It’s good to be a grower again! Spring is upon us with a vengeance. Throughout most of our state, homeowners are cleaning up winter’s damage to their landscapes. Folks are replanting or enhancing their properties with a variety of flowering plants, trees, shrubs and palms. They are replacing damaged turf areas with new sod or replacing it with Florida-Friendly™ landscape designs. New hardscapes and landscape lighting projects are also very popular additions to this spring garden fever.
Everywhere you travel, there are construction projects underway which will require landscaping of residential developments, commercial projects and roadways. Landscape companies statewide have terrific opportunities for profits and growth, while nurseries are finally able to get better prices on their limited inventories. Nursery crops are turning over faster than usual due, in many cases, to heavy demand. And, this situation is only aggravated by storm damage from Hurricane Irma.
This has led to shortages in larger trees and palms, as well as some woody shrubs. My hope is this doesn’t lead to a reactive cycle of expansion and over-production which invariably leads to negative impacts on prices. Yes, it’s good to be a grower again – but, please, don’t overproduce your current markets!
Despite the shortages in plant materials for the near future, the single largest issue affecting grower and landscape professionals continues to be the lack of available skilled managers and workers. Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution, FNGLA staff and officers are here to help and are working on solutions for the long term. CEO Ben Bolusky will keep us informed about legislative matters affecting our workforce and if/when grassroots action is required on our part. Just make sure you read Ben’s Bullets or respond to actionable emails and alerts on critical issues.
FNGLA’s Director of Certifications and Career Development Merry Mott, along with volunteer leaders, are exploring new ways to become more involved with high school horticulture, vocational and technical programs statewide. We hope to expand our relationships with FFA and FBA (Future Builders of America) along with teaching and testing high school students in FNGLA’s FCHP certification. A small investment of our individual time and FNGLA chapters’ involvement could produce a stream of young knowledgeable workers for our industry.
We also need to ensure our current workforce doesn’t fall victim to substance abuse or, worse, become addicted to opioids. FNGLA is at the threshold of providing informative resources to help member companies identify and deal with this toxic problem which destroys individual lives, families and businesses.
With spring in the air and flowers in bloom, the last thing folks may be thinking about is the dreaded H-word! Yet, if we learned anything at all from last year’s hurricane season it is: preparation is imperative. Whether it’s stocking extra shadehouse materials and on-site fuel and generators, or creating a list of resources, now is the best time to start. Each FNGLA chapter’s board of directors now has a Disaster Preparedness Manual to help start the conversation. And, this manual can also be accessed on FNGLA’s website by any individual member to print out -- before the power goes out!
Ed Bravo is FNGLA’s 2017-18 President. He is also a partner at Big Trees Plantation, based in Gainesville, Florida