Greenhouse Product News

Big Grower September 2018

The business magazine for commercial growers

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1 0 SEP TEMBER 2018 • BIGGROWER.COM MARKETING T he Collegiate Plant Initiative (CPI) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to create people who love plants and find the plants people love. Made up of undergraduate students without backgrounds in plant science or related majors, these student leaders love plants and are passionate about sharing this love with as many college students as possible. This perspective allows CPI to directly relate to some of the most important people in the horticulture industry — future affluent consumers and educated employees. The Initiative was inspired by Plants, Gardening and You (PG&Y), an introductory gardening class taught by Dave Clark at the University of Florida. Hundreds of students from every major enroll in PG&Y each semester to learn more about the basics of plants and gardening. Topics range from plant domestication and propagation to plant biotechnology and orchids. Students also take PG&Y because they receive a plant every week they attend lecture, meaning that they can have a dorm or apartment full of plants by the end of the semester. After taking PG&Y, several students fell in love with plants and decided to create CPI with Clark. By having this close connection to PG&Y, CPI can collect data on student plant preferences and recruit student talent every semester, as well as stay up to date with the newest trends and attitudes toward plants. GETTING THEIR ATTENTION CPI's first goal, making people who love plants, is accomplished through events, regular social media postings and articles. Plant Drops are CPI's most noteworthy events. At each of these events, we bring 1,000 plants to the center of university campuses to give away to students for free. While students are eagerly waiting for their new plant, we share information about caring for the plant and how students can become involved in the horticulture industry. At every event, students can be seen intensely studying flyers, putting CPI stickers on their shirt and water bottles, or taking pictures and videos to share on their social media. To date, CPI has conducted Plant Drops at the University of Florida, Penn State University and Texas A&M University with plans to visit many more in the upcoming year. When we visited Texas A&M University, students were so excited about receiving free plants that we managed to give away all 1,000 plants in only four minutes! We believe the excitement demonstrated by students across the country directly relates to their love of plants, and we are helping them cultivate this energy into life-long hobbies and careers. While Plant Drops are a wonderful way to gain student attention, maintaining a strong social media presence is one of the most effective ways an organization can keep them engaged. Consistently posting high-quality and relevant content reminds students of our mission and gives them a reason to think about horticulture on an everyday basis. Daily CPI Facebook and Instagram posts include images of the plants people love and college students interacting with plants in various ways. Plant images expose these young adults to flowers and foliage they have never seen before and show them that they have a wide variety of choices available to them as a consumer. Additionally, they see young adults just like themselves enjoying plants, which can help students realize that they are capable of taking care of plants and that plants have a place in their busy lives. Posts show that gardening can be a social event where students can meet others and develop friendships over the shared love of plants. As CPI has grown and expanded over the past year, we have continued to work on outreach by writing articles, media releases and event announcements to spread our love of plants with others. CPI's first targets are leaders and professionals in the industry — you and your colleagues. We want to provide insight into the minds of college students and how those insights directly BY VIRGINIA FRAZIER C u lt i vat i n g N e w C u s t o m e r s … a n d M ay b e E v e n E m p l oy e e s The Collegiate Plant Initiative works to build a stronger connection between the industry and the next generation of consumers and employees. Finding new customers, as well as potential employees, is not as easy as it once was. The Collegiate Plant Initiative is hoping to change that.

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