Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way — To Become Plant Champions.
The daily business of running a family-owned nursery is hard work. It’s easy to get lost in the details of planning, growing, marketing, sales, human resources and more. But when a nursery makes sharing their plant-passion with their community and empowering their employees to be creative in this outreach — they become plant champions.
When Tim Lybarger’s name was submitted to us as a plant champion, he was honored, but insisted that it is the culture of his company that has helped him to share his plant-passion with his community. As propagation supervisor for Willoway Nurseries in Ohio, he shared that the company adopted an “open book management” style (based upon The Great Game of Business) in 2013 — and they’ve been off and running ever since.
Willoway is championing plants in exciting and inspiring ways. Seed Your Future talked with Tim and H.R. Manager Emily Showalter to learn what makes them passionate, and how they inspire the next generation to love plants and perhaps even pursue a green collar career. We were blown-away by their projects. Here’s a few:
- BLOOM! Outreach to students: Utilizing Seed Your Future’s BLOOM! activities, and the “Plants Do That” project of the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (a SYF partner) — Willoway staff presented two one hour sessions aimed at 3rd – 6th grade youth at a local library. They brought along different examples of seeds, presented different career paths in the horticulture industry, handed out seeds packets to children who asked or answered questions, and each child sowed sunflower seeds to take home to care for. They plan many more such offerings in the future.
- Internships: Willoway provides opportunities for college and high school students to complete a 10-15-week internship with the company. Through this program, students gain a hands-on understanding of many aspects of the green industry including production, greenhouse propagation, shipping, sales, distribution, inventory, container and field growing, and more. During the internship students are encouraged to ask questions to help them in determining possible career avenues that are open in horticulture.
- Willoway Scholarship – For thirty years, Willoway has offered an annual horticulture scholarship for a student studying horticulture at the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute.
- Landscape Olympics Competition: As one of the original — and still continuing — sponsors of the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association’s Landscape Olympics for high school students, Willoway sponsors the “Plant Install” competition each year. Their employees judge the contest and the company donates all of the plant material for the contest (this year – 20 trees, and over 400 shrubs and perennials). Tim tells Seed Your Future that this event broadens the high school education experience and introduces students to the many opportunities offered by a career in the green industry.
Emily tells us that the company is so impressed with the resources of Seed Your Future, they decided to select SYF as the recipient of a unique fundraising campaign. They ran a campaign at the nursery called Donate your Change to Make a Change. Their goal was to support 10 middle school classrooms with BLOOM! materials (at 19.50/classroom, that would be $195 total). Their employees blew this goal out of the water and they collected over $600 total. Their employees got excited about sharing their plant-passion with students. We’re grateful for this support and enthusiasm!
For all of these remarkable programs to inspire the next generation of horticulture professionals, we’ve selected Willoway Nurseries as our latest Plant Champion. When we shared the news with Emily, she said they were honored, and wanted to inspire other businesses to do the same kind of projects. In fact, she said:
“We want them to blow us out of the water – reach more students – raise more funds to support this work – and create the next generation of plant pros.”
We say — game on!