Insurance coverage is important to Jim Leider, who is the third-generation President and CEO of Leider Greenhouses. In fact, it is so important, that Leider himself served on the board of directors for Hortica — a 129-year-old horticultural insurance and employee benefits provider — for more than 20 years. Hortica®, a brand of the Sentry Insurance Group, has also insured Leider Greenhouses for more than 40 years.
Leider Greenhouses is a grower and retailer based in Buffalo Grove, Ill. The company produces blooming varieties year-round, along with poinsettias, Easter lilies and garden mums that are sold in their own location, as well as Costco and other nearby retailers. And with its 12+ acres of growing space between two locations, insurance is crucial to protect the facility from potential risks.
Physical facility incidents such as hail, tornado, loss of power, fire, and boiler explosions are included under Leider’s policy – but liability insurance is most significant for the company, in his opinion.
“You never know what’s going to happen to you when you’ve got employees out there acting on behalf of the company; you never know for sure if something could go wrong,” Leider says. “If I think about it, we can survive a hailstorm, although it would be pretty devastating. But if we weren’t covered in liability, I think that’s my biggest fear.”
The liability portion of Leider’s coverage includes both onsite and offsite risks, i.e. if someone gets hurt in the greenhouse or garden center, or if one of their truck drivers is involved in an accident while making a delivery.
Leider also has environmental coverage as it relates to chemicals and the possibility of employees or adjoining properties being harmfully exposed to them. “It’s hard for me to imagine how they could do that, but it could happen. Anything can happen,” he says.
And that’s why insurance coverage is so important. As Leider says, you never know what might happen. Fortunately, when events do occur, like the snowstorm that caused a snow load to collapse one of Leider’s greenhouses four years ago, Hortica’s team was quick to act.
“Hortica’s claims adjusters were here right away, and they were helpful to us, getting contractors to get the facility closed up so it wouldn’t spread,” Leider says. “It was in one section, and because a lot of things are connected, we had to isolate it and get the power cut off there, [and] get the water cut off.”
The network Hortica had established to help call in people to help secure the facility saved Leider’s greenhouse from further damage that could have occurred.
“That’s probably one of the best reasons to insure with somebody that’s got specific knowledge like Hortica,” he adds.
But emergency visits aren’t the only time the crew stops by. They’re also onsite multiple times a year to perform facility evaluations to point out perceived risks and how to avoid them, such as loose wires, or contacts that could heat up and cause a fire or the loss of a generator, Leider says.
Hortica’s team also conducts educational sessions with employees to discuss safety topics in all aspects of the business, from growing to transportation of the final product.
“They’re pretty knowledgeable about the business. They see a lot of greenhouses. And the greenhouse is a unique kind of structure. It’s not like [other] buildings,” Leider says. For example, most buildings don’t have glass or polycarbonate roofs, or other structural components like boilers or irrigation systems.
Advice for newcomers
For new growers who are establishing their facilities, Leider suggests first identifying the major risks to your business and finding an insurance agent who understands those risks or can help point them out to you. It would also behoove a greenhouse owner to select a well-established insurance company. “You need to make sure they’re going to be around to pay the claims,” Leider says.
Additionally, it’s helpful to choose a provider who understands the ins and outs of the greenhouse business, specifically. “It’s hard to put a number on it,” Leider says. “But I think it’s incredibly important to have the depth of experience in an institution to back you up.”
And from his experience, Hortica is not in the business of up-selling growers more coverage than they need, he says. He finds that they have his best interests at heart. “You have to look at them as partners with you in protecting your business,” he adds. “For many of us, it’s our livelihood, so you really have to take it seriously.”