How to Communicate Quality Standards to Contract Greenhouse Growers

How to Communicate Quality Standards to Contract Greenhouse Growers

Head Grower Aaron Hoff at Meyers Fruit Farms

Good communication with internal staff and outside contract growers is essential to maintaining quality standards at any operation.

With customer expectations high and your reputation depending on the quality of the product you deliver, you can’t leave communicating quality standards with your contract growers to chance. To help you out, Greenhouse Grower reached out to Top 100 Growers to get their best advice on how to convey to contract growers exactly what you expect in plant quality.

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“Natural Beauty has created a Finish Quality Specification Guide. Each genus and container size has a specific height and width specification with bloom count and percentage of flowers opened to ensure ready-for-sale. This information is accompanied with a picture of the finished product.” — Darrell Sorenson, Corporate Head Grower for Natural Beauty

“We sit down with our contract growers in advance of the upcoming season and reiterate and discuss the plan and expectations. Nothing is left to chance, as it is all in the details.” — Ric Stevens, Sales Manager for Heartland Growers

“The key is getting contract growers to feel comfortable with what you ask them to grow. We usually contract out the easy stuff to grow like flats of 306’s, or 508’s, or 12-packs, and easy five-week crops. If you are asking a contract grower to grow something such as complicated combo planters, you are asking for problems.” — Colin Davison, Production Manager for Michael’s Greenhouses

“All of South Central Growers’ contract growers are made aware of our expectations and specifications before the orders are placed for that growing season. This allows time for South Central and our contract growers to share culture tips or anything that might be of concern before the crop has started. We also visit each contract grower during the season to make sure our product meets our expectations and deal with any concerns if we see them.” — Tim Van Der Hengst, Owner/Head Grower for South Central Growers

“We provide them with the same growing recipe we have and work with them to manage the actionable items along the way by setting up frequent visits and checking in. Utilizing technology and sending pictures and videos each week is very important.” — Noah Derohanian, Lead Grower/Loudon, NH Facility, and Mike Goyette, Operations Manager, for Pleasant View Gardens

“Beyond our quality control team, we have a quality assurance team that meets monthly and comes up with creative campaigns to communicate to our employees. They get their message out during company meetings and deploy signage around the facilities. Simple catchphrases and visuals go a long way to ensure quality and consistency. We also have a quality taskforce that focuses on protecting the quality of our products and services, and reviewing data
from customer credits to fix any ongoing issues.” — Noah Derohanian, Lead Grower/Loudon NH Facility, and Mike Goyette, Operations Manager, for Pleasant View Gardens

10 Ways to Safeguard Your Quality Standards — No Matter Who Grows for You

Once you’ve communicated your quality standards to your contract growers, how do you maintain those standards throughout the growing season? The Top 100 Growers Greenhouse Grower talked with shared this advice.

  1. Align yourself with a contract grower that already has high-quality standards.
  2. Work with someone who is willing to listen and adjust their growing practices based on customer needs.
  3. Give contract growers feedback weekly as to how their product is being received by the docks they are shipping into.
  4. Spread contract material out to a network of growers. Select those growers based on climate or capability of growing a specific crop. This will allow them and the end product to be successful.
  5. If a contract grower tries to send you junk, refuse it and send it back. Don’t even unload it. Do this a few times, and they won’t send you junk again. If a product doesn’t make the grade, it doesn’t ship.
  6. Keep in constant communication with your contract growers.
  7. Ask your contract grower to send you regular pictures of the crops throughout the growing season.
  8. Walk the crops at the contract grower’s facility multiple times throughout a given season.
  9. Before you select a contract grower, ask yourself the following questions: How long has this company been in business? Does this grower have enough growing space to accommodate my order? Does this company have a good name in the industry for growing quality products?
  10. Regularly review crop timing, quality, and schedules with contract growers, and troubleshoot as needed prior to shipping time.