SHIFT: The Language of the Consumer By Jennifer Noble
Imagine that you walk into an electronics store. You’re there to purchase a new computer. While you know how to use a computer, you aren’t an expert. The sales associate begins to ask you questions about RAM, processors, and gigabytes, and suddenly it sounds as though you are talking to someone who speaks an entirely different language. You begin to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. That feeling will impact your willingness to purchase and your willingness to return to that retailer. Have you considered this is precisely how your customers feel when they are in your store or contacting you for a service?
SHIFT Insight: Garden Retail Language Isn’t Consumer Facing The SHIFT research tells us that consumers don’t speak the language of horticulture experts—nor do they want to. Our area of opportunity is in the translation between “our” language and our customer’s language. It’s about speaking the language of the consumer first and foremost. It starts in our person-to-person conversations and Connect: An AmericanHort Member Benefit
extends to marketing, signage, emails, and any other customer-facing communication. As an example, we often talk about annuals and perennials—some retailers even organize their inventory this way. These are terms that are well known in the industry, but are not ones that consumers understand. Many customers may know that there is a type of plant that comes back every year and one you plant every year, but most don’t know which is which. more on page 5…
What’s Inside: SHIFT: The Language of the Consumer
News from the Horticultural Research Institute
You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato
The WELL Building Standard’s Connection to the Horticulture Industry6 Member Spotlight: Stauffers of Kissel Hill
AmericanHort Expects to Announce New CEO by Cultivate’16 10
Business Solutions Organized for Your Business Interests The AmericanHort Knowledge Center is your go-to-resource for information you and your employees need. Visit AmericanHort.org/Connect for more business-building solutions.
The Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) Board of Trustees recently met to prioritize funding for research projects. As part of HRI’s continued efforts to advance the business of horticulture, an initial 5 projects have received funding for early 2016. “Horticultural businesses confront the daily and long-term trials of pest and disease management, water management, mechanization, and are always striving to find new ways to become more efficient, productive, responsible, and profitable,” said Karl Losely, HRI Board President. “They cannot do this work alone. That’s where HRI comes in. We’re here to leverage our collective relationships and financial resources to collaboratively solve the problems that loom large for the industry.”
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Through HRI’s direct funding of priority projects, HRI has nearly two dozen projects in the research pipeline at any given time, involving collaborating researchers across the United States. That enables ongoing sharing of results, knowledge, and applied recommendations to benefit horticulture businesses throughout the year.
As part of our ongoing efforts to showcase the important role horticulture plays in pollinator health, Horticultural Research Institute has created a series of point-of-purchase (POP) materials encouraging the purchase and planting of plants that support pollinators. These pollinator POP materials can be an effective addition to industry retailers’ promotions toolkit, while simultaneously promoting an important and global cause. The pollinator POP materials specifically lift up the message “Help Us Plant One Million Gardens” and point consumers to register their garden through the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge online map. These POP materials are available for print-ondemand through www.gardencentermarketing. com/page/Pollinator-Garden-Challenge-Signage. The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge (MPGC) is a nationwide call to action to preserve and create gardens and landscapes that help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other pollinators across America. We are encouraging millions of individuals, kids, and families to get outdoors and make a connection between flowering plants, pollinators, and the healthy food people eat.
News from the Horticultural Research Institute Horticultural Research Institute Advances Key Projects
In the coming months, HRI will share in-depth profiles of the 5 key projects selected so far for 2016 funding, as well as interim and final research results for projects already funded by HRI. For additional information about HRI, visit HRIResearch.org or contact Jennifer Gray at (614) 884-1155. To financially support HRI’s work, please consider a donation to our Annual Fund.
financial support to researchers through grants and students through scholarships.
Plant for Pollinators Promotion Materials Available! Making shoppers feel good about their purchases has a powerful effect on buying decisions. Research shows that cause marketing not only catches the attention of shoppers, it encourages purchasing and turns customers into advocates for your business. An increasingly important cause for consumers in all demographics is pollinator health.
The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge was launched by The National Pollinator Garden Network, an unprecedented collaboration of national, regional, conservation, and gardening groups to support the President’s Executive Strategy to “Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.”
…Making shoppers feel good about their purchases has a powerful effect on buying decisions.… With support from hundreds of industry businesses, associations, and individuals, HRI now has an $11 million endowment enabling direct
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You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato By Gina Zirkle This article provides a review of research on tomatoes grown with light emitting diodes versus high-pressure sodium lights and resulting tomato fruit quality. It was take from Dzakovichi et al. 2015. Tomatoes Grown with Light-emitting Diodes or High-pressure Sodium Supplemental Lights have Similar Fruit-quality Attributes. Hortscience. 50(10):1498–1502.
While grocery shopping, have you ever noticed how greenhouse grown tomatoes sell at a lower price than vine-ripped tomatoes grown outdoors? It may be no surprise that consumers prefer tomatoes grown in the field over off-season, greenhouse grown tomatoes. This has been proven over the years by taste testing and studies focused on color, aroma, texture/ mouthfeel, acidity, sweetness, aftertaste, and overall tomato fruit approval. Not only are tomatoes shipped at least 1,400 miles from southern regions to the north, but many are harvested while still green and ripen on the way to their final destination. These tomato fruits are also subject to physical damage and variable storage temperatures along the way, reducing the quality of the tomatoes by the time they reach the store shelf. Greenhouse grown tomatoes in the north have to rely on supplemental lighting to compensate for the difference in day light during the winter months. The most common type of lighting in greenhouses is overhead high-pressure sodium lamps (OH-HPS). While these lamps have similar energy to light emitting diode (LED) rays, the energy conversion is higher.
How do you fix a broken tomato? With tomato paste! And the right lighting. Study methods To evaluate if a more efficient source of supplementing lighting can produce high quality tomato fruits, researchers from Purdue University grew tomato varieties ‘Komeett’, ‘Rebelski’, and ‘Success’ hydroponically to compare the differences in fruiting qualities using either OH-HPS, vertical LEDs (IC- LED) towers, or natural solar radiation only (as a control). Light emitting diodes are energy efficient, have low radiant heat, and a long life span, which is why they may be a good alternative 4 | AmericanHort.org
to standard OH-HPS lighting. Scientists have also used LEDs because they can easily collect metabolic, morphological, and physiological plant response data due to the specific wavelengths of light emitted. Fruits were allowed to ripen on the vine until they were over 60 percent red, then they were harvested and allowed to ripen fully at room temperature for 2 days. Tomatoes that were not over 90 percent red after the 2 days were removed to allow for consistent ripeness amongst the tested fruit. They were tested for color, pH content, and sugar content, and acidity. Study panelists were blindly given 6 tomato wedges and asked to use a 5 point scale to rate preference. They were asked to rate each wedge for color, aroma, texture, acidity, sweetness, aftertaste, and overall approval.
What did the greenhouse grown tomato say to the field grown tomato? I’ll Ketch up! Results For the most part, fruits with supplemental lighting were rated at 3 or higher, leaving tasters with a fruit that tasted above average and left a positive impression. Even though fruits in the study had different pH levels and variable sugar content, the differences did not seem apparent to the taste testers. The fact that fruits within this study were not perceived to be different from lighting sources, the possibility to modify greenhouse grown tomatoes exists by using IC-LEDs. As LED technology becomes more popular, it may be a potential alternative to OH-HPS lighting. However, the authors do indicate enhancing the flavor of greenhouse tomatoes may have to do with more than lighting alone, including other environmental and/or genetic factors to provide that perceived value of field grown tomatoes.
Gina Zirkle AmericanHort (614) 884-1145 GinaZ@AmericanHort.org To read the full article visit ASHS HortScience electronic journal website at http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/50/10/1498.abstract.
SHIFT: The Language of the Consumer… continued from page 1
So what do you do about it? First, shift your mindset when it comes to customers. Translate industry jargon and vocabulary into consumer-facing language. By translating, you give the customer the opportunity to learn about your products and services while building a strong customer relationship. To fully understand how your customer is feeling and how important it is to speak their language, put yourself in their shoes. Below is a simple exercise to do yourself and/ or with your staff that will help you facilitate this. First, think about a retailer or service provider who offers a product in an area that you don’t know a lot about. Perhaps it’s technology or cosmetics or kitchen equipment. What’s important is that it is an area where you have limited knowledge of the product or service. Once you have identified the business, become the customer. Head out to the store or reach out to the service provider. Think about what you might want to purchase and be prepared to ask questions about that product/service. After your interaction as a customer, reflect on the following questions: • How were you greeted? How did that interaction impact you as a customer? • What was the signage like? Was it in a language that was easy to understand or was lots of industry jargon used? (If you are reaching out to a service provider by phone, evaluate the language that they share online or in print materials) • Upon asking the sales person about the product/ service, how did they explain it to you? • How would you describe your overall experience as a customer? Was it overwhelming? Did they make you feel at ease? • Rate your experience on a scale of 1–5, with 1 being the least likely to become a regular customer and 5 being the most likely. Explain your rating. Once you have a better understanding of how you feel in a customer role, you can take that knowledge and implement changes into your business.
WHAT IF we said it differently? As we think about how to translate the language of our industry for our customers, it’s important to realize it doesn’t have to be overly complicated, but it does need to be engaging. In considering how your signage or other written communications would become more consumer friendly let’s use our example of annuals and perennials. In this case, your signage would transform to say something like: Annuals—“Need to be planted every summer.” Perennials—“Plant once and enjoy year after year.”
Notice that we haven’t removed the industry-facing words from the signage, but we have translated them into a way that the consumer can easily understand. Here are some other examples of consumer-facing language:
FERTILIZE “Mix this blue stuff in a milk jug and water with it once every two weeks.”
SUN “Like, all day I’m just out there in the sun.” HERBACEOUS
SHADE “A little bit of morning or late evening sun is fine but come noon, I want to be under a tree where it’s shady and cool.”
“Soft, supple. Don’t worry, I’ll be back after winter when the time is right for me.”
ANNUALS “Need to be planted every summer.”
WHAT IF our customer service shifted? When it comes to customer service, the first step is training your staff on the difference between consumer-facing language and industry-facing language. By completing the above exercise with your staff you can empower them with a strong understanding of what it’s like to be the customer. The next key element in adjusting your customer service is to approach each interaction as a consultation. The customer is coming to you with a need and you are going to establish the role of a solution provider by partnering with them and filling that need. You also have the opportunity to educate them on your products and services in a way that doesn’t overwhelm them, but also doesn’t insult their ability to understand. For example, instead of starting a conversation by asking something like, “Are you looking for plants for sun or shade?” or “Are you looking for annuals or perennials?” ask something similar to, “Tell me a little bit about your project,” or “What are you hoping to achieve?” When it comes to consumer-facing language it’s about shifting our mindset—bridging the gap, and truly being a partner for our customer. For more information on SHIFT, download the e-book “An Introduction to SHIFT” which contains the nearly 30 insights and recommendations uncovered in the SHIFT research. The e-book is available at AmericanHort.org/SHIFT. Jennifer Noble AmericanHort Knowledge & Professional Development Administrator JenN@AmericanHort.org 2016:4 | 5
The WELL Building Standard’s Connection to the Horticulture Industry By Joe Zazzera Last year, I had the opportunity to attend the first ever WELL Building Standard training at the Cleveland Clinic. Now, more than ever I am thrilled and have ignited passion for the future of our industry. I spent two days in training on the contents and requirements for the new WELL Building Standard. Along with 100 other participants, I learned about the science, which is the basis of the principles behind the performance-based standard of WELL. The Standard is specifically designed for the purpose of creating healthy human work (and home) environments. During the training we learned about sleep patterns, circadian rhythms, and how melatonin levels change throughout the day. We also heard the science and statistics about the five most harmful behaviors to human health. Simply stated, the WELL Building Standard is designed to create and address healthy living and working environments.
Thrill #1: As President and long-time board member of Green Plants for Green Buildings (GPGB), I have been involved in developing programs that have challenged the omission of living plants and living walls in sustainable building rating systems, including LEED and the International Green Construction Code (IgCC). Despite the limitations and exclusion from LEED, GPGB has continued an ongoing awareness campaign about the benefits of nature in the built environment. In late 2013 and mid-2014, human connection to nature awareness was at an all-time high. With the publication of Terrapin’s “The Economics of Biophilia” and the follow-up “14 Design Patterns of Biophilic Design,” most in the design community have a solid understanding of what the plant industry has known for many year: designing with plants and nature indoors is imperative for a healthy and productive home and workplace. Rarely do I speak to groups where there is not some level of awareness of the importance of nature connections in our lives.
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Thrill #2: Plants in large quantities are specified in the Standard. There should be a great deal of excitement in our industry about the new WELL Building Standard. Never have I see this level of awareness in the design community about the benefits of nature indoors. WELL picks up where LEED and the Living Building Challenge leave off. It has a series of preconditions (imperatives) as well as optimizations (optional compliance paths). The projection is that WELL will do for building interiors what LEED did for the construction industry and the buildings themselves. The WELL Standard is human-centered and evidence-based with the basic premise that all of us have a right to work in a healthy environment that supports not only clean air, water, and light but our mind, comfort, fitness, and nourishment. The Standard’s documentation is broken down in seven sections with multiple pathways called “Features” for compliance. There are three features that apply directly to the work interior plantscapers do, depending on how broad of a scope we offer our clients. There are two biophilia features and both are embedded in the MIND section of the Standard. Feature 88-Biophilia I - Qualitive, Part 1 (Nature Incorporation) and Part 3 (Nature Interaction), specifically address the provision of strategies and elements for both the interior and exterior of the building. Feature 100-Biophilia II - Quantitive,
Part 1 (Outdoor Biophilia) and Part 2 (Indoor Biophilia) address landscaped grounds, rooftop gardens, potted plants, planted beds, and plant walls. The quantitative requirement for biophilia in the MIND section is very easy to calculate. For potted plants and planter beds, the requirement is a minimum of 1 percent of the floor area, per floor. For plant walls the requirement is, one living wall per floor which is 2 percent of the floor area, or one that covers the largest of the available walls, whichever is greater. Based on rough calculations for a 5,000 square foot office, the requirement would be 50 square feet of planter beds or about 50 plants (WELL estimates each potted plant to cover about 1 square foot). The rough living wall calculations for the same size office would be one 100 square foot living wall, unless there is an exposed available wall greater than 100 square feet. If the available wall is greater than 100 square feet, the requirement would be to plant the larger wall.
Thrill #3: The building industry cares about WELL and is responding. There is 20 million square feet of building space currently registered or certified through WELL. This presents a huge opportunity for the professionals who design, install, and maintain plants in and around buildings. Although the Standard is just rolling out, GPGB has made efforts to be available to the WELL standard developers as subject matter experts and through our online research library. The message about plant benefits is being shared with building specifiers and C-level decision makers. By staying connected and available, GPGB can continue to influence policy while advancing its mission of communicating the aesthetic, environmental, productivity, and health benefits of nature in the built environment. Joe Zazzera Plant Solutions Inc Scottsdale, AZ 480-585-8501 email@example.com
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Stauffers of Kissel Hill Lititz, PA Jere Stauffer, COO
Tell us a little bit about Stauffers’ history and background. It all began with my grandfather, Roy Stauffer Sr., and a fruit and vegetable roadside stand. Roy felt that the best place for a farm to take its produce was where people already were, rather than trying to attract people to the farm. Eighty-four years later, the Stauffer family business is in its third generation of ownership and management and transitioning to the fourth. When my grandfather died in 1953, each of his sons was given the opportunity to join the business as they turned 21. By the 1960s, there were four brothers and a brother-in-law involved in the business, and together they built a second location in 1964. Every five years or so from then on, another location was added for a total of five, including a growing facility and landscape design build center. In 1985, the company was incorporated and of the five owners, three were still involved. It was at this point that the next generation began their involvement and continued the growth and expansion of the past 20 years with new locations in York and Harrisburg. In fact, we opened a large supermarket right across the street from where the original stand was. In 2005, we closed one location and expanded another in 2008. In 2008, we also acquired Country Market Nursery, which proved to be a challenge since that was the onset of the recession. We’ve successfully managed to survive the recession at all of our locations and to continue a trend of growth. Today we have eight garden center locations and three supermarkets and find ourselves in another ownership transition to the next generation. We’ve 8 | AmericanHort.org
been identified as one of the top garden centers in the country, which has been a true honor, as has our involvement in both ANLA and now AmericanHort. We take our responsibility to our employees seriously—at peak season, they number around 1000—and recognize that it is our duty to protect the livelihoods of our employees with good stewardship of the business.
What are Stauffer’s goals and visions for the future? Our vision for growth is to continue to grow. To do this, we focus on locations that have more challenging performances so that the health of each location is operating at good, solid profitability. With our growth mindset, we can look back and say that we handled the recession with some good decisions that have since helped us come out of it with growth and sales. We have this overarching mindset that we never sit back on our past accomplishments to be complacent and proud. We are always looking at areas of advancement and improvement. In 2013 we spent a couple of days in strategic planning to determine areas of growth with the existing number of locations without needing to open a ninth
location or put in a significant capital investment. This planning called for 50 percent growth in a 5- to 6-year period and involved looking at new products and services. I’m happy to say that this has been very successful so far. We’ve delved into fashion and fashion accessories and changed the product mix and pricing of our home goods. One significant investment we made was transitioning our POS system to Epicore Eagle. This has provided us tremendous benefits in horsepower and analytics and has given us the data to look into the business with much more detail. It’s been eye opening to see what inventory moves and what doesn’t move based on merchandising and time of display. How we work with and manage inventory has subsequently improved and advanced. With two years of data in the system now, we have a lot of information that we never had before.
What sets Stauffer’s apart? What sets us apart? “Everyone” in retail seems to talk about their service and the quality of that service. We do feel that’s a huge strength for us. The friendliness of our employees is something we focus on from the minute they start with us through continual training and personal skills development. For example, the last week of February, we have a half-day training that brings about 150 of our management team together—we call it SKH University. Each year there are speakers on a given topic. This year’s focus is on “Being Positive.” This reflects what our consumers are hearing in the world and the media at large. We believe we can provide a notable, memorable, and positive experience for the shoppers in our stores.
whether that’s style or selection of a product or who our target customers are. Technology is a continuously changing aspect of our business, and while we’re not on the cutting edge of technology, we are always looking at implementing the things that are effective for managing our business better. We have also won quite a few awards in the area for best place to shop, best place to work, etc., and that’s all part of the never-ending process of working on our culture and improving.
What are some of Stauffer’s biggest challenges, and what are your strategies to achieve success? From the home and garden side specifically, it’s seeing, creating, and maintaining significant growth at our current locations. That involves a deep study of what isn’t carrying its weight and a willingness to change product mix. New products in gift and home have given us good improvements. A consistent mix of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, blooming and foliage plants, along with new varieties have helped us maintain sales. We’ve shrunk and eliminated what didn’t work and have seen notable success in home accessories and casual patio furniture. One of the areas we’re getting back into is services for fees, such as garden coach and landscape/plant installation. We anticipate a great opportunity for services that we can provide for people who “Don’t know how to,” “Want to learn,” or “Would rather have someone else do it for them.” It’s not full-blown landscape design and install but very definitively planting services for those who want some help. We see this as hugely beneficial for large tree and shrub sales. We have the typical challenges with competition from the big boxes. In our Lancaster location specifically, we also have competition from “end of the farm lane” greenhouses. Those businesses have very low overhead, so they are very competitive on pricing. more on page 11…
As an enterprise, we spend about a quarter million dollars every year in our training and development budget working on and developing the culture of our company. This includes nine hours of customer service training, product training, and skills development. It’s a significant investment, but if you don’t train team members, then you get what level of service skill walks in off the street. We are insatiable about getting better. We continually work at identifying areas of change, 2016:4 | 9
AmericanHort Expects to Announce New CEO by Cultivate’16
Member Spotlight: Stauffers of Kissel Hill… continued from page 9
Columbus, Ohio The search for a new AmericanHort CEO is progressing successfully. With the help of AmericanHort member company, Key Corporate Services as the search firm, the search committee is optimistic that the right fit for both association and industry will be announced prior to Cultivate’16. The search committee is comprised of representatives from the industry including: • Susie Raker-Zimmerman, C. Raker & Sons • Dan Batson, Greenforest Nursery • Bill Calkins, Ball Horticultural Company • Terri Cantwell, Bates Sons & Daughters • Tom Demaline, Willoway Nurseries Inc • Dale Deppe, Spring Meadow Nursery Inc • Mark Foertmeyer, Foertmeyer & Sons Greenhouse • Lisa Graf, Graf Growers • Tom Hughes, Hughes Nursery & Landscaping With the goal of expediting the process, the search committee is seeking candidates who embody the spirit of the industry and who possess a strong understanding of the AmericanHort mission and vision. Key Corporate Services has been an invaluable partner in this process and brings with it nearly 20 years in the industry placing the right people in the right positions.
Alicia Rittenhouse, VP of Member and Strategic Engagement. David Savoia, former Interim President & CEO, has stepped down from this position to pursue other priorities. “We are grateful for David’s 18 years of service to AmericanHort and the industry. He has shown great commitment to the success of OFA and now AmericanHort, and his leadership is commended. We wish him the best in his future endeavors,” said Dale Deppe, Chairman of the Board of Directors. AmericanHort continues to bring the industry and its members opportunities to advance their businesses and grow their connections through the upcoming Cultivate’16 Experience (AmericanHort.org/Cultivate), Interior Plantscape Symposium (AmericanHort.org/IPS), GrowPro Plug & Cutting Conference (AmericanHort.org/Plug), webinars (AmericanHort.org/Webinars), government advocacy, and more. To see the latest, please visit AmericanHort.org and be sure to follow the latest on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
On our greenhouse side, tree and shrub was under a lot of pressure when the economy hit. Home ownership shifted to more renters, and when that happens, trees turn into more of a liability than an asset. Flowering shrubs is what kept that department afloat, and now we’ve seen a rebound in tree sales. It’s also where we’re hoping to drive more sales with planting services.
How does being an AmericanHort member benefit Stauffers?
What have some of your greatest successes been in the last few years? Getting into clothing, fashion accessories, and bath and body product lines have been hugely successful. A few years ago, we would have never imagined these product lines as providing growth opportunities. Home accents have also been a great success for sales growth, and that, along with casual furniture, have been a growing line for us, changing how our stores look and are merchandised. Now, we’re venturing into internet sales and see that as another big growth opportunity over the next four to six years. Our objective is to continue to develop e-commerce into a multimillion-dollar aspect of the business. The start has been slow, but we believe that with continued focus and effort, this is a critical piece of the business for the future.
The committee is actively interviewing candidates. Susie Raker, Chair of the search committee, says, “The Search Committee has worked very hard in conjunction with our search firm to determine ideal characteristics for a new CEO. Key Corporate Services has done a fantastic job finding valid candidates that fit the profile developed by the Search Committee. We are actively interviewing candidates and moving through the process. I’m confident we will have our new CEO by July.”
For us, the involvement in industry associations has tremendous value in the networking opportunities it affords. It can be anything from meeting someone who has gone through similar circumstances and can save you from pitfalls that only come from experience. It’s contacts and sources for products and services. It’s also representation at the government level, which is oftentimes undervalued for what that does for our industry. Associations also offer training events, trade shows, and industry tours—that’s opportunity right there for us to meet and network with other business owners in the same industry. State associations offer value as well, but national organizations like AmericanHort provide tremendous value in looking outside of our region and ourselves, seeing what others are doing, and how they’re merchandising and promoting their products. Creative solutions come from a mind that has been cultivated from exposure to new and different things. What you don’t know, you don’t know! You can learn a lot of good business just by networking. That’s the most value we find in AmericanHort.
AmericanHort is currently operating under the leadership of Sherry L. Johnson, AmericanHort Vice President of Knowledge and Business Advancement and Interim CEO, as well as the team of Vice Presidents including Craig Regelbrugge, Senior VP of Industry Advocacy and Research, and
ways to more profitable plug & cutting production Carlsbad, California September 19–21, 2016
Registration now open.
10 | AmericanHort.org
2016:4 | 11
© 2016 AmericanHort. All rights reserved. This material may contain confidential information and it is for the sole use of AmericanHort members. The information contained herein is for general guidance and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. It cannot be distributed, reprinted, retransmitted, or otherwise made public without prior written permission by AmericanHort. Please contact the editor at (614) 487-1117 for permission with acknowledgment.
Editorial Staff Michelle Gaston Laura Kunkle, Editor Jen Noble Gina Zirkle
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