Growing in the Green: Learn more to earn more

May 04, 2010
Written by Melhem Sawaya
Not many things these days are secure and, come to think about it, they never have been. We live in a changing world, and with changing circumstances that impact us every day. Many of these changes are positive, but some are strong enough to pull us backward. These circumstances could even be the same to different people, while the effects are vastly different. Whether the circumstances are positive or negative depends on the situation we are in at that time.

3266-Networking
 
Grower Day has always provided extensive networking opportunities.
 
3266-Grower-Day-09-crowd
 
Attendance has always been strong at Grower Day. 
 
3266-The-Panel-Two
 
Last year’s Grower Day featured a poinsettia panel discussion with, left to right, Jack Williams (Ecke Ranch), Stefan Reiner (Selecta), Dr. Harvey Lang (Syngenta), and Dr. Allan Hammer (Dummen).

 
How strong we establish ourselves, our family, our business and our relationships is a major factor in how we face, adjust to and create an opportunity out of every change. The key factor in having that strength is the applied knowledge that produces results in the near future.

There is always a better way of doing things. If I am doing a certain procedure the same way, year after year, I get the feeling I am missing something, an improvement of some sort to what I am doing.

To find what it takes to improve a certain process requires the drive and the unquenched thirst for seeking knowledge and then applying it. By no means is my drive just to change things; as it is also to find improvements.

JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING IS NEW DOESN’T MEAN IT IS BETTER; CHECK IT OUT
Acquiring new knowledge in performing a certain process does not mean the old way is wrong. I will definitely not change the old method until I apply the new information and prove its advantage.

Whether the new information is better or not, we always learn by trying different things and, in the process, our bank account of knowledge increases. Knowledge is one of the noble commodities no one can take away from us. Knowledge is a treasure that proves very useful in everyday life and especially in our field of work where knowledge is the strongest commodity we can possess, as long as we apply it.

By no means am I trying to get philosophical, but the reality is that successful people are always seeking ways to improve their status. It comes down to acquiring knowledge and applying it in a prudent way.

There are many sources for acquiring knowledge in our industry but nothing can take the place of first-hand, face-to-face speakers in an informal setting where communication is wide open.

This is why Greenhouse Canada magazine felt so strongly about the usefulness of educational sessions some 15 years ago that they implemented their plan to put on a day of useful, practical information that would increase our knowledge bank. Yes, some of us will acquire more from a speaker than others will, but I guarantee that anyone who does not attend meetings such as Greenhouse Canada Grower Day or the Canadian Greenhouse Conference, or the like, will not add a thing to their bank of knowledge.

NO ONE KNOWS IT ALL – TAKE TIME TO LEARN WHAT’S NEW
In my almost 32 years in the greenhouse industry, I have seen many operations grow and flourish while some became weaker and disappeared. However, one thing I noticed very distinctly was that the owner/manager of an operation who acted like they knew it all and didn’t thirst for new information they could apply is not in business any more, even though they were a top grower less than 10 years ago.

The information age is changing fast; if you don’t keep up, you’ll miss the boat.

Yes, this is a “commercial message” to attend next month’s completely revamped Greenhouse Canada Grower Day. I can tell you first-hand that attending any meeting such as this results in the benefits of learning from the speaker, networking among other attendees, and having personal contact with an expert . . . all of which you can draw upon in your daily operations.

I was fortunate that my first employer believed in encouraging employees to advance themselves by acquiring knowledge through different meetings, courses and workshops; many of us took that opportunity to advance ourselves in our workplace and, definitely, it had benefits for the company too.

MANY COMPANIES ARE SHARING THEIR EXPERTISE
Greenhouse Canada Grower Day is not a big money-maker. If it weren’t for the generosity of companies allowing their experts to come and share their knowledge with us, the event would not happen.

I started this Grower Day at the German Hall in Delhi, Ontario, in 1986-87 when I worked at Fernlea Flowers and then continued it with the magazine. I feel sorry for those growers who do not understand the importance of perpetual learning as the foundation for any successful operation.

I got carried away with my “supposed to be” very short introduction to this year’s Grower Day ornamental program, but I have seen the advantages of a big day like this and how it can be one factor in your business success. By the way, no – we don’t have to travel far for information for useful information. Most of the time it is at our door, not far away, and is just as good as or better than the information from across the pond or across the border.

THIS YEAR FEATURES CHANGE IN FORMAT AND VENUE
This year’s program, being held at the Best Western/Brant Park Inn Conference Centre in Brantford, Ontario is a flower program and a vegetable program will be running simultaneously.

The location change is due to the following:

The capability of the two sessions – flower and vegetable – to run simultaneously. This is the first year for a vegetable track. See sidebar story for more details.

More room for exhibitors.

A more central location for commuters from the Leamington, St. Catharines, Toronto and Kitchener areas.

Trade show coordinator (and magazine national advertising manager) Mark Crandon promised the food would be as good, or better, than the German House in Delhi, the previous home for Grower Day.

And, the most important reason: change is good.

The program, as usual, will be very informal and encourages audience questions and participation. The speakers are more than happy to answer any questions. Through the flower session, we will be empowered with knowledge of how to deal with the most serious problem – how to control thrips.

As well, step-by-step instruction will be given with the latest information on how to produce a perfect garden mum crop.

We are not to forget the most important aspect of our business and that is marketing ideas that work.

Petunia varieties, production and use, are explained in a talk that will answer many of your questions.

Have you heard about BotaniGard? Have you used it? Come prepared to share your experiences and hear the experiences of others, along with expert advice on this newer concept of pest control.

Here is a more detailed description of the topics:

The Latest on Thrips Control, with Graeme Murphy, greenhouse floriculture IPM specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Thrips are the number one pest challenge these days and many chemicals are not effective in controlling them. Graeme will discuss every tool that could or would work – from chemicals to biologicals to culture management.

Garden Mums, with Mark Smith of Syngenta. Over 15 years ago, the fall garden mum production and sales increased significantly. This was mainly due to the shift to producing garden mums in all sizes of containers and not to be planted in the garden. Many new varieties are on the market these days and the knowledge of the different responses and how to use them properly determines the success or failure of a crop. Also, temperature, chemical treatments, timing, fertility and growth regulators are all factors in getting the best crop possible. This talk is for every grower, whether they are starting to grow garden mums or have been growing them for many years.

Avoiding and Solving Petunia Problems, with Will Healy of Ball Horticulture. Petunia is among the top crops in usage. This is a fast crop that can turn bad fast, but if you learn the causes, it is much easier to end with a successful crop. Photoperiod, temperature, water management, geographic locations, light levels and timing are all factors that will affect the outcome of your crop. Will is going to share with us all these parameters and how to use them properly.

Marketing in the 21st Century
, with Dave Konsoer of Proven Winners. Good quality product is a must for any greenhouse operation but, what about which product to grow, how to package it, how to price it, how to target customers or even know who is your customer, and how to increase your customer base and still enjoy your operation? Dave will share with us his expertise on these aspects.

Using a Fungus to Control an Insect, with Dr. Michael Brownridge, the research director of Horticultural Production Systems at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. (This is a joint session with vegetable growers.) Biologicals come in many forms: mites, nematodes, bacteria, and fungi. With thrips, whitefly and some aphids, resistant to some chemicals, biologicals are getting more popular . . . not because they are working better but because we are running out of choices in pest treatments. Biological suppliers are throwing predators at us to use in the greenhouse without knowing many of the parameters or “know-how” on how to use them. Nor do they know all the factors that will hinder or improve their effectiveness. With the popularity of these new tools, it is important that you join this group, as Michael will share with us their positive and negative effects.

Melhem Sawaya of Focus Greenhouse Management is a consultant and research co-ordinator to the horticultural industry. Comments on this or any other article are always welcome; please e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit www.focusgreenhousemanagement.com or www.sawayagardentrials.ca.

Maximizing yields, quality in your vegetable crops
In addition to the joint session on Beauveria bassiana led by Dr. Michael Brownbridge, other vegetable session speakers and their topics include:

Dr. Cynthia Scott-Dupree, a professor in the School of Envrionmental Sciences at the University of Guelph, will talk about “Bumble Bee Sustainability in Greenhouses: Making the Right Pesticide Choices.” Pollination by bumble bees is an important component in the growing of greenhouse tomatoes and peppers, ensuring enhanced yields of a high-quality, marketable product. In situations where insecticides or fungicides need to be used in the greenhouse to control insect pests or pathogens, it is important to know whether there are reduced-risk pesticides that can be chosen to protect the bee colonies.

Cees VandenEnden, a former grower and now industry consultant heading HortiSource Consulting Inc., will talk about new innovations in the vegetable sector. Cees will provide an update on the latest technologies involving greenhouse structures, climate control, energy usage and energy savings. He will also discuss the “Het Nieuwe Telen,” or “The New Way of Growing,” looking at strategies that have their roots in closed and semi-closed green-houses that have been adapted to use in standard greenhouses.

Phil Johnson
, the Canadian business manager for Grodan, will focus on rootzone management. He will discuss various influences, along with tools growers have at their disposal and how they can maximize them to achieve a strong, healthy and active rootzone throughout the life of the crop. He will review how changing the conditions within the rootzone in relation to water content and EC can be used to control and manipulate the development of plants to maintain balanced growth for maximum production and quality.

Gillian Ferguson
, OMAFRA’s greenhouse vegetable IPM specialist, will outline good cleanup techniques to reduce pest pressures. A good cleanup for the spring crop is essential to minimize any carryover of pests and disease-causing organisms. By understanding how some of them overwinter and carry over into the following season, growers can adopt appropriate strategies to reduce such problems, thereby delaying the start of pest and disease problems in the new season.

Shalin Khosla
, OMAFRA’s greenhouse vegetable crop specialist, will highlight “Greenhouse Sector Innovations to Improve Efficiency.” He will talk about changes that have occurred to improve greenhouse vegetable production, maintain efficiency and manage the greenhouse climate, and minimize impact on the environment.

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