Thursday, August 24, 2006

Farwest show helps grow PNW horticulture

By Elaine Shein

With the ringing of his cell phone and beeping of his two way radio, Geoff Horning was busy a day before the Farwest Show (www.farwest show) officially opened in Portland.

Horning was wearing two hats yesterday: he’s the new executive director of the Oregon Agri-Business Council and helped run its quarterly Board of Directors Meeting at the Oregon Convention Center, but he was finishing the last of his duties for Oregon Association of Nurseries ( as the Trade Show Manager in the same building.

Wearing shorts and a golf shirt, he apologized for dressing so casual, but explained that this was most comfortable running around in the huge convention center — especially when there was so many plants making the building extra humid.

More than 850 exhibitors are taking part this year at the event that is expecting to attract more than 14,000 people from across the country. The Farwest show offers wholesale nursery stock, and serves a valuable role to introduce those who develop and grow the products to those who want to buy it for their businesses.

Ultimately, everyone is thinking what will consumers want: this year a new competition is judging the best of the new varieties, a tough market as the horticultural market continues to grow especially in the Pacific Northwest.

The show is an important one for the horticulture industry. Farmers such as Mark and Darlene Wilmes of Aurora, Ore. have diversified from some of their traditional crops such as hops, grass seed and vegetables to developing greenhouses for certain types of horticulture crops.

In their case, they specialized in vines and climbing plants, and found it to be one of the more profitable parts of their overall business.

However, with the increased important of horticulture in the Pacific Northwest, there also is increased competition to come up with new, more popular varieties of plants with consumers. Consumers want something colorful, has a nice texture and a wonderful scent, but they also want something easy to grow, according to one of the judges this year, Allan Armitage from University of Georgia. Armitage is a professor at the department of horticulture there.

And, as he pointed out, the amount and types of promotion often influences how the consumers will perceive the plant and whether they buy them.

(Stay tuned to Capital Press’ website for print and audio coverage on some of the exhibitors such as the Wilmes, an interview with Horning, and discussing with Armitage what he looks for and thinks consumers want).

The show, which runs August 24-26, kicked off on Wednesday with seminars geared towards greenhouse, nursery, retail and landscapers. These will continue during the next few days.

While Horning and everyone else put the finishing touches on the show yesterday, amidst forklifts, bags, boxes, crates and flowers and shrubbery still waiting to be put in place, there was a sense of urgency but also a sense of excitement.

Pacific Northwest horticultural growers are proud of what they produce. The Farwest show is a perfect place to exhibit what these companies have to offer, no matter how big or small they are and the amount of money they can invest in promotion, on a more equal footing with their competitors.

Links: Capital Press Oregon Association of Nurseries Farwest show

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