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PLANJ and NJNLA Find Success with “Winter Showcase” and Annual Dinner
Agriculture Secretary and Cook College Dean Take Part in Events
For Immediate Release: December 15, 2005 Contact:

Jeff Beach

(TRENTON) – Ornamental horticulture is New Jersey’s leading agricultural sector, accounting for 40 percent of the total industry. Recently, there has been growing recognition of the interplay between this agricultural sector and the other components of the “Green Industry,” such as landscaping and grounds maintenance.

That connection was underscored at the recent Professional Landscape Alliance of New Jersey (PLANJ) Winter Showcase and the New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association’s annual awards dinner, as both New Jersey Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus and Robert Goodman, the Dean of Rutgers University’s Cook College, took part in both ceremonies.

The Showcase, PLANJ’s first foray into such an early-winter event, drew hundreds of attendees and dozens of exhibitors to the Radisson Hotel in Piscataway on December 6 and 7. Exhibitors ranged from private companies like Storr Tractor to government agencies like the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

Cook College Dean Goodman, Secretary Kuperus and News 12 New
Jersey Weatherman James Gregorio chat at the PLANJ Winter Showcase.

The Department had a booth on the exhibition floor that featured a computerized slide show on various plant pests the Division of Plant Industry is confronting in New Jersey, as well as information about the Jersey Grown program that promotes the use of horticultural products grown in the state in much the same way that the Jersey Fresh program touts the state’s fruits and vegetables.

Along with Jersey Grown plant ties and promotional signs, the Department offered applications to register with the program, under which nurseries can advertise their plants.

The programs are an indication of agriculture’s relationship to the Green Industry, which involves such disciplines as landscaping, grounds maintenance and turf management.

In addressing the assembled landscapers, Secretary Kuperus complimented their efforts to bring a heightened sense of prestige to their industry, including recent efforts to bring the major landscaping groups in the state together to work cooperatively on training, improving professionalism and working on common industry issues.

“What impresses me most is the emphasis you all are putting on professionalism in the industry,” Secretary Kuperus said. “Improving the industry’s relationships with clients and the public, and increasing employee knowledge, leads to a more productive and profitable operations.

“What you are doing to boost the professionalism of landscaping – by education and training and events like this – goes a long way to improving the public’s perception of your industry.”

Secretary Kuperus speaks during the opening ceremonies of the PLANJ Winter Showcase.

Examples of the move to increase professionalism could be found throughout the two-day event. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection gave an update of its Pesticide Control Program, while Gary and Cynthia Kinman presented an overview of their landmark “Focus on Professionalism” course from the Kinman Institute, which has produced some of the most prestigious landscape design build installations in the country.

After the brief opening session, participants at the conference had the opportunity to tour a large exhibitor area to hear about the latest advances in items such as sprinkler systems, de-icing liquids and lawn tractors.

“I think it went as well as we had planned for,” said Tony Catanzaro, PLANJ’s incoming President. “We were trying to make it something different, where you make an evening out of it and have a social and networking aspect to it. This is the time of year you’re doing your planning and talking to your suppliers. Some of the other shows are in late winter or early spring and you’ve done all your planning already.”

Outgoing PLANJ President Evan Dickerson said he was “very proud of the way PLANJ pulled together – not just the board, but all the members – and put together a very professional show. Obviously, we were happy to have the Secretary and Dean Goodman present at the showcase. It’s neat to know that they feel what we are doing is that important.”

Given the turnout and generally good reception of the first-ever showcase, organizers said they are definitely planning to launch another one next December.

“It’s something we are going to continue with,” Catanzaro said. “The reaction we had from just about everybody was that they were happy with the way things went. I think it serves an important function.”

NJNLA President Carl Nordstrom, likewise, said that group’s meeting was a success, with Assemblyman Joseph Cryan of Union being honored for his work on behalf of the industry. The meeting capped off “an overall pretty good year” for NJNLA’s members, Nordstrom said.

“We had a successful year, establishing a new insurance program for members and successfully fighting a sales tax on landscape construction,” Nordstrom said. “It was a good spring, then summer was a little slow with the lack of rain, then the fall was good. So overall it was a pretty good year.”