It happened quickly, in just a few weeks: Delray Plants owners Ed Koornneef and his brother-in-law Randy Gilde have sold the family business to Costa Farms. Why? Succession planning, Randy told me via phone on Monday.
“Just like Dan and Jerry,” said Randy. “You just wrote an article on them [buying De Jong’s Greenhouses]? Same thing. The Bible says there’s a time for everything … this is earlier than mine and Ed’s succession plan [Ed is 60, Randy 57]. But selling one day was always in the options for the future.”
Ed has no children in the business, which was started by his father, Jake, and a couple of partners in Delray Beach, Florida, in 1968. (He later bought out the partners.) Randy’s daughter works in the company’s accounting department, but she has no interest in eventually taking over the business.
“When we voted on this offer, she was all in favor of it,” Randy says. “She said, ‘I’m not going to run this big farm.’
“This was a great opportunity, so we took it,” he continued. “I think it’s going to be good for our employees long-term, which is always important to me—taking care of your people. And Costa’s a good company. They take care of their people, too. That was a win.”
Randy in 2012, when they were experimenting with shadehouse-grown peppers.
While the deal went down in just the past three weeks, casual discussions have been going on for years, Randy says. Every year at the TPIE show, someone from the Costa family would ask Randy, “How’s it going?” and say, “Keep us in mind.” Costa was surprised when Randy called and wanted to talk.
I called Jose “Joche” Smith, CEO of Costa, to find out more. His answer to the “why” question was two-fold. First, to gain new customers. Delray has some big box retailers and territory that Costa doesn’t serve. Second, to turn a competitor into a partner.
“We’ve been competing with them since way before I got here,” he says of Delray. “But we’ve had a good relationship, we’ve always respected those guys … there are actually a few people on their team that used to work here. So we’ve been friendly competitors. … We’ve never had any serious conversations about doing something like this, but we had made it clear … that if there was any interest in putting the companies together, that we would love to talk about it.”
Joche says acquisitions like this bring other synergies and benefits. Like Delray’s dot.com business, for example.
“Their dot.com business is a couple years ahead of our business,” he says. “We had just sort of kicked off that initiative [at Costa], hired a general manager. We’re meeting with their dot.com folks today, and that’s absolutely jump-starting our program.”
That’s a good illustration of how Costa Farms approaches all its acquisitions, whether Layman, Engelmann’s or Delray.
“We don’t ever go into one of these deals and think we’re going to do it all the Costa way,” Joche says. “We do go in and share best practices and come out a better, stronger company.”
As for the short-term? The deal is scheduled to close at the end of this week. Joche say it’s “do no harm” going into spring, then work on the transition this summer. He’s putting Bert Martinez in as general manager of Costa Delray, as the business will be known internally. Bert, a long-time Costa employee, has proven his expertise at managing these acquisitions, most recently with the Engelmann transition. Jesus Gonzales will take over the Costa Engelmann GM position.
Credits Joche, “It’s because of guys like Bert and Jesus that we’re able to do these things.”
Most staff will be retained, as well. “Every time we’ve done deals like this, there are so many people in the organization that end up having a bigger role. We learn a lot from the people that are there. They help us grow the business.”
As for the former owners, they won’t be sailing off into the Florida sunset quite yet. Both have agreed to stay on through the end of the year. After that? Don’t be surprised if Randy stays on.
“This is what I’ve done my entire life, except for four years in the Air Force,” he says of the horticulture industry.
Joche would be thrilled.
“Frankly, if they want to stay, and they’re having a good time, we would love for them to be part of the team longer-term.”
Here’s a company I just learned about recently: Toscana Breeding BV. It’s a joint venture formed in 2012 between three companies: Florensis (the Dutch young plant producer and distribution company), P. van der Haak (a Dutch geranium young plant specialist) and Ball FloraPlant (Ball Horticultural Company’s vegetative breeding company).
Toscana specializes in pelargoniums, and to that end they have just acquired the entire line of pelargonium genetics from the German pelargonium specialist Geranien Endisch GmbH. Why? To further broaden the already broad range of geranium genetics available to their customers. Says the press release, “With a number of interspecific types and unique color combinations, this ensures a very attractive extension to the range of products.” I was told the interspecific types are especially interesting to Toscana.
Toscana will take advantage of Endisch’s new production facility in Essingen, Germany, to produce young plants for specific regions of Germany. Unrooted cuttings will be relocated to Florensis’s new production location in Ethiopia.
As for you North American growers, Toscana’s varieties are sold via Ball FloraPlant in the product lines you already know, such as Dynamo and Presto. You’ll get the newest Endisch genetics, too, you just won’t see any Toscana branding or labeling.
It’s never easy to pick the top three from a collection of several dozen of the best and brightest young growers and retailers in the U.S. and Canada, but Ellen, Jen P., Jen Z. and I did it, and with minimal bloodshed, too. Here, then, without further ado, are the finalists for the 2017 GrowerTalks/Dümmen Orange Young Grower Award:
- Adam Heimos – Millstadt Young Plants/ NG Heimos Greenhouse, Millstadt, Illinois
- Jill Mullaney – Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, Texas
- Tiffany Watson – Ritter Greenhouse, Bridgeton, Missouri
You’ll note we have a finalist from an arboretum. That’s a first, but it certainly wasn’t a deal-breaker for us. In her role as grower at the Dallas Arboretum, Jill does a lot to connect with the general public, and that’s good for all of us. Certainly, nobody would argue how much benefit Jimmy Turner, former Senior Director of the Gardens, brought to our industry (Jimmy is now Director of Horticultural Operations for the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney (Australia).
Finalists for the Green Profit/Dümmen Orange Young Retailer Award are:
- Stephanie Genrich – Genrich’s Garden Center, Florist & Greenhouses, Rochester, New York
- Vashti Kern – Bird’s Botanicals, Kansas City, Missouri
- Andrea Bickley Snelgrove – Wingard’s Market, Lexington, South Carolina
Congratulations to all six! But the easy part is over. Now the real works begins. First, they’ll have to write an essay answer to a stunningly challenging question we will pose to them. Those will be published in our June issue. Then, they have to endure a springtime phone interview with our panel of esteemed industry judges, which includes notables like Anna Ball and our columnnist Bill McCurry. No pressure there! We'll announce the winners at Cultivate'17, and feature them on the covers of the September GrowerTalks/Green Profit.
Last October, Dümmen Orange announced the acquisition of rose breeder Olij Roses International, which joined rose breeder Lex+ under the Dümmen Orange umbrella. Now, Dümmen Orange expands its rose business even further, as it becomes the agent for rose breeder Jan Spek Rozen in 10 countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, Poland, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Says Erik Spek, Director of Jan Spek Rozen, in a statement, “The international nature of Dümmen Orange gives us access to a large network with plenty of potential. We are delighted with the new arrangement and have great expectations for the future.”
Philippe Veys, Global Product Manager-Roses at Dümmen Orange, says, “The Jan Spek Rozen range has great value to us and our customers. It offers both companies opportunities to improve and build on quality and reliability in production. Our market expertise coupled with our infrastructure at various sites will enable our customers to benefit even more from this collaboration.”
Jan Spek Rozen is one of the oldest rose nurseries in the world. The family-run business, which breeds garden roses, pot roses, cut roses and greenhouse roses, has been a reliable name in the national and international world of roses since it was established in 1890.
Meet Ball Horticultural Company’s newest executive, who fills a brand new position: Chief Technology Officer. Matt Mouw (rhymes with how now brown cow), joined the company in early March to head up efforts to bring advanced genetics and breeding technology to the flower industry.
Matt comes to Ball from De Moines, Iowa, where he worked for DuPont Pioneer for 17 years. He has a Ph.D in molecular biology from the University of Missouri AND an MBA from the University of Iowa. Impressive!
I did a quick video interview with Matt for Ball’s employee website that I called “Fast Five with Matt Mouw.” It was a combination of serious and fun questions. Here’s an excerpt:
Chris: Matt, why are you here at Ball?
Matt: We’re going to expand our investments … into advanced technologies so that we can enhance the capabilities overall for the organization.
Chris: What can the flower business learn from corn and soybeans?
Matt: That’s a good question. There are many technologies that have been developed over the previous two decades or so that have led to tremendous improvements in productivity, in throughput and in novel, value-add products that can be leveraged into other domains, particularly horticulture.
Chris: What do you thinkwill be the first technology that you’ll bring to Ball?
Matt: I don’t know that you can say I will bring it, but perhaps advance and work on improving both investments as well as applications of marker-assisted breeding technologies that can dramatically improve the throughput and efficiencies of breeding around the world for Ball.
Chris: Can you tell a petunia from a calibrachoa yet?
Matt: This is what I’m in the process of learning, and I would say that I could probably pick out a petunia at this point in time, yes. Especially after my day in Elburn yesterday (PanAmerican Seed’s research center).
Chris: When you worked for Pioneer, did you get all the free corn on the cob you could eat?
Matt: (laughing) Funny you should say that. When I started twenty-some years ago, they planted about a 30-acre plot to sweet corn for the employees every year, and then they staged it so you could always go in and pick throughout the growing season and always have the perfect maturity of sweet corn. But over the years, that was one of the perks that went away over time … part of that had to do with security in the research field where this was located. But it sure was nice while it lasted.
Marc Laviana passed away at home on Saturday, March 11, 2017, surrounded by his loving family after battling cancer. He was just 62. Marc was president and part owner of Sunny Border Nurseries, where he worked for more than 48 years—basically, his entire life!
I didn’t know Marc, but I must be the only one, judging from the number of folks who emailed to inform me of his untimely passing. His obituary says that “his true passion was the nursery and growing plants.” And the Sunny Border website says, “We have heavy hearts right now at Sunny Border. We’ve lost a fearless leader, a plantsman, a grower and a wonderful family man.”
Marc started his career at Sunny Border when he was just 15, and quickly rose through the ranks, proving his ability as an exceptional grower and leader. Marc worked hand in hand with Sunny Border CEO Pierre Bennerup in making Sunny Border Nurseries a leader and an innovator in the industry.
He had a passion for growing and was a hands-on leader. His strong work ethic and love for growing earned him the title Connecticut Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year. He also served as President of the Connecticut Nurserymen’s Association.
In addition to his wife Linda, Marc is survived by his daughter, Tara Jo, and son Daniel Marc (who currently works at the nursery).
If you like your Coldfogger, you’ll love the new Coldfogger AR, which features a more durable pump that is easier to use and allows for the use of corrosive chemicals.
The Coldfogger AR uses a piston pump as an upgrade over their previous diaphragm pump. This pump features corrosion resistant components and an easy-to-service design, making the unit more durable for the typical professional greenhouse operations.
The Coldfogger AR operates differently, too. Priming is easy, as the unit uses a self-priming pump that is fed by the agitation pump with a precise pressure and flow. It will be available in a 20-gal. model (80,000 sq. ft. capacity) and a new 50-gal. model (200,000 sq. ft. capacity) with hose lengths up to 300 ft. For more, visit www.dramm.com.
If you missed any of my recent webinars (and there have been four in the past four weeks, so I’ve been busy as a one-armed paper hanger), fear not! They are all archived at www.ballpublishing.com/webinars. I just completed one on “Getting More from Your Proven Winners Plants,” featuring John Gaydos talking about the critical production factors that will make or break your crop. The number one mistake he sees? Overwatering.
I’ve also archived webinars on “How to Grow Spring-Blooming Hellebores,” “Perennials: Dare to Go Bare (root, that is)”and “An Agronomic Approach to Spring Pest Management.”
Like I said, check them all out at www.ballpublishing.com/webinars.
See you next time!
GrowerTalks and Green Profit
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