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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May 21, 2010

MPS-ABC Now Applicable To Garden Centers

The MPS-ABC environmental scorecard will be applicable to garden centers beginning June 1. Several existing MPS members in the United States who have both production facilities and garden centers have requested the ability to certify their retail operations. Now, MPS has a program that will do just that. MPS participants can add the garden center as an additional registration to their current account, which gives them the opportunity to show consumers the sustainability of their garden center. Among the measured parameters are the use of chemicals, energy, water and the recycling of used plastic and paper. “Because we are certified as an MPS grower, we are able to show our wholesale customers that our products are grown in a sustainable manner,” says Doug Cole, president of D.S. Cole Growers and an MPS participant. “Our customers can then use this information to show the consumer that they are purchasing sustainably grown […]

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May 18, 2010

Seeley Focus Is Global Warming, Climate Change & You

Only a few seats remain for the 25th annual Seeley Conference in Ithaca, N.Y., where industry leaders will discuss floriculture’s environmental footprint as a consumer opportunity. The 25th annual Seeley conference is only seven weeks away and there are a few seats left. The think-tank conference is June 26-29, in Ithaca, N.Y., where this year’s theme is: “Floriculture’s Environmental Footprint: An Inconvenient Truth Or Consumer Opportunity?” For several years, we’ve heard about global warming and climate change as issues we need to address. Of course, the real issues revolve around what it means for the bottom line for our individual businesses. How will the outcomes of the current legislative debate impact us? Are there modifications we need to make to stay in business once the debate ends and the laws are enacted? Will our businesses be able to remain financially solvent or will regulations force us out of business? These […]

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March 30, 2010

Walmart’s Supplier Sustainability Assessment

Walmart plans to develop a Sustainability Index that measures the sustainability of every product it sells. One of the first steps Walmart took toward in the index was aking all vendors 15 questions about their sustainability. The questions, divided into four categories, are as follows: Energy & Climate: Reducing Energy Costs and Greenhouse Gas Emissions 1. Have you measured your corporate greenhouse gas emissions? 2. Have you opted to report your greenhouse gas emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)?  3. What is your total annual greenhouse gas emissions reported in the most recent year measured? 4. Have you set publicly available greenhouse gas reduction targets? If yes, what are those targets? Material Efficiency: Reducing Waste & Enhancing Quality 5. If measured, please report the total amount of solid waste generated from the facilities that produce your product(s) for Walmart for the most recent year measured. 6. Have you set publicly available solid waste […]

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March 30, 2010

Slow Going For Sustainable Standard

Doug Cole is a sustainability proponent. Last summer, his greenhouse operation, D.S. Cole Growers in Loudon, N.H., was the first in the United States to earn the MPS-ABC environmental certificate, and Cole is currently striving to improve his operation’s sustainable rating in MPS’s A-B-C system. Cole even serves on the Environmental Sustainability Criteria Development subcommittee working toward establishing a National Sustainable Agriculture Standard. The subcommittee is tasked with developing six environmental principles, the first of which was recently developed after months of debate. It focuses on air pollution and water and soil degradation. When the subcommittee establishes all six principles, metrics will be developed to determine exactly what’s sustainable and what isn’t. But at the committee’s current pace, Cole believes a National Sustainable Agriculture Standard is years away. And the more he participates in subcommittee conference calls and online discussion threads, the more he wonders why greenhouse growers would want […]

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March 16, 2010

Plug Connection Now MPS-Certified Sustainable

Plug Connection joined D.S. Cole Growers this week as an MPS-certified sustainable greenhouse operation in the United States. “We chose MPS because we like the idea of being able to compare ourselves with growers who run similar operations,” says Tim Wada, Plug Connection owner. “We were the first operation in our segment of the industry to become certified organic, and it was natural for us to continue along the sustainability path.” When measuring Plug Connection’s sustainability, Wada says the operation recycles whatever it can, from paper, cardboard and plastic trays to internally generated water runoff. For more information, visit PlugConnection.com or My-MPS.com.

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