Mar 20, 2024
Recap of SAF’s Next Gen LIVE! third annual event

The Society of American Florists’ (SAF) held the third annual Next Gen LIVE! conference in San Diego last month on Feb. 25-27, 2024. The event brought together 192 floral professionals from across the U.S., Canada, Colombia and Ecuador for a day and a half of learning and networking. The event, designed by and for the next generation of floral leaders, facilitated collaboration, innovation and knowledge sharing amongst attendees from all industry segments.

“Making the genuine connections and reaching back out to people when you need them is probably the most important thing [about this event],” said Casey Cox of My Bloom Budz in Paragould, Arkansas. “This really lays the groundwork for that.”

2024 Next Gen LIVE! eventThroughout the event, education sessions covered diverse topics ranging from industry trends and challenges to artificial intelligence and how to be an empathetic leader. Attendees also discovered new products and services during the supplier showcase, practiced breathwork during a wellness session, participated in a fast-paced design competition, learned about trends, sales hacks, pitching new ideas and much more.

Tracy Parke of House of Flora in Hartford, Connecticut, encapsulated the event’s spirit, stating, “There is so much to this industry, and coming here made it so much smaller… now I can’t stop [learning]. I am so energized.”

On the final day, attendees embarked on tours of several prominent San Diego-area floral operations, including the International Floral Trade Center in Carlsbad, California, Kendall Farms in Fallbrook, California, and Mellano & Co. in Oceanside, California. These behind-the-scenes excursions provided insights into the inner workings of the floral market, showcased innovative practices including Kendall Farms use of robotic arms for heavy lifting and ultraviolet light for disease prevention. At Mellano & Co., attendees explored propagation houses, learned about the impact of artificial light on plant growth, and walked through rolling hills of delphinium, solidago, myrtle and more.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but this exceeds anything you could have ever thought,” said Angelique Witcher of Accent Decor. “It’s just been so eye opening and so interesting to see all the steps and hands that are involved in such a multi-layered process — before it even gets to [florists].”

With increased industry knowledge, innovative ideas, and new connections, attendees left the event invigorated and ready to apply their newfound insights to their businesses.

“I’m excited to have a better, clear view of the industry,” said Nathalie Olvera of Mellano & Co. “We had human resources, growers, retailers, event companies, and just to have everyone in one room sharing their ideas and what they do, what they go through, gives me a better understanding as a grower overseeing the purchasing.”

See photos from the event here.

The fourth annual Next Gen LIVE! conference is scheduled for February 2025 in Dallas. Check here for updates.