April 29, 2011

Demand For Sustainability: The Entire Series

How Appealing Are Biodegradable Containers? Understanding consumer preferences is the key to turning your sustainable actions in the greenhouse into real dollars.    

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January 13, 2011

D.S Cole First To Be MPS-GAP Certified In U.S.

D.S. Cole Growers has been awarded another sustainable certificate from MPS, becoming the first greenhouse grower in the United States to earn GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification. The MPS-GAP certificate is based upon the criteria formulated by supermarket organizations, which require high-quality products that have been cultivated in a sustainable manner. Traceability is also part of the certification scheme. Moreover, MPS-GAP has been benchmarked with the GlobalGAP flowers and plants scheme. D.S. Cole is the first MPS-GAP certified company in North America. MPS-GAP is also part of the MPS-Florimark Production, the label for sustainability combining environmental, social and quality aspects. “Most of the requirements of MPS-GAP are satisfied by the fact that in the U.S., we conduct business via modern and regulated procedures that ensure quality working conditions for our staff,” says Doug Cole, owner of D.S. Cole Growers. “What makes the certificate worthwhile is that many of us in […]

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November 22, 2010

VeriFlora Now Certifying Responsibly Managed Peatlands

The Canadian and U.S. peat industries have been criticized over the years for their peatland management practices. The criticisms, peat producers say, are unfounded. Fortunately, then, new specifications for responsible peatland management have been developed, and VeriFlora is now cementing the responsible practices of producers with a peatland-specific certification that spans areas like production, pre-harvest site preparation and peatland restoration. Fafard et Frères and Premier Tech Horticulture are the first peat producers to earn certification. In 2009, the peat industry launched a process for developing specifications related to the responsible management of peatlands via Niche Development of Peat and Agri-Environmental Technologies (VTTA), the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA) and the Quebec Peat Moss Producers Association (APTHQ). The development work was assigned to Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), which audits several types of sustainability certification for the horticulture, floriculture, agriculture, agro-processing and forestry industries. The certification criteria for the peat moss […]

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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 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 7, 2009

Dickman Farms Earns VeriFlora Certification

Dickman Farms is the first grower in the state of New York to receive the VeriFlora certified sustainably grown designation for growing floral products in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. These floral products include vegetative liners, finished annuals, perennials, herbs, ground covers, hardy mums and hanging baskets. Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) awarded the certification to Dickman Farms. SCS specializes in third-party certification of environmental performance and sustainability claims. During this process, SCS pays particular attention to the company’s carbon footprint (fertilizer usage, fuel, recycling, etc.). The certification also takes into account how Dickman Farms interacts with its employees and community. "Sustainability is taking a holistic approach to operating a business. It is a journey, not a destination," says Dave Dickman, president of Dickman Farms. Dickman Farms is a fourth-generation family-owned business and an exclusive supplier to Ball Horticultural Company, growing more than 1,500 items for Ball in its 365,000 square foot production facility. […]

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March 12, 2009

Report: Green Sales Up

Despite the economic downturn, sales of earth-friendly products are not declining. And, according to a report by Information Resources Inc. (IRI), it’s not the “diehard enthusiasts” snapping up these green goods. In the study, IRI kept track of consumer purchasing behavior in key sustainable categories, including organic and eco-friendly goods produced through free trade agreements. The findings show sales of the goods are up 4.1 percent, due in part to increased prices. Unit sales in the segment dropped 6.6 percent in 2008. The report, “Sustainability: CPG Marketing In A Green World,” divided earth-friendly consumers into eight groups: -Eco-centrics – the most adamant supporters of green products -Eco-villains – those who dismiss environmental concerns -Respectful stewards – those who are willing to pay more for green products -Proud traditionalists – those who buy green to save money -Eco-chic – those who see green as fashionable -Frugal earth mothers – women who […]

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November 24, 2008

VeriFlora Certifies South American Cut Flower Growers

Greenhouse growers of all sizes and even products have earned sustainability certification under the VeriFlora label this year. Add four prominent cut flower growers in Ecuador to the list of those who’ve earned certification after meeting the requirements of Scientific Certification Systems. The four cut flower growers, all of whom serve the North American market, are Valleflor, Sande Ecuador, SunRite Farms and Flower Village. Valleflor produces summer varieties like phlox, limonium and bouvardia; Sande Ecuador breeds and produces zantedeschia; SunRite Farms is a large producer of greenhouse roses; and Flower Village grows over 38 acres of roses, limonium, statice and eringium. “Cut flower farms in South America are leading the way in VeriFlora sustainability practices and setting important examples for others to follow,” says Roberto Boada, lead auditor for the Andean Sustainable Agriculture Certification Services Foundation, which is the first independent South American organization authorized to conduct VeriFlora certification audits.

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August 25, 2008

Understanding Plant Nutrition: Fertilizers And Micronutrients

Micronutrient (iron, manganese, zinc, copper, boron and molybdenum) nutrition is different from managing macronutrients, such as nitrogen, in three fundamental ways. First, the solubility and plant availability of micronutrients is affected by media pH to a much greater extent than is macronutrient solubility. Second, the difference between acceptable concentrations of micronutrients and concentrations that are either too low (deficiencies) or too high (toxicities) is small compared to a broader range for macronutrients. Finally, while most macronutrients are mobile within the plant, most micronutrients are immobile, and so a constant supply is needed for the duration of the crop or growth and plant appearance may be affected. In this article, we will focus on micronutrient sources, and how they are applied to a crop. Preplant Sources In soilless media, preplant sources of micronutrients are often added at mixing. In general, the sources in starter fertilizers can include both soluble forms (sulfates) […]

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August 1, 2008

Certified Sustainability

We have seen the word everywhere. Sustainability, in its many forms, is at the grocery store, being driven by the big boxes and in the consumer press. But what exactly does the word mean? Can a grower who has adopted energy alternatives rightly market his crops as sustainable? What about the grower who sells his plants in biodegradable pots? Does a grower have to go organic to be considered sustainable or is reducing chemicals enough? This is where Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) comes in. The organization is an independent certifier of environmental, sustainability, food quality and food purity claims, and runs a certification program called VeriFlora that emphasizes sustainability standards. Now available for the potted plants sector in the U.S. ornamental industry, VeriFlora is gaining ground with interest from growers, retailers, wholesalers and other distributors. And with sustainable practices becoming more important to consumers and a priority in many industries, […]

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