Keep Your Growers from Going to Pot; CA Dought; and more

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Chris Beytes Subscribe
Acres Online
Valentine's Day and primula
California drought: still on?
Stuff I haven't written about:
- Keeping growers from pot
- Winning against Amazon
Cool Products from TPIE
Oops! Wrong Weber
Free webinar on pest control
Sign up a young grower
Finally ...

Valentine's Day: Where have all the primula gone?

Here’s what I want to know: What has happened to the primula? They used to be ubiquitous this time of year, especially in the grocery stores. In the cold gray light of February, primula are a fresh, colorful, "cheap and cheerful" reminder that spring will get here eventually. But lately, it seems I don’t see them anywhere. Or am I just missing them or shopping in the wrong places? Fill me in!

Valentine’s Day is the first flower holiday of the year and I noted my local stores stuffed with product for the weekend. My grocer, Meijer, had roses by the dozen, in a vase, and packaged in an attractive clear printed sleeve (heavy) with a handle. Walmart had a similar product. It was the sort of stylish grab-and-go package I’d expect to find in Europe, and at just $25, hard for the traditional florist to compete with.

What are you offering your customers for Valentine’s Day and how is it selling? Let me know your successes (and flops, but I hope not) HERE.

California drought: What a difference a year makes

In my book, drought is the scariest thing our industry faces. We have artificial substitutions for everything we need to grow plants—soil, sunlight, labor—but there isn’t one for water.

Which is why the California drought has been at the top of our news for so long. To have such an important and populous state be so dry for so long is devastating for our industry and ag in general in that region.

Which is also why it’s so gratifying to see so much rain falling in California. And yes, dare I say, it’s gratifying to see reservoirs overflowing their spillways? No, that’s overstating it. The damage from floods and mudslides is something else. But if we can’t have it perfect, better too much water than too little, for all concerned.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the drought map for the state as it stands today, which does show most of the state from San Francisco south as abnormally dry or in moderate drought, so they still need rain. However, compare that to one year ago or even three months ago and you’ll see how vastly improved the state’s water issues are:

And looking back up at the U.S. map, note that Oklahoma and New England are currently just as dry as California. They all need precipitation! Let’s just hope and pray that whatever rain we do get falls Monday through Friday and takes the weekend off.

Two things I haven’t written about until now

Last week, I was at ProGreen Expo in Denver giving a talk that I call “Acres Online Live,” in which I cover a range of timely topics, many of which I’ve touched upon in recent months in my newsletter. But invariably, I come up with some things that I haven’t yet published, so that’s what I’m going to offer you here—two things I’ve talked about, but not yet written about. Such as:

Keeping your growers from going to pot

What I mean by that clever headline is, how do you—or how do we as an industry—keep our talented growers from leaving the world of annual and perennials in favor of the heady Wild West of cannabis production? That's a big worry, according to some growers I’ve talked to.

Certainly, one can understand the allure. A big part of it is money—cannabis syndicates have cash and expect to earn zillions, and so the idea of offering six figures to the guy or gal responsible for growing the crop makes sense to a finance person who’s probably pulling down $300k.

In some cases it’s a choice based on personal politics or lifestyle—if you support medical or recreational cannabis, you might want to be on the front lines of this burgeoning industry.

But for anyone thinking the grass is greener in a cannabis greenhouse, here’s my argument against:

1. Locks, barbed wire, cameras, armed guards. Four things I’ve never seen at a flower greenhouse that you will have to get used to if you work in a cannabis facility. Security is ultra, ultra tight. Do you really want your every move watched, recorded and analyzed?

2. Monoculture. Growers I know love the challenge of producing multiple crops in multiple sizes. Variety is the spice of life! But in a cannabis facility you grow one crop, one size. Yes, the cultivars might be different, but that’s about as exciting as growing different cultivars of red poinsettias 365 days a year.

3. Extremely controlled, little flexibility. Everything you do, both to the crop and personally within the greenhouse, is tightly controlled. Your production regime, your movements, the harvest, right down to the individual RFID-chipped plants. If you like flexibility and a change of pace, you won’t like cannabis.

4. Constant risk of being accused of violating the law. Suppose a bit of your crop goes missing. Who’s to blame? Everybody who had access to the facility. You will always be under suspicion of wrongdoing and constantly trying to look innocent and honest.

5. What if somebody gets sick or dies after using your product? Yes, it can happen eating a tomato, too. Producing anything that is ingested carries tremendous risk.

6. It’s still illegal federally. Let’s not forget this one. Your business could be shut down at any time.

7. An instable market. Cannabis is the wild west right now, with thousands of investors looking to make a killing. How long before that gets sorted out and the pharmaceutical, tobacco and adult spirits industries come in to grab their share? You can bet that your owner is probably counting on selling out to one of the big boys and making a killing. Will you still have a job when that happens?

Bottom line: Growers I know love the outdoors, love freedom, love fresh air, love variety, love autonomy, and love the beauty and happiness their flowers and plants provide. With cannabis, much of that goes away. Think about that before you take the leap.

How to win against Amazon

Here’s another one I waxed poetic on. Lots of retailers are talking in concerned tones about Amazon getting into the plant business. Will traditional retail suffer? Will garden centers go the way of bookstores? Gads!

Well, first of all, plants are perishable, books aren’t. Second, plants, especially spring garden plants, are primarily impulse items. Books are something we hear about—our favorite author has a new title out that we must read. Or us avid readers are always searching for the next title in our favorite genre. For readers, like for true gardeners, books are a necessity.

That said, Amazon is selling plants of many types, especially orchids, foliage and succulents—stuff that’s trendy, high-priced and easy to ship. Want a geranium? All I found was seed … except for a 4.5-in. Proven Winners geranium, red, for $17.68.

I think Amazon can do well with gift items, maybe with holiday or wedding flowers, and especially with collectibles—you know, that rare specimen that only a plant geek could love?

What Amazon does NOT offer is experience. THAT is where you, the brick & mortar retail has the advantage. You should work very hard to make sure your store is a fun, interesting and exciting place to shop. Customers want this—witness the popularity of the Apple Store and the number of retailers that are adding events, demonstrations and so on. That is how ALL retailers can combat Amazon.

BTW, did you know that Amazon sells milk, bananas and bread? Yup. Two loaves of Wonder Bread are just $17.49, with free shipping (in three to four days). A bargain!

TPIE Cool Products Video is live

When it comes to cool products, I say better late than never. I’ve finally edited and posted the video I made at the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) in Ft. Lauderdale in January. It features all the “Cool Product Award” winners, as named by Danny Summers of the Garden Center Group and his panel of expert judges (who would like to give a shout-out to Cool Product sponsor Ambius). There’s an eclectic group of Cool Products this year, including two for Christmas and one by a guy named Mossman. Plus, a pair of multi-time winners who must be paying off the judges! (No, actually, their stuff is just that new and interesting every year).

Watch it HERE or just click on the video.

Oops, wrong Weber!

A time or two back, I mentioned the Weber Grills herb brand that's been on display at IPM Essen the past two years and how we can now get the brand here in North America.

Boy, was I wrong! But it was an honest mistake.

I reported that packaging company A-ROO did the Weber herb line in Europe and that they said you could get it here in North America, too. Dennis DeBaltzo, A-ROO Company’s VP of Sales, gave me the true story, which is that A-ROO represents a different Weber, Weber Verpackunging, which makes plant packaging in Europe, including that for a different herb brand, that quirky “Schnauze Voll! (mouth full) line I showed you.

My original source got confused when I mentioned “Weber,” which makes sense, since their relationship with Weber Verpackunging is brand new and was on her mind. Alas, A-ROO has nothing to do with Weber the grill company and their herb brand. However, Dennis said they’d love to do a Weber herb brand over here. Maybe somebody will make that happen.

Webinar: Taking an agronomic approach to pest management

This should be a good one! I’m hosting a FREE webinar Tuesday, February 21, in which my guest expert Nancy Rechcigl will show you how taking what she calls an “agronomic” approach to pest management can help you produce pest-free crops more reliably than relying only on IPM or chemical rotations, without factoring in what else is happening in the greenhouse.

A Technical Field Manager for Syngenta, Nancy will share research and recommendations for some of their newest products, such as Segovis and Mural, on a range of floriculture crops.

Title: Taking an Agronomic Approach to Pest Management
When: Tuesday, February 21, 1:00 p.m. Eastern/Noon Central
Where: Sign up at

Did I mention it’s free? Sign up today!

Sign up a Young Grower or Young Retailer

We as an industry spend a lot of time wondering how to attract young people. Important! In fact, downstairs here at Ball World Headquarters, there’s a meeting of the “Seed Your Future” initiative, the goal of which is to increase awareness of horticulture as a “vital, viable and vibrant” career path, with the goal of getting more students to go into horticulture as a career (I’ll report on that next time, assuming they’ll share what comes out of the meeting).

Great! But once we’ve got them, how do we keep them? By recognizing and rewarding their talents through the GrowerTalks/Dümmen Orange Young Grower and Green Profit/Dümmen Orange Young Retailer Awards, that’s how! We're currently taking nominations for both, with a deadline of March 1 for applications.

We’re looking for talented, driven, eager under-35 employees, managers and business owners. It can be you, someone you work with, a customer or client. The key to being selected as a finalist is a detailed description of what makes this person worthy of being named a Young Grower Award or Young Retailer Award winner.

Our three finalists will be our guest at Cultivate’17, where they’ll dine with Anna Ball and other special guests before the big award ceremony. The two winners get cover stories in the September issues of GrowerTalks and Green Profit—in other words, the big time!

Sign up for the Young Grower Award HERE.

Retailers can sign up for the Young Retailer Award HERE.

A special thanks to our sponsors Dümmen Orange and AmericanHort!

Finally …

My esteemed freelance editor Jen Polanz wants to learn more about those of you who read her Inside Grower controlled environment agriculture newsletter, and to that end, she's created a short Survey Monkey survey. She asked if I’d share it amongst my readers, as she really wants to get lots of feedback. After all, the better she knows your business, the better she can cover the topics that mean the most to you.

So if you grow edibles under cover, here's the link: We appreciate it!

See you next time!

Chris sig

Chris Beytes
GrowerTalks and Green Profit

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