We don’t think of 75 as being old in terms of a person’s lifetime. Whereas in the non-profit or business sector, 75 years is significant. All-America Selections (AAS) has lived graciously, due to the vision and integrity of the leadership from the seed industry. The leaders of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s were the presidents and treasurers of All-America Selections. Howard Bodger served as treasurer and his investment decisions from the ‘60s benefit AAS today.
Dwelling on the past is unhealthy. Let’s look to the future of the horticulture industry.
There are three trends that are influencing horticulture. Sustainability and the "greening" of the green industry impact all of us. Breeding new varieties that have disease resistances and do not require plant growth regulators will help growers comply with sustainability in their greenhouse production. All-America Selections has and will continue to serve the industry by identifying the annuals, perennials and vegetables that meet these sustainable requirements, such as the Gold Medal AAS Winners, Profusion zinnias.
The second trend is the "Think Globally — Act Locally" trend. It ties into the "greening" of our world but there is a call to action. How many family-owned businesses do you support with your purchases? How many "big box" stores do you frequent? There needs to be a balance.
We need family-owned stores and discount retailers. Independent garden centers offer the consumer the plant diversity and service avid gardeners deserve. The "big box" stores offer the least expensive live plants to encourage beginners to consider gardening.
We need to serve both types of retailers to reach the widest audience for our products. The AAS Winners are products that fit perfectly into both types of retail stores, as they are the best genetics for North America that the world has to offer.
The third trend is toward civility. People need to relate to people with courtesy, politeness and manners. Too often, people disagree and there is a personal attack that results in verbal abuse or name-calling in the media. Alternatively, there is a way to disagree with a person and remain respectful. The trend toward civility enables us to have business "friends" for life.
In the seed industry, there is a saying, "Don’t burn bridges." There is a probability that your competitor will become your employer. I can cite many instances where this has happened to people, some with dire consequences, others with bright futures. As the seed industry contracts, there are fewer experienced, knowledgeable people.
Within this smaller group, there has been a genuine friendliness that doesn’t exist within other "green" industries. All-America Selections has been a leader, embracing civility and encouraging companies to work together toward a common goal of introducing the best genetics in the world into North America.
I challenge all of us to strive towards sustainability, the "greening" of the green industry with polite manners towards all people, even customers!