NICH continues to grow in support of our mission to growing a healthy world through the art, science and business of plants, gardens and landscapes. We have much to celebrate. In 2021 we achieved the four goals outlined our 2019 two-year strategic plan. NICH members devoted themselves to the accomplishment of these goals: growing our organization’s communication excellence, nurturing support for our vision, expanding scientific exploration, and improving our organizational effectiveness. This report shares a summary of accomplishments under each of the defined organizational goals.
Goal 1: Communicate the NICH Mission and Vision to Stakeholders
Our social media is fresh, science-based and focused on promoting all aspects of consumer horticulture. We promote plants, seasonal products and activities with science, enthusiasm and sophistication. Our media is perfect for the horticulture industry, academicians and individual practitioners. Our goal is to use these social media offerings to connect the wide range of consumer horticulture businesses and stakeholders using common language, themes and information.
Our Facebook and Instagram continue to enjoy broad support with almost 3,000 and 350 followers, respectively. If you aren’t following and re-sharing these posts, you are missing a great opportunity to enliven your feeds and connect with like minds! In 2021, NICH established our Twitter presence and re-configured our web page to keep our online presence fresh. Furthermore, we engaged our community of practice with 17 newsletters featuring guest authors on a variety of timely topics. Newsletters were distributed electronically to 1,393 individuals and had a 33% open rate.
Goal 2: Build Support for the NICH Mission and Vision
At the start of 2021, NICH created and convened our Farm Bill Committee. The farm bill is the primary way for the US government to set agricultural and food policy. Consumer horticulture is a significant contributor to the agricultural economy and the only agriculture practiced in every county in the U.S. We feel it should be included in the Farm Bill. Inclusion of consumer horticulture in the Farm Bill would support the consumer horticulture industry as well as researchers and educators and provide a clear path for future efforts.
Our Farm Bill Committee met with USDA senior scientists and staff managing the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education and Economics Advisory Board. Together, they reviewed consumer horticulture and existing USDA horticulture priorities. Conversations were well received and led to invitations to present further on consumer horticulture topics to USDA scientists. Working collaboratively with our Webinar Committee, Farm Bill Committee members pulled together a team who created and recorded a presentation focusing on tree selection and care. The presentation illustrated how consumer horticulture can help address climate change and social justice challenges. Additionally, during the USDA’s June 2021 Pollinator Week webinar series, a NICH member presented on selecting garden plants for pollinators.
Educational efforts remained robust throughout the year, culminating in our strong presence at the 15th International People Plant Symposium in October. Community and Health Benefits and Academic Committee members presented research and outreach on human benefits of consumer horticulture to an international audience of researchers and horticultural therapists; presentations kick-started numerous conversations about how educators, researchers, and the NICH community of practice can work towards strengthening the public’s knowledge of the therapeutic nature of gardening and plants.
NICH nominated two candidates to serve on the Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Advisory Committee to advise Secretary Vilsack on the development of relevant policies and outreach. We wrote numerous letters for colleagues seeking grant funding for projects that supported our research and education plan and nominated NICH participants for awards and recognition.
Goal 3: Support Scientific Exploration of all Aspects of Consumer Horticulture
Academic members of our NICH community received their first grant from the Horticulture Research Institute. The project coalesced in our Academic Council and focuses on issues critical to growing and strengthening our industry by providing cutting-edge research and actionable results. Work will engage approximately ten institutions with NICH serving as the nexus for collaboration and shared discovery. The team aims to identify the motivations and needs of new consumers entering the marketplace and thereby help equip industry stakeholders to better engage this emerging audience and inspire them to lifelong interest and commitment to gardening.
In addition to myriad virtual meetings, our academic team gathered at Montgomery Bell State Park about 45 miles west of Nashville in November to plan and strategize projects and deliverables. Our NICH community will benefit from more infographics, outreach, and science in the coming years. Look for infographics on the youth-specific benefits of gardening early in 2022.
Goal 4: Increase Effectiveness of NICH Workflow
NICH leadership invested considerable effort in our reorganization this year. As a community, we have grown in size and complexity. It was time to re-think our committee and leadership structure. Launched in January 2022, our new structure replaces our committees with a governing board and adds an advisory council. To ensure organizational excellence, we thoughtfully and collaboratively re-wrote our bylaws and organized our workflow using online software (Notion.so). We strongly believe the sleek new design of NICH will allow us to do more, engaging with our industry and institutions as we focus on bringing in new voices and expertise.
Looking ahead to a fruitful 2022, our Strategic Planning Committee is in the process of developing NICH’s next two-year plan. We look forward to presenting the new opportunities and fresh set of commitments with all of you.
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