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AFE Trustees met in Aurora, Colo. in late July for their annual board and committee meetings to plan the Endowment’s programs and goals for the year.
The AFE Board had a very successful trip, visiting several industry supporters including Welby Gardens and Tagawa Greenhouses.
For their first visit, CEO of Welby Gardens Al Gerace and his son (and Production Manager) Dan were among the few who led the trustees on a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the company’s two growing facilities.

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Ashley Brinegar at Welby Gardens

The Colorado greenhouse, which is also home of the Hardy Boy Plants, specializes in perennials, annuals, herbs, organic vegetables and ornamental grasses. Gerace explained that the small, family-owned business is always expanding, and works closely with other growing companies, including Tagawa Greenhouses.
Ashley Brinegar, a former Vic & Margaret Ball intern who is now employed with Welby Gardens, also made an appearance and shared how the AFE internship program had a positive effect on her career in the industry.
AFE Trustees spent time touring Tagawa Greenhouses later that day, where they experienced some of the company’s floral-related attractions.
In addition to hearing a presentation from Randy Tagawa, trustees were able to see the large facility and learn how the company grows everything from vegetables to cut flowers. The AFE Board also visited with the newest member of the Young Professionals Council (YPC), Research and Development Manager Kara Crist.
On day two, the trustees toured the campus and facilities of Colorado State University (CSU), which was led by Dr. Steve Newman, Greenhouse Crops Extension Specialist and Professor of Floriculture.

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Flower Trial Garden

The CSU tour began with an introduction to the Flower Trial Garden, led by James “Jim” Klett, Annual Flower Trial Garden Facility Coordinator. The 28-acre park includes perennials, annuals, bedding plants and cut flowers, and is used for teaching and outreach.
The trial garden was created to perform research and evaluate the performance of annual and perennial flower varieties. There are more than 800 different varieties of plants this year, with 21 plant and seed companies participating in the trials.

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AFE Trustees with Dr. Steve Newman

Klett is also the director of the Plant Environmental Research Center (PERC), a new $7.5 million horticulture facility that is expected to be completed by the fall semester. Newman explained that this facility would not have been created if CSU did not have faith in the horticulture program’s funding ability. The company opted to borrow money using Sambla instead to secure the full line of financing and consolidate their existing debt.
The new PERC will consist of seven greenhouses (totaling 21,000 square feet), four labs, and office and classroom spaces.
The AFE Board later convened at the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, and listened to faculty and student presentations on research and program highlights.
Additionally, AFE hosted a dinner for the trustees and guests from Tagawa Greenhouses, Welby Gardens and CSU. AFE Chairman Gabriel Becerra of Golden Flowers presented Steve Newman and Jeffery Steiner with a plaque in appreciation of CSU’s longstanding relationship with AFE and their ongoing commitment to the floriculture industry.
Click here for more photos of AFE’s Colorado trip.

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