“Growers Are Artisans” [Opinion]

“Growers Are Artisans” [Opinion]

Laura Drotleff

Laura Drotleff, Editor, Greenhouse Grower

At Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Summit in early December, there was a lot of discussion about how we can “grow the pie,” as an industry. In addition to struggling for market share, demand for our products needs to grow.

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Part of that includes being able to successfully recruit young talent into our industry, so we have enough of a workforce and enough growers and managers to not only maintain, but grow our industry. Yet to attract this talent, we also have to look and feel like a viable, sustainable industry that has a future. We need to draw people in and fascinate them with the cool and exciting things we get to do every day.

The GROW Partners discussed the downtrodden way we sometimes think of our business. We look at the slim margins and the hard work, and it’s easy sometimes to slip into the funk of a victim mentality. But we need to improve our self perception. We’re not “just” growers or “just” retailers, says Jim Paluch, who spoke at the GROW Summit about Come Alive Outside. We need to think of ourselves as more, and in doing so, we will elevate the craft of growing and bring more value to our profession.

Marta Maria Garcia of Costa Farms, who I interviewed for our cover story, says she thinks of growers as true craftsmen.

“This is an industry of hard-working people,” she says. “Growers are artisans. My mission is to bring to consumers the craftsmanship that goes behind growing these crops. Very few products these days are actually grown or made like our products or fruits or vegetables. Agriculture and horticulture are very important industries.”

Garcia previously worked for Bacardi, in the liquor industry, where rum-makers and brewers are hailed as craftsmen. It’s the same in microbreweries, cafés, restaurants, bakeries, and now even in specialty food production (think gourmet cheesemakers, Kobe beef producers, etc.).

Garcia says when she first came to the industry seven years ago, she toured Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses (which Costa Farms purchased last spring), and was so impressed with the passionate, salt-of-the earth people there, who put so much of themselves into what they grow.

“This is is true craftsmanship,” she says. “Plants aren’t widgets like iPhones, they’re art.”

While reading over the results of our 2015 State Of The Industry Survey (read “Growers And Suppliers Are Optimistic For  A Strong Year In 2015”), I was impressed by all of the positive and passionate responses to the question, “What excites you most about the upcoming season?”

In other questions on the survey, you voiced your concerns about the industry, complaints about government regulation and worries about the economy. But despite all of that, our industry is truly resilient and hopeful. And passionate!

Here are some of the responses:

“Getting to grow more plants!”

“The ability to grow new crops.”

“I love the challenge of growing ‘the perfect crop,’ which never happens 100 percent. Also seeing the benches just bursting with color, and the happy chatter of the customers.”

“We get excited about every season. The new plants and products get our customers excited to come to our greenhouse.”

“Warmer weather, new crops and varieties and the possibilities.”

“New season, new customers, new life for the landscape.”

“It’s a new year — what’s not to be excited about? New challenges, new varieties of plants, new ways to use them. You are only limited by your mind. Look around you, and let the juices flow.”

“Everything! We get another opportunity to grow plants, our business and relationships with customers and employees.”

“It’s always a new beginning filled with the greatest hope. Every year we get another do-over.”

Let’s share that passion with others; don’t keep it a secret. You came into this profession for a reason. Remember what that was, and celebrate it!

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