IGIA Specialty Crop Grant Project

Pro Plant Selections 
Plant Library

Each year, the USDA allocates funding through the state departments of agriculture that is used to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. The Illinois Department of Agriculture received more than $591,000 through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Producer groups, trade associations, nonprofits, colleges, and universities were eligible to apply for these funds, which were split between ten projects intended to strengthen the state’s specialty crop industry.  

In April 2020, IGIA applied for grant funds that would allow us to create a digital platform where motivated buyers can connect with the quality plant material they seek, ultimately linking them to a local producer where they can complete the purchase. The funds would also provide for a digital campaign to drive traffic to the platform to promote plants and IGIA members.

And finally some good news in October, we were notified that we received funding to proceed with the project! 

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Project Goals

1. Use social and digital marketing tactics to drive customers to local retailers for high-quality plant material.
2. Promote the benefits of working with a professional on a planting project.
3. Nurture the next generation of plant parents and gardeners, using the educational resources of IGIA members and industry partners.
4. Digital hub will serve as a resource for campaigns like CRTI so motivated buyers can be directly linked to retailers to complete the purchase.
5. Campaigns can be used to educate and increase awareness (Planting for pollinator health; Plant this not that (invasive education); Substitutions for plants in short supply, etc.)

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Project Timeline

  • January - March 2021 - Redesign the website to enhance the educational offering, focused on the physical, emotional, environmental, and economic benefits of plants
  • March 2021 - Offer a plant finder tool that will help connect consumers with plants that meet their individual needs
  • April - May 2021 - Connect the catalog offering (not real-time inventory) of IGIA retail members to the plant finder tool so motivated buyers are matched with the local retail garden center, nursery, and/or greenhouses in their community that offers the plants they seek
  • June 2021 - September 2022 - Conduct a targeted digital marketing campaign that will drive traffic to the plant finder on
  • April 2022 - September 2022 -  - Conduct a targeted digital marketing campaign that will drive traffic to the plant finder on

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ICN Pro Plant Selections

This project will allow us to have a renewed focus on promoting Illinois Certified Nursery Professionals. One way we'll do that is by promoting ICN Pro Plant Selections, on and social media.

See the ICN Pro Plant Selections on

ICN Pros are not limited to what type of plant they can promote as their favorite selection, but it would be best for a Pro's selection to be in alignment with the plants their employer actively promotes since we will be encouraging customers to visit their website and/or retail location as part of the call-to-action.  You will be asked to update your selection once each year when you renew your certification (every December).

Pro Plant Selection Cheryl L

When you submit your selection, we'll ask you to include a photo of yourself and your plant selection so that we can include it on the GardenIllinois website and in social media promotion.  Please be sure that any photos shared are able to be reproduced (do not just pull a photo from the internet).

If you are not currently employed by a green industry business that operates in a retail capacity, we can still share your Pro Plant Selection, but it won't link customers to a specific business.  If you are employed by a green industry business that is not an IGIA member, we will still share your Pro Plant Selection, but it won't be linked to a specific retail location.


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IGIA Members - Plant Library

We are adding a plant finder to This feature will allow consumers to search for specific plants, type in their zip code, and then find retailers in their area that sell the plant. In order to do this, we need our members who sell retail to opt-in (CLICK HERE). There is no cost to be part of the plant library.  

We will give you the opportunity to submit your customized plant list (plant catalog).  This is not intended to be real-time inventory.  When a customer searches for a plant and then enters their zip code to find it in their zip code, it will display a list of the retail locations (IGIA Members) that sell the plant.  It does not guarantee you have the plant at that moment.


When you are ready to share your plant list with IGIA, click on the link above.  Copy and paste your list into the format in the template so that your plant list will be loaded correctly into the plant finder.  Once your plant list is ready, save the file by company and year, and email it to Kellie Schmidt


If you do not wish to provide your customized plant catalog, you can still be included.  IGIA will have a generic list of plants loaded.  We can use this list for your garden center, but you must let us know by opting-in for the plant library.

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