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Young Professionals Experience at Cultivate’21

YPC Members at Cultivate'21

From left to right: Xuan(Jade) Wu – Texas A&M, Melinda Knuth – University of Florida, Yiyun Lin – The Ohio State University, Kaylee South – The Ohio State University, Erin Pfarr – Rutgers, Megan Bowman – Ball Horticultural Company and the AFE’s Board of Trustees YPC Liaison

Cultivate, organized by AmericanHort, is one of the largest international horticulture industry events that attracts thousands of industry professionals and visitors from all 50 states and over 30 countries. This year, Cultivate’21 ran from Saturday, July 10 to Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. The American Floral Endowment was pleased to support young professionals attending the event by hosting a Young Professionals Council meetup to further encourage growth within our industry.

Yiyin Lin of The Ohio State University reflected, “If someone asks me, what the biggest takeaway that a young professional can get from attending Cultivate is, my answer would be ‘connections’. As much as it is very important for young people to network in the industry, it can be challenging for someone new to the industry to make connections on their own. If you are facing the same problem, here is something that can help: join the Young Professionals Council (YPC) of the American Floral Endowment.”

YPC LogoThe YPC creates opportunities to bring together young industry professionals to learn from one another and build a network that will result in a stronger floral/horticultural industry. Being a member of YPC benefits young people by helping them build connections in different parts of the industry through facilitating meetups at industry events that can result in collaborations later on in their careers. AFE is often able to facilitate young professionals directly meeting industry leaders at AFE meetings and events, but COVID-19 has had some impact on both the availability of in-person events and attendance. Additionally, the YPC provides young professionals with online resources and webinars to help them advance their careers and personal development.

Currently, the YPC consists of about 50 young professionals in our industry that network throughout the year, participate in webinars, and meet both in-person and online at different industry events like Cultivate.

YPC Members Share their Perspectives on Cultivate’21:

“Attending Cultivate’21 was a great experience. This year’s convention was not only business but a reunion after being apart for two years. Each person I met was extra cheerful to experience normalcy. At the YPC dinner, we had great conversations about the current job market and catching up with each other,” said Melinda Knuth, University of Florida.

AFE aims to help the YPC face current challenges for budding industry members like navigating the job market. One of their recent webinars on preparing for success in the industry post COVID-19 can be seen here. Additionally, AFE hosts an industry-specific career center where young professionals can post their resumes and apply to jobs.

Kaylee South of The Ohio State University adds, “My biggest takeaway from Cultivate’21 was the importance of people in the horticulture industry, from creating great experiences for the consumers and developing great professional relationships to helping teach and fuel the passions of students.” Kaylee notes the importance of networking and mentoring in our industry showing how key it is to encourage new industry members. The Endowment believes in this initiative and aims to foster industry growth through supporting not only the YPC but also students through scholarships and educational events through grants.

More on the event, “Cultivate’21 was the first in-person convention I attended since the beginning of the pandemic. I was super excited waiting for its coming, during the whole process and even now, looking back a couple of weeks after the convention. Attending such an eye-opening event to recharge and reunite reminds us how great our industry is and how powerful it can be working with people dedicated to serving the industry and genuinely caring for each other. Like the virtual one I attended last year, I’m very impressed with how well-organized Cultivate is and how comprehensive the programs are, covering all segments of the industry. It is revitalizing to witness how fast our industry is growing in every segment. I’m also grateful for the YPC dinner where we caught up with YPC members and shared our thoughts on future endeavors for assisting young professionals in career development,” said Xuan (Jade) Wu, Texas A&M University.

Attending industry events like Cultivate helps increase the younger generation’s awareness of the opportunities within the horticulture industry, and it also helps researchers better understand the growing needs of the industry and encourages cross-functional collaboration between the industry and academia.

Are you a young professional in the industry? Have you been attending industry events like Cultivate? Consider joining the YPC to meet more dedicated peers in horticulture and floriculture. Membership is FREE. AFE believes that supporting programs, events, and opportunities that grant additional access for aspiring young talent to network is vital to the continued growth and success of our industry.

By Yiyun Lin, Kaylee South, Melinda Knuth, Xuan (Jade) Wu