We asked Ed Overdevest, one of the founding members of Syn-RG™, to elaborate a bit on the program. Here’s what he had to say.

Q: How were the original, charter members selected? As the program evolves, will there be more participants? How will they be selected?

A: I think it’s fair to say that the need for a program like this has been in the back of a lot of minds ever since new plant varieties and branding began to change the whole concept of marketing in our industry. As coincidence would have it, the EAGL academy (Executive Academy for Growth and Leadership, run by Charlie Hall and Kip Creel), provided the context and inspiration for several competing, yet similarly minded, grower participants to begin working toward a solution. After commissioning consumer research and seeking retailer input, the original group of three expanded to five grower acquaintances who had common business models and similar marketing philosophies. Most of all, we shared a commitment to the Independent Garden Center channel and a belief that all segments of the supply chain need to work together if a truly effective solution is to be had.

With these five charter growers, we now have the critical mass necessary for launching this collaboration in what is the heart of the IGC market area. As we continue to develop the program and involve an increasing number of independent retailers, we think that similarly minded growers in other areas of the U.S. and Canada might express an interest in taking part. To the degree they share the core philosophies, capabilities and commitments of this Syn-RG™ movement, we will be offering “licensed” grower opportunities on a geographic basis.

Q: At present, the growers involved are in the East; do you plan to expand across the country?

A: That is one of our eventual goals. But we have more foundation work to do in the meantime, prior to our launch in 2017.

Q: This is not a new “branding” program, but more like a seal of approval. Can you explain why this approach is being taken?

A: There is a very evident sense in our industry that we don’t need any more brands. Retailers have made that abundantly clear. Our hope is to do a better job with the ample choices we already have. As the ever-increasing introduction of new varieties continuously reconstitutes the palette of plants our industry offers to consumers, the main need is not to overwhelm them with more choices, but to help them make good choices while providing them with the reassurance they need to overcome the “fear of failure” that limits their embrace of gardening.

Q: What kind of consumer marketing is planned to promote the new certification/seal of approval?

A: At this point our marketing is focused on the supply chain side of the market. We will be involving more plant introducers and IGCs as we continue to incorporate their perspective in finalizing the details of this program. Their engaged input will be key in determining what the Point of Sale marketing strategy will ultimately be. Beyond traditional approaches, we hope to utilize the creativity and efficiency of modern media to help facilitate and leverage local promotional efforts.

Q: How will the IGCs be brought on board? Are there specific selection criteria they’ll need to meet in order to participate?

A: We were very mindful to have IGCs on board from the start. With that collaborative format already in place, each of the Syn-RG™ growers will now be reaching out to the rest of our garden center customers as part of our plan to “work with the willing.”

Q: How can additional growers / breeders become part of the program?

A: As mentioned earlier, we are content with having just five growers involved at the moment. This allows us to still be nimble despite the time and effort involved with such an unprecedented supply chain collaboration. Our door remains wide open for any interested breeders. At the appropriate time, we will be considering additional grower involvement.

Read more: Handpicked For You: A New Certification Program

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