By Daniel Gasteiger
My vernalization begins in January. That’s when cold temperatures numb my synapses and I become desperate to shake it off and start to produce fruit in defiance. I’m cautious, however, and mulch my synapses to protect them from the miserably deep freeze likely to settle in before a spring thaw. One of my favorite mulches for this purpose is the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS). I’ve assembled some thoughts for you about this year’s show.
My Need for Frugality
MANTS is fantastic, providing access to about 1,000 industry businesses in a single convention hall. The show runs in Baltimore for two-and-a-half days each January. It’s more than a day trip for me. Even when I stay through the whole conference, I fail to visit every booth that interests me, so staying over is essential.
I always cringe when I check out hotels offering special rates for conference attendees. It’s hard to trade the cost of two weeks of groceries for a night’s sleep and a shower. So I search for inexpensive alternatives within a reasonable drive of the show.
This year I selected a Red Roof Inn near the airport. They charged about one third what I’d pay to stay in town. Two nights there plus daily parking fees cost less than a night’s stay near the conference center.
MANTS Treats Press Well
For GWA and other members of the press, MANTS provided a room that featured seating and work tables, a dedicated bathroom, refreshments, wi-fi, and an entrance directly onto the show floor. On the second morning of the show, there was also a breakfast in the press room where organizers talked about the show’s history and attendance statistics. Several vendors presented plants or other products they were introducing.
Throughout the conference, handouts about the show were available in the press room. One packet listed new products as reported by vendors. You could start the show by perusing that list and identifying vendors whose stories would most interest your audience.
GWA at MANTS
On the first day of MANTS a GWA Connect meeting provided an opportunity for members to relax and become better acquainted. When the show floor closed, GWA members trickle into the lobby of the nearby Lord Baltimore Hotel and shared stories about their travels, people they met at the show, new products, upcoming events, and more. Each year’s GWA Connect meeting feels like a happy family gathering.
Around one o’clock on the second day of MANTS, GWA members and acquaintances gathered in the lobby of the conference center and crossed the street to a cafeteria-style restaurant for lunch. There were brief introductions and lively conversations – and at least some craziness ensued.
There was an Emergent party that involved GWA members. Emergent is a collective of young horticulture professionals who represent the future of the industry. Emergent and the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) invited GWA to a reception where we learned that Steve Black of Raemelton Farm received the Nursery Management Grower of the Year award. Such events provide GWA members opportunities to learn about horticultural industry influencers and to meet people whose activities may inspire articles.
One of my favorite opportunities for GWA members at MANTS is our booth on the show floor. If you have a chance to work the booth at any trade show, do it! We greet passers-by and offer encouragement to join up. Often vendors, hoping to get attention for their products, visit the booth. You may end up with something new to try in your own garden—or at least an interesting story to tell.
Aside from enjoying the camaraderie, picking up some samples, discovering new products, and learning more about industry organizations, I benefited financially from MANTS. So far, the newspaper I write for has published a feature I scooped there and has accepted a second one for publication soon. I’ll submit a third article shortly. Photos, interviews, and collateral I collected at MANTS may play a part in half a dozen articles before spring.
Meet the Author
Daniel Gasteiger writes about gardening and food for The Daily Item in Sunbury, PA. He blogs at http://www.smallkitchengarden.net though health problems have distracted him from it quite a bit in the past year.