Every leader needs a vision.
Leading a nursery and landscape business in Florida can be fulfilling and rewarding work. This is tangible work that contributes to our communities and our environment.
Like many businesses, ours is shaped by both tradition and innovation. Tradition is what brought us here, and change is the way of the future. Knowing when to break from tradition to move a business and an industry forward is the role of the leader.
We zoom in to see the finer details, and we zoom out to see the bigger picture. When things come into focus, the vision becomes clear.
So let’s zoom out for a moment.
Florida’s population is projected to increase to 34 million by 2070, as nearly 1000 people per day move to the state. This rapid growth in population is putting a strain on our state’s already vulnerable natural resources. The Florida 2070 Report, prepared by 1000 Friends of Florida, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the University of Florida GeoPlan Center, demonstrates that if we continue developing land the way we do now, more than a third of the state will be paved over by 2070. Millions of acres of agricultural and natural lands–essential to maintaining our quality of life, jobs, water supply, and more–will be lost.
Moreover, 15 million new Floridians in our state by 2070 will add a heavy burden to Florida’s fragile water supply, with development-related water use projected to more than double. With many areas of Florida already facing water shortages and water quality crises, our current path is unsustainable.
Will we continue this path, or will we embrace change, science, innovation, and technology in order to rise to the challenge of the next half century? I believe we will answer the call. I believe that no matter how great our problems become, our capacity to solve them is always greater. I believe that in every challenge lies an abundance of opportunity.
Now we must act.
We zoom in on our businesses and our practices, and we question how we can align to the bigger picture. This is where we break from tradition. In the nursery and landscape industry, we contribute in many ways to the environment; however, there are still many practices inherited from the past that are wasteful, failing to address the needs of the 21st century. According to a study by the University of Florida, 70% of household water consumption goes towards irrigating landscapes. Depletion of our topsoil and the over-utilization of exotic species of plants lead to excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers contributing to the toxicity of our waters.
These conventional landscape practices are contributing to the degradation of our environment rather than restoring it. Meanwhile, science, technology and innovation have already revealed to us new landscape methods and practices with the potential to clean water, restore soil health, and enhance ecosystem services and functions. We have the resources and practices to design better landscape strategies for the environment and better business strategies for our organizations. We must work to unlock these opportunities and create this change.
Every leader needs a vision but no one can do it alone.
In the 21st century, the challenges we face are complex. Solutions will therefore require working through the interconnected economic, political, and industry structures that bind us to our current ways of doing business. Supply chains, regulatory frameworks, economic incentives structures, and relationship networks have been optimized to deliver exactly what we are getting today. If we want change, we need to collaborate to define a better path and build a more sustainable future.
My company, Cherrylake, is working internally to improve our nursery and landscape practices, but we recognize the need to join with stakeholders and leaders from across the state to truly make a difference. This is why we have joined the OUTSIDE Sustainable Landscape Collaborative.
OUTSIDE Sustainable Landscape Collaborative focuses on the intersection of academia, industry and government to shift Florida toward more sustainable landscape practices. It provides a forum for collaboration, the sharing of best practices, and showcasing innovative projects and trends. The collaborative is organizing an inaugural event in Clermont on April 23-24, 2020.
We invite you to attend OUTSIDE 2020 and to join the collaborative. Together, we can make a difference and answer the call for future generations of Floridians.