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10 Steps for Recovering From Disaster

When the early winter snow storm hit western New York State with more than a year’s worth of snow in 3 days, roofs of houses came down, cars were buried, people were stranded, and some greenhouses collapsed. These events are traumatic and heart breaking and it is easy to wonder how on earth you would get through such a disaster.  

At different times and in various parts of the world greenhouse businesses have suffered from extreme snow loads, fires, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. Often the business owners and families have rebuilt and come out of it strong.

When all is lost, take heart, you can get through this.  Here are 10 steps to help move your greenhouse business forward.

 

  1. Understand that it is okay to grieve.
    • Greenhouse businesses are family businesses, and losing your business is personal, and emotional.
    •  “I’ve had growers break down in tears. It is emotionally draining for everyone, including me, because I really feel for these people who have had everything destroyed. “Greg Ackland the GGS representative in New York State has helped several growers recover from storm damage.    
  2. Find something to be grateful for
    • In times of crises most people find it helpful to cherish what they have.  Through the recent damage growers repeatedly said “Thank god we didn’t lose any lives”.
    • Be grateful for family, friends, and neighbors. The agricultural community is always quick to help out.
  3. Be conscious of unproductive worry. 
    • During times of stress, you may find yourself running “what if” scenarios in your head. Focusing on hypothetical future situations is unproductive worry, because there is no real problem yet to solve.  When you find your thoughts drifting say to yourself: this is not a problem I can solve right now, then return your focus on immediate tasks, problems and solutions. 
  4. Get help
    • Your insurance agent will hopefully be a help in a time of crisis, and they need to be notified right away, before any cleanup is done.  They are familiar with the steps that need to be taken when disaster strikes, and a good agent will provide you with assistance and assurance about what is covered and what is not.
    • In the US the Small Business Administration may also be able to provide some financial help. Their Office of Disaster Assistance has a mission to provide low interest loans to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery & equipment, inventory and business assets that have been damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster. 
    • Friends, neighbors, suppliers, can all be called upon to lend a hand, help with cleanup details, as well as rebuilding.
  5. Take stock of the situation
    • Making a list of what can be saved, and what needs to be repaired, or replaced can help clarify the situation.
    • Identify potential suppliers to contact for each item that needs to be repaired or replaced.
  6. Make a daily work schedule plan
    • Make a daily plan for what you will need to do and what your team will need to be doing.  A lot of crisis anxiety is caused by interruption to your daily routine.  Making a daily work plan for the first few weeks gives everyone specific goals to work towards, and everyone will take comfort in seeing progress made as these small tasks are accomplished.
  7. Identify Symptoms of Stress in you, your family, and your team
    • It is common for stress to make it difficult to sleep, induce headaches, stomach problems, colds or flu-like symptoms.  You may find it difficulty communicating your thoughts, or find people becoming easily disoriented or confused    
    • Being that many greenhouse businesses are family farms, be aware of how your stress will affect how your children cope.  According to Fema’s coping with disaster page: Parents and adults can make disasters less traumatic for children by taking steps to manage their own feelings and plans for coping. One way to establish a sense of control and to build confidence in children before a disaster is to engage and involve them in preparing a family disaster plan. After a disaster, children can contribute to a family recovery plan.
  8. Stay on top of communication
    • Once the worst is over, let your customers know what’s happening. Have a representative personally contact every customer who’s orders are directly affected. Update the home page of your company’s website, keep social media like facebook and twitter updated. Let your customers know if your ordering, shipping or inventory is affected, and if or when you expect to be open for business again.  Share as much detail as you can about your recovery plan.  Showing your customers how you are dealing with a problem will inspire trust, and assure them that you will be back in business.
    • This type of communication will work for assuring your employees as well.  Regular updates of progress throughout the company will build moral and keep everyone focused on the tasks at hand.
  9. Make and execute your recovery plan
    • Call your suppliers, get quotes for repairs and replacement of greenhouse structure, equipment, heating systems, etc.  Consider if there is anything different that should be done that will make your business more efficient, or better equipped in case of a future disaster.
  10. Reassess your Emergency Plan ( or create one if you don’t have it already )
    • Having a plan in place “just in case” is one of the best insurance policies you can have, because a plan provides security for your mental and emotional state.  It also helps highlight where additional insurance may be needed, like business interruption insurance.
    • Emergency Plans should cover how to deal with an emergency: tasks required, like calling insurance, shutting down the boiler, moving chemicals, calling customers, and who is in charge of each task.  It should also include a business continuity plan that answers critical questions like, how will we fill existing orders.
    • Reassessing your emergency plans shortly after a disaster is important because critical issues are fresh in your mind.  We can never be totally prepared for everything, but improving plans after a crisis, will make you better prepared.

It is a challange to stay positive in a time of crisis, but Greg Ackland noticed "the people I have seen who approached the damage in a positive manner have had a much more positive staff, and progress towards rebuilding goes quicker. We are fortunate that no one lost any GGS greenhouses in this storm."

Handling Bad PR on the Farm

At what point did our society decide that actors were the all-knowing expert on all topics?

Eva Longoria, who may or may not have ever been on a tomato farm, has apparently taken upon herself the plight of the American Farm Worker, specifically targeting Florida tomato growers as evil abusive corporations. And while it is good to see that she is using her master’s degree in Chicano Studies to bring forward issues in the Latin American community, it hardly makes her an expert on farm management.

Sadly, while Ms. Longoria’s intentions may be noble, her facts are questionable, with broad sweeping generalizations that paint an entire industry in a negative light instead of focusing attention only on specific guilty individuals.

As someone who depends on the strength of Agriculture, most growers, and farm owners I know, are deeply concerned about issues surrounding migrant workers.  Most treat their employees fairly, and provide a fair wage, as well as housing.

So what can you do when a “star” decides to use their public favor to sway the general population against your farm business?

1.  Do what you can to provide fact based answers for the issue in whatever public forums you can, like the CEO of Florida tomato grower Lipman Produce did in his letter to the Editor of the Maimi Herald:

While I applaud Ms. Longoria for her advocacy and passion, she continues to make inaccurate statements that threaten to reverse positive momentum.
 

· As CEO of the nation’s largest open-field tomato grower — Immokalee, Fla.-based Lipman — allow me to state the facts:

· There has not been a single reported case of a Florida tomato farmer beating or raping a farm worker.

· Stating that people earn “$40 a day for 4,000 pounds” of harvest is incorrect. Our workers are paid at least minimum wage, with a vast majority making far more than that. Last year alone, we awarded over $1,000,000 in season-end bonuses to those who harvest our crop. We pay $.55/bucket, plus a $.10/bucket bonus. That is more than $.02/pound which is more than double of what Ms. Longoria continues to state. Our average farmworker made $12.83/hour last year and that is before factoring free housing and transportation.

· When it comes to farmworkers’ rights, Publix Super Markets is not the problem. Publix is a values-based company that I believe has been forced into a defensive stance because of the offensive statements and actions being directed at them.

Working together will get so much more done.

I do agree with Ms. Longoria that great-tasting Florida tomatoes should be grown in the most sustainable and socially responsible way. Our company has been farming in Florida for more than 70 years. We have always considered the people who harvest our crop part of our family.

 

2. Offer to help educate the “star” on the positive side of your farm business by letting them see who you are, as Kent Shoemaker, CEO of Lipman Produce, wrapped up his letter.

Ms. Longoria: I understand that you have not been to Immokalee to see first-hand how we treat our workers. Barry Estabrook, author of “Tomatoland,” has — and I trust he will tell you he was impressed. So consider this my personal invitation to visit our farms. The weather is perfect this time of year. The tomatoes, of course, are on us.

Not only are you inviting the opportunity for “star power” to be positively reflected on your business, you are also informing the general public that the inaccuracies presented have been done without any personal knowledge of the true nature of your business.

 

3.  Don’t wait for bad PR to generate your own Positive Press

Agriculture is the backbone of most countries: Greenhouse growers, nurseries, cattle ranchers, chicken farmers, fruit veg and grain field producers, feed a nation.  And yet, many city dwellers do not understand where their food came from aside from the supermarket.  As an industry we need to educate the consumers. As individual farm families we need to provide information and opportunities to let the general public see and understand the hard honest work you put into producing their food, flowers, trees, and herbs.

 

Share your farm stories with us.  Let’s get the word out about what is good in agriculture.

THANKSGIVING FOR FAMILY, FRIENDS, FOOTBALL, AND SHOPPING

 

As American’s prepare for Thanksgiving festivities, retailers are preparing for Shopping Mania, and not just in the United States.  More and more Canadian retailers and consumers are depending on the Black Friday phenomenon to kick start the Christmas Shopping season. And with the global nature of the internet, Black Friday sales have gained popularity around the world.  

In the UK the Independent wroteBlack Friday begins on Monday. If that’s the sort of sentence that elicits a double-take, I can only apologise — and say, blame the Americans.

And while global retailers like Amazon and their “Black Friday Deals Week” that started 8am on Monday are certainly leading the charge, independent retailers in the UK, Spain, Australia, and other parts of the globe, are smart enough to take up the call and run their own promotional encouragement to get shopping.

So whether you are located in the USA or elsewhere, Garden Centers capitalize on this opportunity to promote your Garden Center and your products in several ways.
 
  • "Doorbuster" deals.  These are the deals that are too good to resist!  Often these are high demand high value products that the Garden Center is willing to sell off at a loss.  The cost of the “loss leader” is part of your advertising budget, and you measure it’s success by the number of people it brings into your Garden Center, and the dollar value of additional product those people buy.  Make sure you stock these items in one or two strategic locations so customers have to walk through your Garden Center to get to them.
  • Use the internet and social media to advertise what you're going to offer as a "Black Friday" sale. Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter can tease your customers with pictures and keep your garden center at the top of their mind.
  • Offer package discounts on different categories of merchandise. For instance a Christmas decorating package could include: a tree, 2 red 8” poinsettias, a fresh wreath, and a mistletoe.
  • Don’t just focus on the doorbuster. Offering a wide range of hard goods and live plants at a more reasonable percentage discount will appeal to a larger segment of your customer base. Discounts on items that will encourage other purchases are particularly fruitful when the complementary products are located near the Sale items.  Think Black Friday decorative pots, which of course require plants to go into the pots and potting soil, etc.

TOP 10 CAUSES OF INJURIES IN THE GREENHOUSE

If you are running a greenhouse growing operation you are well aware that accidents causing injuries are a very real concern.  The following is a list of the top 10 causes of injuries in a greenhouse operation and ways of prevention:

1. Careless use of Ladders

 You can find someone using a ladder virtually every work day in a greenhouse environment.  Ladders are a necessity when checking on vent components, shading issues and glass repair. Climbing any sort of ladder is potentially dangerous but not if done properly and with precaution. Extension ladders can be heavy; sometimes it is necessary to use 2 people to avoid back strain.  Make sure that the feet of the ladder are on a firm level surface.  The rule of thumb is that the horizontal distance of the ladder feet is to be ¼ of the working length of the ladder.  If the working length is 10 feet or more a harness or safety belt is required with the lanyard tied to the structure.  And finally, use common sense when on a ladder; don’t lift anything that is too heavy while working on the ladder and don’t stretch your body beyond what is comfortable for working.

 

2. Operating greenhouse machinery

It is reported that most injuries from agricultural machinery can be attributed to human error.  In many cases a shortcut was taken or the operator was not paying total attention to the operation.  Injuries occurring on greenhouse machinery can be crippling or sometimes even fatal, it is important that you have a diligent and safety minded employee operating the machinery that is alert to possible hazards and takes precautions to avoid injury.  Proper training and safety manuals should be implemented on each piece of machinery in or around the greenhouse combined with reminders from supervisors to aid in avoiding accidents and injuries on this equipment.

 

3. Greenhouse machinery in need of repairs

All greenhouse equipment and machinery needs to have proper lockout procedures. Train your employees to identify problems for future inspection. Tagging equipment that there is a concern with will improve employee safety and will help you get the most out of your equipment by identifying issues quickly, problems can be resolved before they cost you or your employees.

 

 

4. Improper handling of hazardous material

“Hazardous Material” is generally abundant in a greenhouse environment; pesticides, herbicides, acid and Hydrogen Peroxide just to name a few.  Each chemical demands respect and safe handling and application practices.  Each and every employee that will have to handle hazardous material should have WHMIS training as well as a pesticide licence.  WHMIS training will give the employee the knowledge needed in identifying the hazardous symbols on chemical containers such as “Corrosive Material”, “Poisonous Material”, or “Flammable Material”.  Having an employee that is directly involved with hazardous material obtain a pesticide licence trains one in the mixing and application of these chemicals.  When dealing with harsh chemicals, an educated employee is a safe employee.

 

5. Slips and falls

Slipping on a wet surface or tripping over objects on a walkway can have serious consequences and makes up a substantial number of greenhouse injuries.   The preventative measure is quite simple: 

Keep all aisles and walkways free of clutter, clean up oil spills and other slippery products immediately and have a regular cleaning schedule where the walkways and aisles are swept on a regular basis.   The key is to be aware of tripping hazards and to train your staff to be alert on the job and to develop that awareness of what could constitute a slip or trip hazard.

 

6. Heat stress on employees

The summer months can produce both high temperatures and high humidity levels which can be very dangerous for greenhouse employees.  When the high heat and humidity are combined with other physical stresses such as hard physical work and fatigue, the results can be heat related illness or even death.  Water is crucial to getting the body to adjust to high temperatures; the rate of water intake must equal the rate of water loss by perspiration to regulate normal body temperature.  Supervisors must remind employees to drink plenty of water during the warmer months and have a supply of fresh drinkable water on hand.  Whenever possible it would be advantageous to send employees home early during the hottest periods, this will avoid the possibility of heat stress altogether.

 

7. Poor lifting and carry techniques

Improper lifting techniques result in a large percentage of back injuries among agricultural workers.   Safe lifting and carrying practices taught to all employees will greatly diminish the chance of incurring such injuries.  Over time the “safe” techniques taught will become a habit.  Teach your employees to exam the object and determine if maybe they might need equipment to lift and carry the object instead of trying to do it themselves.  If they are able to lift it they should:  have good balance by keeping feet shoulder width apart, bend at the knees and don’t stoop, lift up by pushing up with the legs, and keep elbows and arms close to the body.  While carrying the object they should carry the load close to the body and don’t twist the body, shift foot positions instead if a change of direction is required, and most important of all: watch where they are going! 

 

8. Greenhouse Fire

Heat, oxygen and fuel: they are not only essential to life but they also serve as the elements to destructive greenhouse fires. Understanding your greenhouse and how to prevent fires will best keep your employees protected. Heat is almost always the culprit to fueling fires, but heat usually has an accomplice. Degrading and overheated wires or improper wire installation can easily ignite anything combustible within range as well as exhaust pipes from open flame heaters and CO2 burners are very hazardous due to the pipes reaching extremely high temperatures when releasing unburned gases.  Fuel in the greenhouse refers to anything combustible that might be stored in a structure. Greenhouse covers – especially those of polymer material – along with shade cloths, wood furniture, plastic pots, nitrogen-based fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, oil, propane, and natural gas, cardboard and straw can all be fuel to the fire.  Educate your staff on the dangers of all of these elements in the greenhouse; awareness can aid in prevention.

 

9. Greenhouse Construction Accidents

Greenhouses are often expanding and building onto the sides and ends of existing greenhouses.  Or when not expanding, retrofitting gutter vents, raising the roof, replacing poly, or installing glass are common reasons for on site construction. Greenhouse construction sites have a different set of safety hazards than your workers are typically concerned with.  Construction areas in the greenhouse should be appropriately marked and where possible fenced or roped off from the everyday work force.

 

 

10. Shipping and Receiving Mishaps

Everyday trucks are coming in to your greenhouse delivery supplies or picking up plants ready to ship. Forklifts are moving in and out of your warehouse shipping area, and truck drivers of varying experience and load distribution are backing into your facility to handle the materials.  Every greenhouse operation should have firm procedures regarding who is allowed in loading and unloading areas, blocking off the truck wheel if a proper loading dock is not in place, and ensure that the forlklift operator always has a safety spotter in line of site.

 

 

 

 

Here Come The Drones

At GGS we believe that success means we have helped our customers grow.  To help you grow we listen to your concerns, hear what your needs are, and we actively watch what is going on in the world around us.  This enables us to provide better technology, more responsive services, and higher quality products to your farms.

Early this year we published news of our first drone experiment.  It was clear that drone technology had rapidly evolved from high priced military tools, to moderately priced toys.  It was equally clear that drones will one day impact many of our customer’s businesses. 

In the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s (AUVSI’s) economic study they predict  the economic impact will be $82 billion and create more than 100,000 jobs in the first decade after integration and they predict agricultural uses will eventually account for 80 per cent of the commercial market for drones.

So what will agriculture use drones for?

According to The Globe and Mail: Today’s drone technology promises a bumper crop of rich data for farmers, ecologists, ranchers and scientists.1

When considering why Intel dropped $10 Million in Cash on an investment in Drone technology this week Fastcompany observed: If you own a drone company that wants to fly unmanned aircrafts for farms and insurance companies, this is your year.2

PrecisionHawk, the company that Intel just invested in, has a drone called Lancaster that is a scaled down high wing airplane. It’s President and co-founder Dr. Earon holds a PhD from the University of Toronto’s Institute for Aerospace Studies, specialized in using robotics for planetary exploration. Dr. Ernest Earon has been quoted saying “I see drones becoming the cell phone of agriculture”

In 40 minutes, 120 hectares can be surveyed by Lancaster, and while that means precious time savings to farmers, what Intel knows is that it also provides the ability to capture incredible amounts of crop data that can be analysed and used for better farming decisions. Tie that into the Internet of Things and you have instant access to large scale data.

Drones can provide farmers with three types of detailed views. First, seeing a crop from the air can reveal patterns that expose everything from irrigation problems to soil variation and even pest and fungal infestations that aren’t apparent at eye level. Second, airborne cameras can take multispectral images, capturing data from the infrared as well as the visual spectrum, which can be combined to create a view of the crop that highlights differences between healthy and distressed plants in a way that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Finally, a drone can survey a crop every week, every day, or even every hour. Combined to create a time-series animation, that imagery can show changes in the crop, revealing trouble spots or opportunities for better crop management.3

Drones specifically geared for agriculture can be linked to Google Earth through your tractor’s GPS system letting you know exactly where to go to fix a crop problem.

In Canada regulations allow commercial uses of drones under licensed conditions.  While FAA regulations still prohibit commercial use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in the US, one of America’s largest Insurance companies formally petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on October 2 for permission to use drone aircraft to process insurance claims.4

Chrissy Guthoerl, Manager of the Tasco Dome division, which manufactures and sells fabric covered buildings around the world said “Tasco Dome is deeply rooted in the agricultural industry in North America, Europe, and Asia, and everyone is talking about drone technology being a tool for managing large scale farms on many different levels.”

The benefits for field crop farmers, cattle farmers, large nursery farms, is obvious, but what about greenhouses? When GGS decided to see what could be done with a drone we chose a model more akin to a helicopter than an airplane. Easier to maneuver inside and outside greenhouses the GGS Drone has been used to experiment with the technology.

“Mostly we have used it to take pictures for our greenhouse customers, and pictures of our greenhouses under construction.  A larger model could potentially be used in the future to spray whitewash on summer glass roofs.” said our GGS Drone Pilot and Technical Support Rep, Anthony Mundula. “A drone is certainly a quick and inexpensive way to get photographs of your property for building permit applications”.

Michael Camplin, Sales Manager added “For poly greenhouses a potential use for drones is to scan for damage to the poly from ice and storms. Inside a greenhouse drones are not as practical, but many of our greenhouse customers also have large outdoor production areas. Nursery growers, landscapers, large garden centers with acres of outdoor retail, can better manage crop inventory by using drone technology. Tying it into your computer systems is going to be the next big thing”.

If you haven’t already entered our contest to win your very own drone complete with GoPro camera, time is running out, click here before Dec 31, 2014 to get your name in the drone contest

 

Sources:

1. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/partners/ge-innovation/drones-take-to-the-agricultural-skies/article20233125/#dashboard/follows/

2. http://www.fastcompany.com/3038049/fast-feed/why-intel-just-dropped-cash-on-a-10-million-bet-on-drones

3. http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/526491/agricultural-drones/

4. http://www.fastcompany.com/3036994/elasticity/usaa-to-faa-our-insurance-adjusters-want-drones

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