April 25, 2011

Consumer Interest In ‘Green’ Plants

The ornamental plant industry consists of a few large- and many medium- and small-scale growers. In recent years, the intense competition from large domestic and international growers has forced medium- and small-scale farmers to identify and explore new niche markets for their products through value-added marketing. Discovering a profitable niche market is a complicated task because consumer demand is highly diversified. Organically grown and locally grown food products have become increasingly popular in recent years. There is a belief that the demand for organic and sustainable floral products is increasing in the United States due to an emerging consumer segment focused on health and fitness, the environment, personal development, sustainable living and social justice. Our research focused on two questions: 1) Are some consumers more interested in ornamentals, vegetable transplants and herbs produced in sustainable ways than conventionally grown plants? and 2) Do some consumers have different levels of interest […]

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February 22, 2011

Reader Reaction: Sustainable Standard Process A Controversial One

The development of a sustainable agriculture standard for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to adopt has been the subject of criticism since Leonardo Academy began facilitating the developmental process back in 2007. The very idea that a standard is being developed to represent all of agriculture is at the core of why so many people are so vocal in their criticisms. There are also concerns that the standard being developed is too focused, perhaps too much so on organics. Then there are those specifically in floriculture who are concerned their industry is being lopped into the standard as a “me too” to agriculture. In the two-plus years the committee has pursued a standard, progress has been slow going. Committee and subcommittee members are continually resigning and Leonardo Academy, as a result, is continually searching for others to take their places. The most recent slew of resignations–Ball Horticultural Company’s Will […]

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February 18, 2011

On Sustainability: No Two Consumers Are Alike

Savvy marketers rely on the principles of customer segmentation and product targeting to more efficiently allocate scarce resources and effectively reach groups of consumers with similar preferences or demands. It would appear as though many people have jumped on the eco-train, but to what extent have people who purchased plants, many of them gardeners, adopted eco-practices like recycling and composting? Previous research shows some consumers are willing to pay a premium price for green products and share attitudes that are favorable toward the environment. Premium-priced products are assumed to be more profitable, and often are. Still, relatively little is known about gardeners and their ecological attitudes, practices or behaviors. Our objective was to identify and profile consumer segments with regard to their gardening purchases. Are gardeners more eco-friendly? We sought to determine whether there were differences in their eco-friendly attitudes and behaviors, such as recycling. Our underlying belief was that […]

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February 18, 2011

Organic Fertilizers In Greenhouse And Nursery Production

Chemicals that have the potential to contaminate may become contingent environmental liabilities for businesses that are identified to potentially cause harm to the environment. The potential expenses associated with cleaning up pollution may weigh heavily as more agricultural enterprises come under new EPA clean-up regulations and are scrutinized for pesticide and nutrient violations. The issue of how horticulture grows crops in the future can be seen as a threat to an ossified paradigm, or as a challenge and opportunity to better serve the needs of society. One of the tenets of sustainability is continuous improvement. Whatever noble strides growers have made at present will seem inadequate in years to come. Growers interested in developing more sustainable growing practices will eventually adopt organic nutrients into their fertility management programs. While few growers are interested in organic certification today, exploring the beneficial possibilities that organics provide is well worth the effort. I […]

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January 19, 2011

What Are Growers Doing About Sustainability?

Consumer and market interest in green, environmentally friendly, organic, local and sustainable products has encouraged much discussion and debate about sustainable production practices and certification in the commercial floriculture industry. Many ask: “What is sustainable production and why should I become certified?” Depending on who you ask, you will get a variety of opinions and answers. Broadly defined, the goal of sustainable production is to reduce environmental degradation; maintain, enhance agricultural productivity and profitability; promote economic viability; conserve resources and energy; and maintain stable communities and quality of life. As we all know, the floriculture industry is not alone when it comes to selling ornamental plants. It is part of the collective $148 billion green industry that includes nursery and greenhouse producers and landscape service providers, as well as wholesale and retail distributors. Therefore, it is important for us to determine what the entire green industry is doing in terms […]

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January 13, 2011

D.S Cole First To Be MPS-GAP Certified In U.S.

D.S. Cole Growers has been awarded another sustainable certificate from MPS, becoming the first greenhouse grower in the United States to earn GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification. The MPS-GAP certificate is based upon the criteria formulated by supermarket organizations, which require high-quality products that have been cultivated in a sustainable manner. Traceability is also part of the certification scheme. Moreover, MPS-GAP has been benchmarked with the GlobalGAP flowers and plants scheme. D.S. Cole is the first MPS-GAP certified company in North America. MPS-GAP is also part of the MPS-Florimark Production, the label for sustainability combining environmental, social and quality aspects. “Most of the requirements of MPS-GAP are satisfied by the fact that in the U.S., we conduct business via modern and regulated procedures that ensure quality working conditions for our staff,” says Doug Cole, owner of D.S. Cole Growers. “What makes the certificate worthwhile is that many of us in […]

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January 4, 2011

Sustainable Fertilizers Are Getting Greener

Until recently, the sustainability of a greenhouse plant nutrition program wasn’t really much of an issue. “Looking back 10 or 15 years, I think growers related the concept of ‘sustainable’ to ‘organic.’ At the time, organic production was so difficult and had so many regulations, no one really wanted any part of it,” says Janet Curry, National Key Accounts Manager for Daniels Plant Food. But that’s no longer the case. Whether it’s pressure from big retail customers, pull-through interest from consumers, a better understanding of sustainable practices, or just a desire to “do something for the environment,” organic and sustainable plant nutrition programs seem to be on the rise in greenhouses across the country. “With better education and some new products coming on the market, growers have gradually realized it’s attainable. I think we now see growers really looking for ways to grow sustainably,” Curry says. episode of Floricast. Organics […]

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December 22, 2010

Biodegradable Containers: How Appealing Are They?

One of the most widely discussed topics in the floriculture industry stemming from consumers exhibiting greater degrees of environmental awareness is the issue of environmental sustainability. The sustainability movement has led to a desire for products that not only solve the needs of consumers, but are also produced and marketed using sustainable production and business practices. Consumers increasingly place a greater emphasis on product packaging, and the emphasis has carried over to the greenhouse and floral sectors in the form of biodegradable pots. Although various forms of eco-friendly pots have been available for several years, their marketing appeal has been limited. But with the recent availability of more attractive biodegradable plant container. The Study The objective of our study, funded by the American Floral Endowment and the Horticultural Research Institute, was to determine the characteristics of biodegradable pots that consumers deem most desirable, and to solicit their willingness to pay […]

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November 23, 2010

Rocket Farms’ Clark: Growing Herbs Organically

Rocket Farms has been an established grower in California’s Salinas Valley for more than 25 years, synonymous to many with beautiful orchids and high-quality poinsettias. We’re also known for our innovation, so while some would say not to mess with a good thing and just stick with what we know works, we can’t resist an interesting challenge. One of our most recent programs growing organic potted herbs has certainly presented its difficulties, but we’ve been pleased with the end results. On a 2007 trip to Europe, we noticed the popularity of fresh herbs in households there, and the idea really resonated with us. Of course, potted herbs offer a fresher, more flavorful product than cut or dry herbs, but because you only cut what you need and let the plant continue to grow, they represent a better value, as well. The emergence of the Slow Food movement and similar philosophies […]

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November 22, 2010

VeriFlora Now Certifying Responsibly Managed Peatlands

The Canadian and U.S. peat industries have been criticized over the years for their peatland management practices. The criticisms, peat producers say, are unfounded. Fortunately, then, new specifications for responsible peatland management have been developed, and VeriFlora is now cementing the responsible practices of producers with a peatland-specific certification that spans areas like production, pre-harvest site preparation and peatland restoration. Fafard et Frères and Premier Tech Horticulture are the first peat producers to earn certification. In 2009, the peat industry launched a process for developing specifications related to the responsible management of peatlands via Niche Development of Peat and Agri-Environmental Technologies (VTTA), the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA) and the Quebec Peat Moss Producers Association (APTHQ). The development work was assigned to Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), which audits several types of sustainability certification for the horticulture, floriculture, agriculture, agro-processing and forestry industries. The certification criteria for the peat moss […]

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November 2, 2010

Battlefield Farms Begins Sustainability Certification

Based on discussions regarding sustainability with both retail customers and other growers, Rapidan, Va.- based Battlefield Farms is beginning the MPS-ABC Certification program.  “Both the big box stores and the supermarkets are looking to us for solutions of how to define sustainability in our industry. We believe the MPS program will help us understand how we are doing, and give us factual information which we can pass along to our customers,” said Battlefield Farms sales manager Dave Jones. The MPS-ABC sustainability certification focuses on the use of crop protection agents, fertilizers, energy, water and waste, on a periodic basis. Through the qualification a grower is compared to other growers of similar crops in similar environments. Battlefield Farms is number 34 on Greenhouse Grower’s 2010 Top 100 List. “Over the years we have made many changes to improve the efficiency of our operations which we now believe are good steps for sustainability: water […]

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October 29, 2010

Is Peat Sustainable? The 2010 Peat Report Investigates

Is peat moss a sustainable resource? The horticultural use of peat moss drew criticism at last summer’s Seeley Conference, where a representative from the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) introduced guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land practices that are critical of peat. But the Canadian peat moss associations and their producer members say critics are misinformed and there’s more to their story. To learn more about these criticisms and the peat industry’s response to the accuracy of these claims, Greenhouse Grower traveled to Quebec’s Rivière-du-Loup peat bogs that are currently being harvested and restored for perspective on whether or not peat is a sustainable horticultural resource. Additionally, we followed up with SITES for more perspective on its decision to deem peat non-sustainable and with Seeley Conference attendees for their reaction to the Sustainable Sites Initiative’s decision and peat’s criticisms. Both sides of the peat-sustainability debate are, of course, presented within this report. […]

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