Tal Coley

Departments - Three Questions

AmericanHort’s director of government affairs talks about being an Air Force veteran, making the transition into horticulture and more.

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February 5, 2018
Chris Manning
Photo courtesy of AmericanHort

Tal Coley has been busy Since being hired by AmericanHort this past August as the director of government affairs. He started by helping organize Impact Washington in September, an event where the horticulture industry interacted with politicians and had its voice heard on key issues. Since then, he has worked on figuring out what the new tax bill means for the industry while also looking ahead to 2018’s key issues, including the next Farm Bill and immigration.

Below, Coley answers questions about transitioning from the Air Force to advocacy, AmericanHort’s Impact Washington event and more.

Greenhouse Management: You were a Russian language cryptologist in the Air Force before taking this job. What do you miss about doing that job?

Tal Coley: I don’t know if I miss the day-to-day aspects of it. I think I miss the people the most because the people I worked with in the Air Force, as well as the government civilians, are dedicated to the country and dedicated their time. It’s been almost 10 years [since I left]. It was exciting, it was thrilling and it was surreal at times. [Joining the military] was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

GM: After the military, you went to grad school and then did advocacy for veterans. How did you end up working for AmericanHort and doing policy and advocacy work for the horticulture industry?

TC: For four and half years, I was advocating for issues largely around the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding accountability and choice for veterans. That was a very rewarding experience and we were able to get some of those issues across the finish line in early 2017. I then felt like my chapter had closed there and that’s when I was put in touch with [AmericanHort president] Ken Fisher, met Ken, really liked Ken and we went from there.

GM: Your first major task with AmericanHort was helping to organize Impact Washington in September. What stood out to you at that event?

TC: It was the passion people have for advocacy. [AmericanHort] wasn’t sure about interest in the event because it had been a few years since they had a done a fly-in to D.C. But the response was overwhelming. We filled every slot and then some. People want to continue to be part of the advocacy part of AmericanHort and we are going to continue to develop programming, be it in D.C. or in district offices, where we have a presence every year and talk about the issues.

This interview was edited for style and clarity.