McGregor Plant Sales and Florexpo now offer USDA Certified Organic herbs for U.S. and Canadian markets. With offshore certified organic unrooted cuttings, growers will no longer have to hold their own mother stock in organically certified houses for 12 months before being able to ship.
“We owe a lot to Tim Wada and The Plug Connection for helping us get started,” says Doug McQueen, vice president of McGregor Plant Sales in Carlsbad, Calif. “Plug Connection has been committed to organic production for years and they were looking for a partner to help them with their vegetative liner production.”
After touring Florexpo in Costa Rica in October of 2006, Wada connected Florexpo with California Certified Organic Farms (CCOF) to develop the protocols which would be approved in an audit. The California CCOF auditor became the consultant in Costa Rica and wrote the production and traceability manual and performed the mock audit. After preparing this way, the Costa Rican CCOF auditor was invited to the Florexpo facility and granted certification in September 2007. For several months Florexpo has been shipping certified Organic unrooted cuttings to The Plug Connection. Also, Florexpo quitely introduced the program to a few key growers.
“The reception has been encouraging,” McQueen says. “Growers are looking for a way to get into the game without the expense of holding mother stock for a year. They also recognize that certified organic is a pedigree that can earn them better margins and loyal customers. We did a quiet and careful release because this is an important program for our industry’s future. Our goal was to ensure the logistics and the quality of cuttings met expectations before we began wide-scale distribution.”
After strong success with early shipments, McGregor Plant Sales is selling most of the availability in the first wave of production. The second wave of availability will come online in June 2008, as a new block of production crosses its 12-month holding cycle. Florexpo owner Fernando Altmann’s son, Fernando Altmann Jr., has returned to the farm as head grower for the organic program. He is a specialist in organic and sustainable production and earned a decree in horticultural science from the prestigious EARTH University.
Beyond the standards, Fernando Jr. has taken production to a level ahead of expectations. Florexpo’s organic production now requires zero procurement of pest control or fertilizer chemicals. Pest control is achieved in fully enclosed greenhouses with beneficial insects, beneficial fungi, organic fumigation and strict adherence to sanitary requirements.
Florexpo has been using a “Killer Fly” predator of whitefly. Killer Flies consume whiteflies and when the population is down, it consumes its own population. The Killer Flies are gathered in an interesting way. Florexpo periodically vacuums plants with 6-inch mouth vacuums. If there is a gathering of whitefulies with the mix of Killer Flies, they take the bags to a cooler. The whiteflies have a lower tolerance for cool temperatures and will fall first. The remaining population in the bag are Killer Flies, which are released back into the greenhouse.
These practices and discoveries are important to the future of the organic movement, the company says. Florexpo shares its discoveries with partner customers to strengthen the economics of growers it serves. McGregor Plant Sales will offer the organic herb program and will help growers find certifying agencies in their states.