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 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 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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September 28, 2010

Seeking Sustainable Solutions

The number of growers and suppliers pursuing sustainable initiatives continues to grow. What are the results and benefits? Greenhouse Grower will host a Sustainability Summit, Dec. 8-10 in Monterey, Calif. We’ll present the principles of sustainable crop production, the latest on third-party certification and the economics of sustainability. It’s a great opportunity to network and learn from fellow growers. Among the experts scheduled to present are Texas A&M University’s Charlie Hall, Purdue University’s Roberto Lopez and Ball Horticultural Co.’s Will Healy. Experts from Walmart and Whole Foods have also been invited to attend to share the sustainable visions of their respective companies. Leaders from MPS and Scientific Certification Services (SCS) are among the scheduled presenters. MPS, based in Holland, is the leading global certification organization for our industry. SCS, based in California, is active in certifying a wide range of industries and developed the VeriFlora program, which has the most […]

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September 23, 2010

Looking At Sustainability

Biodegradable horticultural containers predate plastic but are capturing fresh interest from growers, retailers and consumers. One company that has seen sustainability come full circle is Western Pulp in Covallis, Ore. Starting with a bushel of old magazines and $250 for homemade experimental equipment, in 1954 Ralph Chapman was the first to bring fiber molded floral containers out West. Western Pulp’s current owners purchased the business in 1958 and now have operations in six states. Even back then, before the environment was a societal concern, Western Pulp was diverting tons of paper from landfills. Paper mache floral lines transitioned naturally to nursery and greenhouse lines, because traditional florists also were growers. Product lines have since expanded to eco-friendly protective packaging for shipping. One growing customer base is wineries that ship bottles or wine direct to consumers. The newspaper Western Pulp uses as a raw material is collected from households by charitable […]

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September 2, 2010

D.S. Cole Takes Next Step With MPS

Recently D.S. Cole Growers recently took the next step on its path to achieving sustainability certification according to MPS-Florimark Production, the chain-wide certificate of MPS combining environmental, social and quality aspects. After being the first certified participant for MPS-ABC in the United States D.S. Cole Growers has now opted for certification according to MPS-GAP (Good Agricultural Practices). “Certifying with MPS-GAP allows our company to show that we have gone to the next step towards sustainability,” says Doug Cole, whose operation achieved the MPS-ABC certification in 2009. “To accomplish this we found many of the actions requested were already in place at our facility, as it is in most North American companies. The pieces that we were missing were mostly items we should be doing anyway, but put off unless forced to do so. “For example, we had no emergency evacuation plan in place, and we really should have one regardless […]

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July 14, 2010

Can MPS Sustain Your Business?

The European sustainability standard MPS is a point system based on greenhouse production. D.S. Cole Growers is participating in the environmental part of MPS, which looks mostly at inputs—electricity, fertilizer and crop protection products use. Doug Cole shared some of the inner workings of MPS at a GIE Media roundtable on sustainability at Short Course. MPS divides chemicals into lists, a red list for fertilizers that those in the program shouldn’t use (the only one on the list that growers might use is methyl bromide, Cole says), a yellow list for those that are acceptable and a green list for those that are approved for use. These lists are based on 10 parameters, including their influence on wildlife and the active ingredients. From this list, growers decide what to use and when, gaining or losing points based on their choices.  "It could be that switching to a 15/0/15 fertilizer because […]

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June 25, 2010

Sustainability Now At Core Of BASF’s Business

BASF hosted a media summit earlier this month to discuss sustainability as a grounded approach for growers. Greenhouse Grower caught up with Jan Buberl, director of specialty products at BASF, who outlined the chemical company’s sustainability initiatives. BASF deals largely with row-crop farmers yet also serves the greenhouse floriculture market. Have you found greenhouse growers are more or less receptive to sustainable business practices, in your experience, than row-crop farmers? First, I think sustainability applies to everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re a greenhouse grower or an outdoor grower. Their needs are different. We see a need for (sustainability) in all market segments, and we need to offer both more sustainable solutions that benefit their needs in the long run. What factors does BASF take into account in determining which products are sustainable and which are not? To determine whether a product is sustainable or not, you have to put […]

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June 21, 2010

Committee Aiming To Complete Standard By Fall 2012

The multi-stakeholder standards committee working to develop a national standard for sustainable agriculture recently held its third face-to-face meeting over two days at the University-of Arkansas-Fayetteville. At the meeting, committee members discussed and then voted to approve guiding sustainability principles developed by the economic, social and environmental criteria subcommittees. Principles related to farm management and planning; labor rights; water, soil, and air pollution; soil health, fertility, and productivity; farm inputs and outputs; biodiversity; and greenhouse gases will now move forward as the basis for criteria, indicators and metrics. In addition, the committee members approved structure and process documents designed to facilitate standards development. "We have come a long way since our meeting in St. Charles last year," says Jim Pierce, a committee member representing the Food Trade Sustainability Leadership Association. "In addition to assuring the subcommittees that they are on the right track, we are thoughtfully addressing matters related to […]

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