Helping Big Growers Grow Bigger By Tim Hodson

Growers of all sizes face a myriad of challenges in today’s economy, but big growers are facing some really big challenges.

That’s why we created the Big Grower Executive Summit: to help big growers overcome those challenges and be more successful.

In February, 25 growers from around the country met in Charlotte, N.C., for our second annual summit. The theme for this year’s event, produced by Big Grower and the Visions Group, was “Margins and Profits in a Big Box World.” The sponsors of this year’s conference were Fafard, Goldsmith Seeds, Rough Brothers, Summit Plastic Co. and Syngenta.

Seeking Solutions

The 2009 Executive Summit kicked off with a keynote address from Anna Ball, president/CEO of Ball Horticultural Co. She talked about how growers could weather and even capitalize on today’s economic crisis.

During the 21/2-day conference, growers heard about the latest consumer trends from StandPoint Marketing Research’s Kip Creel and Michigan State University’s Dr. Bridget Behe, while Bell Nursery’s Gary Mangum provided attendees with an overview on how his company works with network growers to serve big box retailers such as Home Depot in Maryland and Ohio. (For more on the “Bell Model,” see October 2008’s Big Grower).

The current state of the banking industry is more confusing than ever for growers. In an effort to help navigate the financial maze, Executive Summit participants had the opportunity to hear several different presentations on how growers can work with their financial institutions to get the biggest bucks from their banks and what they can expect from the global economy in the coming months.

Big Grower contributor Dr. Charlie Hall, Ellison Chair at Texas A&M University, provided attendees with excellent insight on how to manage risk in today’s economic environment. Hall offered a grower’s perspective on the economy and how it may impact the industry.

There was also an interesting discussion on how large growers are using the Internet to help their businesses, both in and out of the greenhouse.

We will be highlighting some of the presentations from the conference in upcoming issues of Big Grower, in our special series, “Insights from the Big Grower Executive Summit.” The series kicks off this month with Kip Creel’s article, “All About Jobs,” on page 16.

Going to the Grower

Metrolina Greenhouses’ Abe and Art Van Wingerden were our gracious hosts for an in-depth tour of their operations in Huntersville, N.C.

Metrolina is the largest single-site growing operation in the United States. Even though it was only February, the greenhouse was buzzing. You can learn more about Metrolina in Darhiana Mateo’s article, “Cream of the Crop,” on page 6.

While we were at Metrolina, the Visions Group’s Dave Edenfield moderated a town hall-style meeting with Abe VanWingerden and Lowe’s Vice President of Live Goods Mike Gettler. In a candid discussion, Gettler discussed how the home improvement retailer views our segment of its business as well as what expectations Lowe’s has for its lawn and garden vendors.

Plans are currently under way for the 2010 Big Grower Executive Summit. Watch future issues of Big Grower for more details.

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Tim Hodson

Tim Hodson is the editorial director of GPN and Big Grower. He can be reached at [email protected]

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