The Essential Nature of the Green Industry

According to the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (NICH), consumer horticulture contributes $196 billion to the U.S. economy and creates more than two million jobs.What’s more: a report from the NICH provides data on horticulture’s positive affects on people’s lives at home and work, as well as while shopping and playing.

Members of the Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association (CNGA) already know the tremendous value of our products and services. Our customers realize how crucial plants, gardens and landscaping are to their lives, but reminding them and sharing this message with others is always a good idea.

As the novel coronavirus pandemic and related public health orders took hold this spring – most state governments came to the conclusion – some earlier and some later – that greenhouses, nurseries and garden centers are essential businesses and were not required to close. The green industry, for the most part, could continue operating with the addition of social distancing measures.

However, some city and county governments did not recognize the essential nature of our businesses in the early weeks. The discrepancy made it difficult for law enforcement to know what to enforce, as individuals and neighbors took it upon themselves to report on open businesses to get them closed. Businesses in some areas had to lay off employees while they waited to reopen.

The voices of CNGA members were shared with Colorado Governor Jared Polis and Department of Agriculture Commissioner Kate Greenburg through a letter from GreenCO, the alliance of seven trade associations representing the horticulture and landscape industries. While applauding the state government’s efforts to minimize the spread of the virus, GreenCO asked government officials to see “landscape companies, nurseries, greenhouses and garden centers as absolutely essential businesses within their communities.”

National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture ad

In addition to sharing how horticultural products and services benefit communities, the letter pointed out how critical spring sales and operation are to nurseries, greenhouses, garden centers, and landscape professionals. “Any interruptions now will have long-lasting and dire consequences for the entire year and perhaps beyond that. Plants are highly perishable and must be cared for daily. If the stock is not cared for now, there will be a plant shortage for this year’s growing season,” noted the letter.

Maintaining landscapes during spring is critical to avoid losing valuable plants to pests, snowstorms, and other hazards, as well as protect public health from the transmission of diseases through pests like mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. The letter stated, “Any halt or delay in landscape services during this time of year only magnifies potential safety problems and become much more difficult to maintain later in the year.”

Conveniently, nurseries, greenhouses, garden centers, and landscape companies could easily adopt social distancing measures due to their outdoor work environments and indoor spaces separated by plant displays and racks. At the same time, the products and services encourage customers to work and enjoy time at home on outdoor projects and in greener, healthier indoor environments.

Al Gerace and others at the capitol in defense of the horticulture industry
Al Gerace (left) of Welby Gardens at the Colorado State Capitol

“Why are we essential? Partly because of the agricultural side of our businesses like vegetable seeds and plants. Those products flew off the shelves this spring,” said Al Gerace, President of Welby Gardens and a longtime active CNGA member, who has testified about proposed laws at state government committees.

“The sales of interior foliage plants have just been very, very dynamic. With people being at home more, plants improve their moods and the air quality indoors,” Gerace added. “There’s a certain amount of cabin fever happening, and caring for plants can help with keeping people happy when they are staying at home.”

horticulture infographic
The benefits of consumer horticulture are spotlighted in “#PlantsDoThat, Horticulture: The Art, Science, & Business of Plants.”

Various studies have confirmed the diverse, abundant benefits of indoor and outdoor gardens and landscapes. Here are a few examples.

Physical and mental well-being:

  • Being around plants reduces stress and improves productivity.
  • Placing plants in a windowless space increased reaction time to computer tasks by 12%
  • Taking a walk through the trees can help improve your working memory up to 20%
  • Growing herbs, fruits and vegetables gives people access to healthy food options.

Economic strength:

  • Well-landscaped yards maintain and improve property values. Since homes represent 25% of personal wealth, outdoor plants pack a powerful personal finance punch.
  • Plants in the workplace reduce employee sick time by 14%.
  • Shaded roadways save 60% of repaving costs.
  • America’s public gardens generate $2.3 billion in tourism spending.
  • Growing herbs, fruits and vegetables helps people to relieve mental and financial stresses.
  • The tools, supplies and other products help people to be more self-sufficient, maintaining their homes and properties.

Environmental health:

  • Having plants on the soil surface prevents erosion, soil crusting and compaction, as well as reducing weeds and cooling air temperatures.
  • Native trees in residential yards help sustain native bird, pollinator and wildlife populations in metropolitan areas. Gardens often contain more abundant and diverse bee communities, compared to nearby natural or agricultural areas.
  • Well-maintained, healthy lawns help prevent the spread of fire and can be used in creating a defensible space around homes.
  • Plants help filter and reduce concentrations of nutrients, heavy metals, pathogens and other pollutants from stormwater runoff.

For more resources about the value and benefits of horticulture, go to

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