Michael Geary began his tenure as OFA’s new CEO about two months ago. We caught up with Geary shortly after he started and asked him about his attraction to floriculture and his vision for OFA:
GG: What attracted you to floriculture?
MG: As a child, my father was a graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Ph.D. in botany sciences. He had an opportunity early on, before I was even born, to work at a research station in Northern Rhodesia on the African continent. As a little kid, I have memories of going with him to the research station, and I was in the labs with him. I was measuring things and doing calculations. I would go out to the greenhouses and turn on the water. I never thought, at some point in my life, I would be working with it.
Beyond that, my parents were big gardeners. We always had a garden in our backyard. Living in Florida, we planted orange and grapefruit trees. My life was walking out the back yard and picking lettuce, beans and other vegetables. Even today, my father and stepmom have several gardens in Washington, D.C. And they have a home on the eastern shore of Maryland.
Having lived in the city (D.C.), I didn’t have a garden, so I relied on them for fresh produce. But I’m the kind of person who always loved going to the farmers’ markets. In Washington D.C., there’s a permanent farmers’ market that’s open daily. I would go there, as well.
Not really knowing this would be my future, I’ve always had this appreciation for the horticulture industry.
GG: What are some of the first activities you’ll be embarking on?
MG: I’m just moving into four weeks now. …
OFA is responsible for other organizations. We also manage OPGMA (Ohio Produce Growers & Marketers Association). I’ve been to their annual meeting–in fact I did that before I even started the job here. Coming up in a couple weeks is the NLAE (National Landscape Association Executives). Also, in April I’ll be going out for the Spring Trials. So I’m literally jumping right in to do some regional travel as well. Right now, my focus is getting to know the organization, the industry and the people who make it up.
Internally, things we’re working on are the board recently adopted a strategic plan. We are reviewing that. We are analyzing what the staff will be doing, what volunteers will be responsible for. We are starting to integrate that into our operations and long-term planning–not just programmatic but our financial planning as well.
GG: What is your vision for OFA as an event manager? As an education facilitator?
MG: One way we can serve our national membership is to bring our programs to them. People should expect to see additional regional programs. Short Course will remain the premier event in the industry, but we do want to offer more things regionally and look for ways to partner with other organizations for events.
We may manage other events–for example the Southeast Color Connection–but those are not our events. We are not interested in those becoming our events. We support them through a managing agreement, but they are their events for them to keep and to manage. We want them to be successful.
At the same time, we need to make sure we are doing everything for our members. Not everyone can travel to Columbus (Ohio) in July, and we want to make sure we can get things to people in other parts of the country. In addition, we want to do things more than just once a year.