Recently, I found myself thinking about the classic children’s book “The Lorax,” written by Dr. Seuss.
In his typical writing fashion, Dr. Seuss weaves profound lessons within the book’s fun and whimsical pages.
In this story we meet two polarizing characters: the Once-ler, a greedy industrialist who made a living by cutting down beautiful truffula trees, and the Lorax, an unassuming character, short and ordinary in every way. Yet, when confronting the main antagonist of the story, he stands up and boldly proclaims, “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees.”
Like the trees in “The Lorax,” the nursery industry faces many challenges. Misguided government overreach handcuffs us and limits our ability to move and act in the industry we all love. Increased fuel costs, power price hikes, labor laws and stringent water right regulations make it increasingly more difficult to succeed in growing this beautiful plant material. In addition to these complex issues, we are faced with the unpredictable force known as Mother Nature, with ever-changing weather patterns and more frequent natural disasters.
Despite the challenges the nursery industry consistently faces, I was buoyed up while in Baltimore for the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show in January. I was amazed at how many spokespersons there were for the tree and nursery industry.
From Oregon alone, 60 growers were represented, amounting to 10% of the total floor. It was wonderful to see so many familiar happy faces navigate from booth to booth and aisle to aisle. Over the course of two and a half days, more than 11,000 registrants walked around and interacted with the very best individuals who “speak for the trees.”
Trees make everything better. They add texture, depth and character to even the most hardened of environments. It is so rewarding and fun to be a part of landscape projects that take a boring and uninteresting space and transform it into an awe-inspiring place to be.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work closely with architects in designing the landscape for the Rockefeller Center in New York. The design was modern and unique with topiaries and lots of beautiful and colorful flowers.
When the landscape was complete, I had the opportunity to go and visit. I sat and watched people as they interacted in this newly landscaped space. Despite the pouring rain and unfavorable conditions, people were laughing and taking pictures. I realized that not only do trees transform spaces or landscapes, they can transform people.
Research has shown that trees have a positive impact on one’s mental and social well-being. In one recent study (“Psychological benefits of walking through forest areas,” mdpi.com/1660-4601/15/12/2804), over 500 young Japanese students were asked to report on their moods after taking a 15-minute walk. Some walked in a forest setting and others in a city environment.
The test was conducted at 52 different locations. In each location and in all cases, the participants walking in a forest experienced less anxiety, hostility, fatigue, confusion or depressive symptoms than those who walked in the city environment. They were also reported to have more vigor.
Other studies have found that being around trees can improve our health, lead to less crime and even make us more generous and trusting.
I left Baltimore filled with optimism and gratitude. I am so grateful to be a part of this amazing industry. I am grateful that the things we do on a day in and day out basis not only make a difference in the landscapes of the world but also in the lives of the people who can enjoy them. I am grateful to stand with the members of the OAN and speak for the trees.
Todd Nelson, OAN President (2022-2023)
President’s Message from the February 2023 issue of Digger magazine | Download PDF