Greenhouse Canada

Features Business Grower Profiles
Editorial: November 2014 – Leadership succession

October 22, 2014
By Dave Harrison


One of the key issues in agriculture is succession planning. It’s usually a topic of discussion wherever growers meet. And the standard take-away advice is that you can never start too soon on the transition. Succession planning and successful planning are interchangeable terms.

I first stepped into the industry one cold and dreary February morning in 1996. (I don’t have full recall of the occasion, but “cold and dreary” is a safe description of any day in any February in southwestern Ontario; that’s why Mother Nature made it the shortest month.) I was all of 39 years of age, a career journalist of some 17 years or so.

This past spring, Greenhouse Canada launched its inaugural “Top 10 Under 40” awards program, focusing on the age group. Not pretending or deluding myself for a moment that I would have merited a nomination had the program been around in 1996, I can still relate to the mindset of being part of the “younger generation” of industry enthusiasts (though I was decidedly at the tail end of the group).


To anyone entering the greenhouse sector, either at an advanced age of 39 or someone fresh out of school, this is in industry brimming with potential. It is continually on the cusp of leading edge technologies, many of them developed in Canada. The industry is widely supported because it has products that feed our bellies and/or our souls.

The Class of 2014 Top 10 Under 40 winners represent hundreds of like-minded horticulturists who are making industry succession so seamless. We were overwhelmed with the quality and calibre of all this year’s Top 10 Under 40 nominations. Narrowing them down to ten was difficult. Generally speaking, we were looking for nominees who:

  • Demonstrate a strong work ethic.
  • Show leadership and initiative.
  • Actively seek new opportunities for training and education.
  • Are involved in industry associations.

This year’s Top 10 Under 40 and their colleagues will face increasing challenges over the next few years.

Markets are growing, but margins have not kept pace. The millenials will be a challenging customer base to grow. They literally have information at their fingertips.

Labour costs are rising? What will be the new areas of automation and mechanization?

The “Buy Local” mantra offers new opportunities for those working towards year-round production. What new products can be grown?

What is the future and/or potential of urban agriculture, and what role will greenhouses play?

Sincere congratulations to all the nominees in this year’s Top 10 Under 40. In an industry of continual change and advancement, it’s clear that leadership succession is in very good hands.