3 Simple Ways You Can Defend Our Rights & Help Grow The Industry

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Carole Barton_DO_NOT_USE

Life comes at us so fast in our businesses that we spend most of our days trying to avoid slamming into the trees rather than worrying about the size and state of the forest. But given the downward trends we hear about on a daily basis and their effect on our sales and bottom lines, it’s in your own best interest to look beyond your own thicket and devote a small percentage of your time tending to the health of the woodland that supports us all. A few suggestions:

1 Volunteer. So many organizations and events within our industry depend on volunteers. From state associations to tradeshows and beyond, volunteers are needed to be board members, arrange tours, make phone calls and write letters to state and local political leaders. You may not think the benefits to your business will be substantial enough to merit your time and, perhaps, a little of your treasure. But the things you’ll learn, the connections you’ll make and the interesting people you’ll meet add dimension not just to your business, but also to your life.

I met some of my best friends working on the boards of the Southeast Greenhouse Conference and the Alabama Nursery & Landscape Association. It’s hard to imagine life without them now. The knowledge and friendship they’ve shared have been priceless.

2 Represent. Be an ambassador for our industry. So often, those outside our industry describe and perceive us inaccurately.
Several years ago, I participated in state-level drought policy meetings as an industry rep. Of the four possible classifications of water users involved, the meeting managers put nursery and greenhouse growers in the “recreational” category. Really? In the rush of crazy-busy 14-hour days in the spring, I somehow hadn’t noticed that aspect of it. I asked to be assigned to the agricultural section, and, as “the little lady who grows the flowers,” I was able to tell the other farmers about the size and economic scope of our industry.

At that time the green industry in Alabama was third only to poultry and cattle. Others had absolutely no clue. From the Birmingham water ban in 2000 to the immigration hearings in 2007, growers willing to step up have played important roles in sharing our story. Whether in front of a camera, at a meeting with the state ag commissioner, in meetings with water officials to determine future water restriction policies or in the back row of a chamber of commerce meeting, our future depends on us being in the room.

3 Support. Talk has surfaced, from time to time, of a national marketing initiative for our industry.  Those discussions have, so far, been met with less than unanimous enthusiasm. Until we get that figured out, there is one organization already doing some heavy lifting on our behalf.

America in Bloom (AIB) has been bringing positive attention to our industry for 10 years. It reaches young and old alike in cities and towns across the country, with an emphasis on communities, promoting the use and value of our industry’s products along the way.

It’s time for many more of us to put our money where, well, our money is. Barton’s is a small nursery and appreciates the efforts of AIB to keep our industry and its benefits in the spotlight in a way we aren’t able to ourselves. So we are sending a check and committing to support AIB. Please join us.

Carole Barton is a co-owner of Barton's Greenhouse & Nursery in Alabaster, Ala. She can be reached at roleydb@bellsouth.net.

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