Senecio candicans Angel Wings is a traffic-stopping new tender perennial presented by Emerald Coast Growers. You won’t be able to resist touching the long, broad velvety leaves of dazzling matte silver with toothy edges. Easy to grow and with gorgeous, striking color, Angel Wings is an exciting design option for mixed containers or borders. It reaches approximately 8 to 16 inches high and is hardy in Zones 8 to 10.
Each August, I eagerly await the results of our annual State of the Industry study. It’s a chance to confirm or deny that what we’ve been hearing from select growers during interviews throughout the year is reflective of the larger population. This year, the results confirmed what we had heard: Growers are optimistic after several years of solid revenues; edibles sales are still there, but the market may have reached a plateau; growers want to improve their marketing efforts; and labor has squeaked past the economy and declining customer bases to become the No. 1 impediment to growing their businesses.
One of the statistics that surprised me was that 54% of growers have not made any strategic recruiting shifts to attract younger professionals. Yet, growers have found it challenging to stay fully staffed, in part because younger folks aren’t as interested in working in horticulture as in the past. So while I don’t think greenhouse operators should be looking exclusively for young professionals to fill their job openings, I do think that it may be a good time to rethink how we’re recruiting new talent.
Before I went on any job interview, I always did a bit of online research to find out as much as I could about the company. And when I was hiring staff myself, I asked them what they knew about our company during the interview. Their results were instrumental not only in determining how invested they were in obtaining a position, but also how good of a job we were doing at communicating our company’s vision and values to the general public. What will potential job seekers learn about your company if they Google it? Would you want to work at your company solely based on the information you can find about it online?
Only about a quarter of all growers reported using social media to advertise positions and strengthen the company’s presence. Are you regularly updating your social media channels and website, and including photos and other news that show job seekers that it’s a successful, welcoming, hard-working and friendly company? If you aren’t, prospective employees may not give your company a second look. On the contrary, you could potentially attract job seekers you normally wouldn’t if you show off your best attributes online.
What have you changed or improved about your hiring practices in recent years? How have you successfully combatted — even if you haven’t completely overcome — labor shortages? Share your ideas with us at email@example.com, and they may be included in an upcoming issue.
Check out the full 2017 State of the Industry Report starting here
Friday, June 5 was the deadline for medical marijuana grower-dispensary hopefuls in New York State to file their applications with the State Department of Health. Early that morning, Kurt Van de Wetering and his team at THC Health Inc. hand-delivered their application, which filled two, 5-inch-thick binders with well over 1,000 pages. THC Health was one of 43 applicants (according to Buffalo Business First) vying for just five licenses being awarded by the state. Now they wait.
Van de Wetering isn’t a cannabis expert, nor does he have a history in cannabis cultivation. His family business, Ivy Acres, grows perennials, ground cover and bedding plants. It’s one of the largest suppliers to Home Depot. The family’s decision to move into the legal cannabis industry involved many considerations — from moral issues to the affect on the family’s existing business, as well as the business opportunities and risks in the growing marijuana industry.
If you’re wondering whether the marijuana industry is for you, you will have just as many considerations as Van de Wetering. To help you get started in understanding some of the opportunities, risks and intricacies of the fledgling and complex market, here are 34 things you should know. Check out the August issue of Greenhouse Management for Part II in this special series, which includes important considerations and tips on taxes, banking and security.
1. The legal cannabis industry is the fastest-growing industry in the United States, reported The Huffington Post in January. The news was based on a revenue report released by cannabis industry research and investment firm The ArcView Group. And, as HuffPo noted, if the trend toward legalization spreads to all 50 states, marijuana could become larger than the organic food industry.
2. The revenue potential is significant. Especially in states where recreational marijuana is legal, the revenue generated continues to capture the attention of the nation, as well as of legislators interested in exploring the potential for their own states and communities. In 2014, Colorado generated $700 million in revenue from cannabis sales, according to a Washington Post analysis of tax data provided by the Colorado Department of Revenue; $386 million of that was generated by medical marijuana sales, and $313 million was from recreational sales.
On a national level, ArcView found that, “The U.S. market for legal cannabis grew 74 percent in 2014 to $2.7 billion, up from $1.5 billion in 2013.”
ArcView projects that number to grow to an estimated $10.8 billion in sales in 2019. (For comparison, the NFL currently brings in $10 billion, according to The Washington Post.) An estimate by GreenWave Advisors projects that if all 50 states legalized marijuana and the federal government ended prohibition, the market could reach $35 billion by 2020.
3. Not all of these states with pending legislation will succeed, however. In fact, most analysts predict that the majority won’t. Rob Kampia, executive director for advocacy and lobbying organization Marijuana Policy Project, told Cannabis Business Times in an interview, “I think that the next states to legalize [recreationally] will be Rhode Island and Vermont through the state legislatures, which has never been done before.” (All recreational legalization has thus far been done through voter-initiated ballot initiatives.) “And then I think that we’ll have a chance at passing legalization initiatives through five [ballot] initiative processes in November of 2016, and that would be California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine,” Kampia says.
He believes those seven are the most likely to pass, and adds, “There’s also opportunity for legalization in other states, it’s just less likely — like Maryland is going to be a little more difficult, but still possible. Delaware is possible. New Hampshire is possible. And then there’s going to be these outlier ballot initiatives that are possible, like Missouri or Michigan or Ohio.”
Ian James, vice president of business development for cannabis consultancy Canna Advisors, offers some insights on the next markets to come “online,” some of which are in the process of implementing already-passed legislation. “New York applications [for medical production] were due June 5. Maryland applications [for medical production] are expected to be submitted in the October time frame,” he says. “Hawaii applications [for medical production] will be due in January 2016…Ohio [recreational] legalization is on the November 2015 ballot. [Recreational] legalization is likely to be on the California 2016 ballot. California has more dispensaries than the rest of the nation combined. When California legalizes, it will be big,” he says.
4. CBD is another growing market. “The Texas governor just signed a CBD bill,” James says.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant that is increasingly being used to treat patients, including children, with severe seizure disorders, such as Dravet Syndrome.
“We have seen similar actions [legalizing CBD-only medical programs] in Georgia and Virginia. These are restrictive programs, but they still represent a starting point, and show that the momentum continues to build. And the plant still needs to be grown, even when the program is restrictive in terms of qualifying conditions and/or allowing only extracted oils,” James explains.
Fifteen states now have CBD-specific medical marijuana programs, according to marijuana-law-reform advocacy organization NORML.
5. Not all states that legalize CBD also legalize cultivation. A number of states, such as Georgia, voted to make it legal for qualifying patients to use CBD, but did not legalize the cultivation of cannabis plants or the distribution of CBD oil. Georgia residents and patients are essentially granted legal “immunity” for bringing CBD oils in from other states.
This type of medical program is contentious, however, in the fact that it requires state residents to illegally transport a controlled substance across state lines. A number of states also have enacted laws that make it illegal to take marijuana, including CBD, out of state. If you’re eyeing up a market that has legalized or will be legalizing a CBD-specific program, make sure the law will allow for cultivation.
6. Opportunity and success depends on the state. “As for setting up a successful business, it depends largely on the state in question and the nature of the medical marijuana program in that state,” James says — or whether recreational marijuana is legal. “You have to model your business to match the market and regulatory environment, and each state is unique.”
7. Even though a state has already been “online,” it doesn’t mean it’s off-limits for new business. Some states limit the number of licenses for both dispensaries and cultivators, and once the application deadline is up, the door is closed. Other states, however, have a more open process and may still be accepting applications, Hollister suggests.
“The trend in the Eastern market seems to be to issue a limited number of licenses — like in New York, where they’re issuing five cultivation licenses for a state of 19 million people; where Colorado probably has 1,000 for a population of 5 million,” he says.
Other state regulations vary by state. It can’t be emphasized enough how different each state is regarding everything from the application process and what that entails, to related fees, taxes on the product, the number of licenses being issued, whether a cultivator must also distribute their own products, and whether municipalities can ban marijuana businesses, Hollister explains.
The application process and getting started
8. Your team is one of the most important considerations for winning a license, says Diane Czarkowski, managing partner of Canna Advisors. “When a new state comes online, it is typically a very competitive state bid process. We see the complexity of the applications increase with most new markets,” she says, as does the level of sophistication and resources of the applicant pool. “Each application cycle is more competitive than the last one. Having the right team to compete is critical to winning one of these state-issued licenses.”
Brett Eaton, director of horticulture at American Cannabis Consulting, agrees that states are putting increasing qualifiers on each applicant’s team, “and success requires a diverse team of operators, medical professionals, scientists, compliance and security personnel, to name a few.”
“Everywhere that has a competitive and restrictive state licensing process in place requires a significant coordinated effort with a team of experts,” says David Bonvillain, who operates Elite Cannabis Enterprise (which operates several cultivation facilities, including a greenhouse operation) in Loveland, Colo., and Elite Botanicals (a sister company focused on non-psychotropic cannabinoid cultivation, research and product development). He adds engineers, architects, quality-assurance and cultivation experts to the list.
“It takes a small army to be successful,” Hollister says. He also mentions the need to involve a business person or persons, a capital partner, and possibly a pharmacist, with those cultivating medical marijuana.
9. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to complete and assemble the application. “Often, this is the hardest point to get across to our clients — the amount of work that goes into the assembly and delivery of the applications,” Czarkowski says. “It actually takes days to assemble — 18- to 24-hour days. Sadly, we have had a few clients that did not allow enough time for assembly and were unable to deliver their applications in time. Imagine the heartache of that missed opportunity!”
Greenhouse advantages, upgrades and transitions
Considerable costs are required to upgrade greenhouses to grow cannabis, but greenhouse growers may also have a leg up on the competition. Here are a number of transitional considerations and potential advantages.
10. You already have a structure in place. While some greenhouse growers may want to build new structures, others may have space in which they can get started. For example, if the market for impatiens is declining and not providing a return on your investment, you may be able to retrofit the space to replace the existing product with cannabis. Somewhat substantial retrofitting will be required, however, as growing cannabis has different requirements than other plants.
11. “The nature of the crop itself” is one of the biggest differences between growing cannabis and growing other crops," James says. “Growing cannabis represents a cross between traditional horticulture and say, perhaps, manufacturing pharmaceuticals or nutritional supplements. It is a tightly controlled, transparent and regulated process.”
In addition, “These plants aren't ornamental flowers. You are propagating from soft-stem cuttings (normally, anyway), and taking the plant all the way to ripening fruit,” Bonvillain says. “So if your previous experience is in a plant that plops into a flat and soon departs the facility, there will be a learning curve.”
12. Controlling the grow environment exceeds the typical. “Cannabis is also a fickle crop, and requires tight environmental controls to maximize yield and potency,” James says. “It is also subject to pest and other contamination issues.”
“Pesticide use is very different [for marijuana], as nearly all other crops have the ability to be physically washed to remove excess pesticides, while cannabis does not have this,” Eaton explains.
Plus, because cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, no pesticides have been approved for use on the plant. The EPA issued guidelines in early June to begin the process of finding solutions to this issue, but experts say it will take time, and collaboration between growers and pesticide companies. As it stands, hyper-controlled environments are essential for preventing pest infiltration.
“To top it all off is the fact that different strains prefer different environmental conditions,” James explains. “Cannabis growers need tightly controlled grow environments with light deprivation, supplemental light, cooling, heating, humidity control, CO2 control and more. Experienced cannabis cultivators want, need and are used to fully controlled environments."
13. Greenhouses can be ideal for cannabis growing. “There is a misconception that you cannot fully control a greenhouse environment, and there are large circles of growers who believe cannabis cannot be grown effectively in greenhouses as a result,” James says. “We know the technology exists, the industry just needs to be educated and see more of it in action.”
14. Expect product testing. Whether you’re growing in a greenhouse or an indoor facility, your product will be required to go through testing for pesticides, mildews and any other contaminants, before it can go out into the market. It is, after all, a consumable product. It also will be tested for THC levels. THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana.
15. Greenhouse growers may have an advantage in mitigating some risk. “Speculative building always presents significant risk,” Eaton says. “I would ensure there were transitional crops that could be cultivated to maintain income stream. Many times [state] programs are changed, adjusted, delayed, and timelines are very hard to predict for when specific states may move to take action.” If greenhouse growers are transitioning existing grow space, this can allow them to be a bit more nimble in the utilization of that space should significant delays arise.
For example, growers had planned to enter the market in Florida, where a constitutional amendment legalizing a limited medical marijuana program was expected to pass in 2014. When the measure failed, any plans to enter the Florida market came to a screeching halt.
16. Greenhouses are poised for growth. American Cannabis Consulting estimates that the current legal cannabis market in the United States is comprised of 90 percent indoor facilities and 10 percent greenhouse facilities, Eaton says. That estimate is higher in Colorado, where they believe 70 percent of the market is indoor facilities and 30 percent is greenhouse. “Long term, this is where we see the market heading. The same levels of quality control can be maintained with the [high-tech] greenhouses being designed for cannabis, and utilizing the sun delivers a COGS [cost of goods sold] that will out-compete indoor cultivation,” Eaton says.
17. Cannabis growing facilities are putting a significant drain on the power grid. One of the reasons greenhouses present an opportunity for the market and could potentially be the norm rather than just a relatively small percentage of facilities is the very significant energy consumption required by indoor facilities (which rely entirely on indoor lighting, and therefore also higher cooling costs to regulate temperatures).
A report by scientist/research analyst and Ph.D. Evan Mills titled, “Energy up in Smoke: The Carbon Footprint of Indoor Cannabis Production,” should give you a pretty clear idea why — especially because these stats are several years old and have likely grown with increasing legalization:
“Indoor cannabis production results in energy expenditures of $6 billion each year.”
The energy expenditures from indoor cannabis production are “six times that of the entire U.S. pharmaceutical industry — with electricity use equivalent to that of 2 million average U.S. homes.”
Indoor cannabis production’s energy expenditures correspond “to 1 percent of national electricity consumption or 2 percent of that in households.”
In fact, as the industry continues to expand, power companies are increasingly faced with challenges to sustain it. “The power grid is not built to support this, and we need to get this into a greenhouse structure,” Hollister says. “The history of the market is that people want it locked up, even as it’s legalized. But power companies may need to make [millions of dollars in] upgrades to even support this.”
18. Consider a multiphase build out. Van de Wetering is starting off with 30,000 square feet of dedicated growing area, which will be existing greenhouse space that is being modified, including light deprivation, he says. “We feel this will cover us for the first couple of years. Then Phase II will be to construct new facilities — with the Board of Health’s approval, as required by state regulations. The new facility might be 40,000 square feet worth of space, with systems in place to expand as we need to,” he explains.
19. Genetics rule. “Genetics play a huge part in this game, and if you don’t have the understanding of various cultivars and market demand, you will be facing an uphill battle,” Bonvillain says. Low-quality product will be challenging to sell in a competitive market, he suggests, and you will “be competing with the bottom of the market in terms of price.”
Considerations for Your Existing Business
20. Expect pushback from your existing customers. “Yes, there’s going to be pushback,” Van de Wetering says. “Our primary customers are big-box retailers, and I don’t know what their corporate stances are on marijuana. But we believe we’re doing the right thing, and it does not slow our vision down or affect Ivy Acres.”
The new medical marijuana business will be kept entirely separate from Ivy Acres’ business, though, as Van de Wetering has established a partnership with a new medical marijuana company THC Health Inc.
21. Determine your position in the market. “We had to think about: ‘Am I an advocate for the industry? Am I only focused on New York or the whole country? Am I an advocate for patients?’ We feel we’re contributing to the greater good,” Van de Wetering says.
22. Cannabis is still an illegal substance on a federal level. This is risk No. 1. Anyone involved in growing or selling marijuana, even in states where it is legal, still faces some risk. Federal raids on state-legal medical marijuana grows, for example, are not unheard of. (More on this in Part II of this series.)
23. Nothing is sacred or safe. Legalization, while on the rise in the United States, still teeters in the balance, and any shift in administration, policy or leaders (from the Attorney General to the DEA administrator to the President) could potentially pull the rug right out from under the entire industry. For example, New Jersey Governor and presidential hopeful Chris Christie has made it clear that if he is elected president in 2016, he will do everything in his power to put an end to marijuana legalization — across the board.
While it also seems that the nation is at a marijuana-legalization tipping point, with more states expected to legalize medical and recreational marijuana during or before the 2016 elections, Kampia explained to Cannabis Business Times the volatile nature of the industry: “I think we’re at a tipping point as long as people don’t assume that tipping point means it’s going to tip in the right direction. In the late 1970s, when Jimmy Carter was president, people said that marijuana decriminalization was at a tipping point, and then it tipped in the wrong direction. So it’s possible that this will tip in the wrong direction again [for legalization]. It kind of depends on how people behave when it comes to advocating for legislation, advocating for ballot initiatives.”
24. Pay attention to zoning and local moratoriums. Although a state may legalize medical or recreational marijuana, most states allow municipalities to decide whether or not to ban marijuana businesses from setting up within local borders. Lawsuits have been filed from cultivation facilities and dispensaries setting up shop, only to be faced with closing down when the county they are in votes to ban marijuana businesses. There are sometimes ways around this, but again, knowing state and local regulations is a must.
Even in Colorado, “Three-quarters of the state’s 271 cities ban marijuana businesses,” reports the Peninsula Daily News.
25. Community and local government support can be crucial. Whether it’s to help prevent bans on marijuana businesses — which largely stem from fear of the impact marijuana businesses will have locally, from a security-risk perspective or just a negative stigma attached to the plant — working as early on as possible to gain the support of the community and town legislators is to your best advantage. “Talk to people from your neighbors to business leaders, county leaders, the chief of police to town board members,” Van de Wetering suggests.
26. Start early and get involved in the rulemaking. Hollister suggests building a network early, from the mayor to the department of health to the department of agriculture. Meet the stakeholders before legislation even passes. Definitely “attend the rulemaking sessions” once legislation does pass. You’ll want to have a say, and you can also “meet people you can work with on advocating for rules,” he adds.
27. Legislation doesn’t mean immediate entrance into the market. Even once legislation passes, you have to anticipate the potential for delays in implementation. Typically, once legislation passes, it can take roughly 18 months to develop all the surrounding regulations and oversight, accept and review applications, award licenses and then allow time for licensed cultivators to grow product to be sold into the market.
However, like everything else in this industry, it all depends on the state. Hawaii, for example, legalized medical marijuana 14 years ago and is just now in the process of establishing a dispensary system for providing access to patients. New Jersey’s medical marijuana program was legalized more than four years ago, and just three “Alternative Treatment Centers” are operational, serving a small fraction of the estimated number of overall patients who would be served by the program. Three additional New Jersey cultivation sites/dispensaries have been in limbo for years.
28. Prepare to win, but also be prepared to lose. “Funds applied to license-acquisition efforts are at risk. There is no guarantee of winning a license,” James stresses. Application fees are typically non-refundable.
Van de Wetering and THC’s application for a New York license ran $10,000, but the fees can run as high as $25,000 (in Illinois), and as low as $250 (Washington), according to a report (“Your State-by-State Guide to Marijuana Licensing and Application Fees”) in Cannabis Business Times.
29. Licenses are an additional cost and usually much steeper than the application fee. If you are awarded a marijuana business license, you then have to also pay for the license — a cost which can run as little as $1,000 (Washington) or as high as $200,000 (Illinois), reports Cannabis Business Times, with most states skewing toward the higher end of the cost spectrum.
30. You have to renew your license. Like a liquor license, annual renewals are required, and, of course, there is a fee for that. Renewals can run from $1,000 to $100,000.
31. You may have to operate a dispensary. As Van de Wetering experienced in New York, cannabis growers in many states must distribute their own product — meaning, they must also run a dispensary. This is referred to as “vertical integration.” Check each state’s regulations.
32. Be prepared to demonstrate capacity. “We had to prove we had the capacity to cultivate, extract, bring the product to market,” Van de Wetering says. “We showed schematics, quotes for modifications we will need to have made [to our existing greenhouses].” But, those without existing greenhouse space to be dedicated to growing cannabis can, in some states such as New York, post a bond in lieu of assets. In New York, the bond requirement is $2 million, he says.
33. Regulations can build in additional risk. “There’s a risk even after you’ve done everything,” Van de Wetering notes. “A registration is valid for just two years [in New York]. There’s also a ‘Sunset Clause’ of seven years (after which the state reviews the current regulations). So if we’re not expecting to be profitable until year two or three, that’s a pretty big financial risk.” Again, review the state’s regulations.
34. “It’s not all sunshine, lollipops and bags of gold,” Bonvillain says. “Are you growing a crop that is in high demand and a blatant consumable, which folks will want as much as you can grow? Yes. But if you slip or produce something sub-par, and it gets into the public’s hands…Ouch," he stresses. "Basically, you have to run a successful business using the same fundamentals you would for any business. The capital outlays are significant, and while you can get a much quicker [return on investment] in this industry than you could in almost all others, you can also lose everything just as fast, if not faster.”
Noelle Skodzinski is the editor of Cannabis Business Times (CannabisBusinessTimes.com), a leading national media brand serving businesses in the legal cannabis industry. Cannabis Business Times is owned by Greenhouse Management publisher GIE Media.
After several years of travel and renting, this past summer I purchased the duplex I had been renting, officially becoming a landlord. While it’s been an interesting — and oftentimes challenging — year of being a first-time homebuyer as well as a new landlord, there are many moments that make me grateful for taking the risk.
Over Memorial Day weekend, the Cleveland weather finally cooperated enough for the summer gardening season to officially begin. I was excited to get out and start digging, designing and potting up the great plants I’d received. As my tenant, a first-time renter, lives on the first floor, she got to see a lot of me that weekend, cleaning out pots, setting up planters on the stairs next to the porch, putting more perennials in the front and back beds and watering, watering, watering.
On the second day of gardening mayhem, I received a text from her that brightened my whole day. She said that seeing me gardening and putting together planters had given her “garden fever” and she was inspired to go out and buy some plants for her section of the porch. I lent her some empty hanging baskets and planters, and she put together her first combinations. Now, her area is brimming with lush greens and flowers, and even a few tomatoes and peppers, and she’s proud of her first “garden.” Now when we cross paths, we compare notes on our respective plants.
What are we as an industry doing to support new gardeners and inspire garden fever in them? In this month’s cover story, we talked to two young professionals that have a few ideas of what we’re doing well, and what we could be doing better. Karin Walters and Christa Steenwyk of Walters Gardens sound off on the importance of understanding your history in order to keep moving successfully into the future, and how to improve our connection with consumers like my Millennial tenant. Turn to page 18 to read their story.
As you’re taking stock of the spring season and heading to summer trade shows and conferences, I hope you’re able to take some time to relax and reap the fruits of your labor as well. Turn to page 106 for some advice on why it’s important to step away and recharge this summer.
This year’s event featured an updated layout in the newly renovated Columbus Convention Center. Greenhouse Management honored six leaders at its Horticultural Industries Leadership Awards, attendees got an update on genetically engineered petunias, women in horticulture took center stage to tell their stories, and more.
On Sunday evening at Cultivate’17, Greenhouse Management, Nursery Management and Syngenta proudly welcomed six exceptional greenhouse and nursery industry leaders into the Horticultural Industries Leadership Awards (HILA) Class of 2017. We also honored Jim Zampini, a beloved nurseryman who we lost earlier this year. His memory will live on through his many contributions to horticulture during his long career.
This year’s HILA Class of 2017 includes:
Mike Gooder, Plantpeddler
Mark Foertmeyer, Foertmeyer & Sons Greenhouse Co.
Gary Hennen, Oglesby Plants International
Tom Demaline, Willoway Nurseries
Terry Hines, Hale and Hines Nursery
Skeetter McCorkle, McCorkle Nurseries
Get to know these remarkable leaders by reading their stories in the July digital editions of Greenhouse Management (bit.ly/2vQmL1T) and Nursery Management (bit.ly/2vQ70rE). Do you know a leader who deserves to be part of the HILA Class of 2018? Email Karen Varga at firstname.lastname@example.org with the person’s name and how their leadership has impacted the industry.
GE petunia update
Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of AmericanHort, provided an overview and an update on what he called the both surprising and challenging genetically engineered petunias situation during an informal presentation on the show floor. As many are aware, it all began in April when a Finnish researcher became suspicious about the origins of an orange petunia. After investigating the plant, it was discovered that there was foreign DNA from maize in the plant, which gave it its unusual orange color. That prompted breeders from multiple companies, who were unaware they were working with foreign germplasm, to test their genetics, as well as an investigation by the USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Biotechnology Regulatory Services (USDA-APHIS-BRS), which regulates genetically engineered products in the U.S. As of the most recent USDA update on June 28, there are now 50 confirmed and nine suspected petunias and in colors other than orange, from multiple breeding companies. Regelbrugge lamented the “painful economic losses” in the industry, but noted that despite the terrible timing and drama — the USDA guidance came out just before Mother’s Day weekend — retailers were not affected and consumers for the most part were unfazed by the GE plants. AmericanHort’s immediate focus was to work with the USDA and the American Seed Trade Association on testing guidance, and Regelbrugge says it is also working to ensure that this does not impede plant shipments. He said although it is still unknown how the foreign germplasm, which originated from experiments at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in the 1980s, got into commercial breeding programs, the important thing is that the GE petunias pose no risk to humans, animals or the environment. He said although he is “agnostic” on whether GMO is bad or good, he is hopeful that breeders and the USDA could work together to streamline and simplify the regulatory process to prevent this unprecedented situation, and the “loss of good genetics,” from happening in the future.
Leading with energy
Sunday morning was energized by Jon Gordon’s keynote presentation about the power of positive leadership. Gordon, who admits he’s not a naturally positive person, told attendees that it’s possible to learn how to lead with positivity. Here are a few lessons from his presentation:
Focus on the root, not the fruit. Gordon said that if you think of your company like a plant, the fruit is things like profits, while the roots are the people and culture. He told the audience to remember to nurture the roots so that the plant grows strong.
Don’t seek happiness; seek passion and purpose. Gordon said that happiness is a byproduct of passion and purpose, not something to chase. If you’ve lost your passion and purpose, get back to it, he advised.
Be connected to be more committed. Take the time to interact with employees and colleagues to foster deeper connections, which in turn will lead both parties to feel a stronger sense of commitment to the company and each other.
You can’t be both thankful and stressed. In today’s busy, seemingly nonstop world, people are busier and more stressed than ever. Gordon recommended taking a step back and counting your blessings — it’s nearly impossible to complain while you’re being thankful.
Be positive about negativity. While it may seem counterintuitive, great leaders continue to lead with positivity and determination, even through the toughest times. Life is a series of sprints and a boxing match, Gordon said, and much of a leader’s success is due to his ability to keep running and stay positive.
At the end of his presentation, Gordon challenged each member of the audience to choose one word they would embrace for the rest of 2017, such as “serve” or “purpose,” and focus on living out that word. Which word would you choose?
Thirteen women who hold various roles within the horticulture industry participated in the Cultivate’17 panel discussion “Making Strides: Women in Horticulture.” Among the main topics of discussion were:
The unique roles of women in the industry. Suzi McCoy, president of Garden Media Group, said the end consumer often fits into the demographic of 45 to 65-year-old women. “We know what we’re looking for, we know what women want, we know what we’re all about,” she said. “Women bring to the table what the companies need to provide products and services and the plants to fill those needs of the customer.” Although she recognizes that the end consumer is often women, Marta Maria Garcia, marketing director at Costa Farms in Miami, reminded her fellow panelists that business-to-business professionals in the industry need to remember that they are often still dealing with men. “I think that if you just commit, and you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you can sell anything to anybody,” she said.
The gender wage gap. Anne Leventry, president of PanAmerican Seed, began her career at Ball Horticultural in human resources. Having a background in HR, she has seen that men often start new jobs receiving higher pay than their female counterparts, and then continue to get paid more throughout their time at a company. “The most important time to negotiate anything related to your salary is when you take the job the first time,” she said. The wage gap is not only present in horticulture businesses, but in academia as well, said Dr. Bridget Behe, professor of horticulture marketing at Michigan State University. “In academia, our salaries are a matter of public record, and it is a fact that women in academia earn less than their male counterparts,” she said.
Why there aren’t more women-owned businesses. Barbara Jeffery, president of Jeffery’s Greenhouses in Ontario, Canada, made the observation that, with family-run businesses, there is often a tradition that the oldest son takes over. “Quite frankly, I can think of a couple [examples],” she said. “Even my father, George Jeffery & Son Greenhouses — that was one of our names at one time.” Generally, men dominate the business world, McCoy said, but she noted that the cannabis industry, for instance, is seeing an influx of women business owners. “I think that things have changed now,” she said. “I think there are opportunities for women to own their own business. There are opportunities for women to do anything we want.”
Ken Fisher, CEO of AmericanHort, discussed AmericanHort’s role in the industry and some key initiatives for the association during Monday morning’s keynote address. He noted some of AmericanHort’s goals: work to get more financial resources for horticulture companies to help the industry grow, workforce development and their collaboration with the FFA, and bring the industry together to improve the overall structure.
Politics or policy?
Craig Regelbrugge also addressed the large crowd. Regelbrugge prefaced his address by first talking about the difference between politics and policy, and what the 2016 election means for the industry. “We are in an age of disruption,” he said, comparing the election of Donald Trump as president to the rise of Uber, the ride-share app that has rattled taxi cab companies and drivers. He said there are several reasons why the climate was right for an election of a nontraditional politician.
The next Farm Bill is expected in 2018, and Regelbrugge wants specialty crops to have a seat at the table when it’s being drafted. This representation could make for better research and advocacy.
Regelbrugge hopes to keep representing horticulture in Washington with integrity, knowledge and passion. “It’s about policy, not politics,” he said.