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The NALP’s National Collegiate Landscape Competition is one way to promote the industry to the next generation.
Photo courtesy of Brian Horn

Over the years, I have been fortunate to meet many great business leaders in the industry. Our general conversations often lead to a discussion about our families and passion for this crazy world of landscape and horticulture. Yet, I would guess about 75 percent of the folks I speak to about their kids make it very clear that they do not anticipate (or do not want) their children to join the green industry.

“Really?” is my usual reaction. “Why not?”

There are many answers of course, including the disappointing, “I don’t want them to deal with what I have dealt with over my career.” Then, there are the more encouraging answers that their children are finding their own passions and pusuing them, regardless of whether they slightly disappoint mom and dad.

So yes, as someone who gets pumped up when I get to speak to high school and college students about the green industry, I get bummed out during those encounters.

But no worry. I’m sure the majority of moms and dads out there with high school aged children know all about the amazing and rewarding career options of the green industry.

Right?

I’m sure those same moms and dads ignore those articles that pop up every few years stating that horticulture is one of the 10 worst degrees. Even if they read those articles, I’m sure they know that the data for those surveys comes from a large sample population … like 13.

Right?

I’m sure mom and dad also know about all the great colleges and universities that offer landscape-related degrees. In fact, they probably even have appointments set up with the amazing faculty or staff that run those programs.

Right? Wrong!

You know what mom and dad think of when their child tells them they may be interested in landscape or horticulture? “Sweetie, that’s a nice summer job while you’re in high school, but you need to pursue a real career.” And what they are thinking is, “No way my son/daughter is going to be cutting grass for a living!” This is what truly upsets me: that so many folks don’t know the reality of this amazing industry. They don’t understand the vast array of services offered by landscape companies and our suppliers and vendors.

If we don’t do something about this, who will? One of our core values at LandCare is to inspire others and I know at the heart of most landscape companies, that value is universal. What a great way to start a conversation with a young high school student with their eyes wide open. “What do you think it would feel like if you were able to inspire others each day of your career? In fact, what do you think it would feel like to not only inspire people, but to do so in the beauty of an outdoor environment?”

We can’t sit around hoping the next generation of employees is just going to find the true landscape industry on their latest social media app. We, and yes that means you, need to be our own advocates by getting out and finding opportunities to speak/work with middle and high school students about careers in the green industry. If we don’t, who will?

I know the National Association of Landscape Professionals is working hard to help in this area, and I’m excited to see the continued development of outreach and support NALP provides. I’m sure many state associations are also working to find ways to show green industry career options in a positive light to our youth. But please don’t think they can do it alone. We’re all in this together.

Kory Beidler is director of training and development at LandCare.