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A Letter from AFE’s Incoming Chairman, Laura Shinall

I am honored to begin my term as Chairman of the AFE Board of Trustees. The Endowment has been a part of my life for many years. As I follow in the footsteps of my father, Del Demaree past Chairman (1992-1993), I’m reminded how he instilled in me and our company, Syndicate Sales, the importance of giving back and building into the industry that has served us so well. Serving through AFE is the perfect opportunity to do both.

In 2021, the Endowment will turn 60. That’s quite a milestone (and I should know, I’m hitting the same milestone). As we look back over the past 60 years, we have accomplished so much. We’ve funded over $14 million in research, awarded nearly $2 million scholarships, and contributed over $1.5 million in educational grant money. Thousands of students, university research programs, industry programs, and ultimately consumers have benefited from the generosity of individuals and companies who believe in the work the Endowment does. Being a part of that legacy is exciting and humbling all at the same time. The floriculture world has certainly changed in 60 years. Advancements in areas like technology and environmental protections have made it both easier and harder to grow and market products and provide consumers with an experience they want to repeat again and again.

Then there was COVID. While the world seemed to come to a grinding halt, our industry experienced two positives. First, COVID confirmed what most of us already knew – flowers and plants (both bedding and green) improve our mental health. They make us happy, calm us down, and reduce our stress. The trifecta for a better life! Second, many florists and garden centers experienced an unexpected surge in business. Thrust into what felt like groundhog day at home, consumers began to crave something that made them happy and reduced their stress, like working in their garden or buying flowers. What most consumers don’t know is that research conducted through AFE contributed to the quality of the product they bought and grants and scholarships awarded by AFE helped train the people who helped facilitate the sale.

What AFE does is so critical to the industry’s supply chain and the folks who participate in it. Everything we do centers around floriculture and environmental horticulture for the benefit of growers, wholesalers, retailers, allied industry organizations, and the all-important consumer. I’m excited to continue to be a part of this work and am committed to continuing to create awareness for this amazing organization.