The Medal Of Excellence For Industry’s Choice panel members from C. Raker & Sons provide some insight on the steps Team Raker takes in preparation for attending the California Spring Trials, and what factors the team considers before adding new varieties to production. Team Raker includes Steve Reed, Susie Raker Zimmerman, and Greg Michalak.
For the team at C. Raker & Sons, California Spring Trials (CAST) is one of the key steps in planning our year-round plug and liner program. The trip is an expensive one at a bad time of the year from a production standpoint because we are away from the greenhouse, so making sure we get the most out of the trip is very important.
To prepare for the trip we do a multitude of things:
- We review new variety presentations that we’ve received from the breeders. This helps to keep us focused during our visits to the various breeders. Going into Spring Trials, Team Raker usually has a pretty good idea of what we will be adding and dropping from our program from the various presentations we’ve received. Having this focus helps us to keep from getting distracted since we are shown so many new varieties during this trip.
- Since our entire staff isn’t able to make the trip, we will have meetings prior to CAST to ensure we are covering the needs of everyone at Raker. This can mean following up with vendors on issues we’ve experienced in spring, to asking for pricing for the next year.
- CAST also presents excellent opportunities for us to follow up with our breeder partners on trends and sales from the 2015 spring season. Prior to leaving for CAST, we run and review sales numbers for each breeder, so we can share trends we are seeing.
The above are just a few things that Team Raker does to get ready for the CAST trip. It is a fast and furious six days, and a complete immersion into new plant introductions. The trip also provides numerous opportunities to network and catch up with many of our industry friends.
How Team Raker Decides On Incorporating New Varieties
There are a lot of things Team Raker looks for when looking at new varieties, both seed and vegetative:
- Is it going to solve a production issue for us? For example, has a seed enhancement been introduced that is going to greatly increase the germination rate of a trouble crop?
- Is it going to solve a production issue for our customers? For instance, are the new genetics being introduced going to reduce the amount of plant growth regulators that our customers need to spray on their finished crop?
- Is it going to give the end consumer a better experience? Rudbeckia ‘Tiger Eye Gold’ is a great example of this. It is mildew-resistant and flowers all summer.
- In addition to everything above, when it comes down to determining whether or not to try a new variety, we may just decide it’s a really cool plant and it deserves a chance. Some of these items that we have taken chances on have become mainstream, and some have proven that there is a sucker born every minute.