Your industry has not been widely recognized as part of the solution to the challenges that climate is imposing on Florida. That’s partly your fault. You have to recognize yourselves before you can expect others to do so.
I got to meet FNGLA board member Phillip Hisey last month at FNGLA's Annual Convention, and I can see he is leading in two ways. He’s talking publicly about what your industry is already doing to reduce its impact on the climate. He’s also enlisting University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty to figure out if there’s more he can do at On Top of the World, where he’s director of landscape operations.
Soon, you’ll see Phillip in a public service announcement spotlighting what he does to protect the planet. It’s part of a producer-led campaign to reframe the conversation about the role of farmers, foresters, ranchers, nursery growers and landscape professionals in Florida’s climate response.
Along with a national non-profit called Solutions from the Land, UF/IFAS has been facilitating meetings of the
Florida Climate Smart Agriculture Work Group, a producer-led movement to highlight and incentivize the kind of work Phillip is doing.
Ben Bolusky and FNGLA Past Presidents Ed Bravo and Sandy Stein, have all been active in our work.
You and other Florida producers take steps to reduce energy consumption, sequester carbon, lower surface temperatures and filter water. The aim of our work with Solutions from the Land is to raise awareness of these environmental benefits and seek public policy changes to incentivize them. We are talking with legislators about what such an incentive system might look like and with UF/IFAS scientists about how to measure such benefits.
I’m also encouraged by Phillip’s partnership with UF/IFAS. For example, he teaches Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM at On Top of the World so residents can join the movement toward lower-impact yards. He is an active alumnus of the UF/IFAS Wedgworth Leadership Institute, where he developed skills to navigate contentious issues and a network of allies to effect positive change.
He’s also invited UF/IFAS scientists to On Top of the World (OTOW) to investigate what more they could be doing. Eban Bean of the UF/IFAS Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering has done research indicating that when we add soil amendments to our lawns, we can cut in half the time it takes to establish a lawn while increasing the rate at which it sequesters carbon.
Eban’s project also opened the door to a member of UF/IFAS entomologist Adam Dale’s lab to see how the soil amendments affect pests and beneficial insects. It has shed light on the impacts of residential development on pests and beneficial insects and methods to mitigate those effects.
Their work has been influential in how Phillip and OTOW green up a new home.
Phillip includes at least one large-canopy tree for every home he landscapes, not just for aesthetics but for the cooling shade that can mitigate rising temperatures.
He’s in a position to reduce irrigation use by thousands of homeowners, and he reports the payoff in reduced pumping from the community’s water treatment plant. This reduces the need for power generation and the emissions resulting from it.
New development is a huge opportunity to incorporate resilience, conservation strategies and mitigation of human choices on our climate. We work together so effectively because Phillip Hisey, FNGLA and UF/IFAS share a common goal—to be acknowledged as a leading source for solutions.
Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).