The National Horticulture Foundation is one of the best kept secrets in the horticulture industry that I have had the privilege of discovering over the last 5 years since I joined the NHF board. NHF began 34 years ago as the National Foliage Foundation, and has been growing stronger, serving the industry, and solving problems from the very beginning. NHF has broadened their scope over the years and now is helping solve problems for every aspect of the horticulture industry. New initiatives in just the past 5 years include supporting the collegiate plant initiative which inspires college students around the country to love plants (creating future plant buyers as well as horticultural professionals), supporting research on efficient water use in woody tree and shrub production and supporting research to help solve the threat of lethal bronzing of palms. All these new initiatives are in addition to ongoing support for foliage and greenhouse production as well as strong scholarship programs.
Through the generous and steadfast support of industry members NHF has grown into a foundation that can help our ENTIRE industry tackle both current and future challenges with answers and solutions. Joe Cialone, current board member and one of the founders of NHF, recently told the story of NHF beginnings back in the 1980’s. The idea for the foundation started with John Harmon who was the Executive Director of the Florida Foliage Association. At the time, as each new industry problem arose, phone calls would go out to raise money to help support the research and solutions. Joe recalls sitting in John Harmon's office in Apopka one afternoon in 1987 when John said: "you guys are crazy trying to support research in this way. You need to start a foundation that begins to collect funds and only spend the earnings, so that from year to year you can count on monies being available. Also, this will be an opportunity for more people to help carry the load of making the industry stronger." He stressed that, "at first it would be slow going, but over time, the foundation would get a life of its own."
NHF’s success is not a secret anymore and NHF has taken on a life of its own. From the humble beginnings of John’s idea in the 1980s, NHF now has over 3 million dollars endowed to support the multi-billion-dollar horticulture industry. While our foundation is strong there is much work to do as we serve our industry and grow our future through supporting horticulture students, finding necessary technological and production advances, finding new cultivars and varieties, and helping solve the problems created by the ever-present threat of pests and diseases.
As we come back together as an industry at The Landscape Show we will reconnect and celebrate the diversity and strength of the horticulture industry in Florida. If the growth of the industry in the last 30 years has benefitted you or your company, like it has me and my family, please considering giving back and helping solve our current and future challenges through an annual gift to NHF. No gift is too small, or too big, and through giving back we can all help carry the load of making our industry stronger.