Ken Fisher

AmericanHort’s president and CEO discusses bringing the industry back together for Cultivate’21.

Photo courtesy of Ken Fisher

Greenhouse Management: What did it take for AmericanHort to not just have Cultivate’21 in person, but to do so safely?

Ken Fisher: Our industry is ready to get back together and Cultivate’21 is our first opportunity to make it happen. Our team has done a great job planning another fantastic Cultivate event — trade show, educational programming, tours and professional networking opportunities, among others.

The health and safety of everyone involved in Cultivate, from exhibitors to attendees, speakers to volunteers, and our own staff is our top priority. In the months leading up to Cultivate’21, our team prepared for several possible scenarios based on anticipated health protocols. We worked closely with the Greater Columbus Convention Center and city officials as we prepared a risk mitigation plan. Because of rising vaccination rates and falling COVID cases in Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine rescinded all health restrictions on June 2. The city of Columbus recently followed suit including removal of social distancing guidelines and mask mandates. Of course, we encourage everyone to participate in the manner in which they feel most comfortable. For many Cultivate’21 participants, particularly those who are fully vaccinated, this will allow for a more enjoyable experience at Cultivate.

We will have hand sanitation stations located throughout the convention center, and we have made allowances for the education sessions to be held in large rooms to allow for people to spread out more. We have also designed the education schedule to help better control the traffic flow to minimize large crowds between session breaks.

GM: What are you most looking forward to about being back in person this year?

KF: Like everyone, I am excited to see our industry peers face-to-face. During the past year we have done our best to leverage available technology to stay connected through webinars and other digital programming, facilitate learning and industry best practices, and promote networking. But nothing can replace in-person meetings. It will be great to be able to address our members and the industry at our keynote programs on Sunday and Monday morning. Much of our industry has benefited from strong sales during the past two spring seasons, however labor and rising costs — among others — continue to challenge our members. Convening in person at Cultivate’21 will continue the important discussions necessary to best address these issues.

GM: What have you learned in the last year that you think can still apply now as the world opens up more?

KF: The experiences of the past year confirmed what we have always known: Businesses must create unique value for their customers and a positive customer experience is critical to any successful business. We learned to extend those characteristics to a digital platform and that will expand our programming options in the future. Garden retail centers quickly adjusted the business model to allow for online sales and curbside pickup, and we expect many will continue these business practices in the future. For AmericanHort, engaging with our members is as important as ever. We will continue to provide opportunities to serve our members and the industry by advocating on the critical issues in Washington D.C., delivering high quality educational programming, planning high-value industry events and providing avenues to connect to industry experts that will help our businesses and industry perform better, grow faster and prepare for the future.

July 2021
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