"Nobody saw this coming...or did they?"
My name is Austin Bryant, I am owner of Heart of Florida Greenhouses and I have served on the National Horticulture Foundation (NHF) for many years. It is my pleasure to take on the board member’s letter this month.
We have come to, and now passed the one-year anniversary of this Covid-19 virus in our country. Every person in our industry has felt the grip of this pandemic in both their personal lives and of course businesses. Looking back one year ago in March 2020, I recall real concerns for spring sales. We all watched the country begin to shut down one industry at a time. Easter was canceled wrecking hydrangea and lily markets. Florist lost critical holidays that some would not recover from. Restaurants and others businesses continued to close their doors as lines formed at grocery stores, while people in panic bought essential items. Then it happened… We watched in amazement as garden centers, florist, and interiorscapers rolled up their sleeves and got to work inventing new ways of getting plants and flowers in the hands of consumers. This rising market, already spurred into action by the millennial plant movement of Fall 2019, shot our markets sales though the stratosphere and continues to this day setting new sales records weekly. I would say nobody saw this coming. But that would not entirely be true.
NHF studies involving UF researchers Dr. Thomas A. Colquhoun, Dr. David G. Clark and the Collegiate Plant Initiative showed this exciting trend in their research that started several years ago with college students. True, there was no way to know how BIG this would become. However, the groundwork of this plant movement was detected through their studies. New highly attractive plant college courses were attracting non-traditional college students, followed by the Collegiate Plant Initiatives’ organized plant drop programs. These plant drops are touching thousands of young lives and offering sometimes the very first positive experience with horticulture.
There was truly no way to quantify the importance of these early outreach programs for driving young people to our markets and how their efforts fueled the economic rocket we all are currently riding. It’s projects like these that NHF gladly sponsors, and we now have the opportunity to reap the benefits of. Out of all the industries highlighted by the effects of Covid-19 the horticulture industry is one of the brightest shining stars being mentioned in Forbes magazine and others gaining recognition for improving mental and physical quality of life without increasing cost of living.
National Horticulture Foundation has always been at the leading edge of market trends by investing money into research programs that directly help drive our industry. This is the year. Now is the time to be thankful. Now more than ever, so many industry businesses are currently in the position for the philanthropic giving. Why not start an endowment? The investment you make in NHF will fuel future education and research for our industry, helping increase the hiring pool of graduates with degrees in horticulture and also raise profit margins through research directed to improve growing technology. NHF does not cultivate an atmosphere for growth and success for just a few, but for everyone that wishes to participate in our industry.
As we press forward through spring with record sales beyond expectations let us be ever mindful and grateful for this moment in our industry and invest back to the foundation that has already invested in you. You can simply send a check to 1533 Park Center Drive, Orlando, FL 32835 or text the word GREEN to 41444. A gift of any size can make a difference.