by Maureen Sundberg
Whether you sell a product or provide a service, you need to stay ahead of the curve with your business, your profession, your skills, and your education in order to succeed. Staying ahead of the curve was the goal of over 350 landscaping and land care professionals who met in Springfield on March 3 for ELA’s 17th annual Conference & Eco-Marketplace where they expanded their knowledge base, connected with peers, and explored products and services for the ecologically minded.
Education sessions at the Conference covered diverse design approaches, investigated soil development, and looked at a variety of landscaping projects – large and small. Mercer Bonney, AMEC Earth and Environmental, spent her afternoon sessions with Dan Kittredge and Jerry Brunetti looking closely at soils and came away with “a sense of the wonder of nature.” She noted, “To recall that sense of wonder is important. We need to look with fresh eyes.”
A Marketplace full of ecologically connected exhibits provided many opportunities for anyone strolling through to glean information about plant material, tools and implements, soil amendments, and a range of non-profits with an ecological view. Maribeth Porter, Neptune’s Harvest exclaimed, “It was busy, busy, busy! Every time a session ended, I was bombarded.”
Keynote presentations by William Cullina, The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens; Peter Del Tredici, Arnold Arboretum; and Jono Neiger, Conway School of Landscape Design, generated lively discussion on the roles of native, introduced, invasive, and endangered plants in the ecologically managed landscape. According to Ben Larsen, Habitat Garden Design, “The knowledge and experience of the speakers brings much needed perspective to this complex debate.”
Led by Penny Lewis, ELA Executive Director and Conference Committee Chair, a core team of six ELA volunteers began work in June of 2010 to orchestrate the 2011 Conference and Eco-Marketplace. An additional twenty-six volunteers provided support on the day of the Conference by fulfilling tasks that ranged from setting up an insect identification quiz to helping attendees navigate the complex system of Continuing Education Credits offered by the Conference.
Kathy Sargent-O’Neill, a Conference Committee member since 1997, noted that M.L. Altobelli and Nancy Askin have helped organize all 17 ELA Conferences and Eco-Marketplaces. Asked about the group’s commitment to the event, Sargent-O’Neill said, “It’s gratifying to see folks returning year after year, and new faces as well, hungry for information which will help them in their businesses, on their own properties, and in their communities. To hear the conversations, see the connections being made, and to feel the energy that’s generated at this event – there’s nothing like it anywhere else. The committee that pulls this event together is made up of interesting and talented people, and it’s fun working with them to plan and create an event that gets better and better very year. Stay tuned for 2012; it’s sure to be another winner!”
About the Author
Maureen Sundberg, ELA newsletter editor, writes and gardens at home in Andover, MA.