HRI Leadership Academy developing the next gen of floriculture

HRI Leadership Academy developing the next gen of floriculture
The HRI Leadership Academy Class of 2023 is seen here during a visit to Washington, DC to meet with federal legislators. Photo: AmericanHort

In an era where many baby boomers are retiring, the next generation of leaders is critical. In some cases, a family business can be passed on to the children. In other cases, there might not be a younger person to take over a leadership role. The horticulture industry is working to fill in those gaps.

Jennifer Gray, Research Programs Administrator for AmericanHort, says the idea of a leadership academy for horticulture was in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic began. With the onset of the pandemic, AmericanHort put its plans on hold. But when the right time came along, Gray says it made sense for the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) to partner with AmericanHort to bring together leaders from all over the country.

“From an HRI perspective, we held a research roundtable several years ago. We looked at the components of what a healthy, vibrant industry would look like,” Gray says. “One of the hallmarks of a vibrant, healthy industry was connected leaders throughout the industry, regardless of segment, business size, or region. People could come together and discuss industry issues. At that time, HRI did not have a method to accomplish that.”

HRI partnered with AmericanHort to officially launch the Leadership Academy in the summer of 2022, and the first class graduated at Cultivate’23. There are two overarching goals of the academy. One is leadership development, such as increasing self-awareness, learning skills to manage a team, and how students can capitalize on their strengths. The other goal of the HRI Leadership Academy focuses more on business. Leaders should have a solid understanding of fundamental business concepts, Gray says.

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