Thursday, February 02, 2012

Business Thoughts in Horticulture

Thursday, February 2, 2012

22.5° here on the mountain this morning with a 4 mph breeze and a slow-to-start sunrise above Peacham Pond. There's a while left before the sun really gets going and the weatherman says expect to see lots of gray clouds by 7:30. It's Groundhog Day too and that's a different story as the very few woodchucks we have around here are fast asleep and not thinking at all about any media hype with guys wearing protective, bite-proof gloves and stovepipe hats and yanking their round, buggy eyed brethren out of sleep for the cameras. I'm sure you've seen this courageous behavior before.

The news has been all politics but my horticulture trade magazines spend January trying to project what the summer will bring. Gail and I read the forecasts in various journals and then spend a little time researching weather forecasts from continents far away. We usually do quite well with the forecasts and less well with the outcomes. Last summer was the worst.

I just read a brief and also general economic view in Nursery Management Magazine. There are clearly some positives from a government perspective but I'm not seeing it in Vermont. I stopped last night for gas and it was at $3.59.9 for Unleaded. A year ago yesterday the national average was $3.10, a month ago it was $3.26, yesterday it was $3.42 nationally but just the same I pumped in $85 to get to "F". A warm winter so far has kept heating oil costs under $4.00 a gallon here, and all the costs associated with running the winter sports industry in the east that consumes a lot of energy has flattened due to lack of snow. Internationally there are big and little challenges. China is gobbling a bunch of oil, Israel is short on natural gas as it's in between fields with one almost out and another half a year away from coming on line. The list goes on but it all impacts on US prices. What that means to horticultural endeavors is that sales will repeat 2011 at best and food sales will continue to rise with diesel prices.

We can preach "Buy Local" and we should as that effort is beginning to show more merit to buyers. The problem is getting people to change behaviors and think more about what they are doing. Yesterday in a grocery store I noticed large packages of flowers and pussy willows for sale for 3 packages for $15. It costs us $3. 95 a package equivalent just to grow those so by the time you account for harvest, packaging, delivery or waste/non-sale you almost have the store's sale price in costs. Not a good thing. As you shop, continue to learn about local resources and buy locally whenever you can. Be kind and don't ask for a discount before you start shopping.


Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where blue jays scold me repeatedly for empty feeders as mourning doves compete with red squirrels for the leftovers on the ground. Gotta scoot, hungry birds beckon.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens and also as George Africa
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Here to help you grow your green thumb!

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