Monday, July 14, 2008

The Certification Debate Rolls On

Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, N.C., earned VeriFlora certification today, and in a session titled "The Journey to Certification," co-owner Abe Van Wingerden shared thoughts on why his operation pursued sustainability certification.

The decision to pursuing certification isn't simply made for the sake of doing it, he says, and waiting for a national sustainability standard is not the right answer.

"You need to be ahead of the curve, not behind it," says Van Wingerden, whose company began the certification process in November 2007. "We're not doing it just because someone told us to. The process made us internally better. So that $10,000 investment might have led to $100,000 in savings."

Metrolina has not, however, found a way to generate sales from VeriFlora through marketing. At this stage, most consumers simply don't know what VeriFlora is, Van Wingerden says.

"We haven't found that piece that draws in the consumers," he says. "We don't see this as the additional stamp that's going to allow us to make sales off it."

Chris Schlegel, head grower at D.S. Cole Growers in Gilmanton, N.H., says sustainability certification has also helped helped her company better organize itself. D.S. Cole Growers was recently certified by MPS, and Schlegel offered some positive thoughts of her own on pursuing certification.

"We strived to be good environmental stewards, we wanted to reduce employee exposure to pesticides and we saw there was a potential to use certification as a marketing tool," she says.

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