Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Gentlemen's Agreement

A great session at Short Course focused on contract growing, and paired two large operations with two smaller operations that supply them. All four growers on the panel agreed that a good relationship and communication between all the players is key.

Bobby Barnitz describes the arrangement his operation has selling plugs to Gary Mangum’s Bell Nursery as a gentlemen’s agreement. With Mangum’s network of family growers, the relationship is a bit more formalized, and he says he has a commitment to take product from these growers no matter the situation. With growers like Barnitz, though, Mangum says he expects growers to work with Bell to get plants to market.

Once they are to market, Mangum makes sure they sell. Bell nursery invests $7 million per year in personnel in the 180 Home Depot stores the operation supplies, taking care of plants and answering questions.

Heartland Growers has started using a contract system because it’s seen more growth than in can handle in its current facilities. Its contract grower, Crossroads Greenhouse, helps the operation meet customer demands, and can focus on its niche of blooming potted crops. Nick Gapinski of Heartland says the relationship between the two operations is a casual back and forth.

“If you grow it, we’ll take it,” he said.

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