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By YPC Member, Mary Lewis

On occasion, graduate students are released from their offices and classrooms and allowed to attend events with people from our industry. For me, the first event of the year is the SNA/MANTS conference and trade show.

SNA, or the Southern Nursery Association, is an intimate event that takes place two days before MANTS (Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show) starts. SNA’s purpose is to provide a space and time to provide training, presentation of research, predict economic forecasts for the new year, highlight the new and unusual plant material, and build community amongst nurserymen and related industry leaders.

After those two days, things begin to get hectic. Fun little fact, MANTS celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, and crowds reflected this occasion. It’s always a fun event for myself personally as my advisor Dr. Matthew Chappell is the Nursery Crops Extension Specialist for the University of Georgia. That means I get to talk to everybody about everything because they actually want to talk to him. When asked how business was this year, the general consensus was business last year was good, especially in the fall, and the trend seems to be holding true through spring.

One glaring deviation from a trend observed last year was the number of lighting companies present. Last year (2019) there were at least ten vendors representing interior lighting and accompanying apparatuses, but we only saw two this time around. The consumer trend to prefer using native or pollinator-friendly plants was evident at the show, with four booths completely dedicated to native plant nurseries up and down the east coast. We also saw natives on display among growers not known to produce native plants.

While this is a nursery trade show, I was struck by the number of perennial and annual plant companies present. Ball seed, PanAmerican, Dümmen Orange, and Star Roses all had booths; which signaled to me a further blending of all aspects of our industry as we adapt and change to market demands over time. One really cool aspect of MANTS was the Emergent group get together after the first day of MANTS.

Emergent, a new(ish) online Facebook group dedicated to “growing professionals”, has members spanning every aspect of the industry. This social had over 150 people packed into a cozy room, which made for lots of conversation. It was astounding to think that this group would never have crossed paths before if that group wasn’t started, and how big we had become in such a short time. I got to meet people I had only conversed with online and meet new people that shared the same career path I did. MANTS might be mainly for east coast industry people, but I would hazard to claim it is no longer exclusively a nursery show. Like many aspects of our industry, we continue to grow closer together with time, and all are welcome to come to grow with us.

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