After 40 years - rethinking my place in the world of orchids

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A reminder, judging is a TEAM sport. I speak only of Toronto though I have judged in other center's but there I have no input regarding their process. So in Toronto, a plant is brought to a TEAM of judges consisting at minimum 2 accredited, and 1 associate judge, but usually at least a team of 5 including students. At the end of judging, each TEAM in turn speaks openly to the other judging Teams in the room about each plant they judged, passed or awarded, and articulates why specifically a plant was or was not awarded, and questions are welcome. This judging room has many ALPHA judges, male and female, with extensive world wide knowledge regarding culture, growing and judging of orchids. So if you are wondering where the buck stops, it stops here. These people are extraordinary at what they do and are quite comfortable in their decision making. If you want to be better at this orchid evaluation process, this is the place.
 
I would conclude that there is much time and effort involved in becoming a judge. I suspect it is too late if you wait until retirement to start the process. I would expect very few serious growers can begin the process in their 40s and 50s. A limited number of judges means limited judging opportunities, often at a distance from many growers. The travel and expense mean that orchids submitted for judging will be a limited sample of the best orchids that are out there.
 
I would conclude that there is much time and effort involved in becoming a judge. I suspect it is too late if you wait until retirement to start the process. I would expect very few serious growers can begin the process in their 40s and 50s. A limited number of judges means limited judging opportunities, often at a distance from many growers. The travel and expense mean that orchids submitted for judging will be a limited sample of the best orchids that are out there.

Who can afford to start before retirement? The time commitment and travel demands are not something that many working people can meet.
 
Who can afford to start before retirement? The time commitment and travel demands are not something that many working people can meet.
Most people start at retirement indeed.

But … Many people do start before retirement. And indeed there is much time commitment and juggling schedules. You must love orchids more than yourself lol.

One judge has 5 kids and work while going through program in her late 30’s and she made it to accreditation!! So it is possible.
 
I would conclude that there is much time and effort involved in becoming a judge. I suspect it is too late if you wait until retirement to start the process. I would expect very few serious growers can begin the process in their 40s and 50s. A limited number of judges means limited judging opportunities, often at a distance from many growers. The travel and expense mean that orchids submitted for judging will be a limited sample of the best orchids that are out there.
I was in my mid-30's when I started, but we don't have any kids. Some of our better judges started after retirement. Traveling to out of town shows and judgings is a great way to meet new people with similar interests.

Dave
 
I have been saying the judging system needs revamped for over 20 years. Our local center here has such a long litany of malfeasance, misfeasance, and downright corruption it is too long for a single post. I have spoken with two different AOS judging chairs and an AOS president about it. The result? Nothing. It's an old boy/old girl network which deserves to die like the dinosaur it is because it steadfastly refuses to acknowledge its faults or attempt to change. The training? Ridiculous. I'm asked to identify plants at shows for judges - and have had on numerous occasions to identify not only the genus but the family an orchid belongs to when a judge has made an erroneous identification. The general level of knowledge in judges here is minimal at best. And they have no interest in learning to cover areas of ignorance, a fatal flaw. Not a surprise given that the primary qualification for judging here is being convivial and "getting along". NOT knowledge, commitment, and an impartial attitude. A two year training would be better than what there is now - if it actually taught something. Years of being an "applicant" instead of actually entering the program while they use the applicants as gofers and decide whether they LIKE them enough. No other qualification required or accepted. Getting rid of the cult of personality would be a first necessary step, and the AOS codifying and homogenizing the program to oversee the process would be a good start. It needs to be redone from scratch. Of course no one wants to be a judge - I have three friends who quit in the midst of the program for the above mentioned reasons, they were so disgusted. When a longtime judge and center chair looks at a plant and says "oh, it has a clonal name [in pencil] - it must have had an award. We can't do anything til we find that". And everyone is afraid to contradict her because (their words) she's such a b*tch, there is NO impartiality - and the lack of knowledge - and hubris - is staggering. And another tells a plant owner who brought a plant to judging "oh, we can't find much on it (an uncommon but recognized, previously unawarded species, for which at the time there WERE a few references on the web) - bring it back when it has some awards and we'll take another look at it. [?????] Isn't that THEIR job?? Another plant of the species was awarded not much later at a different judging center. I could continue the list, but it gets old after the 15th or 20th incident. To say nothing of the AOS awarded plants I see at which I have to shake my head as they were clearly (due to damage, misshapen flower, or other misqualifications) unawardable - sometimes laughably so. Not even eligible. Fully 1/4 to 1/3 of the awarded plants in one specific genus are mislabled. But no one cares when it is brought to their attention. But when certain commercial growers or longstanding breeders bring in any plant - no matter how unqualified - it is simply awarded without question. Final quote from a judge about another judge's plant: "well, she went to the trouble of bringing it in - we should give it SOMETHING." And they did - a lesser award than previously bestowed on the cross, but this time on a plant with smaller, fewer flowers no better colored or shaped thant the awarded one. Caveat: I am aware there are some good, impartial, and knowledgeable judges and I personally know a couple. They are far in the minority and do nothing to change or improve the system which is so egregiously flawed. They can't because no dissension is acceptable.
Sounds like exactly the issue at our local center (NCJC) . . . Ive started going to Mid-Atlantic just to get a fair shot, because theyre super professional and efficient, on a completely different level than the other, closer center.
 
Oh Stefan, if you only knew, if you only knew. There was a time when the Mid-Atlantic Center had issues. I will say no more then that.
You are going there to get a “fair shot”, as you put it. There was a time when you might have felt differently.
I imagine that there are ebbs and flows in many centers. So to think that one has always been great is not necessarily true. The opposite might also be true. Perhaps a center has not always been bad.

Me personally I started in 1995, at 46 years of age. I have been involved in 3 judging centers, NY, Great Lakes and Florida North Central. It is simple math to figure out that I’ll be 75 in two weeks. And I can tell you one thing for certain, you really cannot know what really goes on at centers.
 
And if there every was a spreader of sour grapes and misinformation, it's tenman.
He claims to have spoken to 2 Judging Chairs and an AOS President complaining about malfeasance, corruption and who knows what else concerning the judging system. That is just plain crazy! Who in their right mind would listen to an outsider? He is not a judge with twenty years experience, not a leading world authority on anything related to orchids and yet he thinks that the AOS should listen to him and we should change a system that has been around for some 80 years on his say so or opinion. WOW.
No judge would ever say the things he says that they do. I don't believe that for a minute. Tenman has not been through the judging system, no training at all and yet he has an opinion on what awards are okay and which awards are worthless. Oh my.
To me it sounds like he tried to get into the system as a student judge and was rejected or maybe feels more comfortable to hide and complain.

I mean, this is like some one watching an operation in the hospital theater and then going after the brain surgeons afterwards that they botched the operation! Nonsense.
 
And if there every was a spreader of sour grapes and misinformation, it's tenman.
He claims to have spoken to 2 Judging Chairs and an AOS President complaining about malfeasance, corruption and who knows what else concerning the judging system. That is just plain crazy! Who in their right mind would listen to an outsider? He is not a judge with twenty years experience, not a leading world authority on anything related to orchids and yet he thinks that the AOS should listen to him and we should change a system that has been around for some 80 years on his say so or opinion. WOW.
No judge would ever say the things he says that they do. I don't believe that for a minute. Tenman has not been through the judging system, no training at all and yet he has an opinion on what awards are okay and which awards are worthless. Oh my.
To me it sounds like he tried to get into the system as a student judge and was rejected or maybe feels more comfortable to hide and complain.

I mean, this is like some one watching an operation in the hospital theater and then going after the brain surgeons afterwards that they botched the operation! Nonsense.
I am wondering who has sour grapes here, as once again you have made personal attacks on another individual for his opinion, and I see no posts by Tenman since the last time you did the same thing and were warned about it, a year ago:

As a moderator, let me state that you do not know the gentleman, and you are out of line to personally criticize him for his opinions about a situation you are unaware of.
@big923cattleya, please desist from such attacks.

This is your second warning.
 
And if there every was a spreader of sour grapes and misinformation, it's tenman.
He claims to have spoken to 2 Judging Chairs and an AOS President complaining about malfeasance, corruption and who knows what else concerning the judging system. That is just plain crazy! Who in their right mind would listen to an outsider? He is not a judge with twenty years experience, not a leading world authority on anything related to orchids and yet he thinks that the AOS should listen to him and we should change a system that has been around for some 80 years on his say so or opinion. WOW.
No judge would ever say the things he says that they do. I don't believe that for a minute. Tenman has not been through the judging system, no training at all and yet he has an opinion on what awards are okay and which awards are worthless. Oh my.
To me it sounds like he tried to get into the system as a student judge and was rejected or maybe feels more comfortable to hide and complain.

I mean, this is like some one watching an operation in the hospital theater and then going after the brain surgeons afterwards that they botched the operation! Nonsense.

Well, the problem is that many judges cannot express publicly what they think of their colleagues.

It is true that first I have heard that many times, and some were so disappointed by some judging teams, and I do not mean only AOS, that they decided to mark their plants ' not for Judging'. Two of them, in Taiwan, are specially famous for having FCC/Gold medal caliber plants, but they chose not to get them awarded.

I have seen as well, financially wise, plant value being divided by 2 or 3 because incompetent judges at shows gave a bronze medal, a HCC... The AOS system as it is today has not been around for 80 years clearly. If you browse the older awards from the 90s etc... they are vastly different from a Home Depot phal being awarded, as an example. The judging system is not 'God' in any country, of any kind after all. So far I live very well as an example selling divisions of definitely award quality plants to customers. Some decide to get them awarded, so far so good, many just enjoy, because the quality is over many awards in Germany or the USA...

The Orchid Zone had a similar model if you look as well, they very rarely entered plants for judging, they sold a selected plant, and then the customer would get the award in the evening or next day. Over their entire existence, they got 22 AOS awards. including a batch of 8 awards + 1 AQ the same day for their rothschildianum. Would you consider that they had extremely bad quality owing to that? Only 16 different varieties awarded in 20 years. Home Depot and pot plant Phalaenopsis farms got more awards recently for sure in a shorter lifespan!

The same, as you wisely point out, with doctors. In many cases they do see a malpractice, or a total mess, but they will join their team, and not speak to outsiders. I have to know because a large part of my family are doctors and surgeons. I did have a lot of them, not only in France, around me, in another life. Have you ever heard about mastectomies done after a X-Ray ? Biopsies have usually 2 options, not to incur financial costs and liabilities. Cancerous, or 'precancerous-possibly cancerous'. Patients are missing one breast, but are happily happy to have been saved... From one very well known oncologist surgeon that I knew closely years ago, many surgeries were not needed, after all, but it helped him to keep his financial turnover, so 'better safe than sorry' were his words. Whistleblowers in the medical world are usually secretaries, nurses, patient's family, etc... Never ever a colleague, except when it get way too hot. Another example, cosmetic surgeons. No one criticizes the work of a colleague or report him publicly, until there are dead or severly disabled patients that pop up. Then all of them will crush the crook. Not so much to do it in a 'fair' way. Just so that, even if they are equally bad, the whole world will believe there is order in disorder.

The discussion is kind of pointless if your opinion is that all the judges are highly skilled, and absolutely honest. Some judging centers are, some are not. Some teams are, some are not. Some did get candies to get plants awarded, sometimes only 1-2 judges on a team, like it happened let's say... overseas in Asia. Some were in the middle of the scam not understanding what really happened. Negociations between one judge and some growers are known to have happened, you get an FCC, but I want to be the first to distribute your varieties in the USA. I know that it happened, it is neither imagination or hearsay. Can it be proved? Mightily, as both sides got a good deal. But as long as it exists, the trust in judging plants is not really high.

But yes, judging system is as it is, imperfect for sure. The lack of knowledge of many judges is as well quite stunning too, and it becomes more obvious recently. When I see Home Depot phals being awarded, or plants with full blown fatal flows, that should get them discarded at first sight, then it is really a problem. Note, it is not only in the USA anyway. I just saw photos of a Schwerter pot plant cuthbertsonii hybrid being given a first prize at the Tokyo Dome, and an Anthura pot plant phalaenopsis, badly bloomed and with a mutation, as well a first prize. So even when we think we reach the bottom, it does go deeper...
 
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AOS doesn’t judge the Tokyo Dome.
We do not judge in Taiwan.
Depends on what your definition of a fatal flaw is.
Well anyone within the AOS Show can request that their plant not be judged for an award. I see this happen quite a bit here because a particular plant, a red Cattleya hybrid came to the judging table in Grand Rapids on the last Saturday in January, yet there it is in Cleveland the next Saturday. I was surprised to see it 325 miles to the east.
But yet there it was with a note, not for AOS judging. By rule we can not judge it again with the same flowers or the same inflorescences. That is a rule.
 
AOS doesn’t judge the Tokyo Dome.
We do not judge in Taiwan.
Depends on what your definition of a fatal flaw is.
Well anyone within the AOS Show can request that their plant not be judged for an award. I see this happen quite a bit here because a particular plant, a red Cattleya hybrid came to the judging table in Grand Rapids on the last Saturday in January, yet there it is in Cleveland the next Saturday. I was surprised to see it 325 miles to the east.
But yet there it was with a note, not for AOS judging. By rule we can not judge it again with the same flowers or the same inflorescences. That is a rule.

You are an AOS judge and you do not know that the AOS judges the TIOS in Taiwan every year? I am surprised...

Fatal flaws are color breaks/color streaks first, then you go on with non flat flowers for certain types of hybrids, windows between the petals and the dorsal for some groups of phals or cattleya hybrids, etc, etc...

Here you point out a rule for a specific plant, in a specific case. In Taiwan, there were ribbons awards, and some stands. It was explicitely written 'not for AOS Judging', not because it was exhibited the week before in Afghanistan or Antartica, but just because the exhibitors did not trust/value the AOS judgment. I cannot blame them as well, as they heard/got some really weird proposals over there indeed...
 
I know that years ago we regularly were invited by our judging chair to judge at both Tokyo and Taiwan
Since I moved here in 2018, I can’t remember any such announcements. I logically assumed that we no longer went.
 
This thread's gotten pretty long! Lots to say about it. Here we've had judges dying off, literally, and luckily have a half dozen students, of whom four are industrious and eagerly becoming knowledgeable; a first year associate who already is very knowledgeable. Even those who seem a little poky, I've confided that the center needs them more then they need the center, so they have some leverage that students didn't used to have. I've been growing for 52 years and realized about eleven years ago that if I wanted a voice I had to become a judge, so I did. It was infuriating to hear teams that had *no idea* what they were looking at, slowly form a completely, apparently mistaken, consensus. But we don't have a lot of dedicated hobbyist growers who bring plants in, just a few aside from the other judges. We moved the monthly judging to another venue that doesn't charge for parking so that hobbyists might be more likely to bring plants in, so we'll see if that improves things. And yes there are always some cranky, questionably informed judges and society members. Our society has something like 110 members of whom 20 to 40 ever show up at a meeting, during the pandemic we started also having zoom links for the meeting which we've continued and usually have five to ten attending that way. Part of the change is the plants you can get at the hardware store or grocery store, good that people take them home but they also become more disposable. Matsui in California is mass marketing plants usually without labels, Silva in Florida also, and the specialness of orchids is lost; if they didn't mostly die, we'd be up to our elbows in Phals, I suppose. Random thoughts.
 
Definitely an entertaining thread.
I pulled up an 'outsider's chair' to watch the trainwreck of 'You be the Judge' unfold and stumbled across this too, at that time.
Triggered recall of scenes from the ridiculous mockumentary 'Best in Show' and I loved it when this thread finally went to the dogs.

This is after all a flower club

... accurate
🥲


Dr. E you are indeed a modern day orchid adventurer! I admire what you have been able to achieve for your passion to flourish.
I might imagine that I could be that stranger finding you fussing deep in some jungle and ask the legendary question ‘Dr. Ee, I presume?!’ Hah, now that's quite the fantasy!

Tom, you're only 50, well soon to be 51 this summer, I guess, since you started this over a year ago. Please do grow what you want and enjoy yourself! Time flies, life's too short, etc., and all that to confound it with misery.
Although I have no stake, involvement, nor legit interest really, regarding any of the crucial matters you (and others) have articulated so well, I see that it could only be beneficial if thoughtful, systematic improvements occurred such that "something vibrant and viable" existed--whatever that is.
I don't know if that's very realistic, yet I'll throw out some 'hope' for that too, both for you, in the event that you may return to your former pursuits, and for all the similarly afflicted others who participate in that aspect/venue of this flower club. Best wishes to you all; may you affect your desired outcome!

And, my flower club perspective is gloriously broad and simultaneously tangential--thankfully, it's not a mandatory requirement to join in any part of the nutbaggery that doesn't appeal to and/or work for me;)
 
I know that years ago we regularly were invited by our judging chair to judge at both Tokyo and Taiwan
Since I moved here in 2018, I can’t remember any such announcements. I logically assumed that we no longer went.
[To anyone interested] Just to add some further info. I just searched OrchidPro and there have been no AOS awards granted in Taiwan since 2019. 2019 was the last year, at a supplemental judging at the Koo Botanic Garden.

Also, no AOS awards in Japan (Tokyo or otherwise) for decades before that. That doesn't mean US vendors/exhibitors haven't shown their orchids and won awards in Japan at the Tokyo Dome show or elsewhere. Just that they aren't AOS awards. They are JOGA awards. (IIRC the best in show at the Tokyo Dome came with a monetary prize as well as a car. Or used to.)

So, it would appear we no longer go to either of those countries.

We still go to South America, Central America and the Caribbean. So there are still opportunities abroad. These seem to be operated out of the Florida Caribbean center (but don't quote me on that, I haven't judged abroad since covid) so contact that chair if you want to go.
 

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