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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October 22, 2010

Bloggers Uniting To Explore Sustainable Horticulture

Starting Monday, Oct. 25, a multi-discipline team of North American horticultural experts embarks on The Sustainability Initiative, touring firms in The Netherlands involved in state-of-the-art sustainable horticultural science, technology and more. Over five days, the project’s 10 participants–including U.S. and Canadian journalists and experts in sustainable horticultural business, finance, science, technology and policy–will visit 24 different Dutch companies, resources and research centers engaged in everything from genetic seed modification to controlled environment greenhouse innovation, sustainability funding and long-range innovation philosophies. Throughout the week, the 10 team members will discuss what they’re seeing and how it relates to the broader world of horticulture, particularly North American horticulture. Each participant will also offer feedback online, blogging via a new website devoted to discussion of issues and innovation in international sustainable horticulture. The site, www.thesustainabilityinitiative.org, is designed as a communications center for the October trip. It will also serve as an ongoing open […]

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October 22, 2010

Readers React: Sustainability Standards Still Necessary

Leonardo Academy isn’t the only entity to respond to ag’s withdrawal en masse from the Sustainable Agriculture Standards Committee. A few Greenhouse Grower readers reacted with comments online at GreenhouseGrower.com. Greenhouse Grower edited the comments for clarity. Here is a sample: –Posted by Scientific Certification Systems: “It is disappointing to see the formal withdrawal of agricultural representatives from the ANSI sustainable agriculture standards process. As global population continues to grow, the need for a sustainable agricultural standard remains urgent. The VeriFlora standard is independent from this process and stands as an example that an inclusive standard is attainable.” –Posted by KMW: “Here is to hoping big ag does not forget to include small ag, or it will be no better than the reason for them leaving this process. I am talking the 5- to 50-acre small farms, not the delusional set point for the industry that thinks small farmers are […]

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October 21, 2010

The Peat Report: Addressing Peat’s Sustainability

Search far and wide, and you’ll be hard pressed to find North American greenhouse operations that do not rely on peat moss for at least some production. Peat moss has proven itself over the years to be an effective growing medium that helps regulate air and moisture around plant roots. It is of less weight than other growing mediums and readily available in Canada and parts of the United States. Plus, a range of widely used programs for fertilizer, irrigation and other production essentials have been designed over the years incorporating large percentages of peat moss. The horticultural use of peat moss, however, recently drew criticism at last summer’s Seeley Conference at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where a representative from the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) introduced guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land practices that are critical of peat. Last summer’s Seeley Conference, of course, wasn’t the first time […]

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October 18, 2010

Agriculture Abandons Sustainability Standards Initiative

Agricultural representatives withdrew en masse Monday from the Leonardo Academy’s sustainable agriculture standard setting initiative, citing systemic limitations and chronic anti-agriculture biases inherent in the writing committee structure set up for this initiative. The nearly 60-member committee has six greenhouse floriculture representatives. They are: –Ximena Franco-Villegas, Asocoflores–Mark Yelanich, Metrolina Greenhouses–Will Healy, Ball Horticultural Company–Alvin J. Bussan, University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Horticulture–Stan Pohmer, Pohmer Consulting Group–Jim Barrett, University of Florida Environmental Horticulture Department Linda Brown of Scientific Certification Systems and Jacques Wolbert of MPS-ECAS, both of whom represent sustainability certification services within our industry, are also on the committee as part of the general interest category. Greenhouse floriculture’s members did not withdraw from the committee. A letter addressed to Michael Arny, Leonardo Academy president, was, however, signed by 10 national agricultural-organization voting members on the nearly 60-member committee. The letter was endorsed by 46 other agricultural organizations nationwide. The Leonardo […]

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October 7, 2010

VeriFlora Certifies Rocket Farms

Rocket Farms, the fourth largest greenhouse operation in the country, recently met the requirements to earn VeriFlora certification for agricultural sustainability. VeriFlora certification requires growers to meet standards in environmental sustainability, including sustainable crop production, water conservation, energy efficiency, ecosystem protection and integrated waste management. The certification also addresses social sustainability, ensuring fair labor practices and a safe, equitable and healthy work environment. VeriFlora certification is conducted by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), a global third-party certifier of environmental, sustainability and agricultural product quality claims with no vested interest in the companies it evaluates. This independent certification process involves detailed on-site inspections, document audits, in-depth interviews and annual follow-up. “The VeriFlora Certified Sustainably Grown label guarantees that flowers and potted plants have been produced with high quality standards in an environmentally and socially responsible manner,” says John Dodson, managing director of food and agriculture at SCS. “Rocket Farms, like all VeriFlora […]

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