The ornamental horticulture industry has seen tremendous growth nationwide in recent years (Hall et al., 2005; Shields and Willits, 2003). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that in 2006, total sales of nursery crops increased 17% from 2003, while the number of smaller producers decreased and the number of producers with sales over $100,000 increased (USDA, 2007). The increased demand for horticulture products and services has led to growth in landscape goods, wholesale and retail trade operations, and the landscape service industry, which in turn has created jobs in agriculture (Shields and Willits, 2003).
Horticulture commerce is composed of nursery, greenhouse, fruit, and vegetable production, and service sectors such as landscape design, installation and maintenance, lawn care, and tree care. Nationally, the production, horticultural services, and wholesale and retail trade products sectors of the horticulture industry contributed $147.1 billion in total sales receipts in 2002 (Hall et al., 2005). The USDA reported that in 42 states, nursery and greenhouse crops rank in the top 10 commodities and rank as the fourth-largest crop group in the United States in terms of farm cash receipts (Jerardo, 2005). Horticulture is the fastest-growing segment of the agriculture industry in Iowa, and the number of private horticultural businesses in Iowa has more than doubled in the past 13 years (Haynes et al., 2007; Klein, 2003).
Iowa has experienced change not only in the importance of the horticultural industry to its farming profile, but a change in the profile of the agricultural employment pool. Within the last decade, Iowa has experienced an influx of employees able and willing to work in the horticulture and other industries who have arrived in the state from Latin America (Norman, 2008). Seasonal positions that begin in March or April and end before December are common in the horticultural industry, and it is common for Latinos to hold these jobs (Lacey et al., 2007; Waliczek et al., 2002). Word of mouth, referrals, and family contacts are recognized as effective recruitment techniques for seasonal, manual-labor positions filled by Latino workers (Waliczek et al., 2002). Because the majority of seasonal workers are not fluent in English, communication is an ongoing challenge for managers who are not fluent in Spanish (Bitsch and Harsh, 2004). Language, cultural, and educational barriers hinder productivity, efficiency, and safety in the horticultural industry (Martinez-Espinoza et al., 2003). Managers and workers experience improved working conditions and are more productive when the technical, language, and cultural educational needs of groups new to each other are fully addressed (Quigley, 1998).
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