Connecting The Supply Chain

Industry events aren’t dead. They just need a shot of life.

A case in point is Lilytopia, the Longwood Gardens exhibition showcasing the latest lilies Dutch hybridizers have developed. The late-May lily exhibition lasted just 10 days but preparation for the event spanned two years, resulting in a lily wonderland consumers here in the United States have never experienced.

The inaugural Lilytopia was primarily designed for consumers, giving them the chance to explore the 10,000-plus cut lilies that decorated Longwood’s East Conservatory. But breeders, growers and retailers took advantage of the first-time opportunity, as well. And together, along with the Longwood Gardens staff, they put a memorable event together.

Dutch breeders approached Lilytopia as an opportunity to showcase their latest products in a market that really hasn’t seen them before. Likewise, growers and retailers took advantage of a one-day educational symposium designed for them. The symposium presented growers and retailers the opportunity to enhance their own involvement with cut or pot lilies or latch on to lilies for the first time.

In all, more than 50,000 people – all of them potential lily consumers – visited Longwood Gardens over those 10 days in Kennett Square, Pa. Once visitors were done strolling through the East Conservatory’s lily wonderland, they could swing by an on-site lily shop, buy a few bulbs and take a piece of Lilytopia home to their own gardens. Lilytopia, after all, was about creating a new experience – and the people who put Lilytopia together are confident those gardening enthusiasts want more experiences like the one they created.

The Bigger Picture

Cut or pot lilies may not be your greenhouse operation’s specialty, but substitute your core products into a Lilytopia-like event and consider the potential. If you produce typical bedding plants like calibrachoa, marigold and petunia, why not collaborate with others in the supply chain and put together a Bedding Plant Bonanza, which positions items that are traditionally commodities in breathtaking designs and landscapes consumers haven’t before seen?

How about a Tropicals Paradise? Or a Mega Mums Fest? Or a Winter Wonderland event that showcases poinsettias and other indoor plants consumers historically haven’t associated with the holiday season? Growers could use another crop or two – or 10 – to get them through the winter season. Why not work together with others in the supply chain to give consumers new experiences?

One belief everyone shares is that our products make the world better. Breeders, growers and retailers aren’t polluting our oceans with oil or contributing to the economic crisis. They’re creating beauty and producing products that create peaceful environments.

Still, the industry has fallen back on the “beauty” and “peaceful environments” arguments long enough. Maybe it’s time we cast those arguments aside and do something – perhaps using Lilytopia as a model – to generate or reinvigorate interest.

It’s going to take the entire supply chain leading up to consumers to make such an event happen, though, and everyone in the chain needs to pitch in. Because, as OFA President Danny Takao says in this month’s cover story (page 16): There are always growers who want to come along for a free ride, but then you have 10 or 15 percent of the growers doing all the work.

Ten or 15 percent won’t cut it anymore. Not when 100 percent of growers could use new or improved ways to connect with consumers.

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