The New England Nursery Association (NENA) is dedicated to providing landscaping and nursery professionals with high quality information and an array of services and professional development support to keep the region growing their businesses and relationships, according to www.newenglandnurseryassociation.org, the group’s website.
Since 1912, NENA has worked to benefit those in the business of growing and selling green goods. Founded by New England industry members, the group boasts a long and successful history of promoting and building relationships that benefit both nursery professionals and their businesses. The association, according to its website, provides an expanding array of informational services that both facilitates and ensures an up-to-date understanding of consumer needs, market demands and emerging trends. These are all essential factors in ensuring profitability for member businesses and for building the New England green industry.
The organization which has 110 members consists of a management team and a president, vice president/treasurer plus a three-member Board of Directors. Leading the way in 2013 are president Peter House of East Haven Landscape Products in East Haven, Connecticut; Ed Bemis of Bemis Farms Nursery in Spencer, Massachusetts, who will be vice president and treasurer, and the directors are Carol MacLeod of Evergreen Gardens of Vermont in Waterbury Center, Vermont; Joe Majelka of Westcott Perennials of Ashaway. Rhode Island; and Jake Pierson of Pierson Nurseries in Biddeford, Maine.
NENA recently celebrated its 100th year anniversary this past September, with an event at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts. The members swapped stories and toured the beautiful Tower Hill property, planting a commemorative tree in honor of their anniversary.
Trade Show Partnership
One of NENA’s most popular events is the New England Grows trade exposition, which took place February 6-8, 2013 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, according to past president Robin Struck, the owner of D.R. Struck Landscape Nursery in Winthrop, Maine. New England Grows is an educational partnership between the New England Nursery Association, the Massachusetts Arborists Association, the Massachusetts Association of Landscape Professionals and the Massachusetts Nursery & Landscape Association. Its co-sponsor network includes 40 allied green industry organizations.
“Our most recent achievement has been partnering with New England Grows, which is the largest green industry horticulture trade show,” says Struck. “It takes place in February every year and it's a convention with vendors who set up on the trade show floor. We have a huge education component as well. We usually get about 12,000 green industry people who are anywhere from architects, arborists, garden center owners to landscapers and educators.”
Programs and Gatherings
NENA members participate in a “simple” gathering annually, which provides networking opportunities for all members and a chance to catch up on the latest innovations in the growing industry. “We have been having a simple gathering in September [every year]. We gather again at one of our member’s businesses and take a tour of their facility—it could be a garden center or it could be a grower—and we see their business and how they operate,” Struck says. “It's a good networking opportunity and gives members a chance to meet up once a year. We're also busy with our businesses it's hard to take time to do monthly meetings.”
In order to further encourage creativity and individual innovation in the growing industry, NENA also offers members an opportunity to apply for the Green Leaders Innovation Grant Program. The grants range from $250 to $1,000 and are awarded multiple times a year.
The group also holds a volunteer summit for its members. According to a NENA press release, “On November 3, 2010, more than thirty association leaders from throughout New England joined together for NENA's Volunteer Leaders Summit. This leadership experience is designed to connect trends in association leadership and management with the regional green industry. The ultimate goal is to strengthen associations to benefit member services and experiences. According to Struck, the program will become biannual starting this year.
“All the New England states send their volunteer leadership to Massachusetts and we have an all day mini-conference and brainstorm ideas about our industry, our individual businesses, what we should be doing differently, some of the hot new topics we should be aware of within our industry and we leave with some good ideas for our own businesses. Five years ago the big take away was we decided we all needed to be on Facebook. We all seriously got back to our offices and signed up. That was probably one of the best methods of getting everybody really motivated to do something.”
Community Outreach & Benefits
While NENA members are known to exchange gardening tips and tricks among themselves at various networking gatherings, they are sure to spread the wealth of horticultural knowledge among their New England communities as well. “Our members, especially the garden center owners, will have a huge educational component for the community,” Struck says. “Whether it be a short, one-hour lecture on how to prune your roses or how to start a 10-foot-square vegetable garden, or how to plant fruit trees, we all try to do that with our garden centers and promote people coming to learn more and really have hands-on experiences. Maybe it’ll be planting a window box or having their children come in and plant a pack of marigold seeds to get people interested in growing at a young age.”
NENA strives to provide its membership with all the latest information about growing innovations in New England, ensuring they have a competitive edge in the industry. “They get a quarterly newsletter, which is jam-packed with information,” Struck says. “Usually we highlight a member of the association and you get to know a little bit more about that person and what's going on in our industry and meetings that can be attended. We also have different articles such as one about a new plant that's going to come out onto the market that's been developed, especially in the last few years there's been so many hydrangeas—that's been a hot topic.”
Overall, NENA aims to not only enrich the gardens, minds and businesses of its members, it hopes to increase horticultural awareness and boost the industry as a whole throughout the Northeast. “Our mission is to promote the green industry within the New England area and get the public, as well as our entire industry, more aware of new innovations coming down and keeping up with modern times and how we can achieve better results with all of our businesses. Not only to make them better businesses, but to be more community-oriented and give back.”
Enjolie Esteve is an editorial assistant at New England Condominium.