State of the Ornamental Horticulture Industry

10/27/2012 7:00 AM
By Lorraine Merrill New Hampshire Agriculture Commissioner

Ornamental horticulture accounts for about one-third of New Hampshire’s agricultural sales, according to USDA statistics, about even with dairy.

Earlier this month the American Nursery and Landscape Association held one of several regional meetings scheduled for around the country here in New Hampshire. ANLA leaders and about 40 growers met for a tour of Millican Nurseries and Pleasant View Gardens in Loudon, followed by a meeting which included a presentation of the planned merger of the ANLA with OFA (the Association of Horticulture Professionals).

The merger would create one large national association representing greenhouse growers, nurseries, garden center, and landscapers.

Doug Cole of D.S. Cole Growers in Loudon shared his account of the ANLA leaders’ presentation on the state of the ornamental horticulture industry today.

ANLA Executive Vice President Bob Dolibois told the audience how the end of World War II, the newly accessible housing marke and the baby boom brought on a great demand for landscape plants of all kinds. Supply and demand was in the growers’ favor until recent times.

Changing demographics — aging baby boomers spending less time and money on landscaping, and a decrease in new household formation — have combined with the economic downturn and near halt to new home construction to turn the supply and demand situation upside down.

Dolibois said growers who are able to stick with it will see an upturn in new households starting in about five years, when the large number of Gen Y adults (born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s) start settling down in earnest to create new households.

Gen Y’s large numbers could prove a greater opportunity than baby boomers, he suggested, but the industry will need to adapt to their needs, wants and spending habits.

He also challenged the industry to think out of the box, using the phrase, “Do it but do it differently,” because consumers are looking for ways to make their home look great, but also different from their peers.

Cole thinks the ANLA/OFA consolidation is a natural fit and will strengthen the overall industry by pulling more members together to accomplish more, especially in government relations.

ANLA, which puts much effort into lobbying on Capitol Hill, is working with OFA and other green industry organizations on major issues of concern, including immigration and health care. ANLA is also working on industry concerns like boxwood blight, impatiens downy mildew, and creating a United States Nursery Certification Program that could reduce government regulation.

Cole thinks the merger could also result in stronger grassroots partnerships with state nursery and landscape associations. He still sees a bright future in the industry.

Warnings for Growers

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture reports that some dairy farmers in the region have received emails offering to register their farms with FDA’s food establishment registry for $250. Dairy farms are exempt from registering as a food establishment, so this is a scam.

Becky Sideman, University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension vegetable and small fruit specialist, warns that several farm stands have experienced thefts recently. “Please stay alert and keep your farm stands secure,” she said.

Cooperative Month

October is National Cooperative Month, and 2012 has been declared the International Year of Cooperatives by the United Nations.

The theme of this year’s World Food Day, sponsored by the UN on Oc. 16, was “Agricultural Cooperatives — Key to Feeding the World.”

Cooperatives have a long history in agriculture in this country. Farmer-owned cooperative companies large and small continue to play important roles in dairy and fruit and vegetable production, processing and more, as well as in farm supply and finance.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Cooperatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility.”

Lorraine Merrill is commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food.

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