CGC's role in industry growth

September 04, 2014
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Looking back over its 35-year history, it’s clear the Canadian Greenhouse Conference has done a lot to advance this industry.

And it’s amazing to think that the pioneering spirits who first envisioned this annual conference weren’t sure how the industry would respond in 1979 to the first show.

John Hughes, then an OMAF extension horticulturalist, previewed the conference in the Oct. 6, 1979, edition of Canadian Florist, Greenhouse and Nursery and outlined the program highlights. “…With the increasing demands such as energy and labour costs in greenhouse production, I hope Ontario’s greenhouse growers take advantage of the opportunity to attend this meeting … ”

So how did growers respond?

“Attendance, which surpassed 1,000, was virtually double even the most optimistic estimates of the organizing committee. The registration area was running by the skin of their teeth as they ran out of registration forms and badge holders early Saturday afternoon, and had to make do by any means available,” noted a CFGN report of the first conference.

Many new technologies, growing methods and varieties have been introduced into the Canadian market at the conference. Growers have listened to leading specialists explain how to grow new crops or use new fertilizers and substrates. Exhibitors brought the latest cropping solutions to the trade show floor, allowing growers a one-stop shopping opportunity.

Seminar topics the first year included climate control, energy conservation, microelements, poinsettias, impatiens, garden mums, new pesticides, crop scheduling, and tissue culture, among others, on the ornamental side, while vegetable growers listened to reports on research at Vineland and Harrow, environmental control, and energy conservation.

The conference has always taken pride in the amount of money raised for research, and that tradition was established early with several grants totaling $10,000 distributed after only two years of the show.

Then federal Agriculture Minister Eugen Whelan, who attended in 1982, was impressed with the show and the industry. “I guess a greenhouse operator has to be a Jack or Jill of all trades – an entomologist, an accountant, a horticulturist, a marketing expert, and an engineer,” Whelan told the crowd. “And it looks like it wouldn’t hurt to know a bit about computers, too.”

Whelan noted there were 25 scientists dedicated at the federal level to greenhouse research at that time. “As a matter of fact, the amount of money we allocate for ornamentals research has increased by about 25 per cent in the last 10 years,” said Whelan.

The conference has long been a cornerstone in supporting the growth of the industry. But more than a business forum, it has also served as an important social event for many greenhouse families over the years. It’s a national gathering of growers, who are as keen to share information with their colleagues as they are to learn from others.

Canadian growers are among the most efficient and innovative in the world. The Canadian Greenhouse Conference has played a major role in that success, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

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