Vegetables, Not Flowers, Are The Future

greenhousegrower.com; By Laura Drotleff : With the boom of the organic market, demand for sustainably produced, local food, an influx of farmers’ markets and ultimately, an increasing army of grow-your-own foodies, many ornamentals growers are converting some of their square footage to produce.

Peter Konjoian is one such grower, who made it official at the 2013 OFA Short Course, saying, “I am no longer growing flowers; I’m only growing food.”

Konjoian is a long-time grower of poinsettias and ornamental crops as co-owner of Konjoian Greenhouses in Andover, Mass., and a well-known consultant to ornamental growers through his business, Konjoian’s Floriculture Education Services.

We asked why he thinks food is a viable future for greenhouse growers and what challenges growers may face incorporating vegetables into their production systems.

Q: Over the next 30 years, what crops will become more relevant and profitable for growers?

Konjoian: It appears that the industry wide consolidation phase that we’ve lived through for the past 20 years is finally settling down. We have fewer operations producing ornamental crops today and economic signs are positive that those still in business will be able to regain their footing. While I continue to question why our industry needs to make flowers so cheap, I also understand that a free market economy tends to drive its buses in this direction.

So, we have a lot of small and medium sized operations with a lot of empty greenhouses. Coincidentally, we have a generation of young adults that is educated and demanding healthier options in their diets. Analogous to cheapening flowers we have created such a supply of cheap calories that our populous has become obese. In my travels and experience I hear these young adults asking for locally grown, fresh food and they are willing to pay more for it. I think that is quite encouraging and it is fueling the shift in greenhouse production to edible crops.

Farmers’ markets are exploding across the country and pull in more than local vegetable production. Meat, bread, honey; you name it and there’s a locally grown farmer to support.

Q: In your opinion, what percentage of current ornamental growers

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