More than 9,000 people from across the world participated in this year’s OFA Short Course, the annual national horticulture convention and marketplace. The expanded, 7-acre sold-out trade show featured nearly 700 companies, and more than 140 educational sessions, tours, workshops, and networking opportunities.

Click here for the photo report that covers all of the greenhouse service suppliers that were exhibiting at the OFA.

Michael V. Geary, CAE, chief executive officer of OFA and the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) said, “The Short Course brings together the entire supply chain for education and market development. What’s unique about Short Course is that all segments of the industry – garden center retailers, greenhouse and nursery growers, interior and exterior landscapers, florists, students, educators, and industry suppliers – are together under one roof to grow their businesses and to expand our industry. We are stronger together than apart.”

“More people are coming to the Short year after year because we are providing a meaningful and valuable experience,” said Geary. “No matter your position in the industry, there is something for you at Short Course. The trade show, unsurpassed in size and depth of vendors, showcases new plant varieties, products, and services that you won’t find at other events. Short Course is more than a trade show; it also includes educational programs that feature some of the best minds in the industry sharing money-making business solutions. And the ability to network and socialize with your peers is unrivaled.”

“The Short Course provides a global perspective on horticulture,” said Mark Foertmeyer, newly elected OFA president, and owner of Foertmeyer & Sons Greenhouse in Delaware, Ohio. “I met people from Asia, Europe, and South America. What a remarkable opportunity to learn about innovation from other parts of the world that I can implement in my business,” said Foertmeyer.

“Despite some of the dramatic weather experienced throughout much of the country this spring, most people seemed really upbeat about the future,” said Tom Demaline, President of Willoway Nurseries Inc. “As an exhibitor, I was thrilled to have the chance to talk to so many people to learn more about their needs moving forward in this ever-changing economy. Short Course brings the industry together, and I’m happy that we are part of it.”

Several new areas debuted at Short Course. Innovation Station provide web and mobile technology solutions that can be used in the business; Container Crazy showcased breeders mixed containers and POP programs; Grower Solutions focused on the incredibly popular and profitable business of vegetable production in the greenhouse; and Retail Trend Spot took inspiration from the food, fashion, travel, and technology industries to showcase how these ideas can be implemented in a garden center operation to create store displays and an experience that customers crave.

Next year’s Short Course, July 12-15 in Columbus, will grow by adding a 50,000 square-foot exhibit hall to host more companies that sell products and services to retailers. “The reality is that for most retailers, plants can make up as much as 80 percent of annual sales. At Short Course, attendees can see new varieties and other plants that consumers want to buy. But it’s not plants alone that retailers sell, so we also offer a wide assortment of hard goods and services to round out their inventory. In 2014, this product category will expand with the addition of another exhibit hall,” said Geary. “Retailers will get everything they need at this event along with our year-long support.”

This year’s keynote speakers included Dennis Snow, Jeni Britton Bauer, and Ryan Lang. Snow, a business consultant who spent 20 years with the Walt Disney Company, shared strategies to take one’s customer service from ordinary to extraordinary. Bauer and Lang, two Columbus, Ohio, entrepreneurs, discussed competing against major national brands and retailers, challenges that independent small business owners face, growth strategies for success, and how to capitalize on opportunities. Britton Bauer is the founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams; Lang is the owner and master distiller for OYO Vodka and Middle West Spirits.

Click here for the photo report that covers all of the greenhouse service suppliers that were exhibiting at the OFA.