Gooder one of best in the business

—Mike Gooder honored in inaugural class of 2017 HILA Award


CRESCO - It is always an honor to be recognized by the industry a business is part of, but it is extra special when it is the first award of its kind.
Recently Mike Gooder of Plantpeddler in Cresco had that distinction when he was chosen by a jury of his peers in the greenhouse/floriculture industry for the inaugural class of 2017 Horticultural Industries Leadership Awards (HILA).
Greenhouse Management and Nursery Management magazines, with the support of Syngenta, honored individuals from three greenhouses and three nurseries  who exemplify the leadership qualities needed to inspire and empower those around them to take their businesses to the next level.
Wow! What an honor! And Cresco and Howard County are put on the map . . . again!
It shouldn’t really come as a big surprise, though.
Since Mike and Rachel Gooder purchased the business back in June 1980, just eight days after they were married, Plantpeddler has slowly grown to be a globally-recognized business. Yep . . . globally.
The Gooders do business all over the world and have traveled to many countries, including a recent trip Mike and son, John, took to South America that was not all Cancun and roses. 
They traveled the backroads with armed guards to visit some greenhouses. Their goal was to access quality control and rate each location they do business with.
And that’s part of the business’ success . . .  making contacts. “We worked for 12 years to try to get the Syngenta flower contract, and we got that and the award at the same time! Just getting the flower contract was a big deal. That put us in a very enviable position in the genetics of horticulture.”
It didn’t come easy, though. 
It takes time, work and perseverance to build up a business. Plantpeddler went from growing 400 poinsettia plants in 1980 to over a million in 2016!
It is the only business in the U.S. that has contracts with all the major breeders of poinsettias making it a one-stop shop for growers who finish poinsettias.
Plantpeddler services 2,800 growers in the U.S. and Canada, and they ship to all 50 states and Canadian provinces.
It is number one in begonia sales, one of the top three for poinsettia and in the upper level for geraniums.
Geraniums love hard water which allows them to grow well in this part of the country. That’s why the old timers always planted geraniums, Mike explained.
Every industry changes and if a business wants to succeed it has to change as well.
Mike noted another HILA award winner was Gary Hennen of Oglesby Plants International of Altha, Fla. When the big box stores started selling plants, they went a completely different direction. They started selling plants for fund-raisers.
Plantpeddler’s niche is working with vegetative cuttings, “or as your grandmother called them, slips.”
Mike said what the local business does parallels with the confinement livestock industry. 
The sows are like the breeders. The breeders have their greenhouses all over the world. They are very clean and wear protective clothing to keep diseases from coming in contact with the plants.
When they get to a certain age, the plants are clipped and the slips are shipped to Cresco. One knife only is used for each plant. When the plant is done, the knife is put in a cleaning solution. 
Plantpeddler employees “stick” the cuttings and allow the roots to grow. Four to six weeks later, the young plants are shipped out to customers at finishing greenhouses.
Between January and March, Plantpeddler is the largest importer for Fed Ex in Iowa! The plants come and go from the Rochester Airport.
In addition to growing plants, part of Plantpeddler’s business is testing genetics, evaluating plants and learning consumer preferences. Mike jokes that it isn’t what the grower likes, it is what the consumer likes that sells.
As for most industries in Howard County, finding help can be difficult. Plantpeddler has come up with some unique ways of finding help. 
They sometimes get “vagabond” help. Mike explained some retired folks will travel around the country. They will work for a few weeks and then travel for a while. They have utilized their help in the past. 
They also have a school parent program that allows a mom or dad to work only during school hours, so they can be home for their kids. 
Plantpeddler’s philosophy of working hard and changing with the times should be a goal of every business. If you don’t change, you can’t grow. And reaching for the star (gazers) might help as well!

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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