Although we just wrapped up the third successful year of our Greenhouse Xchange in Carefree, Ariz., the growers and allied industry suppliers who attended this year are anything but care free as they prepare to tackle tomorrow’s immediate and long-term challenges.
The event is a joint venture between Greenhouse Grower magazine and Vertical Xchange that brings leading growers and suppliers together for one-on-one private meetings, as well as networking opportunities for the entire group of 150, a real “who’s who” in our industry. It was a productive three days facilitating more than 450 meetings for 35 growers and 37 suppliers. About a third of the participants were new this year.
While the credit crunch has everyone nervous, these growers and suppliers are doing all they can to be proactive and grow their businesses. The format of the event provides a unique opportunity for strategic discussions away from the daily distractions of greenhouse and nursery operations.
Vendors represented ranged from plant genetics to greenhouse structures and environmental controls, crop protection inputs, growing media amendments, and insurance and labor services.
First-time attendee Brian Sullivan, who is president of Ivy Acres on Long Island, says he likes the format because there is time to develop questions during the focused, 45-minute meeting with a vendor. “When you hear of a new concept, there is always a series of questions that arise after you move onto the next booth at a trade show,” he says. “This format allows you to develop your questions.”
Troy Lucht, who attended on the supply side as cuttings producer Plant Source International, offered a unique perspective because his family’s greenhouse operation, Malmborg’s in Minnesota, is a rooting station for many breeders and grows finished plants for its own retail garden center. “While many of the customers here have bought more from us through brokers, they are not totally familiar with PSI,” he says. “This is a chance to build upon relationships that were at a distance. Face to face does mean something. Sometimes you are building a relationship that doesn’t bear fruit for a year or two because things change in terms of crop interests. We’re never the cheapest and people here are interested in more than price. If all they were interested in is price, then why come and meet with anybody?”