Why the Best Head Growers Offer Lessons for Others to Follow

Marc Verdel, Battlefield Farms

Marc Verdel of Battlefield Farms in Rapidan, VA, was named Head Grower of the Year at Greenhouse Grower’s Medal of Excellence awards program held at Cultivate’19 in Columbus, OH.

It’s always a privilege to honor our Head Grower of the Year and Operation of the Year nominees and winners at Greenhouse Grower’s Medal of Excellence evening during Cultivate. I can say unequivocally that the committee had an extremely difficult time making a final decision on the winners this year. How do you choose from so many worthy candidates? Each of our finalists had an amazing story to tell.


Since we returned from Cultivate’19, I have had time to reflect on a phrase that stood out to me in one of the Grower of the Year nomination forms this year. The nominator wrote, “This person is a grower by heart, not by paycheck.” That simple sentence captures everything that embodies a grower chosen as Greenhouse Grower’s Head Grower of the Year.

They lead by example first. It’s not uncommon for a Head Grower of the Year to work in the greenhouse alongside his team. He’s not opposed to doing any job in the greenhouse that needs to be done, no matter how simple. A Head Grower of the Year walks his talk and inspires others to do the same.

They are confident in their abilities, yet humble at the same time. Ego is the enemy of good leadership, and good growers take this to heart. A Head Grower of the Year may be the master grower in charge, but they never lose touch with the fact they are part of a team where every member plays an important role.

They are always willing to try something new. Whether it’s embracing new ideas, implementing new technologies, or supporting new employees, Head Growers of the Year welcome change. They’re not afraid to get out of their comfort zone in the name of improving production efficiencies. They’re open to differing opinions and keep an open mind.

They train and inspire others to find their own path. Yes, good head growers blaze a trail for others to follow, but they also make sure their employees have all the tools they need to succeed on their own, make good decisions, and feel self-assured in their skills and abilities.

They don’t take shortcuts. They don’t settle for inferior quality. They don’t take the easy route when it isn’t the best decision, even if it offers a seemingly more straightforward path. They don’t leave things to chance.

They make the most of their experience and continue to push for more. Head Growers of the Year never stop looking for opportunities for professional development, and they pass on what they learn. They act as mentors, teach classes, train others, and write articles, among other things, to share their knowledge with others.

These are just a few of the characteristics we see on Head Grower of the Year nomination forms every year. How do you stack up as a grower, an employee, a manager, an owner, etc.? In an industry where even the smallest things can set us apart from our competitors and we can’t afford anything less than high quality, let’s take motivation from Head Growers of the Year, past and present, and strive to always improve.