Martina Mensing-Meckelburg – Photo: VDG
Martina Mensing-Meckelburg has been President of the German Garden Centre Association (Verbands Deutscher Garten-Center – VDG) for four years. We spoke to her about her tasks.
The VDG was already founded in the 1960s and has been representing the interests of private, owner-run garden centres since then. The members currently include 200 companies from all regions of the Federal Republic as well as around 180 businesses from the supplier industry.
Mrs. Mensing-Meckelburg, the garden centre industry is to a large extent still a man's world. How difficult is it for you to assert yourself as a woman?
Mensing-Meckelburg: At present the owners and founders of the garden centres are mostly men, that is correct. But when one examines our junior group, it is clearly evident that things are changing here. In more and more of the owner-run companies it is now the daughters, who are taking over the business. Women are also the main target group of the garden centres. It is important to be able to identify oneself with one's female customers and their demands, needs and wishes.
But back to your question: Anyone, who takes on the position as president of an association, has to earn himself/herself respect and recognition. In my opinion it makes no difference if the person is a man or woman. As president of an association one has an obligation towards the members. Personally, I find it easy to approach people openly and this in turn helps when networking. It is among others my job to connect people and it pleases me if I succeed in achieving a win-win situation for all people involved.
Over the past years the VDG has asserted itself with numerous initiatives for biodiversity, species and insect protection. Will these activities be continued in future? Or is the focus on other main themes meanwhile?
Mensing-Meckelburg: As superordinate themes, biodiversity and species protection will continue to play an important role in our association work in the near future, because they are and will remain to be of great, social interest. This is why we have also been working in this section for around five years together with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture – for instance in the scope of the initiative "Feeding bees". On the theme of insects we very quickly arrive at the topic of birds of course. Private gardens have also become important habitats for them over the past years. It is a shame that in spite of this so many areas in the garden are being sealed or covered with grit. As an association we have to carry out explanatory work here. The local garden centres can advise people individually in this connection and include more and more plants among their product ranges that offer insects nourishment while at the same time being easy to care for. Beyond this in the course of the climate change, particularly varieties and species that cope well with dry conditions are becoming increasingly interesting. Furthermore, the association is continuing to push the theme urban gardening and striving to provide the consumers with ideas of how they can create their own, small green oases in the city, because we are of the opinion that every plant counts!
In September you took part in the International Garden Centre Congress (IGCC) in England. How important is the exchange beyond borders for your industry?
Mensing-Meckelburg: It was a fantastic meeting again this year. 34 nations are members of the IGCC and regularly take part in the congresses: In addition to European countries, the members include for instance also the USA, China, New Zealand or South Africa – where the congress is being staged next year incidentally. It is an international network that enables a very intensive exchange about experiences and current problems. The challenges that our industry is faced with are the same or at least very similar in many countries. For example: How can one get young people interested in working for garden centres? How can one efficiently advertise for junior staff? How can one find a successor for one's business? But one can also profit from the knowledge of others regarding themes such as safety within the company, quality control, dealing with the packing regulations or the optimal visitor routing in the stores. The climate change or the infestation of plants with diseases or pests are tasks that demand cross-country solutions to be found. Overall, the international garden centre industry has more or less developed into a big family over the past years. Beyond the congress, we also occasionally visit our European neighbours together with association members and take a look at their interesting projects and new products. On the other hand, many garden centre operators from other countries visit us here in Germany. The Italians for instance found our bee campaigns fantastic and have let themselves be inspired by them.
Further information: garten-center.de