October 3, 2020
Passion for plants
INTERVIEW BY RITA WEERDENBURG
PEGGY WALSH CRAIG, is well known in the industry — especially within the nursery sector for her many contributions to the ornamental sector as the Managing Director of the Canadian Ornamental Plant Foundation (COPF), a position she held for 21 years from 1990 to her retirement in 2011.
COPF was founded in 1964 to compensate for Canada’s lack of Plant Breeders’ Rights regulations; however, even after the introduction of PBR in the early 1990s under Peggy’s guidance, COPF continued its vital role as an agency charged with the orderly collection and redistribution of royalties on new plant introductions.
The management of intellectual property rights on plants is exceptionally complex, and over the years Peggy became Canada’s go-to person to provide expert advice to the ornamental sector in the management of intricate IP issues. She represented Canada at the international level, meeting with IP managers of major breeding companies around the world and at CIOPORA, the international agency representing plant breeders’ rights on behalf of the ornamental sector.
What do you consider to be your major contributions to the industry as Managing Director of COPF?Throughout my career I worked with many far-sighted and dedicated board volunteers who appreciated getting to know the differences between the floriculture and nursery sectors, who were both represented in COPF. It was challenging to balance the needs of growers seeking liberal access to new varieties for low royalties with breeders wanting to limit access and receive the highest royalties possible for their new plants. And I like to think I helped bridge those differences in many instances.
Also, with the board’s guidance and cooperation, all grower and breeder agreements were rewritten to work with the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act passed in the early 1990s. We also implemented a propagation monitoring program which greatly improved compliance among growers and raised confidence with foreign and domestic breeders releasing new plants in the Canadian marketplace. With these improvements, we were able to increase royalties collected four times higher than previous levels.
You are well known by industry friends and colleagues as being a true plant person. What led you to choose a career in horticulture and how did your choices lead you to COPF?I have always been an environmental activist and after a summer working at a wholesale nursery, I saw horticulture aligning with doing good things for the planet. After completing the University of Guelph’s diploma program, I worked at Sheridan Nurseries and then Braun Nurseries. I also served on a horticulture therapy project and in plant records at Royal Botanical Gardens, but it was while interviewing Tony Huber for a Horticulture Review article that I became aware of and applied for the position of Managing Director of COPF.
You could say that from my first IPPS meeting, I felt I’d found my tribe. Members of IPPS talk passionately about plants from early morning to late night. The organization’s motto is: “To seek and to share,” and even the most successful nursery people openly share their knowledge with industry newbies at the annual conference.
Regular readers of LT will be aware that you have received two prestigious awards from the International Plant Propagator’s Society. What inspired your involvement with that organization?
Eventually, I served on the board, helped organize a conference in Ontario and in 2017, took a position as Executive Secretary of the IPPS-Eastern Region Foundation. The Foundation aims to grow future horticulturists through small research grants, scholarships and internships.
How have you fulfilled your quest to be an environmental activist?Locally in North Bay, Ontario, I advocate on stormwater management issues, water quality and active transportation. In 2015, I started working with the local conservation authority, to set up a shoreline restoration program called Restore Your Shore.
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