Expanding the Brand
By Dave Harrison
August 2016 – Do greenhouses have distinct brand recognition?
Within the industry, the answer would be a resounding “yes.”
But do consumers have that same valuation?
Even though crops are grown under glass/plastic, it’s still pretty much a mystery for most people driving by. They don’t see the technology, growing systems, automation and space-age environmental control.
And this is why we’re such big fans of open houses. There should be more of them, to welcome consumers for a few hours each year.
Whenever we’ve attended such events we’re so impressed by the crowds they attract.
Our first experience was in 2009 at the centennial celebrations for the AgCanada research centre in Harrow, Ontario. Featured were extensive tours and demonstrations throughout the day. And while the field crops were popular, there were shoulder-to-shoulder crowds in the greenhouses. Neighbours from the surrounding area were keen to take it all in, mesmerized by the presentations on the latest research given by the AgCanada team and their OMAFRA colleagues.
This is an industry that turns heads…when the doors are open.
My most recent experience was in June at the open house for the new greenhouses at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. Several hundred residents attended for an afternoon of touring, totally enthralled by the science on display and the range of innovation being explored.
Greenhouses showcase leading edge technology.
British Columbia has hosted BC Greenhouse Day the past few years, which this year included open houses by several growers. The public was welcomed for about four hours on a Saturday.
The Maritimes hosts Open Farm Day in September, with many greenhouses taking advantage of the opportunity to welcome consumers.
The Netherlands has long pioneered greenhouse open houses, including a special program geared to children now in its third year. Some 30 classes registered this year.
Nature Fresh Farms, based in Leamington, has its Greenhouse Education Centre, a custom-built, 38-foot-long mobile micro-greenhouse attraction. It travels extensively throughout eastern North America attending community events, schools, summer camps and connecting with consumers at retail events.
What goes on inside greenhouses fascinates consumers. They welcome the chance to check things out, to gain a little more understanding of the greenhouse brand.
The greenhouse sector is very adept at marketing products, but the challenge is in marketing the sector. We need to increase the buzz over the exciting range of products grown indoors throughout Canada, to help retailers win over more customers.
What if a wholesale bedding plant grower held an open house a month before the spring season to give gardeners a preview of what’s in store for them in a very few weeks?
And if open houses are too difficult to host, online video presentations or community outreach programs by staff would also work, taking the message to schools and community associations.
The greenhouse brand is impressive. The more that message is circulated, the better the market opportunities. Consumers will take note.