By Cheval Force Opp
NextGen – what the heck is NextGen? This is the question that LastGen’s like me had attending the Region II NextGen Summit. Organizer Brienne Gluvna Arthur, green diva and author of The Foodscape Revolution helped us answer that question and more by luring some of the NextGen voices in this rising horticulture wave to spend a day with us exploring new ideas.
The summit began with a presentation by Longwood Graduate Program Coordinator Brian Trader. He introduced us to Longwood’s support of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) “Seed Your Future” initiative. This multi-year effort is planned to combat declining awareness of horticulture among U.S. audiences and promote horticulture as a vital and viable career path for the nation’s youth.
Next, we heard from Lori Greene, Chair of MS Digital Innovation in Marketing Advisory Council. She exhorted the crowd of over 100 attendees to use technology to “start small, fail fast and start over – only better.” Sadly there are no Harry Potter wands available for garden communicators. But with each new technology adventure individuals and organizations will gain the skills and customer insight for profitable use.
The remaining speakers were quick to pick up the theme in presentations of new horticultural perspectives with both successes and cautions in the integration of technology into business and career.
- Joanna Groarke, New York Botanical Garden, presented the lessons learned in the technology used for New York Botanical Gardens 2015 record setting (over a half-million visitors) exhibition “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life.”
- Ed Snodgrass, President of Emory Knoll Farms, Inc. and Green Roof Plants, discussed multi-million international green roofs projects.
- Katie Dubow, Garden Media Group, and 2016 GWA Emergent Communicator spoke to “Reading the Tea Leaves” to increase profit in “green” trends.
- Peggy Ann Montgomery, American Beauties Native Plants, moderated a panel discussion of “Living Landscapes.” Panelist included Claudia West of North Creek Nurseries, Patrick Cullina, founder of Patrick Cullina Horticultural Design + Consulting, and Ed Snodgrass.
Throughout the talks, cellphones were held up like candles to record speakers and take shots of favorite screen prompts. During breaks, the Longwood entryway was crowded as name-tagged participants snapped Facebook shots, chatted with speakers, and corralled new connections.
The day ended with NextGen Summit attendees enjoying garden tours through the acres of lush displays at Longwood Gardens. Not to be outdone, Chanticleer hosted a reception with a pool party later that evening. Nothing matches gossiping with old friends, meeting new horticulture stars, and strolling through Chanticleer’s pleasure garden in the gloaming.
The stormy skies that had threatened us throughout the day held off so everyone had a chance to enjoy drinks by the Chanticleer pool and eat at least one Geno’s Steak. During dinner, I learned how to put ketchup on my Geno’s Cheesesteak from Sonya Harris, Lead Coordinator, and Special Education Teacher for Bullock Children’s Garden in Glassboro, NJ. Sitting on the elegant mansion porch, Sonya shared her favorite idea from the conference “Envision a world where every U.S. student knows the importance and meaning of horticulture.”
This LastGen would like to join NextGen Sonya in making that happen for my children and hers. I am looking forward to the 2017 NextGen conference and invite everyone to come.
Thanks to all who attended and the generous sponsors; American Horticultural Society, Chanticleer, Longwood Gardens, Greater Philadelphia Gardens, Cavano’s Perennials, Inc., New Moon Nursery, Garden Media Group, North Creek Nurseries and Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE).
About the Author:
Who is afraid of being a LastGen? Not Cheval Opp. In her first career, IBM kept her learning through failure at all too regular intervals. After retiring she started a local garden tour business with Kathy Jentz of Washington Gardener. Five years later she turned the tours over to Jentz for her second retirement, devoting time traveling with her husband, Dana and corgi, Marzipan. She continues today as a columnist for Washington Gardener’s “Garden Day Trips”. Cheval is honored to be a Regional Director for Region IV. The entrepreneurs of the region and the always welcoming members of GWA invigorate her to keep planning for the sustainable green future to come.