Management — Working to Advance the Industry By Mary Beth Cowardin

Are you looking for ways to improve the strength of your team … and your company this season? Be sure to take advantage of the different initiatives that are available.

It’s always fun to start a new season.

If you’re a baseball fan that includes the anticipation of spring training and your favorite team still being “undefeated” with a sure path to the World Series.

AmericanHort is gearing up for the 2019 season and our own World Series — Cultivate’19 — to help advance the horticulture industry.

We also are working on several other programs designed to improve the business environment for the success of our members and the industry. Helping you and your business “Perform Better, Grow Faster and Prepare for the Future” is our focus.


Our advocacy team works diligently to improve labor, transportation and the regulatory environment to make it easier to run your business. AmericanHort is proud to be a voice for the horticulture industry and encourage you to speak up as our collective voices are louder together.

We offer an easy tool available to our AmericanHort and Lighthouse members called Voter Voice. With one click of a button you can send messages to elected officials on the important issues of the day.

We send you an alert when the need to speak up arises and you receive a sample message to send to lawmakers in Washington, D.C. This is an easy way for you to share your stance on issues in a timely manner. While our Advocacy team is a constant presence on Capitol Hill, your efforts to contact your representatives on key issues makes our voice more compelling.

Want to share your voice not just virtually, but also in person? Consider attending our legislative conference — Impact Washington Summit — taking place Sept. 16-18, in Washington, D.C. We are proud of the important progress our Advocacy and Research team is making on key issues. This gathering will educate industry business leaders on the latest legislative and regulatory issues impacting horticulture and will create the opportunity for you to meet with lawmakers face to face to share our position. Learn more at


Having access to the latest industry information is crucial when it comes to performing at your highest level. We are excited about our latest Industry Insider Report: Garden Retail Profitability. This four-part video series by Steve Bailey, an expert on using financial and operations data to help improve profitability, discusses income statements, profit margin, pricing, inventory management, and return on investment metrics.

To complete the series, a virtual panel discussion with garden center owners shares how using these financial tools helped them operate better. While focused on garden center retail operations, these videos can benefit all green industry businesses. You can view them at

Long known as the largest all-industry venue for conducting business, Cultivate’19 continues to be the place to gather and learn. Marking its 90th year, Cultivate’19 will take place July 13-16, in Columbus, Ohio. Cultivate’19 will include cutting-edge industry tours to share industry best practices, host nearly 150 educational sessions to provide current information on industry trends and business practices that will help businesses grow faster.

In cooperation with the AmericanHort Community Connector groups, we work hard to bring interesting new tours and workshops to Cultivate. Two new events include:

During this year’s Research and Innovation Tour, Scotts Miracle-Gro will host a tour of their research facilities where you can learn about the benefits of compost for consumer gardening and large- scale production and how to use organic fertilizers. In addition to getting an overview of how this the company ensures best-in-class performance of the SMG portfolio of retail lawn, garden and control products, the tour will also focus on indoor gardening innovations for home gardeners to grow fresh herbs and vegetables year-round with hydroponics.

In the Creating a Modern Garden Center Workshop, participants will learn how to make a garden center contemporary to address today’s trends and meet the needs of the changing consumer. A panel discussion of creative and ambitious leaders in the retail industry, will share their tips for getting inspired and staying innovative. Top retail experts from around the world will share their inspiration, plans, hurdles, and how they stay relevant to today’s consumer.

To learn more about the educational sessions, workshops and tours and how you and your staff can take advantage of them, visit and

The Plug & Cutting Conference is another home run event for learning about the best growing for the 2019 season. The 2018 event was rescheduled due to Hurricane Florence. We look forward to hosting this popular event Sept. 4-6, in the Charlotte, N.C. area. Participants will have a chance to visit Metrolina Greenhouse and Rockwell Farms. This conference provides knowledge to help young plant growers perform even better in their businesses.


AmericanHort’s foundation, the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI), has exciting news. Earlier this year, HRI’s leadership team voted to fund fifteen research projects in FY2019, at over $430,000.

Projects range from innovations, to crop production for both greenhouse and nursery segments, to water management in landscapes, emergent pest issues, and economic and marketing analyses. The HRI boxwood initiative continues, with the second year of evaluation of a standardized protocol to assess relative cultivar susceptibility or tolerance to boxwood blight. Preliminary results from 2018 point to the successful development of a protocol and clear differences in the level of susceptibility among cultivars upon testing.

At the end of 2018, HRI hosted a research roundtable to identify research priorities for the next five to 10 years. Approximately 50 attendees were present, representing all facets of environmental horticulture from all regions of the US. Through brainstorming exercises and an assessment of the industry, the group reached a strong consensus on areas of need.

Quantifying the benefits of plants is one example. Results of the meeting are available in an executive summary and an in-depth manuscript in the Journal of Environmental Horticulture. Going forward, research priorities will be amended according to the feedback from the summit to better lead the industry towards success. Learn more about HRI activities at

AmericanHort’s GenerationNext community is focused on helping young professionals progress in their career. A key initiative to support these efforts is CareerUP. We are pleased to offer the third annual CareerUP workshop for emerging professionals on July 13, in conjunction with Cultivate’19.

This year’s speakers will focus on improving team dynamics and communication, discuss the skills needed to resolve conflict and have tough conversations, and show how to better deal with change and let go of the fears that may be holding you back.

This event provides an invaluable opportunity to network with horticulture industry peers who are also trying to figure out how to navigate and develop their career in an industry where career progression isn’t always obvious. An important part of this valuable learning experience is networking. Attendees will be provided multiple opportunities throughout the event to help strengthen their own industry connections.

Finally, we are expanding efforts to capture more consumer discretionary dollars for our industry through, a website built in partnership with the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). We continue to work to expand our sustainability programming, helping the industry understand best practices around pesticide, fertilizer, water, energy, and recycling use. Look for more news on these exciting new opportunities in the coming months.

As spring training gets under way and the first quarter of 2019 comes to an end, the team at AmericanHort is energized by the opportunities that lay ahead. I hope you’ll join us as we strive to unite, promote, and advance the horticulture industry. Because what we do together matters.

Mary Beth Cowardin

Mary Beth Cowardin is vice president of marketing and member engagement at AmericanHort. She can be reached at

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GPN recognizes 40 industry professionals under the age of 40 who are helping to determine the future of the horticulture industry. These individuals are today’s movers and shakers who are already setting the pace for tomorrow.