President's Letter: 2023 in Review

December 7, 2023

It is hard to believe December is here. And, in just a few short weeks, it will be Christmas and then, year’s end. It seems like the older I get, the faster the years go by. I am shaking my head in disbelief as I recall 2023. 

Last January began with my area of southwest Florida still reeling from Hurricane Ian. The destruction left behind in Ian’s wake was greater than anything I had ever seen, and it set the tone for the year as clean-up efforts and rebuilding went on. Contractors of all types poured into the coastal counties, and work continues -- and will continue -- for the next several years. Our local nurseries and landscapers have worked tirelessly all year trying to restore what the flooding took away, but you can still see the barren parcels of land along Bonita Springs and Ft. Myers beaches which were once homes or thriving businesses. 

May brought a welcome distraction from a busy workload. I traveled to Washington D.C. with FNGLA’s executive Board and CEO Tal Coley to meet with our legislators and discuss the issues which affect us here in Florida. Weeks later brought FNGLA’s Annual Convention, fantastic send-off to 2022-23 President Eric Smith, and three days of FNGLA hospitality at its finest. The Manasota Chapter hosted a well- planned event. For me personally, becoming President and having the opportunity to serve and work for FNGLA members, and the Green Industry has been one of the greatest honors in my life. 

Through summer’s end and into this fall, Tal and FNGLA officers have participated in events around the state advocating and positioning FNGLA in a seat at the table to stay involved and affected positive change for us all in the Green industry. President-Elect Phillip Hisey has been a key component in our efforts to rewrite and regulate a sensible water and irrigation policy which can be used statewide. Both he and Tal have written several op-eds on this and other topics this year which have been featured in newspapers around the state. The 2023 Landscape Show was one of the best. Hats off to both the TLS Planning Committee and FNGLA staff - and many of you who exhibited at the show. With all the good, we also experienced loss as Hurricane Idalia tore through the Big Bend area of North Florida. For our members, damage was minimal, but the Category 3 storm caused $2.5 billion in damage to state land, businesses, and homes. This fall, we also mourned the loss of FNGLA Past President Buck Wurster, a beloved leader, friend, and family man. 

Overall, FNGLA, as an organization, has had a good year. Our memberships have increased, and our membership drive programs at the trade shows have been a success. The association’s Certification program has expanded and continues to roll on offering programs and training both online and in person across the state. The Palm Quest Conference in Ft. Lauderdale was a huge success, and the follow-up for 2024 is currently being planned. 

Currently, FNGLA staff are hard at work planning the 2024 Tropical Plant International Expo (TPIE), and it figures to be a great one as the number of booths sold has exceeded budgeted expectations.  

Last weekend, I attended FNGLA’s Royal Palm Chapter Christmas party, which took place at JWD Trees in Ft. Myers. JWD has been a generous supporter of FNGLA over the years and this event was no different as he footed the bill for the entire day. It was free for those who attended, and we all enjoyed the afternoon. The event took place outdoors at the nursery, surrounded by stately Live Oaks, and the stage where the band played was in front of a backdrop of countless rows of trees of all sizes. As I listened to the band play, I looked up and saw the American flag flying. I thought to myself, ‘this is what FNGLA is all about: friendship, family and fun.’  

Christmas approaches, and I want to thank you all for everything you do as part of this organization to help preserve, protect and further the interest of FNGLA and the Green industry. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a blessed new year. 

Phil Buck sig

Phil Buck
FNGLA 2023-24 President

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