|(TRENTON) – Ornamental horticulture is New Jersey’s leading
agricultural sector, accounting for 40 percent
of the total industry. Recently, there has been
growing recognition of the interplay between this
agricultural sector and the other components of
the “Green Industry,” such as landscaping
and grounds maintenance.
That connection was underscored
at the recent Professional Landscape Alliance of New Jersey (PLANJ) Winter Showcase
and the New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association’s annual awards dinner,
as both New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus and Robert Goodman,
the Dean of Rutgers University’s Cook College, took part in both ceremonies.
The Showcase, PLANJ’s first foray into such an early-winter event, drew
hundreds of attendees and dozens of exhibitors to the Radisson Hotel in Piscataway
on December 6 and 7. Exhibitors ranged from private companies like Storr Tractor
to government agencies like the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
Cook College Dean Goodman, Secretary Kuperus and News 12 New
Jersey Weatherman James Gregorio chat at the PLANJ Winter Showcase.
The Department had a booth on the exhibition floor that featured a computerized
slide show on various plant pests the Division of Plant Industry is confronting
in New Jersey, as well as information about the Jersey Grown program that promotes
the use of horticultural products grown in the state in much the same way that
the Jersey Fresh program touts the state’s fruits and vegetables.
Along with Jersey Grown plant ties and promotional signs, the Department offered
applications to register with the program, under which nurseries can advertise
The programs are an indication of agriculture’s relationship to the Green
Industry, which involves such disciplines as landscaping, grounds maintenance
and turf management.
In addressing the assembled landscapers, Secretary Kuperus complimented their
efforts to bring a heightened sense of prestige to their industry, including
recent efforts to bring the major landscaping groups in the state together to
work cooperatively on training, improving professionalism and working on common
“What impresses me most
is the emphasis you all are putting on professionalism in the industry,” Secretary
Kuperus said. “Improving the industry’s relationships with clients
and the public, and increasing employee knowledge, leads to a more productive
and profitable operations.
“What you are doing to boost the professionalism of landscaping – by
education and training and events like this – goes a long way to improving
the public’s perception of your industry.”
Secretary Kuperus speaks during the opening ceremonies of the PLANJ Winter
Examples of the move to increase professionalism could be found throughout the
two-day event. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection gave an
update of its Pesticide Control Program, while Gary and Cynthia Kinman presented
an overview of their landmark “Focus on Professionalism” course from
the Kinman Institute, which has produced some of the most prestigious landscape
design build installations in the country.
After the brief opening session, participants at the conference had the opportunity
to tour a large exhibitor area to hear about the latest advances in items such
as sprinkler systems, de-icing liquids and lawn tractors.
“I think it went as well as we had planned for,” said Tony Catanzaro,
PLANJ’s incoming President. “We were trying to make it something
different, where you make an evening out of it and have a social and networking
aspect to it. This is the time of year you’re doing your planning and talking
to your suppliers. Some of the other shows are in late winter or early spring
and you’ve done all your planning already.”
Outgoing PLANJ President Evan Dickerson said he was “very proud of the
way PLANJ pulled together – not just the board, but all the members – and
put together a very professional show. Obviously, we were happy to have the Secretary
and Dean Goodman present at the showcase. It’s neat to know that they feel
what we are doing is that important.”
Given the turnout and generally good reception of the first-ever showcase, organizers
said they are definitely planning to launch another one next December.
“It’s something we are going to continue with,” Catanzaro said. “The
reaction we had from just about everybody was that they were happy with the way
things went. I think it serves an important function.”
NJNLA President Carl Nordstrom, likewise, said that group’s meeting was
a success, with Assemblyman Joseph Cryan of Union being honored for his work
on behalf of the industry. The meeting capped off “an overall pretty good
year” for NJNLA’s members, Nordstrom said.
“We had a successful year, establishing a new insurance program for members
and successfully fighting a sales tax on landscape construction,” Nordstrom
said. “It was a good spring, then summer was a little slow with the lack
of rain, then the fall was good. So overall it was a pretty good year.”