Back when I was living in a small town in southern Spain, I enrolled in flamenco classes to expand my horizons and learn a new type of dance. It was a fun class with others my age and older, and our teacher was a passionate, talented local named Antonio.

What I remember the most about taking classes with Antonio was how his demeanor would change as he went through the dance steps and showed us the proper form and movements. His face took on a serious expression, he stood up straighter, and it seemed like in his mind, he was on stage, even during class. It was as if he was transported into a world where flamenco was the most important element, and we were welcome to join him.

Antonio’s ability to transmit his love for dance was inspirational to all of us in the class. We channeled that inspiration into our performances and had the utmost respect for our teacher. I don’t think any of us would’ve reached the level that we did without his leadership. (Visit bit.ly/2hWRKzi to see one of Antonio's stellar performances.) While I may have hung up my flamenco shoes years ago, I haven’t forgotten what it was like to be around someone who was so dedicated to sharing and improving his craft. Olé!

I’m sure you know someone like Antonio — passionate, driven, dedicated and always striving to be greater today than yesterday. In this issue, we bring you some of the horticulture industry’s “greats” who exemplify these same attributes. These are people, businesses and institutions that are constantly in the pursuit of greatness, whether that’s by breeding new and improved varieties, creating a more efficient production system, supporting the next generation of horticulture greats, or finding the right balance between growing and retailing. I invite you to turn to page 12 to read more about the 2017 Greenhouse Greats.

Who are the horticulture greats in your life? Drop me a line at kvarga@gie.net and tell me about the people who have inspired you with their passion.

In the spirit of the New Year, we’re also debuting two new columns. This month, green industry business consultant Leslie Halleck looks at how to avoid discriminatory hiring practices in her inaugural Green Industry Matters column. Christopher Currey, assistant professor in horticulture at Iowa State University, debuts his Production Pointers column, where he will offer guidance to greenhouse growers on specific production issues throughout the year.

Happy New Year!

Karen E. Varga, Editor

kvarga@gie.net

216-393-0290 | Twitter: @Karen_GIE