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Drive, Unity & Collaboration Strengthen FNGLA

Monday, August 21, 2017
Article by: Greenline

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We, the FNGLA officers for 2017/18 are off and running! Within the first 30 days of our tenure, we’ve installed seven chapter boards and traveled in excess of 2,000 miles to deliver this message to the membership: “We are here to serve you and to find out how FNGLA can help your chapter with local issues and concerns.” 

Will Womack, Shawn Thomas, Robert Shoelson and I are committed to visit as many FNGLA chapter events as possible this year to learn what unique needs a chapter may have and if there’s something we can do to help. So far, we’ve identified a variety of issues we are already discussing with staff and seeking their assistance on behalf of each chapter. 

While visiting each chapter, I will also continue to investigate the complex issues related to opioid addiction and its effects on our labor force.  I hope to create a program for FNGLA member businesses to help us identify the problems, treatment options, as well as employer responsibilities and liabilities. You will be hearing more on this important subject very soon.

As I sit to write this article on hurricane preparedness, Tropical Storm Emily is breaching Florida’s west coast and forecast to cross the center of our state with sustained winds of 45 mph, gusts up to 60 mph and rainfall at 1-3” per hour. Although this will not be a major storm, I hope and pray our FNGLA members and their families are safe and prepared their homes and their operations with an emergency plan for this hurricane season. 

Using FNGLA’s Hurricane Preparedness guidelines, my Frontrunners Chapter created a Hurricane Guide in 2006 in response to the devastation of our industry and members left in the wake of Hurricane Wilma which surpassed the combined impacts of Katrina and the infamous storms of 2004. This is a quote from a letter by then Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson to Governor Jeb Bush: “Horticulture - agriculture’s leading sector - has suffered catastrophic losses. Greenhouses and packing facilities are in shambles. Nursery plants that survived the initial blast of Wilma are now subject to scalding and other threats. Such a severe blow to this sector could lead to economic meltdown in many rural areas.” 

The purpose of the chapter manual is to help our members plan and prepare their families and businesses in the event of a major disaster so we may help each other to save our inventories. It contains planning instructions and a list of needed items before and after a storm, as well as lists of stockpiles and equipment which members are willing to make available to assist other folks. 
The manual includes tips for: structures; crops and equipment; pre-planning means to communicate with employees and fellow growers; “old-fashioned” written phone lists for employee families, all chapter members, power companies, FEMA, USDA Farm Service Agency; UF/IFAS Extension; FNGLA office, Emergency Management and the U.S. Small Business Administration. It also includes shelter locations and recommendations for documentation before and after, along with crop insurance suggestions. 

The most important aspect to the manual is a map of the location of all the member businesses. With this map, we’ve created a “buddy” system to check and help each other when it hits the fan! Each member is charged with checking on a few of their closest FNGLA chapter neighbors and getting the word out if they need any help. This is done only after your own family and employee safety is resolved. 

I strongly suggest each FNGLA chapter form a “disaster preparedness committee” and build your own list of resources on paper to distribute along with a map and contact information. You can either help each other be prepared or you can dig yourself out! This exercise in group survival builds trust within your chapter and, one day, could save your business. 

Ed Bravo Big Trees Plantation (Gainesville, FL) 

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