It is always a privilege to honor someone for their career achievements, and it is always a pleasure to provide opportunity to someone who is beginning his or her career. So it is doubly exciting to announce a new scholarship that does both.
Beginning in 2013, the Richard T. Meister Scholarship will be offered to graduate students in floriculture intending to pursue a career in research, Extension or teaching. A $2,500 scholarship will be awarded annually and will be administered by the American Floral Endowment.
Richard (Dick) Meister is the editor-at-large and chairman emeritus of Meister Media Worldwide, Greenhouse Grower’s parent company, which Meister’s father founded in 1932. The company is a leading publisher of specialty agricultural magazines and digital media. Beginning with its first magazine, American Fruit Grower, the company now includes multiple brands in addition to Greenhouse Grower, including Cotton Grower, American Vegetable Grower, Crop Life, Precision Ag, Today’s Garden Center, Farm Chemicals International and Productores de Hortalizas.
Dick Meister, who earned a degree in pomology from Cornell University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, is an avid and long-time supporter of the land-grant university system, having worked with many notable university Extension agents during his career.
“I had a wonderful partnership with floriculture researchers and educators in the land-grant college system who helped transform floriculture through the development of innovative new practices that made possible expanding and valuable markets for growers,” Meister says. “The value of those who unlocked secrets of light, temperature and other factors can never be overestimated.”
Donations to AFE are tax-deductible and are invested, with the earnings from the investments supporting the research programs and scholarships for years to come because the principal gift is never spent.
Vist Endowment.org for more information.
At 94 years old, Meister still comes into the office regularly. He remains passionately interested in agricultural issues and has a particular interest in the greenhouse industry. It was during Meister’s tenure as editor-in-chief of American Vegetable Grower that the need for a publication focusing solely on the needs of ornamental bedding plant growers became apparent. In the 1960s and ‘70s, vegetable growers began building hoop houses in order to get an early start on the season. After the harvest, the hoop houses were empty, and growers saw an opportunity to fill them with bedding plants, broadening their markets. The flowering plants were often sold at the same roadside markets through which the vegetables were sold. Greenhouse Grower began as a quarterly supplement inside American Vegetable Grower, eventually becoming a stand-alone magazine.
Extension Involved From The Beginning
Meister credits the Extension service with creating the germ of the bedding plant industry.
“Will Carlson at Michigan State University and Ray Sheldrake at Cornell University not only led research programs at their respective schools, but had the confidence and talent to go on the road,” he says.
“They inspired growers to convert to the new art and science of bedding plant production in double-layer poly plastic greenhouses.
“Will was indefatigable in finding ways to improve bedding plant production and inspire growers to change over. He led the bedding plant revolution and founded Bedding Plants, Inc., which grew to a membership of thousands. Ray changed hot beds to plastic greenhouses and, with the Cornell [potting] mix and lightweight plastic trays, made bedding plant production available to thousands of vegetable growers.
“The two of them would share the podium and put on a scintillating show to packed audiences, kidding each other and providing answers to questions from the audience. Whereas old-time greenhouse flower growers would keep their production practices secret, now everything was up for discussion, no holds barred. It was called the Ray and Will show.”
Meister often traveled with the two researchers, challenging growers to seize the market opportunities that “instant color” offered and to broaden their views on the potential of bedding plants.
Meister says Ray and Will, and many others like them he worked with in the fruit and vegetable industry, epitomized the goal of the land grant university system.
“These people were movers and shakers, not content with the status quo,” Meister says. “As scientists and educators they worked passionately to improve the lot of growers and to solve vexing problems in the field. They were part of the family of growers, occupying a position of advisor and technical expert. There is no doubt in my mind that the research, teaching and Extension made possible by the land-grant system made our agriculture preeminent in the world.”
During his 50-year tenure guiding the growth of Meister Media, Meister traveled the world, gaining a first-hand view of floriculture and agriculture in many foreign countries. He has held both membership and offices in a number of grower and professional associations, including the American Society for Horticultural Science, Professional Plant Growers’ Association, Bedding Plant Foundation, Society of American Florists, Seeley Conference and other floriculture, fruit and vegetable associations.
“Many floriculture researchers and educators were my good friends, and I admired them, not only for their skills, but also for their passion to help and be of benefit to growers,” Meister says. “Such a relationship between researchers, educators and growers doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else in the world,” Meister says. “That is why I want to encourage students to do graduate work and make a career out of research, education and Extension. Floriculture, as well as other branches of horticulture, needs younger people to walk in the steps of those who accomplished so much. I feel sure there are many more discoveries waiting to be uncovered for the great benefit of all.”