As many of you know, in January, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of what has become FNGLA’s largest event, the Tropical Plant International Expo (TPIE) in Tampa. An amazing event by most (if not all) accounts, there was a great buzz about the Tampa Convention Center for three days of fantastic weather, networking and business. We were fortunate to have multiple news outlets cover the event - including yours truly on a Fox13 interview from the show floor! Newly elected Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson even came in for his first ever visit to TPIE. Speaking with several grower members, Simpson got a sense of the size and scope of FNGLA’s family businesses and the overall importance of our marketplace to the state as a whole. It was a pleasure spending time with him as we walked the show floor conversing with FNGLA members and exhibitors. It is critical that not just he, but other officials -- and most importantly the general public -- see and understand the broad palette of benefits our industry affords The Sunshine State. Most everyone loves plants. But do they understand how or where they are grown? And, do they know the people behind their proper installation and maintenance?
TPIE provides a fantastic venue to show off a large portion of our industry, but most attendees are green industry professionals and buyers - which is not a bad problem to have! However, we need to continually think about how best to reach the rest of the folks, those not employed in the green industry, to tell our story and extoll our industry's virtues.
Another event recently allowed us to do just that. The South Florida Fair, seated in West Palm Beach, sees nearly 400,000 attendees (2020 numbers) converge on the fairgrounds for 17 days of excitement for people of all ages. Of course, you have the standard fair ‘fare’ of midway games, rides and treats, but I’d like to specifically point out the work done by Laura Corrigan (FNGLA Floriculture Division Representative) and the many FNGLA member companies who donated time and resources for the multitude of displays and activities for this year’s events. Between the Landscape Design/Build Competition, the parade float, student’s certifications, Sundy House info booth, ‘Dino-Myte’ exposition and FNGLA Day (Friday, Jan. 27) arrangements, FNGLA was well positioned amidst the many thousands of fair-goers to show off just what it is we do and provide for the good citizens of Florida. For me, it was an honor to serve in the Sundy House information booth alongside other industry groups like Florida Dairy Farmers, FDACS and Florida Ag in The Classroom to educate our neighbors on the many benefits we as ‘insiders’ have always known.
It is events like this which allow us to command a presence where we need it the most: on the big stage of public opinion. For too long those allied against us have been able to portray our member businesses as the bad guys - the polluters, the violators, and the troublemakers who ‘don’t pay their fair share.’ It is my sincerest hope that we can continue to take the big stage, showing our real value as the economic drivers, educators of children and caretakers of the beauty that is La Florida.
Eric Smith (BioSafe Systems, Tampa)
FNGLA 2022 - 23 President
Groundworks of Palm Beach
Brandon Balch Landscapes
University of North Florida
FNGLA Frontrunners Chapter
4-H Palm Beach Chapter
FNGLA Palm Beach Chapter
No Worries Property Maintenance
Jenkins landscape Co.