May 6, 2020
A group of garden communicators, nursery growers and garden retailers met recently to explore ways to ease the extreme challenges of the Covid-19 crisis. Growers are holding millions of dollars of inventory with no sales prospects due to the pandemic. At an April meeting, they came up with the idea of teaming with garden communicators toward three objectives: driving demand for nursery stock, convincing the government the sector can work safely, and promoting products as health-enhancing.

Mark Cullen volunteered to chair the effort, and invited fellow garden communicators Lorraine Johnson, Sean James, Paul Zammit and Ben Cullen to join. Participants from the horticulture profession included: Jennifer Llewellyn, Rob Vanderkruk, Terry Vanderkruk, Terry Caddo and Jeff Olsen.

LO Executive Director Tony DiGiovanni asked the group: How do we work together to serve the growers’ need to sell inventory and the public’s need for green? Jeff Olsen said plants are essential to health, including mental health, and applauded the idea of a campaign. Mark Cullen and Sean James agreed on the importance of stimulating demand through garden centres. Lorraine Johnson reminded the group that safety trumps all other activity.

Mark Cullen recognized safety’s prime importance, and advocated a rule allowing garden centres to open under the same rules applied to food stores, guided by a best practices document.

Jeff Olsen stressed the importance of garden retailers making their case to open first. Rob Vanderkruk said, if anyone questions horticulture’s legitimacy, to ask: Who else will supply green plant material and oxygen?

A list of talking points was distributed for participants to promote these points to their contacts. Mark Cullen was energized with the project, which he stated as: Reaching Canadians with credible information.
The concept of a unified garden communicators group amplifying their

own individual messages through a common banner would be very effective at getting our aligned messages out to the general public.