Cool Heads Prevailed

As Leonardo Academy was getting ready to convene the first meeting of the 58-member committee appointed to reach consensus on developing national sustainable agriculture standards, we had no idea what the outcome would be (see page 12). Challenges were filed by leading agricultural organizations, including USDA and North American Horticultural Supply Association. The table was set. A draft standard was served. Would the meeting be a pleasant meal or a food fight?
We were impressed the group had the wisdom to start over and see what the true market interest is and if there is enough buy-in from affected stakeholders to pursue national sustainable agriculture standards.

Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), which developed the VeriFlora certification program for cut flowers and potted plants, developed the draft standard and hired Leonardo Academy to facilitate the process. The idea was that it would be easier to begin with a draft than to start from scratch. The draft will continue to serve as a reference but the committee is going to start from scratch.

One fundamental question was whether the standard should be a pathway for continuous improvement or a goal with an end target? We heard organics groups were insisting any sustainable certification program begin with organic production, which would dramatically reduce the number of growers that would or could participate. VeriFlora is a path for continuous improvement with organic production being the end goal.

One thing our Dr. Will Carlson keeps saying related to sustainable recommendations is “show me the science.” Prove these methods are better in achieving sustainable outcomes. This is one reason I like the MPS (Milieu Project Sierteelt) program developed 14 years ago by the Dutch Flower Auctions. It’s based on real data. Every four weeks, more than 4,000 operations in 55 countries enter data on their chemical and energy use, and they receive an environmental scorecard. 
Over a 10-year period, MPS was able to quantify a 23 percent reduction in chemical usage and 25 percent reduction in energy consumption while production of plants and flowers increased 30 percent. These are real results that show each company’s and the collective industry’s movement in the right direction. Isn’t that what we’re really looking for? A path for continuous improvement and recognition for the good we already do?

So far, I know of one grower in the United States trying the MPS system – Doug Cole of D.S. Cole Growers in Loudon, N.H. “We are sending in our monthly use reports just like any other MPS grower,” he says. “At the end of the year, we will see where we rank. This gives us a starting point to improve ourselves over time. The whole idea is to do better both for us and for our customers. It is not to ‘pass the certification process’ and then move on to other issues. We are now able to see what our pesticide use, water use and energy consumption is in a true quantitative way and then try to improve in these areas, which can then save us money.”
To establish a benchmarking system that makes sense for growers in the United States, more growers need to get on board. “They can always switch (to another program), but we need to get some mass on this project,” Cole says. “We need to get a track record for both systems (MPS and VeriFlora), so that we have something to compare and discuss.”

As sustainable standards committee members review other global certification programs, I hope they take a good look at MPS. It has a proven track record of demonstrating meaningful results and achieving sustainable aims that work for growers.

Leave a Reply

Latest Stories
Gotham Greens Atrium Style Greenhouse Chicago

February 17, 2018

Gotham Greens Building Second Greenhouse in Suburban Ch…

The new $12.5 million, 105,000-square-foot greenhouse will be near the company’s first Chicago greenhouse, and will be a free-standing structure.

Read More

February 16, 2018

New England GROWS Discontinues After 25 Years

After 25 years, New England GROWS — both the annual event and the organization behind the event — are discontinuing operations.

Read More

February 15, 2018

Boxwood Blight, Seed Your Future Among Topics Receiving…

The Horticultural Research Institute recently announced the 10 research projects that will receive funding in 2018 to investigate challenges and solutions in production, pest management, environmental stewardship, and business and marketing.

Read More
Weigela Czechmark (Spring Meadow Nursery)

February 14, 2018

Spring Meadow Nursery Furthers Its Mission of Giving Ba…

The Spring Meadow-Proven Winners Endowment Fund through the Horticultural Research Institute has now topped $800,000, with more scholarships coming in 2018.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

February 13, 2018

Don’t Let Your New Year’s Resolutions Fade …

Stuff got real in 2017, and it caused many of us to stop and reflect on the current state of the world, and how we can impact change — or at least improve our own situations. Life is too short, and we work too hard, to not use the annual renewal as an opportunity to take stock of our own personal lives, businesses, and careers, and make the necessary adjustments that will allow us to work smarter and live better. Even if you have already given up on your resolutions, perhaps you can think of January as a trial month and make February the month when you really get to work on your goals. And while I know it’s a difficult month to start on some of these changes, since you’re already immersed in the busy spring season, I promise that if you take some time to evaluate your reality […]

Read More

February 12, 2018

Calling All Designers: Enter the International Plantsca…

Applications are being accepted through April 13 for AmericanHort’s International Plantscape Awards, which recognize achievements in interior plantscape design, installation, creativity, renovation, and innovation.

Read More

February 11, 2018

Bayer Has New Turf and Ornamentals Global Market Manage…

Jose Milan will be focused on helping growers deal with regulatory issues, while promoting the environmental benefits the ornamentals industry offers.

Read More
Dr. P. Allen Hammer, Dummen Orange

February 10, 2018

Applications for Dümmen Orange’s Dr. P. Allen Hammer Sc…

Named for Dr. P. Allen Hammer in acknowledgment of the contributions he has made to the floriculture industry, the scholarship is intended to extend Dr. Hammer’s legacy by supporting the next generation of floriculture students.

Read More
Hand-Crafted Stone Mushrooms (Stone-Age Creations)

February 9, 2018

Garden Retailers at TPIE Highlight Their Favorite Produ…

A team of garden retailers once again participated in the 2018 Tropical Plants Industry Expo Cool Product Awards.

Read More
Aron Hoff feature image

February 8, 2018

Who Will Be Our 2018 Head Grower of the Year and Operat…

The deadline for submitting nominations is fast approaching, so be sure to let us know who you feel is most deserving of these awards!

Read More
Oat Grass Banker System feature

February 8, 2018

Learn the Basics of Biocontrols for Controlled Environm…

Growers producing crops in protected structures, including ornamentals, vegetable crops, and cannabis, can learn about effective sanitation, banker plants, and buying and using beneficials and predatory insects at the Biocontrols USA West Conference in San Diego, March 3-7.

Read More

February 7, 2018

The Latest on Amazon’s Online Plant Store

There is debate throughout the industry over how Amazon’s presence will affect growers who are looking to sell plants online.

Read More
Adult Thrips feature

February 6, 2018

Biocontrol Track for Greenhouse Growers Reveals New Pro…

The Biocontrols West USA Conference in San Diego March 7-9 offers greenhouse growers practical knowledge on new research findings and an energetic presentation from a grower who’s taking her customers along on her biocontrols journey.

Read More

February 6, 2018

Congressional Action Days to Feature Pep Talk From Lead…

Rep. Jimmy Panetta, (D, CA), one of the floral industry’s biggest advocates in Congress, will deliver a pep talk to the Society of American Florists’ (SAF) Congressional Action Days participants before they meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Read More

February 6, 2018

20 Trends That Dominated at TPIE

If you're looking to stay on top of the current trends to stay ahead of the competition and increase value to your clients by helping them stay at the forefront of their industry, check out some of the new products and ideas we saw trending at TPIE this year.

Read More

February 6, 2018

Registration for 2018 IGC Show Now Open

The event takes place Aug. 14-16 in Chicago and features keynote presentations from horticultural economist Charlie Hall and Daymond John from the TV series “Shark Tank.”

Read More

February 5, 2018

Tips for Using a Greenhouse Monitoring System to Protec…

Properly selecting and installing a remote monitoring system can help cannabis growers identify trends in environmental conditions to make sure they aren’t fluctuating, which could indicate a possible equipment problem.

Read More

February 4, 2018

2017 University of Wisconsin Field Trial Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results for the University of Wisconsin's West Madison Ag Research Station display gardens in Verona, WI.

Read More