Oh, what a girl won’t do for research.

If you attended the OFA Short Course in Columbus last month, you may have heard a collective cheer or two rise from the vicinity of Booth 1759, the tradeshow location of BASF. On Monday afternoon, several of the green industry’s trade media editors met to compete in BASF’s annual “Grower’s Pyramid,” a quiz rather like the old “Password” game show hosted long ago by Garry Moore, and later resurrected as “Pyramid,” hosted by Dick Clark.

For this incarnation of the game, BASF paired editors to guess an industry-related word – one was shown the word and provided hints to his or her partner, who then blurted out anything and everything in an attempt to provide the answer. My topic had something to do with stars, and each answer was the name of a plant that has a celestial meaning. It should have been easy but, as usual, I choked. I selected the topic, thinking I could ace this thing and recover a little bit of the dignity I lost in last year’s game, when my topic was “things you remember from junior high.” Seriously?

At any rate – and more to the point – each team was asked to identify a charity, and thanks to the generosity of BASF, my winnings were donated to the Horticultural Research Institute.

Surely you’re familiar with HRI, and if you’re not, I urge you to visit the organization’s web site at http://www.hriresearch.org. Now. Don’t finish reading this; go. You can catch up later.

HRI supports research – and its practical application – ranging from disease prevention and management to emerging technologies, from marketing of green goods to alternative substrates and biodegradable containers. Note, please, the emphasis on “practical application.” This is not self-congratulatory, ivory tower stuff. Funded projects are intended to provide real-world, put-it-to-use findings, the kind of information that improves your ability to do your job. Yes, some of it is “scientific.” But behind the art and craft of growing plants, there’s solid science.

According to the organization, “HRI strives to fund research that specifically deals with green industry related issues. HRI-supported projects focus on significant problems, regulatory issues or emerging opportunities in the nursery and landscape industry, encourage environmentally responsible management practices, increase nursery crop producers’ business or financial expertise, and improve and expand the general market for plant material.” Covers a lot of ground; then again, so does the industry.

Funding for this research does not come from government; it comes from people like you. Individual donors and companies alike have contributed to the research that keeps this industry strong. Since 1962, HRI has directed more than $5.4 million in industry funds – dollars contributed by folks in and of the industry – through its competitive grants program.

At this summer’s HRI Reception, about $50,000 was raised both through pledges and on-the-spot donations accepted from those in attendance. A few pledges could have paid off my car; others equaled what I had in my wallet.

I know money’s tight. I know it’s sometimes hard to pay the bills and balance the books. But a small investment can go a long way toward securing your company’s – and the industry’s – future.

If I’m willing to make an absolute fool of myself to win a few bucks for the Horticultural Research Institute, you can check out the research that’s been funded. You’ll find information you can use, and you might find a way to give back.