Earlier this month, a collection of staff members from St Williams Nursery & Ecology Centre hit the highway to attend the Shifting the Paradigm Forum 2018 presented by Carolinian Canada and World Wildlife Fund – Canada (WWF). The forum was targeted around the growth of the native plant industry in the Carolinian Zone….which was music to our ears here at St Williams. The organizers’ intentions were to bring key stakeholders to the forum in order to promote collaborations, share ideas, and foster relationships which can and will help to achieve this common goal.

The day was filled with inspirational presentations and commentary from a wide array of perspectives and personalities within the native plant industry. The day was kicked-off with an eye-opening presentation by Dr. Dan Longboat from Trent University into the Indigenous Perspective of reconciliation with the land. It was very interesting how the traditions shared by generations of indigenous people have been both prophesizing and cautionary. We must remain conscious of what the land is telling us, and how we must reciprocate within the relationship.

Dr. Longboat was followed by our own Allan Arthur, President of St Williams Nursery & Ecology Centre. Allan gave a image of: Allan Arthurgreat synopsis on the current state of the native plant industry in Ontario, and the challenges that we face every day in enhancing biodiversity though the propagation and restoration of source-identified native species.. We know that Allan could have talked for days on the matter, but he was able to condense his synopsis nicely into a 30 minute presentation that fit the day’s agenda.

Following Allan’s presentation, we were treated to a number of panels with representatives from all different walks of life in the native plant industry. We heard from a panel that discussed the integration of native plants into the overall green space industry, with representatives from the private sector (Tony DiGiovanni, Landscape Ontario and others), the public sector (Patricia Landry, City of Toronto and others) the not-for-profit sector (Kathleen Law, Pollinator Partnership and others) and as well as  the social finance sector. It was a coming together of these four sectors to discuss how a collaboration could work to introduce more native plant diversity into the local landscape. The next panel discussed stories from the frontline, as native plant author and guru Lorraine Johnson moderated a great discussion amongst growers in the native plant industry, focused on the trends that they have seen emerge over the past decade. The third panel introduced another set of perspectives to discuss just how this need for native plants restoration may lead to greater business opportunities in the market.

The end of the night included a great networking session, which was highlighted by a presentation from St Williams’ image of: Stefan Weberown Stefan Weber (PhD Candidate) on the need for a native plant sourcing and distribution network in Ontario. We felt that Stefan’s presentation did a great job of closing the loop on the day’s discussions. It really showed how many of the individual goals that we discussed throughout the day, could in fact be achieved through collaborative regional seed conservation strategies Stefan’s presentation was followed by a panel that discussed investment in the conservation sector. The panel highlighted that funding is available to the sector, whether it be through private equity investment, or social financing opportunities. The metrics are dependent on the fund/investor, but it was noted that the interest is there, to support what we at St Williams believe is the right thing to help protect our local ecosystems, and the services they provide us.

If you’re looking for a more in-depth and comprehensive into the day, be sure to check out the article written by Ecoman at http://ecoman.ca/carolinian-canadas-paradigm-shift-unites-industry-to-take-native-plants-mainstream/


Written by: Chad Asselstine, Business Development