Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ann Bates - Idaho Nursery & Landscape Association

This week in seminar we had the privilege of having Ann Bates come and talk to us. She is the executive director of the Idaho Nursery & Landscape Association. She talked about the association (INLA) and then she gave us a good overall look of what the INLA is doing now and the green industry as a whole, what some hot trends are, what skills we need to develop and what we need to do to prepare for the future.

There are many good things happening at INLA. Their website says, "The Idaho Nursery and Landscape Association is an organization of professionals including retail nurseries and garden centers, wholesale, growers, landscape contractors and maintenance firms, arborist and allied trades. It is a resource for increasing professionalism in the Green Industry." Bates really hit this last point hard. One long-term return she gets from coming out to talk to students is the increased professionalism that the next generation (us) will bring to the industry. INLA is a part of PLANET and members of BuyIdaho along with many other organizations. They work hard to help their members get the newest, up-to-date information on the market during their yearly Horticulture Expo as well as great opportunities to network.

The current economic downturn has definitely affected the green industry as well as the rest of the nation. When the housing market crashed, many people lost their homes and many others quit adding landscapes or started maintaining themselves. This really hurt the Design/Build/Maintain firms. When the gas prices rose, the growers were hit extra hard. Their business is shipping to their buyers and when the gas prices go up, their prices do too which diminished their sales. When the credit market lost all trust, loans were harder to get and interest went up.
The recent trends Bates has noticed within the past few years were very interesting to note. She mentioned that many homeowners and business owners are starting to prefer gardening in containers. Also, there has been an increased interest in outdoor "living spaces." Many people have vacationed less and stayed home so they have wanted a comfortable outdoor area. This leads us to the next trend which has helped keep the industry alive recently. People have been rethinking their landscapes and redoing them or changing parts of them. They have wanted smaller trees, more edible plants (like veggie gardens or fruit trees), and more annuals in their landscapes.

The skills Bates listed as essetial for us to develop as students to become good employees in the future include:
  • Mathematical & analytical skills
  • Creativity
  • Problem solving skills
  • Environmental awareness
  • Technology
  • Enthusiasm for design
  • Love the outdoors
  • Anxious to work with your hands
  • Aspiration to help people

To prepare for the future, one of the best things you can do in this industry is to get certified. Certification is huge! If you are the only applicant that is certified, you will be the one hired, hands-down. One of the many great benefits from being a member of INLA is the help and support you get in receiving your certification. Students get free membership into INLA and this helps to push you onto the next step. They offer three different certifications which are the Certified Nursery Professional, the Certified Plant Diagnostician and the Landscape Nursery Certified. If you are interested in getting certified, you can check out their website for more information on each certification.

If you have any questions for Ann Bates about the Idaho Nursery & Landscape Association, you can contact her via email at abates@inlagrow.org.

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