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2020 National Floriculture Forum

The American Floral Endowment had the opportunity to partner with the 2020 National Floriculture Forum held in Charlotte, NC from February 28th through March 1st. This weekend was filled with an incredible depth of knowledge shared amongst peers and the industry. The National Floriculture Forum (NFF) is an annual educational meeting of stakeholders from academic institutions, governmental agencies, and the greenhouse industry. The timing of the NFF overlapped with AFE’s Board Meetings to create an impactful and engaging weekend for our industry.

The weekend consisted of a number of meetings and presentations that included topics on the impact of hemp on the floriculture industry, how to develop effective collaborations, effective outreach to the floriculture industry, and other topics.

The forum discussed how we can assure that our teaching, research, and extension meets the needs of our clientele: students, the floriculture industry, and university administrators.

This meeting brought together a diverse floricultural community with the objectives to:
• Address issues of importance to the floriculture industry
• Form collaborative relationships,
• Improve communication within the American floriculture industry to share and disseminate information

Metrolina Greenhouses

While in Charlotte, attendees of the meeting got the chance to tour Metrolina Greenhouses. Metrolina Greenhouses is a family-owned business, founded in 1972 by Tom and Vickie Van Wingerden, located in Huntersville, North Carolina. Metrolina is a leader in the horticulture industry, specializing in annuals and perennials. Their products can be found at various local garden centers across the eastern seaboard of the United States. Metrolina is the largest single-site, heated greenhouse (over 150 acres) in the US, as well as the most automated. The tour of the greenhouses was an amazing view to see closing with an insightful Q&A discussion. Here is what one of our Young professional’s council members Leynar, had to say about the tour,

“Metrolina Greenhouses is an example of the mystic and tradition of our industry. A family-owned business founded by Tom and Vickie Van Windgerden in 1972, they started with only a 20,000 square foot rented greenhouse. Currently, it is the biggest heated greenhouse facility in the US at 162 acres. It was truly inspiring to hear Art Van Wingerden say that the best years are yet to come.

Innovation is present in every detail in the production chain at Metrolina, from label design, bench movement, greenhouse heating, and cooling, and all the automatic planters/transplanters and water systems – most of them internally designed – making them one of the most automated greenhouses in the US. Despite all the automation, Abe Van Windgerden says their biggest asset is their employees. They employ 725 people year-round, plus 600 additional people in fall and spring. After touring a small part of the facilities, one can tell that it’s a great place to work with a great atmosphere. Metrolina Greenhouses are also investing in training the next generation of growers and industry professionals with an internship program for junior and senior students interested in the green industry.

Metrolina has gone to great effort to increase the sustainability of their operation, not because they were forced to do it, but because they believe it is the right thing to do. They collect all the rain that falls on the greenhouse roof and recycle it. They also recycle, reduce and reuse their plastic. They have achieved 80% plastic return and recycled about 5,000 lbs. of plastic last year. They also use biomass to heat their greenhouses, producing more than 2 billion BTUs of clean heat.

Touring Metrolina Greenhouses was a refreshing experience. They are a good example of how our industry works with passion to adapt to the new and continuous challenges, constantly growing and innovating along the way. As they say in Metrolina, the best years are yet to come for our industry!”

-Leynar Leyton Naranjo
Institute of Plant Breeding Genomics and Genetics
PhD Candidate