Inside View: May 2019
Success in new crops
April 17, 2019 By Gary Jones
So, the themes for this issue included ‘cut flowers, cannabis, and new crops’. I figured that I should simply ask a group of growers if they think cannabis is the most promising new legal cut flower and leave it at that. But then I’d still have another 643 words to write.
I recently took a class of production diploma students to visit a couple of leading greenhouse floriculture and potted crop businesses, including Quik’s Farm and Rainbow Greenhouses.
Quik’s Farm Ltd was started by Harry and Lydie Quik in 1990, initially in seasonal potatoes and cedar hedging. They introduced a cut flower program to supplement these less labour-intensive crops and built their first glasshouse in 1995 for oriental lilies, lisianthus, and mums. Adding other indoor crops (e.g. ranunculus), they also seasonally grow carnations, statice, snapdragon, and sunflowers outdoors.1
Quik’s focus was on optimizing efficiency and capacity by applying new technology and employing a sales and marketing plan, supplying the highest quality cut flowers to a diverse range of customers and through their own on-site floral shop. They currently grow in nearly 10 acres of high-tech glasshouses and 20 acres outdoor, aiming to “Provide Flowers with Impact”.1
Stan and Wilma Vander Waal began Rainbow Greenhouses in 1985 brokering potted plants and cut flowers into the Seattle area. Rainbow quickly moved into wholesale/brokerage for Northern B.C. and Alberta, and in 1988, purchased the current location in Chilliwack, BC. In 2003, Rainbow acquired 150,000 sq. ft. of greenhouses from Rosedale Greenhouses (now expanded to 360,000 sq. ft.). In 2005, greenhouses were added in southern Alberta (now about 1,000,000 sq. ft.) and a large expansion at Chilliwack followed to now over 530,000 sq. ft. greenhouses plus shipping, propagation and other facilities.2
Rainbow is committed to providing the highest quality indoor, outdoor and seasonal plants, and partners with local greenhouses to custom grow specialty crops. They aim to lead in every aspect of their business, including technology, environmental stewardship and industry involvement. Automation is important in completing daily tasks, but Rainbow hasn’t lost sight of their most valuable asset: their 200+ employees who make it all work.2
So what? Well, there are many lessons in success to be learned from these companies. When it comes to ‘new crops’, do your homework, but don’t be afraid. Quik’s went from potatoes and hedging to greenhouse lilies and lisianthus. And they continue to always be on the lookout for new crops to add to their portfolio.
When it comes to new product lines or new varieties, both companies keep an eye on variety trials, visit overseas (Netherlands and elsewhere), listen to customers ideas, continually do their own trials, and get creative themselves. There are no simple tricks, no shortcuts. Keep running to stay ahead.
Both companies aim for the highest quality products possible while using technology to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Quik’s and Rainbow epitomize this attitude. Chris Brown (Rainbow Greenhouses’ production manager) told students to “Do what you do well, farm out other business to those who do it better”. Which is how they recently moved into cut flowers.
Chris introduced us to ‘The Beast of Marketing’. The ‘Head’ and ‘Shoulders’, (the thick part of the Beast), in marketing terms are commodity items such as red geraniums or pansy packs: high volume, low margin. Moving down the Beast, we find the ‘Tail’, where sales volume thins – unique or new items, new varieties or different colours.
Chris also reminded students that “The world is run by those who show up”. While referring to all facets of life, in horticultural terms Rainbow is a leading example of this concept. Owner Stan Vander Waal is currently President of the BC Agriculture Council (BCAC), “a non-profit, non-governmental ‘Council of Associations’ representing nearly 30 farm associations that in turn generate 96 per cent of [BC] provincial farm gate sales.”3 In giving back his time, experience and knowledge in this service position, Stan is helping guide policy and procedures on behalf of many areas of broader agriculture. It’s no wonder companies like these are successful with such people at the helm.
Gary Jones is co-chair of Horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langley, BC. He sits on several industry committees and welcomes comments at
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