Have You Ever?
If you have ever been responsible for writing articles for a publication, you likely know the challenge of the blank screen. Sometimes nothing comes to you. Sometimes you sit to write about one topic, and thoughts of another jump into your brain and run away with the piece you are trying to write. There are so many challenges in horticulture now, including new opportunities, rapid change, and so much to consider. Even those that don’t affect us directly have an impact in some way.
We are not diversifying into cannabis, but thousands of growers and distributors around the country, large and small, are. There are trade shows and publications for this burgeoning industry. Some growers are experienced in horticulture, and some are business people who see the potential for profit. Many are scrambling to understand all they need to know about hydroponics or soils, strains, nutrition and cultural practices.
Though legal in more states now, including ours, the crop is still not legal at the federal level. There are special logistical and security challenges with a business where banks will not serve you with checking and other accounts, and you must deal in cash. Because of the high value of the crop and the security issues, jobs usually pay more, potentially siphoning staff away from other green businesses.
Dozens of new insects have become serious pest problems. Many of these are imported accidently in trade goods or their packaging, coming from other continents. Some pests simply have moved further north as milder winters have made it possible for the adults or eggs to overwinter successfully and maintain a breeding population. Diseases are often associated with these insect pests, especially if the insects pierce the leaves or bark of plants to feed, creating an entry point for another pest or pathogen. The list of species we can no longer recommend continues to grow, and we constantly look for new hardier varieties, and better cultural practices to keep our palette of plants broad and strong.
One of our biggest challenges, from design and build firms to service firms, to plant growers, is labor. Our aging population is retiring, and not enough younger people have developed an interest in working with plants. The cost of a college education continues to climb, and two-year trade programs in horticulture are few. MSU does have such a program, but for the high school student looking for classes, few districts have a greenhouse and teach horticulture. It is ironic that we need to eat, and most of us live in a dwelling with a lawn and landscape, but both of those things will become more challenging if not enough people are willing to grow food, mow lawns or care for plants.
So why do we work long hours, get dirty and deal with these challenges? Because working with plants does have many rewards, and most of our customers are appreciative of what we do. Working with and caring for living things is a special privilege to me. Working with dedicated people who embrace the mission and believe in the power of plants in our lives is a special treat.