Empowered Women Empower Women in Horticulture

Greenhouse Grower Senior Editor Julie Hullett met a great group of women from Walters Gardens and Pope’s Plant Farm at the BASF reception during Cultivate’23

Greenhouse Grower Senior Editor Julie Hullett met women from Walters Gardens and Pope’s Plant Farm at the BASF reception during Cultivate’23. | Julie Hullett

There are so many amazing women in the horticulture industry. We are lucky to have them, and we have an opportunity to highlight them. This week, May 26 through June 1, 2024, is the Fifth Annual Women in Horticulture Week.  

Although at its highest levels, the industry is still dominated by men, I see more women joining the ranks and rising to positions of leadership. One of the best places to network with other women in horticulture is Cultivate. 

At Cultivate last year, I walked into a BASF reception not knowing a single soul. I knew it would be great for networking, but everyone already appeared to be in deep conversation. I ended up chatting with a group of women from Walters Gardens. It was refreshing to find a group of gals around my age to connect with and share stories. They were excited to tell me about their work in trials and integrated pest management (IPM) at Walters Gardens, and we exchanged business cards for a future collaboration. 

By September, Rochelle Gawel of Walters Gardens had set up a fantastic day-long tour of their facilities for me, including the greenhouses in Zeeland, MI, the tissue culture lab, and the fields of hibiscus for bare root production. 

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One of my favorite parts of the horticulture industry is watching people flourish while doing something that they are passionate about. Many of us are passionate about plants, but there are other facets of the industry too. For example, I met Geneiva McNeale at Cultivate two years ago, when she was a Training and Development Manager for Metrolina Greenhouses.  

Since then, McNeale has started her own business, GLM Leadership Solutions. She specializes in communication skills, personal development, goal setting, and broadening perspectives. McNeale says sustainable success can only come from having a leadership culture that inspires dedication and innovation from the team, where people take pride in the work they do and the company they do it for. I was thrilled to see that McNeale is the speaker at AmericanHort’s Women in Horticulture luncheon at Cultivate’24. 

Women are making a place for themselves in the horticulture industry. We are growers, marketers, trial managers, engineers, saleswomen, consultants, and more. But one of the most important things we can do is foster an environment for women to grow. 

When I joined the industry two years ago, I didn’t know anybody. I appreciated my coworkers taking me around the trade show floor at Cultivate to introduce me to their peers. There have been several events that promote networking, such as Garden Media Group’s Breakfast with the Stars during Cultivate last year. Those of us who are in the industry have the opportunity and responsibility to bring more women with us.  

For example, at Meister Media, whenever we have new hires, they are paired with another team member who is their “Buddy”. This is similar to a mentorship role, as the “Buddy” helps the employee learn about their new role, their market, and our company. I’ve been working with Dana Shugrue, our Content Specialist for CEAg World. We regularly discuss market trends, learn from each other, and revisit old memories from our college days at John Carroll University. As you’re paving your way, always consider who is walking in your footsteps. 

During this Women in Horticulture Week, recognize women making strides in the industry. Let’s share the great work we are all doing on social media with the hashtag #womeninhort. 

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