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The Flower Show

A Strategic Vision for a Greener 2024 – Q&A With PHS President Matt Rader

January 30, 2024

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Unlocking the Power of Plants and People to Advance Health and Well-being in 2024

By Melissa O’Brien 

In an exclusive interview, President of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), Matt Rader, unveiled the organization's strategic goals for 2024, focusing on key initiatives aimed at fostering community engagement, greening efforts, and the renowned PHS Philadelphia Flower Show. All these efforts are made possible only with the financial and volunteer support of PHS members, the largest community of people advancing a green future for the Greater Philadelphia Region.  

What overarching strategic goals does PHS aim to achieve in 2024? 

Matt Rader: There are three primary strategic goals we hope to achieve:  

  1. Welcoming the 2024 Flower Show: We aim to continue expanding and growing our audiences for the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show, making it an ever more impactful brand and mission ambassador and dynamic fundraiser. This comes on the heels of the Flower Show’s dynamic and innovative journey through COVID,  focusing on strengthening and growing this event as the greatest showcase in the world of gardening for the greater good. This year’s theme, "United by Flowers," emphasizes horticulture's power to connect people. We're excited to welcome new exhibitors, such as Kelly D. Norris, who embody the positive impacts of horticulture. Kelly Norris is a believer in ecological gardening, focusing on place-specific plants and celebrating the beauty and diversity rooted in nature. This aligns with PHS’s goal of using gardening not only to create beauty, but also to positively impact health and well-being. 
  2. Expanding Greening Efforts: PHS is committed to expanding the reach and depth of greening efforts at the neighborhood level, particularly in areas facing the most inequitable health outcomes. We're focusing on the blossoming of the Nicetown and Tioga “Love Where You Live” Greening Plan, a unique community program as they envision greening projects like tree planting, trash clean-up, and community gardening that enhances health and well-being. Additionally, we're co-leading the Philly Tree Coalition, a joint venture to advocate, fundraise, and implement the Philly Tree Plan and work towards a greener city. 
  3. Attracting and Engaging Supporters: We strive to attract and engage individuals inspired by gardening for health and well-being, as they become PHS members, volunteers, and community supporters. We've launched a new corporate membership program, seeking partners invested in creating a greener Philadelphia. We're also growing our membership program for individuals, open to anyone who wants to invest in creating a healthier, cleaner, greener city, with membership benefits that fit any budget. Our role as a coalition builder within Philadelphia continues in 2024, fostering partnerships for a healthy, green region. 
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The Nicetown and Tioga greening plan is the product of many hours of community-driven work to articulate a green vision for these neighborhoods.

How does PHS plan to measure and assess the impact of its programs and initiatives in 2024? 

Matt Rader: PHS focuses on four impact priorities, each a driver of health and well-being (aka “social determinant of health” in jargon): social connections, healthy environments, access to fresh food, and economic opportunity. Original research and studies, like the NIH study led by the Urban Health Lab, contribute to assessing our impact and program effectiveness and allow PHS to iterate on our programs for maximum community benefit. 

Are there new community partnerships or outreach efforts planned for 2024? 

Matt Rader: We're excited about formalizing the Philly Tree Coalition, a partnership advocating, implementing, and fundraising for the Philly Tree Plan. Additionally, our unfolding partnership with Montgomery County around the Norristown Farm Park Green Resource Center contributes to food security and aligns well with our passion for healthy environments. And, we continue to strengthen our relationships with hundreds of community organization partners in the city and suburbs.  

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The PHS Green Resource Center at Norristown Farm Park grows produce utilizing sustainable agriculture methods for local food pantries, community partners, as well as “Food as Medicine” initiatives.

How will PHS continue to engage and support its staff and volunteers in the coming year? 

Matt Rader: PHS fosters a sense of community year-round with its staff and volunteers, and we will continue to cultivate this by providing ongoing opportunities for networking and collaboration. As an employer, we focus on building a healthy organizational culture, responding to changing work environment demands, and staying rooted in our values and DEI statement

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The 2024 Flower Show, “United by Flowers,” will celebrate the colorful community that comes together to share in their love of gardening, flowers, and plants, and the impact these living things make on our lives all year round.

Looking back at 2023, what were the key learnings or successes that will inform the organization's strategy in 2024? 

Matt Rader: The biggest learning is the power of collaborative work. We've seen success in leading collaborative efforts, such as launching Philadelphia’s inaugural Green Living Plan and spearheading the work to secure a $12 million US Forest Service grant to fund the implementation of the Philly Tree Plan. The region's love for the Flower Show and the growing appreciation for greening efforts from the mayoral administration and others inspired us last year! 

A Look Ahead... 

As PHS charts a course for 2024, Rader's insights and the organization's initiatives showcase a commitment to harnessing the transformative power of horticulture for the greater good of more than 250 communities in the Greater Philadelphia region. Stay tuned for updates on the Flower Show, greening projects, and the ongoing impact of PHS's collaborative efforts. And, remember, PHS can only do its work with the financial and volunteer support of its members. If you are inspired, please join today. 

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