Perspective: Michael Geary, CEO of OFA

OFA’s search for a CEO ended at the start of this year when Michael Geary, an 18-year veteran of association management, was named to the position. Geary’s experience includes serving as executive director of the American Institute of Architecture Students and senior director for the National Association of Home Builders. Now, Geary is the newly minted leader of one of our industry’s premier organizations. He recently shared his vision for OFA and the industry with us.

GG: When you were one of six finalists for the CEO position, one of your homework assignments was to address OFA’s strategic plan. Is there anything that was revealed in that process that excited you? What ideas did you share that support the vision for an association in our industry and OFA’s strategic plan?

MG: The big push is thinking about the future and who will be in this industry. We aren’t doing enough to encourage people to explore careers. There are resources out there, but as one of the major organizations in this industry, we know we need to do more.

We have a vibrant committee called the Generation Next committee that meets regularly. Its mission is to figure out how we get young people involved. It could be getting them to come to Short Course or conferences, or getting materials to them after they’ve joined OFA. We’re exploring all these things to make sure there’s a pipeline coming into the industry.

Still, generations all want information differently, and we want to make sure we’re meeting everyone’s needs as much as we can. Whether you’ve been an owner-grower for 50 years or you’re the daughter of one and you’re in your early 20s, there are different ways you want information–paper, electronic, vocal. We need to look at that, too.

Another thing is the industry is not the silo it used to be, as I understand it. People who are growing are also now retailers. Businesses are looking at various opportunities, and we need to think about that as an organization. While we’ve always offered retail programs, we’re exploring how we can offer additional services to people who are getting into the retail side of things or already are and want to improve their business operations.

GG: What should the role of an association like OFA be in industry advocacy at the local, state and national levels?

MG: We are already doing things. We’ve been very engaged, for example, in the Congressional Action Days that is hosted by the Society of American Florists. What we need to do is a better job of telling our story. My understanding is we have not done a good job letting our members know we do that.

At the same time, we need to know what our members’ needs are. Most of our members and most of the businesses in this industry are small businesses. So are we doing enough to support their needs with direct services? We’re not going to open a lobbying shop tomorrow, and I don’t know if we’re going to open one a year from now. But our goal is to do a better job of being involved and, at the minimum, telling the story that we are doing these things so our members realize OFA is an organization that’s represented their interests.

GG: While a new CEO brings a fresh beginning, OFA also is an 80-plus-year organization with a vibrant history. What are your thoughts on cultivating new leadership while also having a connection to and respect for what has come before?

MG: You respect the past, certainly. I respect the past. I don’t know all the stories–and I know there are stories. Every organization has been through that. This is not unique to OFA or any business that grows, especially one that’s 80-plus years old. There are going to be differences in opinion on how an organization should proceed.

The reality, however, is the vast majority of our members are not from Ohio. The organization is national, and in some respects an international organization. Because our members are from across the world, we have to respect that and ensure they’re getting what they need out of this organization–whether it’s everything we offer, just going to Short Course or just getting the (OFA) Bulletin. My mission, and the reason I was hired to be the CEO, is to help the organization move forward. When you move forward, you have to respect the past.

GG: Architecture focuses on function and design. What are your thoughts on how plants can be positioned the same way? Are there ways we can promote good design/plantings and also make these benefits accessible, within reach of most people?

MG: I’ve worked with three professional societies: architecture, home building and now horticulture. They’re all similar–the products are different and the way we go about introducing the products is different–but ultimately the goal is the same: You’re trying to improve the quality of life of the people who use your products.

So whether you’re building a home, designing a park or buying plants and flowers for your home, what every industry is trying to do is design a good quality of life or a great space for people to live, work and play.

What this industry is doing is not any different than what I’ve been doing in the past. There are obviously different products but the end result is the same in many ways. What also is very similar is we’re also dealing with small businesses.

GG: What potential do you see for our industry to expand? Is there more there?

MG: There’s more there, first, in that businesses start to diversify. Secondly, there’s growing interest by the general population in nature. People are trying to reconnect to nature in all sorts of ways, whether it’s going to parks or going to farmers’ markets or insisting on having good quality produce from their grocery store. Consumers are demanding better products, and I think that’s great for our industry.  

Leave a Reply

More From State of the Industry...
State of the industry 2016

January 21, 2016

Green Industry Is Set For Continued Growth In 2016

Economist Charlie Hall says the outlook for the green industry is promising despite the havoc wreaked on plant sales by the downturn in housing.

Read More
How will growers' production in 2016 compare to 2015

January 18, 2016

2016 State Of The Greenhouse Industry Numbers At A Glance

Greenhouse Grower‘s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey shows some promising trends for the new year. Here’s a look at the greenhouse market for 2016, in graphics.     For a more in-depth analysis of where the industry stands, read Greenhouse Grower‘s 2016 State Of The Industry article, “Growers And Suppliers Move Forward With Cautious Optimism In 2016.”

Read More
Top Concerns sidebar

January 18, 2016

Growers And Suppliers Move Forward With Cautious Optimism In 2016

A year of growth in 2015 also had its share of challenges, and as a result, growers and suppliers are a bit more guarded going into 2016. After a few years of extreme weather and drought, a massive ongoing labor shortage, a shaky economy, and increased government regulation, Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey shows growers and retailers are moving forward with cautious optimism. Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey included separate questions for growers and for suppliers. Of our 358 respondents, 103 were suppliers, 111 were grower-retailers, 109 were wholesale growers, and 35 were young plant growers. Among growers, 57% indicated their operations were small (less than 100,000 square feet), 21% were medium-sized (100,000 to 399,999 square feet), and 22% said they were large growers (400,000 square feet or larger). Sixty-eight percent of the grower respondents said their sales grew in 2015 over 2014, down […]

Read More
Latest Stories
State of the industry 2016

January 21, 2016

Green Industry Is Set For Continued Growth In 2016

Economist Charlie Hall says the outlook for the green industry is promising despite the havoc wreaked on plant sales by the downturn in housing.

Read More
How will growers' production in 2016 compare to 2015

January 18, 2016

2016 State Of The Greenhouse Industry Numbers At A Glan…

Greenhouse Grower‘s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey shows some promising trends for the new year. Here’s a look at the greenhouse market for 2016, in graphics.     For a more in-depth analysis of where the industry stands, read Greenhouse Grower‘s 2016 State Of The Industry article, “Growers And Suppliers Move Forward With Cautious Optimism In 2016.”

Read More
Top Concerns sidebar

January 18, 2016

Growers And Suppliers Move Forward With Cautious Optimi…

A year of growth in 2015 also had its share of challenges, and as a result, growers and suppliers are a bit more guarded going into 2016. After a few years of extreme weather and drought, a massive ongoing labor shortage, a shaky economy, and increased government regulation, Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey shows growers and retailers are moving forward with cautious optimism. Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey included separate questions for growers and for suppliers. Of our 358 respondents, 103 were suppliers, 111 were grower-retailers, 109 were wholesale growers, and 35 were young plant growers. Among growers, 57% indicated their operations were small (less than 100,000 square feet), 21% were medium-sized (100,000 to 399,999 square feet), and 22% said they were large growers (400,000 square feet or larger). Sixty-eight percent of the grower respondents said their sales grew in 2015 over 2014, down […]

Read More
State of the industry 2016

January 14, 2016

Craig Regelbrugge Says 2016 Will Be A Year Of Waiting F…

The 2016 presidential election will make for slow progress on critical regulatory issues like health care, pollinator health, and immigration reform.

Read More

December 29, 2015

The Home Depot Says No To Neonics

The Home Depot plans to phase out neonicotinoids by 2018, according to a recent statement on the company’s website. The large home improvement retailer stated that its live goods suppliers have reduced the number of plants that they treat with neonicotinoids, and now more than 80% of all flowering plants sold at The Home Depot are not treated with neonicotinoids. The retailer said it will continue this decrease unless: Treatment is required by state or federal regulation, or Undisputed science proves that the use of neonicotinoids on live goods does not have a lethal or sub-lethal effect on pollinators Aside from these exceptions, the retailer has implemented a complete phase-out of neonicotinoid use on live goods by the end of 2018. Meanwhile, The Home Depot has required all of its live goods suppliers to label plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids. “The Home Depot is deeply engaged in understanding the […]

Read More
Pollinator-Conference-NC State

December 9, 2015

Pollinator Gardens Are On The Rise, Provide Opportuniti…

Thanks to the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, enacted in June 2015 by the National Pollinator Garden Network, scores of new pollinator gardens to be planted over the next year and beyond will provide growers with ample opportunities to produce, promote and sell plants that are ideal for pollinator forage and health. And with research underway within the industry, we’ll soon have more knowledge about which plants are the most beneficial and attractive to pollinators. At Bayer’s Bee Care Center, the level of consumer engagement and interest in planting pollinator gardens is very high, Bayer’s Sarah Myers says. Bayer now has 73 local and industry partners and counting in its “Feed A Bee Campaign,” launched in March. Educating consumers about what they can plant to attract bees, and the impact they can have with even the smallest amount of space, is highly important, Myers says. It’s worth explaining to them that […]

Read More
foodscaping at epcot - Foodscaping Goes Big At Disney

December 9, 2015

Foodscaping Challenges Conventional Ideas About Landsca…

Conventional ideas about what a landscape should look like are being challenged left and right, from young homeowners like Sarah Baker of Baker’s Acres, who are standing up for their right not to mow their lawns, to Brie Arthur’s passion to start a movement to incorporate food with flowers throughout suburban and urban landscapes nationwide. As younger generations step up as consumers and industry leaders, these changes are likely to continue, and the horticulture industry, which has the most to gain, would be remiss not to embrace and influence them. Well known for her personal foodscape, which she has promoted across social media, and her annual tomato-tasting fundraising event benefiting the nearby J.C. Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, N.C., Brie Arthur has also been working with schools and her local Homeowner Association (HOA) to challenge the traditional idea of the landscape to one that incorporates the growing of food with mainstream, […]

Read More

November 20, 2015

Lessons Learned From The California Drought

For those of us who live in the areas of the country that experienced harsh winters and significant rain over the past three seasons, water has become a nuisance in some cases, rather than a blessing. I can’t count the number of times I have wished to be able to send the snow or the rain to the West Coast, tied up with a big red bow. But think about how we’d feel if we didn’t have the snow and the rain, and we were experiencing the same dry conditions that the residents of California, Oregon and Washington have. With fresh water supplies dwindling in regions of the world, and the resistance of residents in states like Michigan to share water from the Great Lakes, it’s likely that the next civil or world war could be fought over our most precious resource. California’s epic drought should cause everyone to look […]

Read More
Kate Santos Operations Director Dummen Orange

November 18, 2015

Kate Santos Presents New Opportunities For The Horticul…

Dr. Kate Santos is a scientist, an artist, an advocate, a traveler, a dreamer, a visionary and a go-getter. Well-known for her work managing Dümmen Orange as Operations Director, Santos has taken on a new role as co-founder of Luxflora, an organization for women in horticulture.

Read More
MPS Sustainable Quality Logo

November 17, 2015

International Seminar Finds Broad-Based Need For Indust…

Achieving durability and maximum transparency is the responsibility of the entire floriculture supply chain, was the main conclusion of the seminar “Shaping the Future of Floriculture,” which took place on Monday 9 November on the S.S. Rotterdam in The Netherlands. With just under 300 participants, the seminar, organized by Union Fleurs, VGB and MPS, received plenty of attention.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

November 11, 2015

Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State of The In…

The State of the Industry report, which uses input from both growers and suppliers, is designed to help you understand this year's crop and sales trends, as well as the issues that keep you up at night.

Read More

November 11, 2015

Drought Has Triggered A New Normal For The California L…

California is now entering its fifth year of the worst drought in 500 years, with no end in sight. Weather experts predict the current drought will continue into 2016, despite optimistic projections of increased rain patterns this winter caused by a strong El Niño ocean current. Residents have fully bought in to the emergency, and embraced Governor Jerry Brown’s April 1 mandate to reduce water usage by 25 percent. Even after an above-average hot summer, the state has exceeded its goal, with a per-month average of 28 percent water reduction. Some of the ways homeowners are being encouraged to reduce their outdoor water use are concerning, but the good news is, drought-tolerant landscaping and awareness of water-wise gardening is on the rise. Cash For Grass Rebates Have Landowners Trading In Their Lawns When Governor Brown’s water reduction mandate was announced in April, consumer reaction was reflected in the sales at […]

Read More

November 3, 2015

Two Floral Industry Leaders Die

Katharyn Elizabeth “Betsy” Demaree, 77, of Syndicate Sales, Inc. passed away on October 26, and Yoshimi "Shimi" Shibata, 100, formerly president of Mt. Eden Floral Company, passed away on October 31.

Read More
Charlie Hall

October 26, 2015

Charlie Hall Says Landscaping Services Are Trending Up,…

Everyone listens to Dr. Charlie Hall, professor and Ellison Chair in International Horticulture, in the Department of Horticultural Sciences at Texas A&M University. And at his Cultivate’15 session, “The Future Value of the Landscape Services Sector,” attendees hung on his every word. According to First Research, the output of the U.S. landscaping industry is forecasted to grow at a compounded rate of 4 percent through 2016, indicating steady growth in the long term. In the landscape sector, regional firms are rapidly scaling up to achieve the economies of scale necessary to compete with the very large firms. Here are some of the points Hall made at the session where he projected his near-term forecast for the landscape sector: With 1.1 million housing starts now, the net demand is 1.5 million, and economists project there will be 1.2 million by the end of the year. That means, construction is behind in […]

Read More
cannabis

October 23, 2015

Consider Your Options With Greenhouse Cannabis Producti…

I’ve been thinking a lot about Cannabis. But wait, there’s more! All jokes aside, Cannabis is certainly a crop that comes fraught with controversy. Over the past few months, while we have been learning and reporting about the federal legality issues, financial risks and considerations and even the work and expense that goes into the application process to obtain a license to produce this crop, we have tried to remain as objective as possible. We’re not advocating that you produce Cannabis, nor are we opposing your choice to consider this crop as a future direction for your operation. Our goal in publishing eNewsletters and the print report found in the pages of the October issue of Greenhouse Grower, is simply to inform you of what production of this crop would include, from the challenges and risks to the opportunities. And no matter how you feel about the issue, as a business […]

Read More

October 21, 2015

First-Ever National Pollinator Protection Conference Co…

At the first National Conference on Protecting Pollinators in Ornamental Landscapes, in Hendersonville, N.C., October 12-14, 2015, attendees heard all sides of the pollinator health issue, from preliminary research findings on the effects of pesticides on bees, to the importance of urban gardens to pollinators, to the reasons why any changes to the availability of certain pesticides on the market need to be based on sound science. Co-organized by Michigan State University Extension and North Carolina State Extension, and sponsored by Bayer CropScience, Valent, Syngenta, Biobest, the American Floral Endowment and the North Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association, the conference drew several attendees from several different areas of the horticulture industry, including Extension agents, growers, plant protection companies and more. The conference kicked off with opening keynote speaker David Goulson of the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. It followed with a day and a half packed with sessions […]

Read More

October 6, 2015

NASA Scientists To Discuss Indoor Agriculture Innovatio…

The University of Arizona’s Controlled Environmental Agriculture Center (CEAC) will host Dr. Jacklyn Green, CEO and founder of Agate Biosciences, and Dr. Roger Kern, president and founder of Agate Biosciences: Science & Systems Engineering, on October 30, as part of its seminar series. Both Green and Kern are former NASA scientists and engineers, and they will discuss their continuing efforts to develop technology and seek innovations to address issues concerning urban indoor agriculture, with a potential for application on Mars. Through the creation of Agate Biosciences LLC, Kern and Green have turned their attention to earth-bound issues of food production, to provide advanced technologies for plant nutrition, biosecurity and the undertaking of scientifically based research in greenhouse design and controls systems, and in plant health under controlled environment agriculture. A recent NASA news release reports that the Mars Rover 2020 mission is planned to deliver an extensive array of instruments designed to explore the habitability […]

Read More

September 23, 2015

Cultivate’15 Session Reveals How To Attract Young…

A dynamic discussion during Cultivate’15 between growers, horticulture professors and both current students and recent graduates, provided some insight on how grower operations can attract the next generation of growers, and what’s important to make them stay once you hire them. The session, “Attracting the Next Generation of Industry Professionals,” featured a panel including Dr. Peg McMahon of The Ohio State University’s Horticulture and Crop Science Department, Dr. Marvin Miller of Ball Horticultural Co., Dr. Brian Jackson from North Carolina State University’s Department of Horticulture, Lloyd Traven of Peace Tree Farm, Douglas Schuster of Kingwood Center and Courtney Crawford of Millcreek Gardens. The preface for the session is something many industry professionals have lamented for years now — enrollment in college horticulture programs is dropping, and university programs are losing funds or disappearing. Much of this may be attributed to the perception among potential students and their parents that horticulture means […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]