Growing and caring for plants is not just an enjoyable hobby. It has also taught me many valuable life lessons — patience, persistence, and the value of hard work. That’s why my ears perk up when growers share lessons they have learned after years of caring for plants.
Casey Houweling, owner of Houweling’s Tomatoes in B.C., Canada, is a master grower with more than 30 years of experience growing vegetables to his name. He impressed me with his commitment to sustainability and conservation, with the initiative he takes to develop innovative technologies that enhance the growing process, and more so, with his drive to master his craft for the good of his customers. So when Houweling shared three lessons he has learned as a vegetable grower, I knew they were worth repeating. I believe these are lessons any of us can learn from, no matter what crop we are growing, and no matter whether the operation is a multi-acre corporation or a single-acre homestead.
Lesson One: It takes a strong, committed team to get things done right. One person cannot do it alone, and varying perspectives and expertise are critical to success.
Lesson Two: Status quo will leave you behind. Consumer preferences continue to evolve; retail requirements change; technical advances emerge. If you are not on the front lines of these changes, you are at a disadvantage compared to your competitors.
Lesson Three: There is no such thing as one size fits all. For example, Houweling says, “When we first expanded to California, we had no screens on our greenhouse vents because we didn’t need them for our Canadian operation, where colder temperatures provide a pest buffer. However, the pest pressures of year-round growing in an agricultural-intense area like California were much greater than anything we experienced in Canada, so screens were a necessity.”
It is obvious that Houweling has put the lessons he has learned to good use to build an innovative operation with a strong team that shares his ambition, to grow the best tomatoes in the world and do it well, through perseverance, passion, and respect for the earth. You can read more about this outstanding operation, a 2015 finalist for Greenhouse Grower’s Operation of the Year and last year’s winner of its Excellence In Greenhouse Vegetable Production award in our April 2016 Cover Story, “Houweling’s Tomatoes Grows Produce With Mastery Under Glass.”
I’m sure you’ll learn many valuable lessons of your own as you meet the challenges of the spring season and grow your crops this year. My hope is that you will share lessons learned growing plants with each other and the industry for the benefit of all.