Although he loved being surrounded by plants, Marco Verdeel knew that the key to success was to surround himself with the right people. As Director of Battlefield, Vegetation and Fruit Development, Plant Knowledge is important, Verdale thanked his advisers and colleagues for influencing his gardening journey.
“Many people have changed my career,” he says. “These people are the key to driving me forward and showing interest in this business. I hope other farmers have people like that, and I hope I can be that person to someone else.
Here’s how Verdale took a team approach to grow plants and improve processes on the battlefield.
Relying on others
Growing up in the Netherlands with his father, a local greenhouse in Alsimer, Verdale worked as a child to earn some extra money. “I didn’t think I was going to get into the job, because all I saw was my dad doing it, and I thought, ‘That’s not for me.’ But I realized that I really liked it, and now I don’t even see it as a job.
Verdale received a two-year horticultural degree in the Netherlands, exposing him to a wide range of industries — from cut flowers to pottery. After graduating, Verdeel wanted to “see the world better,” so he came to the United States as an exchange student. He started working in a small greenhouse in Virginia, and he never looked back, he says. At that time, he knew what I wanted to do.
In October 1991, Verdale joined the group on the battlefield in Rapid, Virginia. A few years later, when the farmer moved to another job, he asked the company’s founder, Jerry Van Hoven Verdele, to take up the role of self-producer.
“My thinking was that I should know how to do everything right, but Jerry told me that as long as there are good people around you, you don’t have to know everything,” says Verdale. Thank you forever for that lesson. I don’t have to know everything, even in my responsibilities today, because I have people in the greenhouse who know me better than I do. ”
For example, Verdeel’s team includes individuals such as Jeff Ross, Rogelio Meza, and Marisella Hernandez Ortiz, each with 20 years of experience on the battlefield. “They know the differences of each section, and they go the extra mile to develop high-quality crops,” Verdeel said. “This kind of honesty and professionalism is hard to come by, and it has taught me the importance of having reliable staff in your team. You can’t learn to be a good producer overnight, but we have succeeded in working together and learning from each other. ”
When Verdeel began working on the battlefield, the operation involved six acres[6 ha]. In the 30 years since then, the company has expanded its production to 45 hectares and to 30 hectares.
At that time the facilities were upgraded with modern automation: from hand-washing and manual installation to boom water, flood floors and automatic transplanting machines. To increase its effectiveness, the company recently acquired the first cutting and gluing robots.
With its annual, year-round, multi-year production line covering potted holiday crops and bulbs, Verdale is always exploring new ways to increase plant production and reduce losses.
“We spend a lot of time with young plants, keeping notes of what we need to improve or change – better, faster, or easier,” he says. “I focus on reducing losses, especially on high-value crops starting from tissue culture. If you can save a percentage there, that’s a lot of money. ”
For example, several years ago, Verdale worked closely with the Field Farm Research and Development Manager to test LED lighting for tissue culture distribution. Initial trials exceeded expectations – “Improved planting time, labor efficiency, and overall root and shoot quality”, and reduced losses by about 33%. Now, he says, battlefields strengthen tissue culture in an LD-light refrigerator that transforms transplants at least eight times a year.
Verdale is always looking forward to improving his surgery as he walks through the crops every week and meets with a group of five farmers and their assistants as well as other botanists involved in MPS and IPM.
“When new technologies, genetics, and development methods come along, I am always ready to adapt and do things differently,” he says. “There’s always something new, so if you can’t handle change as a farmer, you’re in the wrong business.”
The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.