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  • Writer's pictureKarrie Brown

Nurturing Growth and Sustainability: Walters Gardens' Path to Innovation

Two Walters Gardens employees working with plants in a greenhouse

Walters Gardens, established in 1946 in Zeeland, stands as a pioneer in horticulture. They nurture over 20 million plants annually across their 1,500-acre footprint, including 500,000 square feet of greenhouses. With a steadfast dedication to growth and innovation, the company leverages internal career pathways, Going PRO Talent Funds and automation advancements to ensure their operation’s sustainability. Dianne Cote, human resources manager, shared how investing in their team’s development helps Walters Gardens innovate.

The Going PRO Talent Fund helps Walters Gardens offset the cost of specialized on-the-job-training for their new hires. With state-of-the-art equipment, their employees need focused training that spans the unique practices of the company.

“We’re one of five companies in the US using the Flex Sorter technology. We also use greenhouse climate technology that monitors outdoor temperature, humidity and whether the sun is out, and adjusts internally to match it. There is a learning curve to these things. Even people with experience in other horticulture operations need to be brought up to speed on this,” Dianne shared.

Whether someone has prior experience or not, Walters Gardens ensures everyone has the knowledge to succeed on the job.

“Embracing automation, like the Flex Sorter, doesn’t take jobs from people. It frees them up to do more meaningful work by moving the more mundane tasks to an app or a robot. It is really elevating their roles and enhancing the quality of work for our team.”

A Walters Gardens tractor harvesting plants in a large field.

This forward-looking mindset allows

Walters Gardens to streamline operations, improve efficiency and create a workspace where employees can focus on their strengths.

Walters Gardens provides employees with opportunities to tour different departments, and cross training to enable a holistic understanding of the entire operation. “Tours let our team members see the bigger picture of their contributions,” Dianne told us. The program also helps Walters Gardens with cross team collaboration. If the shipping and receiving team has downtime, for example, but the field team has a big demand and little time,

team members can move for a shift to

cover the demand.

Dianne shared, “The power of cross-training helps us create a workforce with confidence to contribute across the organization.” Walters Gardens also increases knowledge through targeted education.

“We have a partnership with the University of Florida for non-degree seeking classes in the industry. Managers can identify a person with a skill or knowledge gap and recommend them for a class,” Dianne told us. This gives team members opportunities to expand their industry expertise, improving job performance and satisfaction.

Investing in their employees’ professional development keeps Walters Gardens poised to embrace the ever-evolving horticulture industry. Their commitment to forward-thinking, sustainable workforce practices cements the company's position as a leader in the industry and underlines their dedication to nurturing both team members’ personal growth and organizational excellence.

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