Industry Members Share What AFE Means to Them
As a part of our 60th anniversary celebration, we launched an ongoing campaign asking the floral community to share their #AFEandMe stories with us. From long-time supporters to industry experts and students, many industry members have participated and shared how AFE has impacted them both personally and professionally.
Click an image to see in full size with captions from our social media.
Then use the arrows to the side to scroll through all photos. We continue to invite members to share their stories with us on an ongoing basis. You can submit your own #AFEandMe here.
Terry Lanker shares her #AFEandMe story from the perspective of industry education, “I am so grateful for the gift of scholarship funding that AFE has granted my students in the @theOhioStateUniversity ATI Floral Design and Marketing program. For many of our students, finances are a primary driver affecting their decision to pursue higher education. I am proud of our graduates who are making great contributions to the floral industry and I thank AFE for the generous support that helped pave the way for their academic success!”
Adam D’Angelo shares his industry motivations and AFE story, “As a graduate student at the @UWMadison, I am lucky enough to have been able to follow my passion for plants and agriculture. Every day, I get the opportunity to learn more about the incredible and fast-paced world of plant breeding & genetics, and even get to contribute towards the wellbeing of growers and their communities in the form of research, teaching, and public outreach."
Ann Pennington from Neal Mast Greenhouses tells us about her experience with AFE as a host of interns, “Maintaining a strong relationship with the American Floral Endowment, as well as colleges and universities that have well known horticulture programs is key to the success of the Neal Mast Greenhouses internship program. One aspect of being a sustainable business is encouraging the next generation, whether it’s in growing, research or commercial production management. Neal Mast provides internship opportunities each year for students pursuing careers in the horticulture industry.⠀ ⠀ The interns we have hosted through our partnership with the AFE have a passion for plants and have been very successful at our facilities. Their enthusiasm and dedication inspire our team, reminding us all on why we are in this industry. We’ve made a considerable investment in furnished housing on our property that allows us to host 3+ interns per year. Interns have come from all over the country with a common passion for horticulture and we provide the opportunity for hands on, real world experience in a commercial growing establishment. ⠀ ⠀ Because of our long relationship, the AFE is integral in placing interns at NMG, due to their familiarity with our company, staff and what we have to offer. This past year we hosted 2 students for 6-month internships, allowing them to fully integrate in the company, experience multiple crops and programs and participate in a variety of employee events. ⠀ NMG is very much looking forward to hosting more interns in 2021 – thank you AFE!“
Past Vic & Margaret Ball Intern Scholarship Recipient and newly appointed member of the Vic & Margaret Ball Committee, Joshua Craver, continues his #AFEandMe story, “For example, during my undergraduate degree in floriculture, AFE provided the avenue for my internship at @metrolinaghs through the Vic and Margaret Ball Intern Scholarship Program. As I continued my education in graduate school, AFE facilitated support through the Paul Ecke, Jr. Scholarship. Looking back, it's incredible to see how integral AFE has been in my education and helping me achieve my career goals. The resources and programs AFE provides have an invaluable impact on the future of our industry. I’m excited to not only continue my involvement with AFE in the years ahead, but also share these incredible opportunities with the next generation of students I now have the privilege to teach!” ⠀
David Boulton from @FlowersbyGeorge shares his experience, “Our first impression of AFE was at the Annual SAF Convention in 1995. I was so impressed by the support coming from the entire industry. When asked to be a part of a Phone-a-thon in 2005 at Teleflora Headquarters, I jumped at the opportunity to make calls to friends in the floral community. The outpouring of support was tremendous. Now serving my second term as a Trustee, I have had the privilege of touring Universities that are involved in research supported by AFE.”
@renatagoossen from @KansasStateUniversity notes AFE’s impact on her entrance into the industry, “Because of the many scholarships and Vic & Margaret Ball internship provided through AFE, I am directly connected with a company that I hope to work for after graduation in spring. I am graduating with an in-depth, hands-on experience that I could not have had in the classroom, and I have a better understanding of the national and global industry. AFE made my college experience and education more valuable three times over! AFE helped to make me the horticulturist I am today and will be in future.”
@laceyaifd AAF, AIFD, CFD, PFCI from @floriologyinstitute / @bloomnet recounts his experience with AFE, “From my first experience of hearing about AFE and how they support the industry, I have truly grown to appreciate all AFE does and how it touches every part of our industry. As an industry educator, I have had the opportunity to present the results of some of the wonderful studies and reports that have been funded by FMRF, experienced first-hand how floral design grants make education possible, seen how scholarships can make dreams come true and become an AFE donor to be part of giving back to this wonderful industry. The friendships that have blossomed from the events, dinners and working with the other AFE volunteers, are some of the most fulfilling experiences in my floral journey. AFE helps our industry continue to GROW.”
Past Trustee, Sten Crissey, continues his #AFEandMe story, “Flowers that were once seasonal are now available year-round. Flowers that could only be transported locally at one time now come routinely from all parts of the world. Drip irrigation prevents wasted water and, in so doing, lowers the cost of production creating savings I can pass on to my customers. Of course, drip irrigation has not only been beneficial to our industry, but it has also been critical to such diverse industries as hospitality, e.g. hotel lobbies, and wine. And where would my business have been if our plants and flowers were diseased, misshapen, short-lived, pest damaged and simply unacceptable to the public? These examples and more have come from AFE research benefiting retailers directly or indirectly. Sure, a vaccine comes with an uncomfortable poke in the arm but we do it because we know it is in our best interest. Likewise, the gifts we make to AFE may – and should – cause a modicum of financial discomfort but any retailer who wants to maintain a healthy business will generously support AFE.” ⠀
Melissa Munoz of @ClemsonUniversity says, “AFE has impacted my professional development and life in different ways, all of them really gratifying. I started my masters degree at Clemson University in August 2016 with a research project funded by AFE. Thanks to that project I have gained experience in floriculture, met a lot of wonderful people, interacted directly with cut flower growers, and I like it so much that now I'm doing my Ph.D. with another project funded by AFE!“
AFE Trustee, Timothy Galea, from Norton’s Flowers and Gifts shares, “Since getting involved as a volunteer leader with SAF, I have been aware of, and supportive of, AFE's mission, but it wasn't until August 2014 that my commitment deepened appreciably. Like so many others in the floral industry, my wife Nancy and I, loved Tom Butler as a friend and mentor. His advice had not only helped us, but actually changed our lives. We were at the AFE dinner in 2014 when Tom died after his battle with cancer. Knowing Tom's wholehearted commitment to AFE, and wanting to honor his legacy, Nancy and I decided that we would make the Heritage Circle a part of our estate planning, but that impact was too far off and didn't seem like enough.⠀ ⠀ The following Spring at the conclusion of SAF's Congressional Action Days, Nancy and I began to host the Tom Butler Memorial Dinner at Tom's favorite DC restaurant. The primary purpose is to gather Tom's friends and share memories of the man who always seemed to transcend the occasional disharmony of our industry. When the AFE Tom Butler Family Fund was established, we decided our little dinner could be an annual opportunity to raise some money for AFE in Tom's name. Through Tom's family fund and the friends who love to share stories about him, my hope is that future generations of volunteer industry leaders will remember and understand the legend that we were honored to know personally.⠀ ⠀ I know AFE is so much bigger than any one volunteer or leader, and my appreciation of that continues to deepen with each passing year. But for me, AFE will always represent a connection to Tom Butler, the leader who was a friend to all.”
@Marthaannemarie Aaron, thank you for telling your #AFEandMe story! She continues, “This trip was an invaluable team-building experience and has continued to inspire my designers in their education and designs ever since! So many thanks to the state of Arizona and the American Floral Endowment for allowing me to provide this wonderful experience to my team!” @sedonamountainhighflowers @sedonaflorist
AFE Intern Erin Sparkman from @universityofga adds to her awesome #AFEandMe story, "I saw day to day how crops are rotated, watered and cared for when they come in as tiny plugs before they bud and they are ready to be shipped. AFE gave me an experience that will shape my career forever. I would recommend AFE to anyone who is looking to work in horticulture. If I could, I would start my internship with AFE all over again.”
Patrick Youds from Neal Mast Greenhouses has been involved with AFE through some of our internships and scholarships. Here’s his #AFEandMe story! "AFE gave me the opportunity to gain industry experience and made me a confident greenhouse grower. I feel better prepared to enter the workforce when I graduate from university."
Long-time supporter and researcher, Mark Bridgen, from @CornellUniversity shares, “I am extremely grateful to AFE for its funding over the past 36 years. When I was a new, young Assistant Professor at my first university position, AFE funded a large proposal to hybridize Alstroemeria plants. This research project was submitted as a collaboration among 3 universities. This initial funding helped me to eventually receive several much larger grants from the state and federal governments. Much of my research success during my career was in-part due to the faith that AFE had in my abilities. AFE funding has continued to help me many times over the years and I greatly appreciate the support. One of current research projects is breeding Impatiens plants to be resistant to Impatiens Downy Mildew. We have had a great deal of success and are now trying to develop these plants to be seed propagated. AFE gave me the initial funding for this research and when other granting agencies saw the AFE funding, they were motivated to fund me further. I can honestly say that AFE has been instrumental in my academic career in floriculture and plant breeding. I would also like to thank AFE for its support of the National Floriculture Forum (NFF). Not only does AFE support our annual meetings of floriculture leaders and faculty, but it also hosts the NFF website. All of the academic floriculture community appreciates AFE's support.”
Ranjeeta Adhikari recounts her #AFEandMe: “I first heard about AFE when I started my Ph.D. program at Purdue University. One of my doctoral dissertation projects got partial funding from AFE. The project involved development of new low-cost image-based technology for measuring whole-plant nitrogen status in floriculture crops. This is a very applied project that will directly benefit the growers. ⠀ I got to know more about AFE when I visited the annual National Floriculture Forum (NFF) in Chicago in 2019. I got the chance to know and network with people involved in floriculture research from both academia and industry. AFE even encouraged young scientists like us (graduate students) to share our research and outcomes by providing a platform for the oral presentation. I was highly impressed by the diverse research areas that AFE funds. Additionally, in the meeting I got to know about the annual internship and scholarship programs AFE has for encouraging young scientists like us.⠀ In 2020, I applied and received the Richard T. Meister scholarship for my outstanding contribution in research and extension in the floriculture sector. Receiving this scholarship motivated me more to contribute towards the floriculture industry.“
One of this year’s Altman Family Scholars, Mary Lewis, shares her gratitude for AFE programs and tells her #AFEandMe story. “Over the years, I've been allowed the great privilege to meet many of the industry leaders as part of AFE activities and volunteering efforts. Even now, the Young Professionals Council allows me to network with peers my age and established industry professionals alike, something I would never get from research conventions. As a person whose primary exposure to Horticulture has been through the lens of academia, AFE was, and is, a very special and important way to which I am exposed to the industry. Dr. Paul Thomas was the man who pulled me into AFE when I was just a wee little sophomore in college, who told me I needed to meet this lady, you may know her, Debi Chedester. The next thing I know, I'm in a Metrolina greenhouse shooting commercials for the Vic and Margaret Ball internship promotion, and Abe VanWingerden is asking me what I want to do with my life. Sometimes it feels like AFE swooped in and became my "fairy plant godmother" because my career would have turned out very differently had I not found them, and if they had not been so committed to helping raise and nurture the next generation of green industry professionals.”
Cole Etheredge shares the rest of his AFE story, “AFE has also been gracious enough to fund research I am currently conducting investigating offsetting floral waste produced in retail floral shops through composting. This would not have been possible without AFE’s Educational Grant. AFE is a longtime friend of @msstate that has helped fund not only students through the program but research in the floriculture industry. Thank you for all you do, AFE.”
Stephen Brooks Parrish continues his #AFEandMe story, “Many students are unsure about pursuing graduate degrees and instead, pursue full-time roles after completing college. I appreciate AFE’s commitment to supporting scholarship within our industry by making graduate school more accessible for all students. This, in turn, grows our industry by ensuring a steady supply of new researchers for our industry." Thank you for sharing, Stephen!
Amanda continues her #AFEandMe story, “I was able to accept an internship across the country from my own home with only a year and a half of education in the industry. This was so formative for me in deciding what I wanted to do in terms of participating in the green industry. I was able to not only get this crucial experience, but I was able to do this without the normal worries of finances. This helped me to really focus on my work and education, rather than being distracted by money and financial stability.” Thank you, Amanda!
Annika Kohler speaks to AFE’s impact, “Everyone a part of the AFE community understands the importance of a well-rounded education and hands-on experience that goes into making some of the best horticultural professionals. Those that are involved show tremendous care and mentorship to ensuring students can excel in this field while providing much-needed economic support. I am proud to be supported by AFE and I can attest to one in a lifetime opportunities that they offer for myself as well as my friends and family for horticulture, especially floriculture, career paths.“ Thank you, Annika!
Shannon Rauter, this year’s recipient of the John Carew Memorial Scholarship, shares her #AFEandMe story: “I am so grateful to AFE and their amazing donors for awarding me the 2021 Carew Scholarship. Their generosity inspires me to keep researching and pushing the floral industry forward ????????Thank you AFE!” Thank you for sharing, Shannon!
Samera continues, "Growing up in Indonesia I found a love for plants and flowers at a super young age. It wasn't until much later that I realized that Horticulture was something that you can major in. I applied at Oklahoma State University and was accepted but immediately faced with the financial consequences of an Out-of-State University."
Madilyn continues, "Until researching horticulture scholarships for my sophomore year of college, I had not heard of AFE. I was always unsure if I would stay in horticulture or do something with marketing in horticulture, but I found scholarships fitting thanks to AFE. Once I found an application, I started reading on everything AFE has to offer."
Manjot continues, "My research focusses on weed management in containerized ornamental crop production in nurseries and greenhouses. This is my first experience of hearing about American Floral Endowment and how they support the floral industry and academia... I thank them for awarding me the prestigious ‘John Carew Memorial Scholarship’ in 2022. Their generosity has supported me in my research endeavors and motivated me to work harder in my journey to achieve my professional goals. This scholarship has had a huge positive impact on me. Receiving this prestigious scholarship has also improved my opportunities to become a competitive and attractive job candidate in the future as this award would demonstrate my capabilities and outstanding skills."
Brandan continues, "I’m aware that the horticulture field can be under-appreciated with a gradual decline of interested students pursuing this as a career choice. Therefore, I believe that one of our future challenges is the proper cultivation, education, and promotion of current and future generations. Without truly passionate members of our industry that are willing to serve as mentors, we are jeopardizing the risk of losing the passion that drives our future growth. We need to appeal to more groups besides “plant people,” but be more progressive."
We want to hear from YOU! Has AFE impacted you? Are you a long-time supporter? We’d love to hear your AFE story and share it with the floral community. Share Your AFE Story with Us Or if you prefer, you can share your AFE story directly through social media with the #AFEandMe and tag any of our accounts: