it can be challenging to estimate costs and profitability for seasonal-based businesses that earn the bulk of their profits during the spring season. This year, 58 people enrolled in the course and over 80% of them completed it. Participants said they enjoyed the easy-to-navigate modules, the adaptable spreadsheets, and the well-crafted content.

“I liked that the course taught fairly advanced accounting concepts from a grower’s point of view. I have attempted to learn some of this stuff in the past via reading and working with accounting types, but the material never hit home,” said one participant. “This course was well-crafted by growers for growers. As a result, I now have a basic understanding of many principles that I previously did not fully understand. I am looking forward to applying these concepts to the way I production plan and run daily ops.”

In a competitive industry with a limited pool of people who have two- and four-year degrees, Fisher says companies need to look within to find dedicated individuals who have already proven to be good employees and then take advantage of online opportunities such as the UF/IFAS program that can empower these people to succeed at their place of employment.

In addition to the five courses offered in 2017, UF/IFAS will add Introduction to Hydroponics and Water Quality and Treatment courses this year, and it will bring back the Disease Management course for 2018. Along with that, UF/IFAS hopes to coordinate its online educational efforts with Michigan State University and grower organizations in the future, as well as expand the program internationally. The courses run June through December. To learn more about the UF/IFAS online certificate program, visit

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...

April 23, 2018

Griffin Hosting Cannabis Growers Workshop in May

The half-day program in Colorado will focus on several aspects of crop fertility and nutrition delivery strategies.

Read More

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
Latest Stories

January 31, 2018

Online Education Empowers Employees to Succeed

See how UF/IFAS online certificate courses helped employees at Costa Farms get ahead with their jobs.

Read More

January 25, 2018

Why It’s Critical to Understand Your Real Costs o…

It’s time to stop guessing and start calculating when it comes to finding out what your real cost of production is, and pricing products accordingly.\

Read More

January 23, 2018

Learn How the New Tax Law Will Affect Your Greenhouse B…

AmericanHort will co-host a free “Comprehending the New Tax Law: webinar on Wednesday, Jan. 31, with K-Coe Isom, a national tax consulting leader.

Read More

January 15, 2018

Missouri Greenhouse Grower John Tomasovic Dies

The patriarch of Tomasovic Greenhouses & Nursery, Inc. in Des Peres, MO, was a legend in the plant industry, and widely involved in many associations.

Read More

January 15, 2018

Perennials Icon Louis Stacy Dies

The founder of the former Stacy's Greenhouses in York, SC, passed away on Wednesday, January 10, 2018.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

January 9, 2018

AmericanHort Launches New Video Series on Profit Margin…

This week, AmericanHort is kicking off a four-part video series that offers perspectives on managing profit margins from AmericanHort’s Chief Economist, Dr. Charlie Hall.

Read More

January 9, 2018

What You Need to Know About the New Tax Bill

The United Fresh Produce Association, which represents the needs and interests of fruit and vegetable growers, recently updated its members on how the recent passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act might affect their businesses. Many of the insights provided by United Fresh also apply to greenhouse growers and nurseries.

Read More
Doug Cole, Owner of D.S. Cole Growers

January 4, 2018

D.S. Cole Growers Blazes Its Own Path to Growth

Known for its commitment to sustainability and innovation, this grower is one of the pioneering trailblazers changing the way horticulture does business.

Read More

December 31, 2017

Ag Exemption for New Trucking Regulation Still Under Re…

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s trucking electronic logging device mandate, which took effect on December 18, includes an Hours of Service exemption that may or may not apply to greenhouses and nurseries.

Read More
Tillandsia Air Plants (Plantiflor)

December 15, 2017

Bonsall Nursery Devastated By California Wildfire

Rainforest Flora lost its main greenhouses and outdoor growing property in the Lilac Fire in San Diego.

Read More

December 9, 2017

Southern California Wildfires Narrowly Miss Most Grower…

Here’s an update on horticulture businesses in the areas affected by the California wildfires.

Read More

December 5, 2017

Skagit Horticulture Builds New, Inclusive Business With…

By merging two large-scale producers, Skagit Gardens and Northwest Horticulture, the new company has realized its strengths through focused divisions that emphasize efficiency and success.

Read More

December 4, 2017

Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants Debuts as Roberta’s Finali…

On December 1, Eric Wallien of Roberta’s Inc. in Waldron, IN, officially purchased C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield, MI. The new identity of the company is now Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants, according to a Dec. 1 letter to Raker’s customers, suppliers, and business partners from Vice President Susie Raker-Zimmerman. “There have been minimal changes in management and we will be providing the same products and services on which we have built our reputation in the industry,” Raker-Zimmerman said in the letter, which also announced the name change and new logo. The sale of C. Raker & Sons was announced in September . A series of events affecting Raker’s financial situation caused the need for the operation to find an alternate solution. Roberta’s had been a customer of Raker’s since 2011, and the fourth generation, family owned grower-retailer was a fan of Raker’s commitment to quality. The agreement to purchase C. […]

Read More

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