Opportunities Abound For Women In Horticulture, Says Dosatron International’s Lela Kelly
My love for horticulture goes back to my grandparents who were farmers in upstate New York. My family’s involvement in agriculture left a lasting impression that has spanned decades, and still drives my passion for our industry today.
I started my career in horticulture when I owned a greenhouse, nursery and garden center in Sayville, Long Island, N.Y. We specialized in ground cover production, later branching out to producing perennials and bedding plants.
I then went onto wholesale hard goods distribution. In the 1980s, I was the first woman salesperson on Long Island. What an eye opener that was! New York is a very special place, different from anywhere else in the country. You cannot imagine how difficult it was walking into greenhouses and nurseries as a woman, in a man’s world. Luckily, I grew up in New York City in an Italian family, who taught me great work ethic and how to stand up for yourself. Quickly, customers accepted me and I loved my job. How great it was to have a job where you are outside all day, surrounded by plants and flowers, and where customers became your friends.
Eventually, I met Eddy Kelly, owner of Dosatron International, Inc. Together Eddy and I have grown Dosatron International, Inc. into the amazing company it is today. Next year will be our 30th year in business, and our success is largely due to the horticulture industry.
Horticulture Has Evolved And Is Full Of Opportunities
I firmly believe to be truly happy, you must have a passion for what you do. Horticulture has so many opportunities that did not exist for women 30 years ago. Today you can find a large percentage of woman-owned greenhouse operations, and the number of women working in top management in greenhouse facilities and in sales positions is growing every year. If you are willing to work hard, and you deeply care about the company you work for and the customers you serve, you can be successful.
In order to grow and develop a successful business, I believe investing in education is critical. Years ago, I attended and graduated from the OPM (Owner President Manager) Program at the Harvard Business School. This program takes executives through the same course, using the same professors as the MBA program. I am now an alumnus of Harvard University, and the lessons learned and the connections made at Harvard are invaluable.
My husband Eddy and I have successfully brought up three daughters, one of whom, Pam Temko, now runs our company. The Harvard course helped us navigate through working with family and succession planning. Being in a family business has challenges, and education is needed to make it a successful venture.
Greenhouse Vegetables Are A Growing Business
One of the big growth markets we see in our industry is greenhouse production of food crops. Every week we get inquiries from growers who are converting conventional greenhouses for vegetable production, and want to use our fertilizer injection systems. This conversion to growing food crops requires a whole new level of education. I believe it is well worth the time to pursue learning all you can in this field.
At Dosatron we have committed to giving back to the community by helping the homeless. Homeless Emergency Project is a local homeless shelter with which we are very involved. One of my dreams is to educate the homeless about healthy eating. We are in the process of planning a greenhouse structure to grow vegetables for the homeless. The shelter’s veteran population has a huge interest in growing vegetables. This whole process would be very therapeutic for them and allow them to have a purpose. The vegetables that they harvest will be used in their soup kitchen and also given to local families in need.
Women In Horticulture Must Support One Another
There are many women in horticulture, like myself, who need to connect with young women who are trying to decide on their futures. We need to find a way to share our experience with these young women to encourage them to reach for more in their careers, and to help them realize how much is out there and show them the possibilities.