Green Conference Showcases Economic Impact

Duluth, GA |

The horticulture industry in Georgia is far more complex than just flowers and plants, as machinery, irrigation systems and even decorations play a major role on its economic impact. And all of those sectors were on full display at the Southeast Green Conference and Trade Show, the only multi-day event of its kind here in Georgia.

“Each year, as our industry grows, new plants come out, it is time to get together, new technology. Our industry is always evolving and changing. So, it’s just a really good time to get together and see what everyone’s got going on and how we can grow our businesses. Farm gate value has us up in the top ten each year, and when you combine all of horticulture together, we’re the number four ag commodity in Georgia. The green industry is a very diverse industry. We cover nurseries, landscape, irrigation, garden centers, allied product and services. So, anything and everything related to ornamental horticulture,” says Lanie Riner, GGIA Executive Director.

Just like any other big industry, horticulture does face challenges along the way. Aside from emerging pests and weather events, there is one particular problem that has remained a constant for nurseries around the state.

“The other big issue, I think, has been for a long time and will continue to be is labor, temporary labor, whether that’s H2B, H2A, farm worker labor, and then union opportunities, but I think the big thing that just came out that we’re really engaged in is the department of labor just put out new rule changes to the H2A program. It’s very union friendly. It was written by the unions,” says Rachel Pick, Senior Manager of Government Affairs with AmericanHort.

With the growing popularity of gardening, plant sales are at an all-time high and only projected to increase. So, with so many new people looking to start up their own garden, one expert’s big piece of advice is to take it slowly.

“I have a garden at home. I love my garden and one of the real benefits of my garden is it is small. You know, I’m all over five acres or fifty acres, that’s great, but if you put a garden in, start with a container. Truly, start with a container. Put a whole bunch of plants, look at them all. Stick them in there and then you’ll have two containers. Then you say maybe I’ll put a little something by the deck or something. Start small and then once you get the, kind of the bug, you can expand. Again, that’s what I do in my garden. It’s a small garden, but it’s full,” says Allan Armitage, UGA Horticulture Professor.

Even though maintaining a beautiful landscape does take plenty of time and effort, the countless benefits gardening has to offer is the reason it has become so trendy over the past decade.

“We always have something to look forward to, always. You put a seed in the ground, you look forward to the tomato. You put a bulb in the ground in the fall, you look forward to the daffodil in the spring. You put something in the spring, you look forward to what it’s going to do, always something to look forward to. It keeps us happy, keeps us young, keeps us active. What more do you need?”, says Armitage.

By: Damon Jones