Our third year attending Cultivate 2023 wrapped up a few weeks ago, and this year the whole family and SGN Team came along with us to Columbus! Cultivate is put on each year by AmericanHort and is one of the largest green industry conferences and trade shows in the country. We had a great time attending the educational sessions, getting new ideas at the tradeshow, attending networking events and nursery tours, and exploring the city each night after the show wrapped up. We’ve enjoyed getting to continue to learn more about the green industry and make connections with people across the country! Here are some of our key takeaways from our time at Cultivate this year:
Tech and Trends on the Horizon
There is a lot of green industry tech in development and beginning to roll out! It’s always interesting to keep up with what’s coming next in the realm of tech and trends. Drones offer a lot of promise for no-contact spraying, inventory counting, and plant health detection. We have been partnering with local drone pilot Robert Avery at Airwave Media Productions who has been providing us with some amazing drone photography and videos, too. We are also keeping an eye on RFID tags and labels as ways to track tree growth and inventory. AI poses as an interesting tool for the green industry to utilize regarding informational chat boxes, content creation, and social media/marketing. Some of the AI tools are really helpful for things like photo editing on Canva and idea generation, but we have to be aware that images, posts, emails, and blogs can be completely written by AI and not humans. Just a friendly reminder to take everything you see online with a grain of salt 🙂
We attended the Garden Media Group’s Garden Trends session and got keyed into some of the trends for this upcoming year. Some big themes here were playing with the contrast of light and dark, using plants as a way to create depth and dimension in the landscape. Unique-colored foliage like purples, reds, and deep green lends itself well to this trend! “Hortifuturism” was a new term we learned during this session, referring to imagining a future that is less metallic and robotic and more organic and green! Another topic that stood out to us was the importance of curation over clutter. As Gen Z enters the marketplace on the heels of Millennials there is less of a need to throw the book out there with all the options available. Younger buyers are looking for a curated list – what works for them? There is a lot of chaos out there, so if nurseries and garden centers can help narrow down and purposefully curate options for people, they are more likely to invest in what will work best for them. And finally, of course, native plants are becoming less of a trend and more of a mainstay for the future of gardening and landscaping.
Community Around Plants
In the wake of the pandemic and an increasingly digital world, people are yearning for in-person connection now more than ever. It’s great to be able to connect with people over the internet and find community with people from anywhere in the world, however we’re finding that nothing can really replace the value of in-person community. You can’t replicate a shared meal at a table together digitally, just like you can’t recreate physical green space on a screen. It’s no secret that the pandemic and the years since have reordered our value systems from the top down. Folks have taken stock of their lives these past few years and are focusing their time, energy, and money on tangible things that are important to them, namely: their families, creative endeavors, and green spaces inside and outside of the home. Whether it’s houseplants, backyard landscaping, or public parks – the value of plants has only gone up! What an amazing opportunity to share in this green revolution! Those of us in the horticulture industry have the products and knowledge to share with people who are hungry to learn and grow more. We provide so much more than a product – we provide a set of values and vision for our customers, our company culture, and our community. How can we help others share in this love of plants and finding community among the green spaces in our lives?
Eco-Anxiety & Eco-Optimism
Finally, something that really stuck out to us was the idea of Eco-Anxiety and Eco-Optimism. Anxiety over climate change and extreme weather events is real and we are seeing the ramifications of climate change before our very eyes. Heatwaves, water shortages, pesticide drift, rising and warming sea levels and temperatures, periods of drought followed by deluges of rain – the list could go on with how poor stewardship of our natural resources and Earth are playing out. It seems only natural to want to spiral into a doom-scroll online of all of the terrible things happening around the world. But when has that ever been productive? In fact, that only creates more anxiety and fear regarding the future of our climate! Rather than only focus on the negatives of climate change, we were challenged to pivot from Eco-Anxiety to Eco-Optimism. As members of the Green Industry we have the ability to shape the conversation towards one of imagining what a truly Green Future could look like!
Our friends over at J. Frank Schmidt have said it best over the years: Trees Are The Answer! As the climate continues to change, hardiness zones are redrawn, and our trees adapt to the ever-changing weather conditions, it’s apparent that the Future is Green – it needs to be. Green infrastructure is a necessity going forward, and the horticulture industry must pave the way, not only for policies but for a cultural mindset shift towards Eco-Optimism. When we plant trees today, we must also plant trees for 100 years from now and try to prepare for the landscapes and realities of the next century. We have a great opportunity to shape the conversation moving forward in regards to green infrastructure, green technologies, green energy, and a green way of life – all for the betterment of our communities and generations to come. We can help people curb people’s Eco-Anxiety by providing tangible solutions for an uncertain future by being the voice of Eco-Optimism!
It was a wonderful experience attending Cultivate for the third time. This time, the whole SGN family came along to experience the fun! Plus we had all hands on deck to help us wrangle our busy toddler, Fern. It’s always nice when you can pass your kid off to a willing grandparent or uncle and take a breather! Next summer we’ll add another one into the mix as we get ready to welcome our second baby this September. While it’s always tricky traveling with kids, we’ve noticed that Cultivate has been a very family-friendly experience for us every year. We’re definitely grateful for the understanding presenters who don’t miss a beat when they hear our toddler screeching and playing in the back of the room and it’s nice to see other families attending with their little ones, too. We’re looking forward to making more memories next year!
~ Maggie Thomas Harper