IMG Enterprises Co-CEO Timothee Sallin makes meaningful change toward sustainability through Florida’s OUTSIDE COLLAB initiative
As a young boy in Central Florida, Timothee Sallin grew up on a citrus farm. He spent his summers working in greenhouses and loading trucks to ship off his family’s produce. But he recalls bad years where devastating freezes ruined their crop and threatened their livelihood.
“When you work in agriculture, you have to be resilient in order to overcome adversity,” he says. “We grew from a citrus farm to an ornamental nursery to a full-service landscape company. That diversification has allowed us to survive hurricanes, hailstorms and economic recessions.”
Today, IMG Enterprises owns and operates Cherrylake and IMG Citrus. The company employs 520 workers and farms over 10,000 acres. They are not only Florida’s largest producer of grapefruit, they have become one of the largest nurseries in the Southeast. Their ornamental business, which they operate on 1,200 acres, is among the largest in the Southeast and serves the Gulf States as well as the Mid-Atlantic.
But a successful business isn’t enough for Sallin. He has a higher cause.
“Increasingly over the years I’ve become more interested in environmental sustainability as I’ve learned more about the industry,” he says. “The ornamental landscape industry is not as sustainable as it could be. A lot of our landscaping is contributing to environmental challenges and is a drain on our resources—the amount of water we consume, the amount of input.”
So in 2020, he started OUTSIDE COLLAB, a state-wide initiative that encourages the landscaping industry to collaborate about better practices.
“If we landscape using more sustainable practices, we will use less water, create better habitats for pollinators, improve air and water quality and reduce our carbon footprint,” says Sallin. “There are a large number of positive outcomes we can achieve.”
Sallin believes one of the biggest challenges is changing social perspectives and redefining what homeowners consider beautiful. Perfectly manicured green lawns require a lot of water, fertilizer and maintenance. Sallin admits change is difficult, especially when people have thought one way for so long.
“For generations, land developers and marketers have presented this image of Florida to people out-of-state—a paradise of tropical plants and palms that isn’t the real landscape,” he says.
“The transition won’t happen overnight, but we need to move toward a new paradigm,” he continues. “We have to show beautiful examples of sustainable landscapes and educate people on their benefits. We need to help them make the connection between the big issues they care about, like global warming and climate change, to their own landscapes.”
The goal of OUTSIDE COLLAB is for like-minded professionals across the state to network and discuss important issues. Sallin says sharing ideas is important, whether that’s irrigation technology, new ways of composting, or rethinking the way work is done.
“When we prune everything and put it on a trailer to dump it somewhere, we’re breaking up the cycle,” he says. “When you start thinking about closing the loop and reusing waste, there are some interesting solutions. We’ll reduce our carbon footprint while creating better soil health.”
Sallin has been coordinating and involving professionals from different segments of the industry as well as the academic and government worlds. COVID-19 spoiled plans for the inaugural conference but OUTSIDE COLLAB went forward with a virtual program and is planning more events this year. While the initiative is only in Florida, it’s a model other states in the South can adopt.
“The idea of collaborating and the basic goals of sustainable landscapes can apply anywhere,” says Sallin.