At the end of January, I was saddened to learn that the Southern Nursery Association (SNA) board of directors voted unanimously to shutter the organization. Because of the continued strain on travel from the coronavirus, SNA was unable to host its 2021 conference, its main source of income.
Founded in 1899, SNA’s mission was “to unite and advance the horticulture industry through educational, research and marketing efforts.”
SNA produced a robust trade show from 1950 – 2009, the SNA Research Conference from 1955 to 2020, and the SNA Plant Conference from 1991 to 2020. The association also produced The Best Management Practices Guide in 1996 with updates in 2007 and 2013.
Some of the research that came out of the SNA Research Conference was groundbreaking, and thankfully the library of more than 3,000 titles will eventually be housed on the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) website (www.hriresearch.org).
SNA Executive Vice President Karen Summers says the board is exploring other avenues with AmericanHort to help preserve the research conference, the student competition, and the BMP Guide.
To help preserve SNA’s 121-year legacy, two existing HRI funds (the SNA Fund and the SNA Golf Classic Fund) will be combined — totaling some $300,000 — and renamed the Southern Nursery Association Legacy Fund. These funds are earmarked for horticultural research in the southeast region of the U.S.
The organization’s impact on horticulture students is immense. And I was relieved to hear that the Sidney B. Meadows Scholarship Endowment Fund (www.sbmsef.org) will not be impacted. It’s a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable corporation fully independent of SNA and will continue to award academic scholarships to horticulture students throughout the southeastern U.S. To date, the fund has awarded more than $550,000 in scholarships. The fund balance currently stands at more than $900,000.
I’d like to tip my hat to Karen and Danny Summers, who have worked tirelessly to promote and expand SNA. I know this was a heartbreaking decision for them and the board.
When an organization like SNA has been around for more than a century, its closure will have a ripple effect on the industry. We must not take things like research and scholarships for granted. Our local, state, regional and national organizations need our support to maintain the assistance and benefits they provide the industry. In this new and likely unconventional year, consider volunteering your time and becoming a dues-paying member to a nearby association. Let’s keep the legacy of SNA alive.