Are You Optimistic for ’08? By Tim Hodson

I have spent quite a bit of time in the past couple of months visiting large and small growers and grower/retailers across the United States to find out how their 2007 has been and what they foresee in 2008.

As mentioned in previous columns, 2007 has been incredibly bizarre, from the capricious state of the economy to the unpredictable weather, which has helped spark devastating wildfires and droughts. Growers have had to face a multitude of challenges that no one could have predicted.

But I am continuously amazed at the resilience and tenacity of all of you growers out there. The fortitude and willpower that you demonstrate every single day in spite of the aforementioned craziness is admirable.

Recently, I was in Florida visiting one large grower, and we got to talking about the current state of the industry and how positive he was about the coming year. “All of us growers are optimists. We have to be!” he told me. As challenging as this year has been, he said growers had some great opportunities ahead of them and that he couldn’t wait for the New Year.

Looking at some of the comments from the growers impacted by California’s recent wildfires in Associate Editor Darhiana Mateo’s article “Forging Ahead After the Flames” on page 20, you can see how, despite these horrific events, even they are looking forward to the new year.

Mark Collins, owner of Evergreen Nursery, probably summed it up best: “The [California wildfires] made me mad… But I don’t care about things that are gone… I am not much of a looking back kind of guy.”

While optimism reigns throughout the industry, most are still pragmatic as they plan for next year. The drought in the Southeast is forcing many growers to re-evaluate the way they operate. In Darhiana’s article “Surviving the Drought” on page 26, some growers are a bit apprehensive about 2008, but they have definitely learned from the obstacles they faced in 2007. As Chris Butts of Charmar Flowers told GPN, “The silver lining [in the drought] is that maybe we will be better positioned in the future to deal with this.”

Obviously there are no sure things in this business. In fact, if you could predict the future, the fastest way to get the best return on your investment would be to buy a winning lottery ticket. But that probably won’t happen, so let’s hope that perseverance and learning from your past experiences — while keeping an eye on the future — will set the stage for a good 2008.

Will It Be a Green 2008?

Another issue growers need to address is sustainability. If you are an optimist, “growing green” offers you new opportunities. If you are a pessimist, sustainability is a burden and just the current buzzword. If you are a realist, then you have already started making plans on how you will implement and embrace eco-friendly business and production techniques throughout your company.

As the industry continues to sort out how to “standardize” on this issue, check out Stan Pohmer’s column, “Sustainability — Shaping Tomorrow,” on page 40 to gain some more insight into this complex and continually changing issue.

In 2008, everyone in the industry, including GPN, will be discussing, in-depth and at length, sustainability and what it means to growers and retailers. It is here to stay: Are you ready for it?

So, What’s in Your Crystal Ball?

What do you see in your crystal ball for the new year? Do you anticipate bigger and better things for your business, or will it be more of the same? Are you planning on making any major changes in the way you operate? What are you doing to address the sustainability issue?

How about for the industry as a whole? What macro-level issues do you see changing for the better — or for the worse — that will affect everyone in the industry? What will we be saying 12 months from now about the year that was 2008?

Drop me a line at, and let me know what you are thinking.

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