Remarkable leaders have great faith in their vision and their employees.

Green industry leaders unselfishly share ideas, trials and successes for the betterment of the entire industry. During Cultivate’18, we welcomed six extraordinary people into the HILA Class of 2018: Nancy Buley, John Hoffman and Peter Orum from the nursery industry; and Barbara Jeffery-Gibson, Jim Monroe and Amy Morris from the greenhouse market. To read about each winner, visit

Peter Orum, Midwest Groundcovers

All photos by Kimberly Rottmayer

During his acceptance speech, Orum suggested that business leaders remember to give employees “breaks” that will help them in their career and in life. He recalled a critical break he received while attending non-commissioned officer school in the army. It was the end of his training, and he asked a buddy if he could drive his jeep around camp. An officer stopped him for speeding and asked for his credentials. But Orum wasn’t authorized to drive that jeep, and the officer filed a report stating it had been stolen. Since things took a while to get through the system then, Orum received his sergeant stripes and returned to his regiment. A week later the company commander demanded to see him after getting the report about the stolen jeep. Orum remembered “the dressing down” he got from his commander. When he explained that he meant no harm and told his side of the story, the commander took Orum’s driver’s license as punishment and eventually sent him to Army motor school “since you like to drive so much.” Orum said that commander saw something in him and “took a minus that could be turned into a plus.”

Nancy Buley, J. Frank Schmidt & Son

Buley was hired at J. Frank Schmidt & Son as a temporary marketing writer that was supposed to last for the summer. And 24 years later, she’s made a career at the Oregon-based nursery. She told the audience that the best part of horticulture is the people who grow the plants. And as her role at the nursery broadened, she made connections with arborists and tree-planting groups across the country, a role she relishes. Buley expressed gratitude to the Schmidt family and said she was “honored to be the voice” of the nursery. She encouraged the audience to “get out of our silos and preach the gospel of trees or annuals or perennials – whatever your passion. Keep talking it up and keep growing.”

John Hoffman, Hoffman Nursery

Hoffman was surrounded by friends, family and coworkers during the celebration, including a surprise visit from his daughter, who came in just as he was accepting the award.

Hoffman, who’s made friends all over the world, talked about how much he cherishes those friendships.

“The horticulture industry is an amazing place. It’s a unique business and world that we’re in where customers can become best friends, where vendors and suppliers can be best friends, and even competitors can be best friends.”

Hoffman was quick to credit his wife and business partner Jill for the company’s success, saying “she’s the backbone of the company.” He told his son and daughter how proud he was of them and their accomplishments and gave high praise to his team for help with each aspect of the business.