What is the best way to make sure you are producing top-quality plants? If you ask Steve Garvey, Head Grower at Dallas Johnson Greenhouses in Iowa (#17 on Greenhouse Grower’s 2017 Top 100 Growers list), it comes down to two things: walking through the greenhouse every day and putting your money where your mouth is.
What does the latter mean? For Garvey, who worked as a grower at a garden center for several years after college, it meant using his own money to buy plant growth regulators.
“I wanted to see first-hand how they worked, and I used this experience to hone my skills in improving plant quality,” Garvey says. “I learned quickly that it was tough to grow annuals, and while I made some mistakes early, I was able to learn from them.”
Garvey was recruited by Dallas Johnson Greenhouses about four years ago, and since then, he has become relentless in looking for the next new thing to improve quality in every aspect of production, from shipping to marketing. While leading a team of 12 section growers, he has put several systems in place for both quality control and organization — a major challenge when you’re shipping up to 45 semi trucks each day.
“Our quality gets better every year, and it’s something that I am ultimately responsible for,” Garvey says. “That’s what I try to instill into our growing team, and each year they understand it more.”
Dallas Johnson produces its own plugs and sticks its own cuttings, which Garvey says is critical.
Garvey says he feels the best part of his job is regularly walking through nearly 70 acres of covered production, even though it takes a couple of days.
“Some days are hard, and the spring is always tough, but I enjoy coming in here every morning,” Garvey says. “I’m constantly looking at ready dates and understanding that I don’t need to be a recipe grower, and our quality is constantly improving because of this.”
The Head Grower of the Year award winner will be announced during Greenhouse Grower’s Evening of Excellence at Cultivate’17.