Armitage Scholar’s Final Thoughts on the People and Plants of California Spring Trials 2018

Greenhouse Grower’s team at California Spring Trials 2018 included
(l to r) Editor Laura Drotleff, Contributing Editor Dr. Allan Armitage, CAST Scholarship recipient Andrew Scheldorf, and Managing Editor Janeen Wright.

What an adventure California Spring Trials has been! I have been lucky enough to learn more about where our most popular cultivars came from, what goes into a new cultivar, and even got an idea on what could be the next popular cultivars in our industry.

A week ago, as I prepared for this trip, I imagined that it would basically be an exciting and long procession of new plants and marketing ideas. I was mostly right on, but it was also so much more. The California Spring Trials felt like a big reunion, and the whole gang was there. There were veterans who have become legends in our industry, all the way to me, a CAST rookie, and frequently the youngest at the trial. I learned more about how cultivars are protected, how plants are marketed, and just how many people a plant touches before it hits the market for the rest of the world to see.

Our industry is really interconnected, in ways that span the globe. People might move from one company to another, making connections and making friends along the way. Because of how connected our industry is, these connections persist, even if people are in competing companies. Also because of this, there appears to be a sense of mutual respect between companies, big and small. This makes this industry feel much more welcoming to a rookie like me and makes it a little less scary to start out.

This trip also solidified my desire to breed plants. Every time I was able to have a discussion about plant traits, genetics, and germplasm, I felt a thrill of excitement. It’s not every day that someone actually wants to discuss how a plant’s traits segregate. At spring trials, I was able to have these discussions with people who were actually doing it, and oftentimes have been quite successful with it.

This trip really is like boot camp for the industry. If you are able to go with a knowledgeable person or team like Dr. Armitage and the Meister Media crew, to whom I am truly grateful for allowing me to tag along, you really can learn a lot. You can learn about the history of the industry through the people around, the stories you hear, and even from the cultivars that are talked about. You can learn about breeding and marketing directly from the people who are doing the research, and making the decisions and crosses.

This event doesn’t just happen, it truly takes a village. It has been a testament to the dedication and passion of the people in this industry more than anything to me. So as I fly back to snowy Milwaukee, I am dreaming of spring, and of seeing the results of the hard work people have been doing behind the scenes this spring.

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