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2020 National Floriculture Forum Focuses on Industry

Thu, Mar 5th, 2020, created by Joyce Latimer

The annual meeting of the National Floriculture Forum (NFF) washeld this past weekend as a joint meeting with the Board of Trustees of theAmerican Floral Endowment (AFE) in Charlotte, NC, with a major focus on howthose of us in Floriculture can better understand and meet the research and educationneeds of the industry as well as how we can better prepare our students to fillthose needs in the future.

What is the National Floriculture Forum, you say?

Fromtheir Facebook page:

 The National FloricultureForum (NFF) is an annual educational meeting for greenhouse growers, industryleaders, university faculty, graduate students and government scientists fromacademic institutions, governmental agencies and the greenhouse industry.

This group of floriculturists have been meeting since 1999.

The NFF brings together diverse floricultural communities with theobjectives to 1) address issues of importance to the floriculture industry, 2)form collaborative relationships and 3) improve communication within theAmerican floriculture industry to share and disseminate information. 

Withover 30 NFF attendees, including about a dozen graduate students, and most ofthe 18 members of the AFE Board of Trustees, we started our meeting with a tourof Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville led by AFE Board Member and Metrolina co-owner,Art van Wingerden, and Dr. Mark Yelanich, Metrolina’sDirector of Research. With over 180 acres under glass and 40 acres in outdoorproduction, and constant concerns about finding a sufficient number of seasonalworkers, Metrolina excels in the efficient implementation of automation. Checkout a super quick video tour of the breadth and scope as well as the automationand advanced technology used at Metrolina Greenhouses on their home webpage, wrapped up the tour with some frank conversation on how we as University facultyand students can identify and support the industry needs.

Webegan our formal meeting with a joint session of NFF with the AFE Board membersto hear Dr. Jim Faust describe some of the research he has conducted with AFEfunding. Jim stressed that qualifying for AFE funding starts with faculty membersmaking the effort to visit greenhouse and floriculture operations to learn firsthandthe issues they face. Forming those issues into researchable (and fundable)topics and completing that research is where University faculty excel, but thekey is to communicate those results back to the industry. AFE is a criticalpartner to both the industry and faculty in funding the research on thesetopics and assisting in communicating those results back to the industry. It’san efficient and effective three-way partnership addressing industry needs.

Asthe NFF meeting continued on Saturday and Sunday, the overall theme wasconnecting with industry and teaching our students to do the same. With great directionfrom Marvin Miller and Todd Cavins of Ball and some hilarious communicationadvice from Holly Scoggins of AmericanHort, the grad students were totally freakedgiving their research presentations! As always we had discussions on how tomake the teaching programs more industry focused and prepare students forindustry jobs – even to focus on the “soft skills” of dealing with people, beingthat “team” player full of passion, curiosity and flexibility. And, I have toagree with Todd Cavins that “balance is bulls**t; work on harmony!”

Thedate and location for our next NFF meeting is still undecided but watch formore details by following the NFF Facebook page. We may be taking a big tripnext year – and you’re welcome to join us. Follow us at thoroughly enjoyed our joint meeting with the AFE Board and would love tohave more growers and other industry professionals join our meetings. Feel freeto contact me or Dr. Mark Bridgen ( Cornell University for more information.


Imageby Mark Bridgen, Cornell University

About the Author:

Joyce Latimer

Professor, Horticulture, Virginia Tech

Joyce Latimer is a Professor and Greenhouse Extension Specialist at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg VA. Her specialty is in perennials production, problem solving, and plant growth regulation of herbaceous perennials under greenhouse and nursery conditions. Joyce also works with greenhouse energy efficiency education and implementation programs.

Joyce has been recognized for her Extension service to the industry with the Alumni Award for Outreach Excellence (Virginia Tech, 2010), Horticultural Initiative Award (Southeast Color Connection, 2010), and the Outreach Excellence Award (Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 2007).

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