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Storms can't stop New England Grows

Industry News

Even with harsh weather on the East Coast, the event went on with sustainability, technology and integrating edibles into ornamental landscaping as the hot topics.

Carolyn LaWell | February 4, 2011

BOSTON – Sustainability, technology and integrating edibles into ornamental landscaping are just a few of the trending topics being talked about at New England Grows.

Lori Duffy of D&D Gardens in Stow, Mass., attended the show Thursday and said customers are specifically asking for vegetables and fruits, so the company is introducing more edibles into its offering this year.

“Things have changed more in the last two years than I’ve seen in the last decade,” she said.

The three-day show ends today. While the snow storm that blasted much of the country hindered attendance Wednesday, show officials said they expect 13,000 people. Numbers aren’t official with one day left, but, before the storm hit, the show was expected to reach a record level of attendees.

Still, those who made it through rain, sleet, ice and snow have brought an optimistic mood for the upcoming year, said Virginia Wood, executive director of New England Grows.

Here are some of the show highlights from the first two days:

Seeing success

On Wednesday, New England Grows held Garden Center Success. In its first year, the idea attracted garden center professionals to listen to industry leaders and consultants about examining customer engagement trends, dealing with challenging operational concerns and exploring creative ways to leverage marketing.

The event was seven hours long. And the idea was to not only give advice to garden center professionals, but to have them actually walk away with an action plan to increase sales, optimize the affect of merchandising and keep people in peak performance mode.

Garden Center Success was videotaped and replayed Thursday for attendees who couldn’t make the original session due to weather. Show officials said even those who attended Wednesday’s Garden Center Success showed up to watch the taping because the specifically catered information was in high demand.

Changing the paradigm

It’s no secret that plants and animals have gone and continue to go extinct. However, the green industry can play a part in recapturing the biodiversity that has been eliminated by the human footprint, said Doug Tallamy, professor and chair of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware.

“Biodiversity is an essential, non-renewable, natural resource, yet we are forcing it to extinction,” he said.
Tallamy challenged attendees of his talk “Native Plants: A Changing Landscape Paradigm” to not only add more plants and trees to landscaping, but to introduce more native plants and trees.

“Let’s not give up on aesthetics, but let’s not give up on function,” he said.
In order to have rich biodiversity, you need native plants because 90 percent of insects that eat plants are species that are specialist, meaning they survive off of eating a particular native plant, he said. And insects are a crucial part of the animal food chain.

A study of suburban properties in 26 neighborhoods in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland found that 92 percent of the area was only made up of lawns instead of other types of landscapes like plants or trees, Tallamy said. Landscapers can take advantage of such statistics by not only filling in spaces, but promoting a greener, more diverse environment that will only evolve by using native plants.

“The way we garden today and the way we landscape today is going to determine what life looks like tomorrow,” he said.

Going lean

Efficiency in productivity is everything today. So Gary Cortes, a partner at FlowVision in Dillon, Co., broke down how to implement lean management techniques for attendees.

Lean is a growing trend in the green industry and it’s helping companies see a return on investment in the first year. After implementing lean principles, Jolly Farmer increased its output 30 percent the first year. Then, the second year, Jolly Farmer perfected its process even more seeing an additional savings of 12 percent.

“(Companies) implement this and their goal is to continue to improve what they’ve implemented … they want to continue to make the process better,” Cortes said.

The entire idea of lean is to use mathematical equations to eliminate waste in the business, such as moving, walking, waiting and idle time. It’s not about how fast the work can get done, but how long it takes to do it correctly, Cortes said.

“At the end of the day, lean is going to make your company more productive,” Cortes said.

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