It was an honor and great pleasure to attend the 2013 American Bamboo Society conference in West Palm Beach, Florida as the Texas Bamboo Society delegate. Our TBS president Carole Meckes who serves as ABS representative-at-large was in attendance,as well as Forrest and Mary McBryde, new members of our Texas chapter. The Florida-Caribbean chapter put on a great meeting, with world-class speakers, excellent food and entertainment, and a chance to visit the spectacular nursery of Robert Saporito, Tropical Bamboo. The weather just happened to be spectacular too.
The long weekend was colored somewhat by the recent passing of long-time ABS member and revered bamboo guru Ned Jaquith who died on Sept. 2. Ned’s wife Nancy Oberschmidt was present at the meeting, representing the recently formed Ned Jaquith Foundation. The non-profit foundation’s goal is to “encourage and support bamboo research projects increasing the collective knowledge of bamboo” and as such would be a worthy recipient of grants from the ABS and its chapters.
The also board learned of the imminent death of Bamboo Magazine editor Betty Shor, who passed on the last day of the conference while in hospice care in Hawaii. Betty’s absence from the magazine has created a large void that will need to be filled by new contributors of articles and other content. So if you have a bamboo story to tell, knowledge to share or know of someone who does, now is the time to make it known to Betty’s son Don who continues his work on the magazine.
The board meeting filled the first day, and then some. The issues of declining membership and budget shortfalls occupied alarge chunk of the time. ABS membership has fallen 50% since 2007! Frasier Bingham in particular was fired up to increase membership and participation in his Big Bamboo contest. The board decided to leave the ‘electoral number’ – the number of members a chapter to have to send a representative to ABS – at 35, despite some chapters appearing to fall below that number.
The ABS budget showed annual expenses of $23,982 and income of $19,815, indicating a shortfall of over $4000. Part of the shortfall was anticipated to be made up by auction sales and the partial liquidation of the $25,000 gift of stock to ABS from an anonymous donor. The board decided to liquidate 1% per year of this gift and place the proceeds into the general fund.
The issue of lifetime memberships was discussed, but no specific plan was made to compensate chapters for members who have lifetime ABS memberships without lifetime chapter memberships. My thinking is that the chapters should simply ask the lifetime ABS members to contribute the chapter dues.
The first day line-up of speakers for the conference was spectacular; Gerard Minakawa of BambooDNA fame, legendary Colombian bamboo architects Simon Velez and Marcelo Villegas, and Daniel Cheyne of KoolBamboo. We got to see some of Daniel’s work first-hand at the beautiful nursery and grounds of Robert Saporito’s Tropical Bamboo.
The second day featured speakers on topics of bamboo tea and landscaping with both running and clumping bamboos. New BOTA director Dr. Eduardo Ruiz-Sanchez described the discovery of a new species of Chusquea in central Mexico. Later in the day during the live auction, the naming rights for this new species was sold to Susanne Lucas who had relentlessly bid the price up to $1500. When James Clever finally declared ‘sold,’ Susanne tearfully announced that the new species would be named ‘Chusquea jaquithii’ after the late Ned Jaquith.
The activities of the last evening were held at Robert Saporito’s nursery ‘Tropical Bamboo,’ where lovers of tropical clumping bamboos must have thought they were in heaven. This was an an-opener for this Texas boy who’s used to seeing mainly big runners. The grounds were full of dendrocalamus, guadua, bambusas and other large tropicals. There was a distinctive tiki decor, lots of bamboo furniture and the KoolBamboo structures made of guadua bamboo and metal joinery made for a very lush, inviting atmosphere. Willie’s band ‘Live Bait’ entertained the crowd and Carole and Steve Stamper displayed their dancing talents. The party lasted into the wee hours. For those who use Facebook, I hope you’ll have a look at all the pictures of this event at the ABS page.
Next year’s ABS conference will be hosted by the SoCal chapter in San Diego, California. I hope to see a larger, more invigorated ABS membership at that time. Thanks again for the opportunity to represent TBS at this memorable event.