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
ASCFG-Gretel-and-Steve-Adams-Sunny-Meadow-Flower-Farm-feature

November 22, 2017

Growers Showing Renewed Interest in Specialty Cut Flowe…

At the brink of its 30th anniversary, the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers is connecting a diverse and growing group of members dedicated to producing and marketing cut flowers.

Read More
Griffin Pennsylvania Expo

November 22, 2017

Griffin Sets Dates for 2018 Grower & Retailer Expos

The company will host two Expos next year — one each in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania — and each will be a two-day event.

Read More
Pentas-Lucky-Star-Red

November 22, 2017

2017 Louisiana State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results Louisiana State University in Hammond, LA.

Read More
Echeveria-First-Lady

November 21, 2017

2017 D.S. Cole Growers Field Trial Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for D.S. Cole Growers in Loudon, NH.

Read More
Botany-Lane-Tropical

November 20, 2017

Botany Lane Greenhouses Announces Expansion Into Young …

Botany Lane, a producer of finished tropical plants, succulents, and specialty annuals in the Western U.S., recently announced it is expanding to provide young plants for growers and grower-retailers.

Read More
Millet-Copper-Prince

November 20, 2017

2017 Colorado State University Field Trial Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO.

Read More
Achillea-Ritzy-Ruby

November 19, 2017

2017 Green Leaf Plants Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results for Green Leaf Plants in Lancaster, PA.

Read More
Ball-Bed-with-Midnight-Snack-tomato_Cornell

November 18, 2017

2017 Cornell University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results for Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

Read More
Valtl-Raffeiner-with-Mayer-Potting-Machine

November 18, 2017

Mayer Celebrating 50th Anniversary of its Potting Machi…

Today, the company’s line of automatic potting machines and other technology is being used by growers around the world.

Read More
Berger-Equipment

November 17, 2017

How You Can Help Berger in Donating to Hurricane Harvey…

Between Nov. 23-27, Berger will donate $1 for every download of its free technical plant production guides to hurricane relief efforts.

Read More
Pepper Cayenne ‘Red Ember’ (Johnny’s Selected Seeds)

November 17, 2017

Presenting All-America Selections’ Latest Round of Awar…

All-America Selections has announced the latest round of its award-winning varieties, each of which was trialed throughout North America by professional, independent, volunteer judges.

Read More
Damarys-Mora-Crawford-Costa-Farms

November 16, 2017

Costa Farms’ New Marketing Director Eager to Tap Into C…

In her new position, Damarys Mora Crawford will lead Costa Farms’ marketing team and create and execute strategic marketing initiatives to support continued sales growth for the company’s retail customers.

Read More

November 15, 2017

Greenhouse Short Course in March 2018 Features Focus on…

The Greenhouse Crop Production & Engineering Design Short Course, which takes place at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC), includes three full days of educational sessions, one day of hands-on training workshops at CEAC, and a commercial Arizona greenhouse tour.

Read More
Adding-Heat-to-a-Greenhouse-GrowSpan

November 15, 2017

Tips on Adding Heat to Your Greenhouse for the Winter

Heating your greenhouse for the winter is important, and choosing efficient equipment and designs can help you quickly get returns on your heating investments.

Read More
Eason-New-Calibrachoa-Hi-Graft

November 14, 2017

Eason Horticultural Resources Introduces New Decorative…

Created by Hishtil Nursery in Israel, the new decorative forms of calibrachoa feature an 8- to 12-inch stem and come in four colors of calibrachoa blooms on top.

Read More
Cordyline Candy Cane (Excelsa Gardens, Inc.)

November 14, 2017

Garden-Retailers Pick Their Favorite Products From The …

Grower-retailers have once again named their favorite new products, this time as part of the Cool Product Awards at The Landscape Show 2017 in Orlando, FL. Awards were presented to 12 companies, representing 14 products.

Read More
Smart-Magenta-Greenhouse

November 14, 2017

Smart Solar Greenhouses Designed to Generate Energy and…

Research at the University of California Santa Cruz has shown that the first crops of tomatoes and cucumbers grown inside electricity-generating solar greenhouses are as healthy as those raised in conventional greenhouses.

Read More
Pennisetum glaucum 'Copper Prince'

November 13, 2017

Top Performing Plant Varieties from 2017 Field Trials

See some of plant varieties that made top performer lists in 2017 field trials across the country.

Read More