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Growing in the Green: Checking for changes that pay

May 1, 2013  By Melhem Sawaya

Few things ever stay the same for very long.

Few things ever stay the same for very long. We live in a constantly changing world. Many of these changes are a boost to us, but some are strong enough to pull us backward.

Watering technologies are constantly evolving. 



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

We all need an unquenched thirst for seeking knowledge that must then be applied. By no means is my drive simply to change things as much as it is to find improvements.

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 something no one can take away from us. It is a treasure that is 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 themselves. 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 listening to speakers in an informal setting where communication is wide open. Greenhouse Canada’s Grower Day allows for one-to-one conversations with some of the leading experts in their fields. Got a tough question? Bring it to Grower Day!

Collecting rainwater as part of an effective water management plan.


Greenhouse Canada felt so strongly about the usefulness of hosting an annual grower day 15 years ago that it implemented a plan to put on a day of useful, practical information that would increase our knowledge banks. Some of us will acquire more from a speaker than others, 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. The industry will leave them behind.

In my almost 34 years in the greenhouse industry, I have seen many operations grow and flourish while some became weaker and disappeared. However, one thing I have observed is that any owner/manager who acted like they knew it all and didn’t thirst for new information is not in business any more … even though they were a top grower less than 10 years ago.

Yes, this is a “commercial message” to attend next month’s Grower Day. It’s been my experience that attending such meetings has many benefits, including the information presented by the speakers, networking with attendees, and meeting with experts … 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 used the opportunity to advance ourselves in our workplace. It definitely has benefits for the company, too.

If it weren’t for the generosity of companies allowing their experts to come and share their knowledge with us, Grower Day would not happen.

I started the first Grower Day in 1986-87 while working at Fernlea Flowers, and have helped Greenhouse Canada with the more recent editions.

I feel sorry for those growers who do not understand the importance of continual learning as the foundation for any successful operation.

I have got carried away with what I hoped would be a short introduction to this year’s event, but I have seen the advantages of a big day like this and how it can be an important factor in the success of your business.

We don’t have to go far to get good information. Local events often offer information as good as or better than the information available across the border or across the pond.

Grower Day is being held June 19 at the Holiday Inn Parkview Conference Centre, 327 Ontario St., in St. Catharines, Ontario.
The program, as usual, will be very informal. The speakers are more than happy to answer questions. Here are some highlights of the topics that will be covered.

Greenhouse environment, by Albert Grimm, Jeffery’s Greenhouses –
We grow plants in a greenhouse so we can achieve a controlled environment that helps us grow the best possible crops at an effective cost. Almost every greenhouse has an environmental computer. However, it’s how we use these computers that could be the critical asset in growing a great crop. Grimm will share his expertise and experience that will help every grower consider and apply some of the proven practices.

Downy mildew update, by Wayne Brown, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs – Impatiens was the crop that singlehandedly boosted the bedding plant industry in the early 1980s. However, today it is being threatened by downy mildew to the point that production is down by over 25 per cent compared to last year, in my estimation. Brown will discuss the types of impatiens that are susceptible to downy mildew and what other crops could be affected. He will also explain how growers can do our part to minimize the impact of this disease.

Biofungicides, by Dr. Anissa Poleatewich, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre – Many growers are using biological control for insects. Where do you stand with the use of biofungicides – what works and what doesn’t work for you? Do you use biofungicides as the “Aspirin” in case you have a headache, or the “Aspirin” to prevent a heart attack, or are you targeting a specific disease?

Poleatewich will highlight some of her extensive research on biofungicides.

California Spring Showcase review, by Melhem Sawaya of Focus Greenhouse Management –
The California Showcase, more commonly called the California Spring Trials, is home to the latest introductions from breeders. It also features great marketing ideas, concepts and strategies. I will share with you the new introductions, their usefulness or uselessness (in my opinion!), and what looks promising for the 2014 season.

Water Management, a vegetable grower’s experience, by Simcoe, Ont., grower Eric Haverkamp – They use well water, runoff water, rainwater and two ponds – a very simple and practical system. Haverkamp has been growing peppers for over 25 years. Sometimes we complicate efforts to overcome challenges and lose track of the many simple – and just as effective – solutions. Haverkamp will share his experiences with water management for a crop sensitive to diseases.

Water management, a flower grower’s experience, by Ralph DeBoer of Rosa Flora –
Rosa Flora is one of the largest cut flower operations in Canada, if not the largest. Water management is a major focus for the company, and one at which they have developed considerable expertise. DeBoer will share what has worked for their operation and what they are still working on.

Water management, a consultant’s experience, by Lloyd Rozema of Aqua Treatment Technologies – Rozema has designed many wetland filtration projects for small and large operations. He will share with us the main steps for effective wetland filtration, and what is involved in creating such systems.

Water management panel discussion – Haverkamp, DeBoer and Rozema will be joined by Wayne Brown to handle audience questions. It is only through such discussions and information sharing that we can tackle this important issue.

In addition to the speakers, a mini trade show will showcase the latest products and services. A luncheon will provide ample time for networking. We look forward to seeing you on June 19 in St. Catharines!

Melhem Sawaya of Focus Greenhouse Management is a consultant and research coordinator to the horticultural industry. Comments on this or any other article are always welcome; please send to, or visit or .

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