Christmas Tree Growers national conference moves to virtual platform from Tatamagouche

Community Online First

TATAMAGOUCHE — A new virtual conference designed on the North Shore will hopefully reach Christmas Tree growers throughout North America.

Angus Bonnyman, executive director of the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia, said the virtual platform Balsam Fir Forum (www.balsamfirforum.com) came about after the organization had to cancel a national conference it was to host in Tatamagouche this month.

“It was a shame to flush all of our work that had been done (in preparation for the conference),” said Bonnyman, adding the council had worked for about a year on preparing the two-and-a-half day conference for upwards of 100 people. “We had some amazing speakers lined up from across North America. So, we did a bit of a pivot with our partners.

“We wanted to show we could do something wonderful.”

Forward Creative, based out of Wallace, had been hired on for event management, but built the online platform following the conference cancellation earlier this year.

“It’s sort of the Netflix for the Christmas tree and greenery industry,” explained Bonnyman. “We have 12 hours of content uploaded currently.”

The content ranges from mental health to pest management, to succession planning and more. There’s also a session, says Bonnyman, on the response to COVID-19 — the reason behind the conference cancellation — on the tree and greenery industry. Users can set their own pace to access the content, all from the comfort of their own homes.

Balsam Fir Forum launches Aug. 21, with on-demand access to presentations from experts and industry leaders in North America, including Dr. Jill Sidebottom, Dr. Scott White, Dale Thibodeau, and Jay Woodworth, among others. The content is available with an annual subscription, with content changing a couple of times per year.

“So it really is like Netflix for this industry,” Bonnyman laughed. “We … hope this will evolve into an annual event, and that folks find enough value in the subscription. Unfortunately the world is changing, and a lot of people in the industry don’t have the opportunity to leave their operations anyway, so this way they can still access all that information.”

Bonnyman said this platform is a chance at building an export product from the North Shore, particularly to North America.

“We have more than 350 growers in Nova Scotia, and produce about one million trees every year,” he said. “About 90 to 95 per cent — depending on the year — are exported, with most going to the U.S., Panama, and the Caribbean.”

For more information about the Balsam Fir Forum visit www.balsamfirforum.com.