Every May for the last nine years, Lawn & Garden Retailer’s sister publication, GPN, has published its annual list of 40 young men and women who are really making a difference in the horticulture industry. GPN’s 40 Under 40 program represents the entire spectrum of horticulture — growers, retailers, business owners, entrepreneurs, marketers, breeders, educators, scientists, salespeople and so many more that make up the fascinating fabric of our industry.
They are all originators under the age of 40 who exemplify superior leadership, creativity, innovative thinking, excellence and compassion in and outside the horticulture field!
Thomas Barlow, Head Grower
Barlow Flower Farm, Sea Girt, New Jersey
- Helped build, manage and run company’s newest award-winning growing facility.
- Manages all production of 100,000 square feet of covered and 3 acres of outdoor growing space to produce high-quality crops for the company’s retail operation.
Thomas is an expert when it comes to the trendy dance, The Floss (ask your kids). “I crush it!” he says. He’s also a master whistler.
Tasty Side Business:
Thomas and his wife turned their chocolate making hobby into a side business. They buy whole cocoa beans and roast, crack, winnow, grind, temper and mold them into chocolate bars that they sell at markets whenever and wherever they can.
Bob Berbee, Owner
Leo Berbee Bulb Co./Dutch Mill Greenhouse, Marysville, Ohio
- Opened an independent garden center at the age of 21— now going into its 18th season.
- Participates in community events like the Giving Garden, a community garden that donates thousands of pounds of food to local pantries and the annual Care Train toy drive.
It’s All About Heart:
Bob is an advocate for heart health. Diagnosed with coronary heart disease in his mid-30s, he is “thankful each day for this early detection and that I can live an active and healthy lifestyle with my family.”
It’s in His Blood:
Bob’s family moved from the Netherlands to the U.S. when he was six weeks old, and he has been in the family business his entire life. “My first job ever was counting bulbs in my dad’s warehouse.”
Robert Blew, Vice President
Centerton Nurseries, Bridgeton, New Jersey
- As the third generation in the family business, helped to double the company’s size in 15 years “without sacrificing plant quality of customer service.”
- Co-owns the company along with his “two amazing siblings” (a brother and a sister) — the company produces more than 1,600 varieties for nearly 1,000 customers in 32 states.
Not Only Does He Drum Up New Plants …
While in college, Bob played in the drumline for the Penn State Marching Blue Band.
Grandfather’s Friends in High Places:
His grandfather (Ray Blew, company founder) moved his family to Ecuador for work in the late 1960s. During that time, he was on a first name basis with the president of Ecuador.
Amanda Bruce, General Manager
Cedar Rim Nursery, Langley, British Columbia
- Along with her siblings, completely transformed family business over the past eight years from renovating the store to revamping the way they grow their products with “overwhelmingly positive” results.
- Serves on the retail advisory board for the British Columbia Landscape & Nursery Association and is a board member of the Garden Centre Group Cooperative in Canada.
Most Rewarding Experience:
In her spare time, Amanda coaches a floor hockey team for the Langley Special Olympics.
Pass the Remote:
Her favorite television series is “Friends,” “because everything in life can relate back to an episode of ‘Friends.’”
What’s for Dinner?
Amanda’s favorite food is anything Mexican.
Jennifer Moss, Director of Sales and Marketing
Moss Greenhouses, Jerome, Idaho
- After company lost its largest customer (due to liquidation and closure), she hit the road and recaptured 90% of the business for that product that was already in the ground that season.
- Responsible for building a management training program that is simple in structure and execution and helped create an interactive, positive environment that helped shift the company culture.
Can’t Live Without:
Music! “I live for music and live performances are my jam. On a stressful day during peak season, I unwind by buying concert tickets so I have something to look forward to.” Her favorite band is Dirty Heads.
What’s on the Menu?
A good rare steak with fresh veggies roasted and seasoned well, covered in butter.
Richard VanderMuellen, Hanging Basket Supervisor/Seeding Supervisor
Wojo’s Greenhouse, Ortonville, Michigan
- Develops practical solutions that improve company’s overall productivity and enhance product quality. Also is a frequent presenter in garden center’s educational program on a wide range of subjects.
- While attending Southeastern Louisiana University, was the recipient of the prestigious Ira Nelson scholarship from the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association.
When He’s Not Working:
Rick likes to be creative and do artistic projects, “anything that involves working with my hands. I enjoy spending time designing landscape projects and working in the garden and flower beds at home.”
Top Two Tomes:
Rick’s two favorite books are “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins and “The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle. “Both books can motivate and humble you at the same time.”