SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES, ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTIONS, CONSUMER BEHAVIOR, AND LABOR MANAGEMENT IN THE U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL HORTICULTURE INDUSTRY

Project Details

Description

The environmental horticulture industry (sometimes referred to as the 'green industry') is usually divided into nursery and floriculture crops. The U.S. floricultural and nursery industry is the second most important sector in U.S. agriculture in terms of economic output. It is the number one agricultural commodity in five northeastern U.S. states. The nursery and floriculture sectors have experienced considerable growth in the last two decades, due to robust demand for ornamentals plants and related services from commercial and residential development and increasing affluence. This has slowed in recent years. With the decline in the economy and housing construction, growers are faced with financial uncertainty, rising input costs, but flat prices, consumer economic fears, an increasingly global and complex market, growing public concern about chemicals and water pollution, slow housing starts, and a maturing market. One may argue that the impacts of the mass marketing of nursery and floricultural crops has been to reduce the number of growers while increasing the overall size and mechanization of individual operations. The capital requirements (pot fillers, transplanters, mobile benches, pot spacers, and automated packaging and shipping), increased input costs (e.g. fuel, plastics, fertilizers, chemicals, and equipment), reduced margins, increased demands from buyers, and the market power associated with fewer numbers of buyers have all created intense market pressures and heightened competitive rivalry among producers. The industry's profit margins are typically low, leaving little room for growers to absorb significant increases in costs or decreases in revenues. Unlike farmers who produce field crops, nursery and greenhouse firms bear the entire price, market, and production risks because these crops have had no government support programs. Thus, many growers are challenged to produce an aesthetically pleasing, profitable, and socially responsible crop while decreasing costs and increasing efficiency of production practices.In this extremely competitive industry, producers must make production, management, and marketing decisions based on accurate and timely information. This research will address way producers can hone their marketing and management skills to continue to survive and respond to current trends. My research will focus on Objectives 1, 2 and 4. Objective 1 investigates sustainable production practices, a potential new market as producers are increasingly concerned about the environment. Objective 2 evaluates the economic contributions of the green industry through a national survey. Objective 4 investigates labor management and mechanization in the green industry as producers work on controlling labor costs, the largest cost in most greenhouse and nursery businesses.A growth area that has not been economically analyzed is urban/rooftop greenhouses. The New Jersey Greenhouse Cost Accounting Program will be used to evaluate investment alternatives used in urban greenhouses, and modifications will be made as needed to look at additional parameters that will be identified in the research. Budgets will be produced for ultra-niche sustainable crops that can be profitable in the Northeast. The best production practices will be identified for each crop, along with an economic analysis including a full cost analysis of the negative costs to the environment. Economic analyses will be conducted on the use of various sustainable containers. Extension outreach materials will be developed and training sessions offered. The economic impact of the U.S. Green industry in 2013 will be updated by the committee, and a full report will be developed in print and electronic form and disseminated via the internet. Specifically, I will prepare a report for the nursery industry in NJ as well as develop brochures, and fact sheets that will be published on the Rutgers Farm Management Website. The effect of selected nursery mechanization/automation practices and labor management practices on labor productivity and efficiency will be determined through surveys. Regional extension training sessions on labor management practices will be held based on the effective practices identified in this research.The results of these assessments will be published in professional and trade journals to provide existing and new greenhouses with guidelines that can help provide food security for urban residents. The results from the overall project will provide valuable input into the decision making activity of greenhouse owners regarding future expansion plans, the selection of which plants to grow and in what quantity, the determination of which production methods to use (including sustainable practices, urban greenhouses, and labor saving and effective labor management systems), and the appropriate markets.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date10/1/109/30/20

Funding

  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA))

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