Greenhouse Management: What was your reaction to you finding out you would get this role?
T. Jay Higgins: I was surprised myself that I was going to work for someone, really. [Laughs] I never thought I would accept something like this. The relationship with Suntory has always been good, always been strong, so it wasn’t surprising that we would want to strengthen the relationship [even] more ... This was a really good opportunity to do something different. I started Sunfire Nursery in 2005 and have been doing the same thing for a long time and I’m excited for a new challenge and a chance to learn another side of the business.
GM: What, in your mind, makes Suntory products something you trusted as a grower and something you are going to work on even more?
TJH: Performance — the garden performance. Usually, they have the best garden performance. As everyone knows, they are not always the cheapest genetics, but they perform better in most cases. In my time working with them, they’ve always had strong plants and an excellent breeding team, and I feel confident that they’ll continue to debut good stuff down the road. Part of the reason I took the job is that I’ll have exciting products to work with and opportunities to work with clients in good situations.
GM: With how strong sales have been the last 18 months or so, where do you think the markets you’ll be working in are at right now? And what will you focus on when you start officially with Suntory?
TJH: I think the markets are still in a good spot. I personally believe that, over the next couple years, maybe it will have a slight downturn. Maybe we won’t be able to keep up the crazy growth we’ve had over the last 18 months or two years even. But if anything, we’re seeing more and more people being excited about gardening. More and more people are out there taking care of their houses and buying plants and that can only be a good thing. The other thing down here in Florida and other places, too, is that the housing markets are crazy. That historically has driven plant sales, too. And when I get started, I’m going to get to know partners, get to know the cutting farms, the processes. There’s a lot to learn. I’m still able to go to the cutting farms in Mexico and whatnot, and I’m really excited to do that.