New varieties are the lifeblood of our industry — the grower’s pipeline to create new markets and refine production for existing ones. For 20 years, Greenhouse Grower has recognized many of the unsung heroes of our industry — the breeders who bring new varieties to life.
Our Medal of Excellence awards program, which recognizes innovation in varieties, sprouted in 1989 when founding Editor Jane Lieberth and Contributing Editor Dr. Allan Armitage covered the California Pack Trials together. Impressed with all the great work breeders were doing to create uniform series of seed annuals, they decided to recognize the most significant introduction from the trials each year.
This recognition was published in the magazine, and we presented the award over an intimate, elegant dinner with the winning breeding company during OFA’s Short Course. Ten years later, our Group Publisher Joe Monahan had the vision to make our Medal of Excellence a true industry recognition with an official awards presentation during a reception at Short Course. Thanks to support from OFA, we have been able to build Medal of Excellence into the “Oscars” of our industry in the varieties world, drawing about 300 industry leaders to celebrate these achievements.
We have expanded Medal of Excellence to encompass five awards. The three for breeding include the award Lieberth and Armitage started and we have renamed it the Editor’s Choice. Editor Delilah Onofrey identifies her top five introductions from the California Pack Trials as the nominees for this award.
The second breeding award is the Industry’s Choice, selected by a well-rounded industry panel. Panelists identify their top five introductions from the Pack Trials and the common votes become the nominees. This same list of nominees is then voted on by our readership at large to determine the winner of the Reader’s Choice award, which is now in its second year.
Realizing there is more to varieties than breeding them, we honor innovative marketing programs that generate consumer interest and demand. This award is the Medal of Excellence for Marketing, or Marketer of the Year. Past recipients include: Plant For The Cure, Proven Winners, The Flower Fields, Wave petunias, Icicle pansies, Stepables, Novalis’ Plants That Work and now Hermann Engelmann Greenhouse’s Exotic Angel Plants.
Programs that receive this award are not new but tested in the marketplace for several years before consideration. It is our hope that we never run out of great marketing programs to recognize. We continue to be amazed by creative concepts and strategies.
We’ve also created a hall of fame in the varieties world with our Medal of Excellence for Industry Achievement. This award recognizes individuals, companies and organizations that have dedicated their life’s work to advancing varieties. Individual trailblazers include our own resident plant guru Allan Armitage, PanAmerican breeder Jagan Sharma, influential grower-retailer Evelyn Weidner, Nellie Hoeke of Royalty Administration International and Glenn Goldsmith, founder of Goldsmith Seeds.
The first organization to receive this award was the Perennial Plant Association last year as part of its 20th anniversary celebration. Leading companies that have been honored include Ball Horticultural Co. during its 100-year milestone, Paul Ecke Ranch and now German flower breeder Benary, which has also reached a historic milestone.
Congratulations to all our winners and nominees. It is our pleasure to recognize your outstanding achievements and celebrate them with our industry.