Passionate. Hard-working. Dedicated. Driven. The next generation of leaders in the horticulture industry needs to have all of these qualities, particularly as many business leaders retire. We’ve been on the lookout for promising candidates, and are pleased to present to you the Generation Next Class of 2015, a group of dynamic, forward-thinking and passionate people poised to move the industry forward. These folks are managing growing teams, developing improved pest control and production methods, working with industry associations and stepping up as leaders in their communities and businesses. They’re growing anything from the unique and unusual to hanging baskets to specialty crops like succulents and cannabis. Read on to get a sneak peek into the lives of these leaders and why they were chosen as part of the Generation Next Class of 2015.
Because we want to share the whole story behind these great growing minds and what makes them tick, we’ll also be featuring each of them in more in-depth profiles in the coming months in Greenhouse Management.
Position: Production manager
Growing experience: 5 years
Education: Gladys earned a master’s degree in horticulture and crop science from Ohio State University and studied agriculture in Costa Rica. Her internship at Uganda Flower Exporters Association allowed her to travel from Uganda, to Holland, Ecuador and California, where she expanded her export and supply chain knowledge.
Company: Timbuk Farms in Granville, Ohio has specialized in Cut-Your-Own Christmas trees since 1952. Timbuk also offers an array of young and finished plants and a Garden Mart retail outlet.
Why we chose Gladys: Gladys’ international market experience, upper management skills and growing expertise make her a triple threat in the industry. Combine that with her passion for knowledge and experimentation and there’s no question we’ll be reading more about her undertakings in the future.
Position: Head grower and production manager
Growing experience: 6 years
Education: Studied at Ohio University and Ohio State University.
Company: Baker’s Acres Greenhouse in Alexandria, Ohio was founded in 1982 by Nick’s parents, Chris and Nancy Baker. Baker’s has three acres of growing space and 15,000 square feet of retail. The company grows 90 percent of its own annuals and the majority of its perennials.
Why we chose Nick: His family started the business when he was a child, but he had no interest in horticulture as a potential career until he was in his 20s. Now, he’s driving the family business to reach different customers and changing its production methods to become more sustainable. He has a passion for propagation, and takes pride in producing “foolproof” plants for his customers.
Position: Assistant plug manager
Growing Experience: 12 years
Education: Associate degree in business management from Marshall University.
Company: Bob’s Market and Greenhouses in Mason, West Virginia, produces wholesale plants and supplies millions of plugs for Ball Seed that are distributed nationwide.
Job description: As a member of the family business — he’s the grandson of founder Bob Barnitz — Alan’s job encompasses a little bit of everything. But his main responsibilities include supervising the new gapping machine the company purchased last year and assisting with shipping and logistics for the plugs (Bob’s also delivers to their clients with its own truck fleet).
Why we chose Alan: Alan has made major improvements to the company’s automation techniques. The gapping machine alone has been a significant advantage for Bob’s, as it is 99 percent effective and reduces concerns about labor turnover in his town with a population of only 1,000 people.
Position: Owner, Sunflower Acres
Growing experience: 10 years
Education: Bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Oregon State University.
Company: Sunflower Acres Farm & Garden offers hanging baskets and garden plants at farmers markets in Salem and Independence, Oregon.
Job description: Crystal is a small business owner, grower and retailer that specializes in custom hanging baskets and other high-quality plants and arrangements that she wholesales to local independent garden centers and sells direct to consumers at farmers markets and via special orders she delivers herself.
Why we chose Crystal: In addition to her top-notch growing and container designs, Crystal is involved in several industry associations, such as the Oregon Association of Nurseries and AmericanHort, as well as local small business groups. Her drive and passion is evident as she moves forward with plans to open a retail outlet and start growing produce and herbs to sell at farmers markets and to local Oregon restaurants.
Position: Head grower, propagation
Growing experience: 8 years
Education: Associate degree in horticulture science and another in greenhouse management and production from the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute.
Company: Millcreek Plants LLC, established in 1978 in Ostrander, Ohio, specializes in herbaceous perennials, herb, groundcovers, ferns, ornamental grasses, vines and annuals grown in containers, with a concentration on retail-ready plants.
Why we chose Courtney: She’s quickly refining her skills as a grower and propagator. Courtney has a progressive vision of pest management and how growers should be implementing their systems, namely increased use of biological processes and automation that further eliminates the need for grower-pesticide contact.
Position: Head grower and production manager
Growing experience: 9 years
Education: Bachelors in Crop Science from Ohio State University.
Company: Foertmeyer and Sons Greenhouse was founded 26 years ago in Delaware, Ohio. The company works primarily with fundraising groups, which consists mostly of 100 to 120 schools around Ohio. They also have a few clients in Indiana and Kentucky.
Why we chose Matt: He’s a second generation grower and is now managing Foertmeyer and Sons Greenhouse. He’s using his passion for technology to create smarter irrigation booms — booms that will know where they are in a bay, which plants they’re watering and how much they should be watering. With this new technology, Matt is hoping to cut down on water usage and more efficiently manage his facilities.
Position: Owner, Groovy Plants Ranch
Growing experience: 5 years
Education: He studied landscape and design at Columbus State University and attended Hocking College for one year for natural and historical interpretation.
Company: Groovy Plants Ranch is Jared’s one-man operation 35 miles north of Columbus that specializes in unique succulents, cold hardy cacti and perennials.
Job description: Jared grows a wide variety of plants that he maintains after he’s done with his full-time job, and delivers them to local clients.
Why we chose Jared: This grower is swapping the marigolds and petunias for cacti and succulents that are interesting and out of the ordinary, making a name for himself in this niche market. And he’s played it smart, choosing to grow plants that can be maintained at lower temperatures and with less care so he can balance growing with his full-time managerial position at a retail garden center.
For more: groovy-plants.com
Position: Production manager and head grower
Growing experience: 1 year
Education: Bachelor’s in agriculture and master’s in horticulture from Ohio State University.
Company: Solstice in Seattle, Washington is a medical cannabis grower. Founded in 2011, the company wanted to offer a source of high-quality, safe marijuana for those in need and became the first licensed cannabis grower in the state of Washington.
Why we chose Miles: After completing his studies in horticulture, Miles made the jump to medical cannabis production. He has spent 12 months with Seattle-based Solstice and has been advocating for more intra-industry communication and sharing of growing practices. He’s also working with his team to create a product that is high in cannabidiol (CBD), a compound that has anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and analgesic properties.
Position: Co-owner/lead grower, Hope Greenhouses, LLC
Growing experience: 3 years
Education: Doctorate in plant and environmental science from Clemson University.
Company: Hope Greenhouses in Fair Play, South Carolina produces hard-to-root flowering vines and pomegranates.
Why we chose Allison: Allison considers herself a huge advocate for the implementation of biological agents for replacement of chemical pesticides. Through research conducted at Clemson University as well as implementation at Hope Greenhouses, she has experienced firsthand that the use of biologicals (specifically predator insects and entomopathogenic nematodes) can be more effective, less expensive, safer and less frequently applied versus chemical pesticides.
Position: Head grower
Growing experience: 8 years
Education: Bachelor’s degree in plant science from Cornell University.
Company: Peace Tree Farm is a Certified Organic greenhouse company located in the countryside of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Peace Tree Farm encompasses an acre of greenhouses on a historic 25-acre farm. Alex’s parents, Lloyd and Candy Traven purchased the Peace Tree property in 1983. The company propagates and grows for independent garden centers and other growers on a wholesale basis.
Why we chose Alex: Alex has been leading the charge to ensure Peace Tree Farm does a better job connecting with millennials. He has a passion for food, and he knows many of his fellow millennials want their plants to be more than just ornamental. To that end, he’s been working to add more edibles to the company’s production. He’s also been instrumental in administering the farm’s impressive biocontrol program.
Position: Director of agriculture
Growing experience: 17 years
Education: Bachelor’s degree in entomology and plant pathology from University of Delaware.
Company: BrightFarms in New York City, New York, finances, designs, builds and operates greenhouse farms at or near supermarkets in the area.
Job description: Graham makes sure BrightFarms meets all crop cultural requirements to maximize crop quality and revenue. He works closely with the growing team to maximize yield per square foot of greenhouse production area, and is always on the lookout for new technology that’ll benefit production processes.
Why we chose Graham: He’s employing cutting edge controlled environment agriculture (CEA) techniques. Graham is right in line with the Local Food movement that exploded in 2014. He’s assisting BrightFarms in fulfilling an expanding niche because he’s expecting CEA to increase its footprint in overall food production.
Position: Trial manager
Growing experience: 15 years
Company: Walters Gardens in Zeeland, Michigan, uses its 500,000 square feet of greenhouse space to hybridize new varieties of perennials that are sold to independent garden centers, wholesale growers, landscapers and municipalities.
Job description: Jeremy tests new products as they come in from the hybridizing labs and trials the new varieties to see if they’re worthy of introduction by gathering cultural information.He also grows many plants that are destined for trade shows in the winter months.
Why we chose Jeremy: Jeremy began gardening by raising vegetables and selling them roadside as a child. As he got older, he saw it as a business opportunity. He started growing annuals then made the transition into perennials when he graduated high school and began at Walters Gardens.