Northeast Greenhouse Conference
Next Conference November 7 & 8, 2018
A 44-year tradition for greenhouse growers and garden retailers. The University of Massachusetts Extension Greenhouse Crops and Floriculture Program along with other New England and New York State Universities and Growers' Associations join New England Floriculture Inc. as sponsors to feature 70 educational programs and 150 trade show booths. This conference is held every other year.
The first New England Greenhouse Conference was held at the Colonial Hilton in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, in October 1972. This was the first time that the six New England states worked together on a single growers' conference. By joining forces, the group was able to attract major speakers to the regional conference, a feat that would not have been able to accomplish if they had worked independently within their own states. The group that produced the conference represented six New England Cooperative Extension Services, the flower and vegetable growers associations from those states and commercial supply firms. They declared the two-day conference a success with attendance exceeding 400 growers and decided that the event should continue on a regular basis.
A very successful team was organized to produce the biennial conference. The team approach continues today, with a representative from each of the six New England Cooperative Extension Services, plus a representative from each of the state grower associations. This team approach of industry and Cooperative Extension working together has worked so well that it has served as a model for several other groups organizing regional education programs.
In the early years, the organizers believed that it would be advantageous to move the conference to different sites throughout New England. The second conference, in 1974, was held at the New Hampshire Highway Hotel in Concord, New Hampshire, with about 600 attendees. The 1976 conference at the Hightpoint Motor Inn in Chicopee, Massachusetts attracted 800 registrants. The 1978 conference, at the Sheraton Inn and Conference Center in Boxborough, Massachusetts served 1,000 attendees. The conference returned to Boxborough in 1980 and 1982, but with more than 1,200 registrants and trade show space limited to fewer than 90 exhibitors, it was time to move to a larger facility once again.
In 1984, the conference began its long stay at the Sturbridge Host Hotel in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. That year also saw tentative expansion in the length of the meeting. Previous conferences had been two days in length, but the 1984 program offered several presentations the evening before the official start of the two-day conference. The 1984 conference offered yet another innovation: it was cosponsored by the Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service. The educational program included several sessions presented by agricultural engineers, on topics ranging from greenhouse construction to environmental control.
The 1986, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1996 conferences remained in Sturbridge, and offered three full days of educational programs, with as many as five concurrent sessions and more than 100 presentations. The trade show expanded to well over 100 vendor booths. In 1992, an outdoor tent served as an annex to accommodate several additional booths, and in 1994 and 1996, more innovation was evident with the addition of a greenhouse which held an extra 20 booths.
During the Sturbridge years, the conference programs evolved in several ways to meet the needs of New England's growing floriculture industry. In 1990, 1992 and 1994, the New England Interior Landscape Association cosponsored the conference. In 1996, the conference was held in conjunction with the American Horticultural Therapy Association's Annual Conference. At each conference, sessions covering traditional greenhouse corps were joined by presentation on outdoor cut flowers, herbs and perennials, reflecting the diversification for New England's greenhouse industry.
The 1996 conference at Sturbridge attracted more than 2,000 attendees, and the crowded educational sessions and trade show indicated that it was time once again to look for a larger facility. The search resulted in a move to the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. The conference was held at the DCU Center in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012. In 2014 the conference was held at the Mass Mutual Center, Springfield, MA. The new facility had easy parking, all the educational sessions and trade show on one floor, nearby hotels and restaurants for attendees. In 2016 the conference moved back to Boxborough at the Holiday Inn.
In 2006, Extension and grower representatives from New York were invited to join the planning committee. In 2009, the name of the conference was changed to the Northeast Greenhouse Conference.
In 1998 the New England Greenhouse Conference formalized its structure by establishing a nonprofit organization, New England Floriculture, Inc. (NEF, Inc). The six members of the NEF's Board of Directors are the representatives from the six New England states' grower associations. The organization ensured a stable future for the conference and for the other collaborative efforts that have evolved as a result of the Conference.
Other NEF, Inc. Activities
One of the benefits of producing a perennially successful educational program is the growth of related projects. In 1989, the NEGC group produced the first edition of the "New England greenhouse pest control and growth regulator recommendations". This publication, relied on by thousands of New England growers is revised in time for each conference and is now distributed as the “New England Greenhouse Floriculture Guide, A Management Guide for Insects, Diseases, Weeds and Growth Regulators.”
Also in 1989, the group recognized the need for research funding by establishing the Awards Committee, which funds projects each January. University researchers and members of the New England floriculture industry apply for funds to undertake research and educational project that benefit the industry.
Stack, L.B. 1998. The New England Greenhouse Conference: solid educational programming supports a growing industry. Ohio Florists' Association Bulletin (827):2-3.
Shaw, R. and L.B. Stack. 1998. The New England Greenhouse Conference: a tradition of trade associations and universities working together. The Mayflower (Massachusetts Flower Growers' Association Newsletter) 1997/98(4):1-2.
By Lois Berg Stack, University of Maine
Updated 2016 Tina Smith, University of Massachusetts