NEWS on the GROW

August 8, 2003 - 07:49

From OFA to You

America in Bloom (AIB) -- the name brings to mind flowers,
parks, the great outdoors, our country. It's simple -- "Planting pride in
our communities" is the main goal.

AIB is organized by the floriculture industry through OFA.
The program encourages volunteerism and involves municipal governments,
businesses, organizations and citizens in improving their community's quality
of life. OFA is pleased to partner with the AIB organization to provide this
intense, but friendly, community contest.

AIB is a program for any community of any size in any area.
The organization is dedicated to promoting nationwide beautification programs
and both personal and community involvement through the use of flowers, plants,
trees and other environmental and lifestyle enhancements, and to providing
educational programs and resources.

The AIB program brings all community efforts that improve
the quality of life under an umbrella that creates a sense of unity. The contest
is a forum of expression and a rallying point. All participants win by working
together to beautify and improve their communities.

This year, 43 cities are participating in the AIB
beautification contest. Throughout the summer, professionally trained teams of
judges travel the country evaluating each community in eight criteria:
community involvement, heritage preservation, environmental awareness,
tidiness, floral displays, turf and groundcover areas, landscaped areas and
urban forestry.

Awards will be presented at AIB's annual symposium and
awards ceremony September 18-20 in Chicago, Ill., which won AIB's largest
population category last year.

Many of last year's cities have returned, but some are
taking the year off to work on their programs. They will be implementing
recommendations from the AIB judges and networking with other cities for ideas.
Last year's winners graduated to various international challenges.

The 2002 winners in each of six population categories were
Chicago, Ill.; Kalamazoo County, Mich.; Fayetteville, Ark.; Westlake, Ohio;
Fairhope, Ala.; and Camp Hill, Pa.

AIB debuted in 2001 as part of Canada's successful
Communities in Bloom (CIB) program. At that time, four U.S. cities partnered
with four Canadian cities. CIB is modeled after similar programs in France,
England and Ireland. In 2002, nearly 40 cities with populations ranging from
2,000-3 million participated in AIB.

As the administrator of the AIB contest, OFA is excited to
be involved with these communities as they beautify their cities while
encouraging community involvement, patriotism and civic pride. For more
information on how you can support America in Bloom contact AIB at (614)
487-1117; E-mail: aib@ofa.org; or www.americainbloom.org.

Southeast Greenhouse Conference

This year's Southeast Greenhouse Conference, held June
19-21, 2003, brought 1,723 attendees and 166 speakers to the Palmetto Expo
Center, Greenville, S.C. The conference started off with educational workshops
on June 19, 2003 followed by the Keynote Speaker, Lloyd Traven from Peace Tree
Farm, and then the attendees were off to the Embassy Suites for the Welcome
Reception. The next two days were full of more educational seminars and the
trade show, which held 1,315 exhibitors.

Talk on the Floor

Being in the Southeast, where the spring and early summer
were exceptionally wet, weather was the big talk amongst attendees of the
Conference. Both growers and retailers in the Southeast were affected by the
record-breaking rainfall, with several growers describing an entire month of
wet weekends. One retailer we visited in Charlotte was even holding its annual
after summer sale -- two months early -- due to poor sales that they felt was a
result of the weather. This is not normally a buying show, and that's a good
thing because few had the excess cash to write orders.

With Home Depot headquarters in Atlanta and Wal-Mart in
Bentonville, Ark., the Southeast is the land of giant discount retailers, and
talk about the big boys was all over the trade show floor. Specifically,
everyone was theorizing about the continuation of Lowe's Miracle Grow program.
The program had another painfully slow season; we couldn't find one grower that
didn't loose more money than they made with the program. From what we heard,
the problems range from limited store level implementation opportunities to
poor variety choices (a'la Martha Stewart) to inflated price points. We'll be
curious to see how many more years Lowe's stays at it.

Bonus visits

North and South Carolina house some of the largest growing
operations in the United States, and we couldn't visit the area without
checking in on some of our friends. Besides, we never pass up an opportunity to
tour greenhouses with Dr. Jim Barrett, University of Florida and GPN's
consulting editor.

We visited all of the regular sites, Stacey's Greenhouses,
which showed us they're amazing new shipping logostics program (Look for more
information on it in an upcoming issue of GPN.); Van Wingerden International
with all of its automation; and a small operation many of you may not be
familiar with, Lakeshore Greenhouses, a subsidiary of a Canadian-owned company
by the same name.

We were also lucky enough to get a tour of the newly renamed
Costa Carolina, Leicester, N.C., the old Velvet Ridge facility that was
recently purchased by Costa Color. Costa is using their new
"Northern" location to produce some of the material that's harder to
grow in Miami such as fall pansies, mums and poinsettias, as well as shipping
material as far south as the Atlanta market for a substantial freight savings.

The last place we couldn't help but mention is Metrolina
Greenhouses, Metrolina, N.C. If you've never been there, it's a sight to see.
You round a turn in the road only to see acre upon acre of Van Wingerden glass
houses with the roof vents wide open. While we were there, Metrolina was
testing one of its newest inventions -- an automated staging area for bedding
flats. The cable support system is equipped with a sensor eye that detects when
a flat has been removed from the row and initiates the drive to bring another
flat into the terminal position. Metrolina expects to have the system up and
running for spring.

We'd like to send a special thanks to our gracious hosts who
took the time to show us around their places.

-- Carrie Burns and Bridget White

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