The finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2019 Head Grower of the Year award share several traits, including a team-first attitude, a focus on innovation, and, quite simply, a desire to do things better. Here’s your chance to get to know this year’s finalists, each of which have already won individual honors. The winner will be announced at Cultivate’19 during Greenhouse Grower’s Medal of Excellence evening reception.
Excellence in Leadership Award: Bill Hall, Hoffman Nursery, Rougemont, NC
Since joining Hoffman Nursery in early 2017, Bill Hall has not been just a leader, but a listener, a communicator, and an educator. He has a thoughtful, calm way of explaining what he needs from his growers, and they all respect his passion for what he does and his experience in the industry. He’s always available and willing to share the knowledge he’s learned over his time in horticulture with anyone who asks.
Because of his experience, Hall has a hand in many departments at Hoffman beyond his own, including production, stock, and propagation. Some team members were not originally educated or trained in the horticulture industry. For them, Hall has been a wealth of information and support, always willing to listen and provide guidance.
Bill has helped his growing team improve techniques for more effective use of technology to enhance plant growth. He coaches his team on best practices for keeping an eye on their own labor, as well as monitoring and combining inputs such as water, chemicals, and fertilizer.
Above all, Hall emphasizes timely communication. He works to get a clear picture of what all departments are doing so he can understand how the growers can do their best work. There’s no task beneath him, so he frequently leads by example and is always willing to pitch in to do what needs to be done. He listens as much as he speaks, making astute observations and calculated decisions about the best course of action. He is genuine in wanting to help team members grow and make Hoffman Nursery a better place.
Excellence in Integrated Pest Management Award: Roger McGaughey, Pioneer Gardens, Deerfield, MA
Roger McGaughey excels in the use of biologically based Integrated Pest Management (IPM) solutions, which in his case includes practices such as the use of banker plants, releases of biological control agents in the greenhouse, use of biological fungicides, and organic fertilizers. He has embraced computer technology in the greenhouse and is a leader in sharing his expertise in biological controls with other growers.
McGaughey’s belief in IPM is a concept he embraces completely. He has abandoned the idea of crisis interventions and adopted practices of planning or anticipating disease and pests and implementing strategies to contain the problems before they occur. He practices and uses the latest IPM ideas, but he holds fast to those concepts known to contribute to growing the healthiest crops possible for Pioneer Gardens’ wholesale customers.
After completing an assessment of both greenhouse and field propagation at Pioneer Gardens, McGaughey made major changes to the entire process — on the sticking line, in initial propagation using biological fungicides, and in environmental control of the different greenhouse zones. He initiated a new patrolling process that detects issues sooner and responds more rapidly. In a recent initiative, he analyzed a particular plant disease trend and implemented a novel watering technique that greatly reduces water-borne pathogens
Since McGaughey took over, Pioneer has completely changed its IPM practices. It now uses biological controls primarily, and plant health has experienced a major improvement, leading to both higher quality and yield.
Excellence in Production Award: Marc Verdel, Battlefield Farms, Rapidan, VA
Marc Verdel is always interested in trialing the newest plant introductions to find where he can gain speed in production, reduce chemical costs, and decrease shrink while looking for the best finished plant. He started using cutting dips to control insect and disease pests and promote rooting, installed LED lamps on booms for photoperiod control, and oversaw the building of a tissue culture establishment room using LED lamps and carbon dioxide enrichment.
Verdel is supportive of the management and sales team at Battlefield Farms, striving to control costs while delivering high-quality plants to the customer when the market wants them. He works hard with the other managers to create a seamless process from seed/cutting production, to transplant, to growing and shipping.
Verdel visits offshore production farms to gain a better understanding of what is being done to his inbound seed and unrooted plant material, and he looks for ideas to implement in the greenhouses upon his return. For the past seven years, he has hosted a Plant Supplier Summit at Battlefield Farms with industry-leading breeders where they review new varieties as well as production and culture guidelines.