Educational Needs and Perspectives on Future of the Green Industry in Utah
The green industry in Utah is a large and diverse group that ranges from nursery/greenhouse growers and retailers to landscape maintenance and design professionals to irrigation and turf industry professionals. Because of the size and diverse membership of the Utah green industry, extension faculty are challenged to gauge the needs and attitudes of the industry as a clientele group. In 2007, we conducted a mail survey of the Utah green industry to identify the learning preferences of industry members, to better understand the structure and extent of Utah green industry businesses, and to elicit industry perceptions about present and future challenges to success. We found that the service sector is a significant component of Utah's green industry, and that extension-based short courses can be used to provide more advanced and targeted education to specific industry groups. Drought/water issues and labor shortages were viewed as significant challenges to the future of the green industry, and these could be used as a foundation for building strategic alliances between extension and the green industry in Utah. Results of our survey will be useful to green industry professionals and extension educators that deal with green industry education, particularly in states with service- rather than production-oriented businesses. The green industry in Utah ranks fourth among the seven mountain region states in total output, employment, and value-added impacts, with an estimated $901 million in output impacts across all sectors of the industry (Hall et al., 2005). Although Utah's nursery, greenhouse, and sod industries comprise only 8% of total state crop sales (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2002), the green industry in Utah (including retail, landscape, design, and irrigation) is among the fastest growing and most diverse in the region, with significant impacts across all industry groups: production and manufacturing, horticultural services, and wholesale and retail trade. Operators within some sectors of the industry in Utah, for example some landscape maintenance professionals, strive to maintain a low profile because of the transient nature of their operations. Because of the diversity of the industry and transient nature of some landscape service firms, extension faculty are challenged to gauge the needs and attitudes of the industry as an extension clientele group. Over the past 15 years, Utah State University extension has collaborated with the Utah green industry to organize the annual Utah green industry conference and trade show. Participation in this event has been a major avenue for Utah State University extension faculty to interact with the industry, but the industry has grown in numbers and diversity to the extent that it is difficult to assess and meet the needs of all sectors. Focusing Utah State University extension programming efforts in areas of greatest need would have a greater impact within the industry, while making the best use of limited resources. We developed a survey tool to identify the scope of the Utah green industry, educational and programming needs of industry professionals, and their perspectives on the future of the industry. Garber (1992) used informal needs assessment, followed by development of a “distribution channel map,” to determine complex industry relationships and to facilitate a strategic survey of a critical segment within the Georgia nursery/landscape industry in an effort to better focus limited extension resources. Others have used industry surveys to determine marketing strategies for nursery stock (Makus et al., 1992), to determine irrigation practices in container nurseries (Garber et al., 2002), to assess cultural practices and issues facing the greenhouse industry (Scoggins et al., 2004), and to identify industry preferences for dealing with the sale and use of invasive plants (Gagliardi and Brand, 2007). These surveys were conducted with the intent of targeting university extension and research programs to meet industry needs. Our survey was mailed to all 450 individual members and member firms of the Utah Nursery and Landscape Association (UNLA), and to non-UNLA–affiliated green industry professionals by way of our Utah green industry conference mailing list. Our objectives were to identify the learning preferences of industry members, to better understand the structure and extent of Utah green industry businesses, and to elicit industry perceptions about present and future challenges to their success.
Kratsch, H., R. Ward, M. Shao, and L. Rupp.. “Educational Needs and Perspectives on the Future of the Green Industry in Utah”, HortTechnology. 20(April 2010).