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Here is an unedited sneak preview of my column for the January/February Journal

“What we see now in this subdued and delicate half-light is the promise of the dawn.”
C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce, uses several analogies to reflect on Heaven and Hell. The promise of the full morning light of a glorious sunrise – or its total absence – permeate the book.  Borrowing from that great author, allow me to liken these ten months of Covid-19 restrictions to the darkness that precedes the dawn.

When Governor Northam was making plans to shut down parts of our economy last March, we worked with the Virginia Agribusiness Council and the Governor’s office to ensure turfgrass and landscape industries were considered essential. Our efforts and late nights paid off. I frequently hear success stories from you. Except for labor shortages, reports are positive. Businesses are having profitable years and are looking forward to expanding once all restrictions are lifted.

Next month we will hold our Come to the Bay conference at the oceanfront in Virginia Beach. We have devoted much time and energy during these dark months of the shutdowns to develop partnerships essential for the success of that event. Here are just a few: Elizabeth River Project, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the City of Virginia Beach, the City of Norfolk, and the Virginia Aquarium. Of course, our strong relationships with Virginia Tech (especially professors at the Hampton Roads AREC) and private industry serve as the backbone of Come to the Bay. Regarding private industry, I must mention two companies whose generous support enables Come to the Bay to happen: Agronomic Lawn Management and Lawns & Gardens Plus.
We have also used these dark shutdown months to lay the foundation for three great endeavors: (1) a dune preservation project; (2) formation of the Virginia Turfgrass Council Environmental Institute; and (3) a pollinator seed distribution. The dune project is in partnership with the City of Virginia Beach and will be conducted during the second day of Come to the Bay. We have worked with the City to contract with a grower for 6,000 sea grass plants which we will plant on oceanfront dunes.

The Environmental Institute is a 501(c)(3) Corporation that was formed to work hard for our membership, representing you on environmental and government relations issues. As a c3 corporation, all donations are tax-exempt. Look for the Institute to conduct informational Road Trips across Virginia this spring and summer.

A generous donation from TruGreen is making it possible for us to custom make 25,000 seed packets of pollinator plants which we intend to distribute to members of the General Assembly and key local leaders along with flyers about our industry. These seed packets will be produced and distributed by our Environmental Institute.

The past ten months have been difficult. But we see great signs of a bright future for the turfgrass and landscape industries. We welcome the coming sunrise!