As soon as it was announced that I would be taking the reins of GPN, I started lobbying for two things: a readership survey and some road trips. Having a background in consumer publishing makes me keenly aware of the reader. So I wanted to know what was on the minds of GPN’s readers – what issues affect their businesses, who is succeeding and how … what’s happening "on the front line," so to speak.
Our readership survey mailed the first of January to a random sampling of U.S. growers, and we appreciate those of you who were able to respond. (If you didn’t get a survey, give me a call; I would love to put your opinion into the mix.) You should notice us fine-tuning the magazine over the next few months to reflect those items you listed as most important.
Hitting the Road in Florida
One of the best parts of my job is getting out in the field. So, early last month, GPN’s consulting editor Jim Barrett and I took to the road for what he called a "Whitman Sampler of Florida Greenhouse Production." We saw a little bit of everything: cut flower production, foliage operations, specialty greenhouses, plant breeders … well, you get the picture.
Even among this varied group, there were some common concerns. Heating costs, drought and the harsh winter temps topped the list, but there were also other, less seasonal concerns – making a living growing plants, finding good workers and identifying beneficial new products.
I think Alex Salazar, the operations manager at American Farms, Naples, Fla., typifies many growers. Alex puts a lot of time and energy into producing a beautiful crop of bedding plants and perennials to ship to mass marketers such as Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot. (And since this is my first column, I’m not going to get into what working with those guys is like for growers.)
Alex walked around his plots with us and talked about the different products he is trialing: a new growth regulator on some bedding plants, a wetting agent on a few perennials (See pg. 16 for A.R. Chase’s article on how wetting agents affect fungicide efficacy.), a spray on these versus an early drench on those. Finding the right formula of sun and water and chemicals was extremely important to this man who takes pride in his crop.
And while the growers we saw in Florida were educating me, they were getting a bit of education from Jim as well. With lots of new poinsettia varieties just released, Jim was a welcome source of information about new varieties and growing programs and, of course, growth regulator application. Those of you who haven’t gotten a one-on-one with the master lately, will appreciate his article about consumer preferences of new poinsettia varieties on pg. 34.
Since the University of Florida has established such a nice support system for its researchers, we stopped at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center. This is where Dr. Brent Harbaugh, whose photo is featured on this month’s cover, is doing some exciting work with lisianthus. Brent and his colleagues are testing chemicals for use against a new fusarium that is attacking lisianthus (see pg. 26 for more information about this research), but most of his efforts are focused on developing new lisianthus varieties. A white and purple variety of his called Florida Silver will be available this year from Ball, and it is beautiful.
I would like to extend my thanks to the Florida growers who opened their facilities and shared their knowledge with me: American Farms, Yoder Brothers, Manatee Fruit Co., University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, Shore Acres Nursery, Bradford Botanicals and Suncoast Greenhouses. I would have loved to stop at more places, but time was limited. I look forward to meeting more of you on my next greenhouse tour, which will be later this month. Jim and I will take to the road again the last week in March to check out some operations in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.
Until then, please feel free to contact me with your questions, comments, praise or criticism.