(February 2015) In a unanimous vote at its annual meeting just before MANTS opened Jan. 14, members of the Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association voted in favor of the unification of their organization with the Maryland Greenhouse Growers Association. The new organization will be known as Maryland Nursery, Landscape and Greenhouse Association (MNLGA).
Brent Rutley, MNLA president and owner of a landscaping firm, Capitol City Contractors LLC, said the idea of joining the two associations was presented to the board and then the members. “We have a kindred spirit,” he noted. “The MNLA has a stronger, more stable footing administratively and financially, and MGGA is very good at education and team building and social events, which we are not as good at. Our board and members agreed there are things we don’t do well and they (MGGA) do; it made sense to join the two organizations.”
Using his own adoption as an analogy, Rutley said, “the rules of the family that adopted me did not change, but gave me opportunities I would not have had if I’d stayed with my birth father. Now I’m the elder sibling; leadership has fallen on my shoulders. This (unification) is a blessing all around. We’re grafting a great organization into ours, and it’s just going to make ours stronger. We’ll have a better legislative footprint and better demographics.”
The decision did not come lightly. “We have invested a lot of time doing due diligence, meeting with their board and the university system. Everyone concurred unanimously it was a good thing,” Rutley said.
Brett Karp, who has been MGGA president for four years, added, “Other states have gone to this or would like to.” He has been on the board of directors since 2001, although he has not been a grower for the last nine years. He is now a sales representative for SHS Griffin, formerly Griffin Greenhouse Supplies.
Karp has been serving without a vice president, and in June of last year, Tina Paul, who had been both secretary and treasurer, was tapped by Maryland government to be on the medical marijuana council “because she was close to the growers,” Karp said. “Now she isn’t allowed to be on the MGGA board because she is too close to the growers.”
John Murphy stepped up to take the treasurer’s position, and Pete Gilmore became secretary. But the organization was not functioning the way it should, Karp lamented. “We all do a great job of working together, but we need more grower input, and the growers are busy,” he said.
Before leaving, Paul mentioned to Karp conversations she had held with Rutley about a possible merger with MNLA. “I brought it to our board after talking to Vanessa Finney (MNLA executive director),” Karp said. “She said ‘absolutely.’
“We are not throwing in the towel,” he continued. “We are gaining more clout. MNLA has more members, more money, an administrative office, and can take credit card payments. We’re small. We had PayPal, but acting alone was tough. With the golf tournament we were lucky to get 40 players. By joining forces with Maryland Ag Education Foundation, we had 90 to 100 players.”
Looking back, Karp said, “We did a lot. We are proud of what we did on our own. Last year, although we had only a few members at our annual meeting, we threw out a topic and boom, we had names of speakers and a date for a conference on Biological Control in Commercial Greenhouses, which was held Aug. 6 at the Maritime Institute.
“This year we’re working on a conference on alternative crops, hydroponics and medicinal growing for August.”
Rutley concluded, “MGGA does so many great things and has so many talented people. They don’t have the luxury of having a paid executive director and paid staff. Quercus (Finney’s company) does such a great job. To be able to bring (MGGA’s) skill sets... that’s the biggest piece of the puzzle we have been missing. I am absolutely thrilled.”
There will be no changes in this year’s Chesapeake Green, Karp said. MGGA, as a subcommittee, will still provide leadership of the two-day conference in February.