West Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association to host a Winter Symposium

The West Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association (WVNLA) is holding its Winter Symposium, “Growing A Great Landscape,” February 22 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Charleston. With two tracks of programming featuring national expert speakers, this event has something for those interested in landscape design and business development best practices.

Speakers who will focus on landscape design include:  

  • Peggy Cornett, curator of plants at Monticello, presenting “Preserving Plants from the Past—Monticello’s Historic Landscape.” 
  • Larry Weaner, principal and founder of Larry Weaner Landscape Associates, exploring “Breaking the Rules: Ecological Landscape Design and Traditional Landscape Methodology.”
  • Lisa Roper, horticulturist at Chanticleer Gardens, sharing “The Evolution of Chanticleer’s Gravel Garden.”
  • Paul Westervelt, annual and perennial production manager and head grower at Saunders Brothers, Inc., discussing “Are These Plants Better, or Just New?” 

The session titles are intriguing. Who doesn’t love a conversation about rule-breaking or thinking that the “old days and ways” were better? Toss in learning from experts at Monticello and Chanticleer gardens -that’s a good day.

This day is not only informative, but it is also fun to meet and mix with people from around the state. Attendees are there because of a love of gardens, but each brings something different to the conversation. Chatting with both veterans and newbies in the industry is a great way for everyone to learn a new idea or different perspective. I am always amazed at the knowledge and ideas shared through questions, comments, and even the lunch table chatter from attendees is interesting.

“We’re privileged to bring such talented speakers with impressive professional credentials to Charleston for our Winter Symposium,” said Julie Robinson, WVNLA’s executive director. “Our mission at WVNLA is to serve our members and the public they serve through education and outreach. The symposium is a great opportunity for both landscape professionals and anyone with a keen interest in design or running a landscape business to be inspired and informed.” 

If your interest and needs lean more towards business rather than design, you will learn from these sessions:

  • Business Coaching: Speakers from the West Virginia Small Business Development Center specialize in business coaching to encourage the success of small businesses in West Virginia. They provide expert advice on marketing, business management and planning, human resources, succession planning, cyber security, financial analysis, government contracting, and technology commercialization.
  • Electric vs. Gas Equipment: As some administrators and policymakers advocate for electric-powered equipment usage, some cities and municipalities are mandating electric-powered landscape equipment. A representative of Stihl will update attendees on the benefits of both and where the industry is headed with its equipment.
  • Workforce Development:  A panel of those involved in workforce development initiatives will include Michael Biafore, chairman of WVNLA’s Workforce Development Committee and president of Biafore’s Landscape Development; Cindy Bailey, director of economic development for the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG); Scott Byars, WVNG trainer, former WVU Extension agent, and landscape business owner; Nancy Ligus, director of workforce, continuing education and economic development at Pierpont Community & Technical College; and Lisa McDavid of Lisa’s Gardenscapes.

According to their press statement, State and federal economic statistics show the nursery and landscape industry in the state and related employment has grown and will continue to expand through 2026. Robinson said, “WVNLA leaders and member companies have taken a proactive approach to growing the industry, to help complement the emphasis on outdoor recreation and related economic development throughout West Virginia.”

Robinson said WVNLA’s workforce development and scholarship support in all parts of the Mountain State is helping boost the green economy and enhance the pipeline of talented, skilled workers and entrepreneurs in nursery and landscaping. According to Emsi data, jobs in nursery and landscape grew by six percent from 2016 to 2021. She added that Emsi projects a four percent growth for the industry between now and 2026. Emsi data is a hybrid dataset derived from official government sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Because of its commitment to professionalism and certification in the green industry, WVNLA offers tremendous educational opportunities for its members,” said Jason Testman, WVNLA vice president, and Landscape Architect with Valley Gardens in Charleston. “Recent workforce development initiatives undertaken by WVNLA should drive interest in careers in landscaping, growing, designing, and the many other opportunities in the industry,” said Testman.

Cost to attend is $50 for WVNLA members and $100 for non-members and includes lunch. Contact Julie Robinson at wvnlassoc@gmail.com or 304-553-1234. Vendors may rent a table for $25.