Notes from the 2017 Winter Board Meeting

By Sara Malone in Members and Editor's Blog

Ever wonder what the ACS Board of Directors does? We just finished our winter board meeting. The ACS board meets twice a year, in February and the day before the National Meeting. All ACS members are welcome to join us as observers. For those of you who don’t know what we do, here’s a recap of yesterday’s meeting and what we accomplished:

Each region submits a report on the past six months’ events and news and plans for the coming months. This allows us to review both successes and failures and learn from each other. The Central Region has been active in designing new plaques for all Reference Gardens, tabulating responses from a recent membership survey (which will be published in an upcoming CQ article) and producing a first-class newsletter, The Coniferite, edited by JD Belanger. In fact, the articles are so good, we all agreed that many should be submitted to the CQ so that the entire membership can enjoy and benefit from them. We’ll begin posting many on the website, as well.

The Northeast Region is focused on planning the National Meeting. Jerry Kral and Elmer Dustman are the co-chairs, and Mike Mahoney, the NER director, mentioned that Elmer has developed a good template for organizing and planning a meeting. Thanks to this suggestion, Elmer has agreed to share that with the rest of us so that we can make use of the institutional knowledge embodied in it. It sounds like a great meeting, we’re all looking forward to attending. The meeting will conclude with a full day Conifer College on Sunday. The lineup of speakers and topics looks fabulous. The post of NER Vice President is open—anyone interested please contact NER president, Colby Feller.

The Southeast Region continues to lead the way with new Reference Gardens, and they have two more teed up for 2017. SER member Barbie Colvin is the SER's Reference Garden Coordinator, and acts as the unofficial RG Coordinator nationally. If you are interested in pursuing Reference Garden status for a garden near you, no matter what region you reside in, Barbie can help you through the process. The SER also welcomes Jared Weaver as the new Director. Jared is an arborist with the City of Bowling Green, KY and brings a wealth of knowledge and personal experience with conifers to the board and to the Society.

The Western Region has just begun a program of nursery discounts to card-carrying ACS members. Thus far we have a handful who have agreed to provide a 10% discount, and we expect to add many others to the list. The problem? We don’t have cards to carry! Steve Courtney, our National Office Manager, is going to take care of that—we’re working with him to devise a solution. We’ll roll this out to the rest of the country once we get it up and running. If you know of a nursery that we should approach, let one of your regional directors know. The WR is also planning its third conifer road trip, to the Monterey Peninsula in California, scheduled for October. Dave Olszyk is in charge.

We approved a $3000 grant to the SER for the Reference Garden of their choosing. This is a rotating grant which was awarded to the WR last year, split between San Francisco Botanical Garden and The Oregon Garden. Did you know that in addition to awarding an annual Reference Garden grant, the Board also awards annually the Jean Iseli Grant, scholarships to university students and a research award? If you know a garden, research project or student that merits financial assistance from the ACS, let your board members know! There are currently no applications for the Iseli grant, which is $4000.

Board President Neil Fusillo, of the Southeast Region, proposed an outreach effort to conservation groups. Conservation is a part of our charter that we have neglected and is an important mission as well as a way to connect with a different audience. Neil also believes that we might have access to support from corporate donors who share this mission. Neil would like to compile a list of suitable conservation organizations nationwide, so email him if you have ideas.

We approved some funds to continue to enhance the website and make it easier to use. Our site gets an enormous amount of traffic—over 10,000 visitors per month—and the ConiferBase is the main attraction. We’re considering selling ad space on the site, with ads only to be viewed by non-members. Did you know that as a logged-in member you can view and make comments on the records in the ConiferBase? CB editor Dave Olszyk would love your participation.

Neil introduced the subject of social media and its effectiveness in reaching both members and potential members. We have both national and regional Facebook pages, as well as Pinterest and Twitter accounts, but they are not being actively managed. If anyone is interested in helping with this, please let Neil know. We’d be happy to help you get up to speed.

The Central Region board members, Dave Speth and Byron Baxter, have been working with renowned horticulturist and ACS member Adrian Bloom to sell his new book at their 2017 regional meeting. We all agreed that this book, which will be published in April, would be a good pilot item for the ACS online store, especially if accompanied by a bookplate signed by Adrian. Steve Courtney is going to begin with an inventory of 25 books. If this is successful we envision adding other books by members and logo items. Any suggestions? Steve would love to hear from you.

In addition we had a brainstorming session about ways to increase membership and how best to work together across regions and with the national organization. Last but not least, Tom Neff, your treasurer, reported on our 2016 financials and presented us with a 2017 budget, which after some discussion and adjustments, we approved. Tom is a CPA with a wealth of financial experience and we are fortunate to have him overseeing our financials. He is always happy to respond to questions from the membership.

We welcome your thoughts, questions and concerns. Remember, we represent all of you on the board, so make your voices heard!