Paying It Forward (opinion)

Robin Siktberg

Maybe it’s the time of year that’s putting me in a reflective mood, but I want to express how grateful I am to have been involved in horticulture for so long. While it’s a competitive industry, it is also collaborative, as evidenced by the trade and professional associations that are such an important part of our business. When we announced plans to expand our GROW program, more than a dozen companies signed up almost immediately, eager to participate in solutions for the problems facing the industry today.

Growers and suppliers I talk with are, without exception, willing to share their expertise with others. While I don’t have direct experience, my impression is that few other industries are as forthcoming.  

Supporting Land-Grant Research

Writing the article about Dick Meister and the new scholarship bearing his name was particularly pleasurable for me. As a graduate of a land-grant university myself, I was the beneficiary of the expertise and time of a number of dedicated horticulture professors (including Steven Still, Harry Tayama and many others). University researchers and educators are the underpinnings of our industry and embody that collaborative spirit. To whom do we turn when a problem such as downy mildew comes along? Or when our plants are suffering from an undiagnosed problem? Who is out in the public providing information on the latest research? And now they are doing it with less funds and less staff due to budget cuts in many states.

On page 30, you read about the American Floral Endowment, which provides support for these researchers’ efforts. Another organization, The National Floriculture Forum (NFF), is an annual educational meeting of university professors, graduate students, government scientists and industry leaders in floriculture. The purpose is to address issues of importance to the floriculture industry and form collaborative relationships. Organizers particularly need sponsors for the student travel grants, which make it possible for graduate students — the future of the industry — to attend the meeting. If you can afford to invest in the industry by contributing to either of these organizations, I urge you to do so. For information about NFF contact Roberto Lopez at rglopez@purdue.edu.

And finally, it was so encouraging to see the optimism in the responses to our 2013 State of the Industry Survey. While our survey isn’t scientific, the fact that nearly 65 percent of growers reported sales were up in 2012, and 38 percent plan to increase production this year is good news.

Indications are that the economy is turning ever-so-slowly around. With that in mind, I wish you a very happy and profitable New Year.

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