Recovery from The Great Recession has been described in a number of ways (many of them not fit for print), but one illustration had us imagining a bowl. Rather than the sharply angled, linear representations we so often see on charts and graphs (up-down, up-down, up-down), the road back out of economic doldrums, we were told, would look more like a curved dip, a rounded bottom and then a gentle, curved rise. Picture a mixing bowl, perhaps one suitable for making cookie dough.

That may have held true for other industries, but it’s not so for the green industry, according to Bob Dolibois, executive vice president of the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA). The general economy appears to be taking that soft-landing and soft-ascent route, but Dolibois said years ago that recovery for the green industry would resemble a cookie sheet – long, low and flat.

And he’s right. While some in the industry believe we haven’t yet hit bottom, others agree that this long, low and flat period is a time of reorientation. Taking benchmarks and making adjustments are a normal part of normal business operations, whether the economic climate is normal or not. Business as usual just isn’t business as usual anymore, and it never will be. Rather, “usual” will be what we make of it.

So when American Nurseryman set out to develop a state-of-the-industry report, we knew it needed to be another kind of usual. Though valuable and informative, the “normal” type – which often involves numbers and rankings – just didn’t seem to fit. In this disorienting business climate, we wanted to hear green industry leaders talk about where we are and where we’re going.

The report, which begins on page 6, is divided into two parts. In the first section, leaders of green industry associations discuss the issues we face: each identifies the top three challenges, and then each addresses more specific questions regarding labor, legislative topics, marketing, and the environment and natural resources. We hear their unique points of view as stewards of the industry.

In the second part, we hear from business owners and managers – folks who tell us of their individual experiences and who share the perspective of leaders whose day-to-day decisions and long-range planning keep companies running and workers employed. They, too, identified the top challenges they face and go on to discuss the topics addressed by our first group.

Our participants include Ben Bolusky, CEO of the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association; Bob Dolibois; Bob Fitch, ED of the Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association; Michael Geary, CEO of OFA – The Association of Horticulture Professionals; Jeff Stone, ED/CEO of the Oregon Association of Nurseries; Rick Crowder, general manager, Hawksridge Farms, Hickory, N.C.; Tom Demaline, president of Willoway Nurseries Inc., Avon, Ohio; Jeff Edgar, co-owner of Silver Creek Nurseries, Manitowoc, Wis.; Gary Knosher, president of Midwest Groundcovers, St. Charles, Ill.; Jeff O’Donal, president of O’Donal’s Nursery, Gorham, Maine; and Bart Worthington, general manager, Mountain States Wholesale Nursery, Litchfield Park, Ariz.

They had so much to say that we ran out of room. But we’ve posted the final couple of questions – and the very telling responses – online. We didn’t want to leave out one word. (The full report appears in our digital edition.)

Which leads me to this: How are you reorienting to this new normal? (Sorry, but it fit.) We’d love to share your thoughts and continue this conversation, so please let us know what’s on your mind. You can go to our Facebook page at, or e-mail me directly at

In this disorienting business climate, we wanted to hear green industry leaders talk about where we are and where we’re going.