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Michigan State student Emma Brinks says she’s already found her reason why she entered the green industry.

“There is something uniquely satisfying about pointing to something and saying, ‘I grew that,’” she told her peers during a student forum at the National Collegiate Landscaping Competition.

But while Brinks and the handful of other students have found their “why” in landscaping, the students also said as a whole, the industry is not doing enough to promote itself to their generation. During the 90-minute NCLC session, led by the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Jenn Myers, the students dissected ways landscapers can better reach them.

“I thought horticulture was just gardening and corn,” said Bre Craig, also a Michigan State student. She was once in nursing but found a once-surprising calling in the green industry. When she told her mother about studying horticulture, she feared her daughter would be slogging through back-breaking labor every day.

“You have to explain to people,” Craig says, “and they just have this predisposed stereotype in their head.”

More than mowing.

Jennifer Crocker graduated with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and worked in human resources, where she found she often interacted with unhappy people. Unhappy herself, Crocker enrolled in her local college, Cuyamaca College, just to take some general education courses like astronomy. While already enrolled, Crocker finally learned by hearsay what the horticulture industry provides.

“Our program is a hidden treasure,” Crocker said. “(After I joined), I was going to be a plant lady for the rest of my life.”

Myers told the students that at Virginia Tech, her alma mater, only 10% or so of horticulture graduates actually started in horticulture. Instead, they come from other studies – much like Crocker – and discover the job diversity in the green industry.

Most horticulture students intended to study something else before discovering their school’s program.

“This industry is more than mowing lawns,” Crocker said. “The big problem in the industry is it’s being promoted as, ‘You’re doing lawn care’ or ‘you’re doing tree care.’ I think you can apply it to so many different people.”

Crocker suggested industry professionals examine the segments of their industry that can appeal to people from other interest areas. Students interested in science and research, for example, might find plant pathology appealing, or art students might find their footing in landscape design. Even promoting it as a way of helping the environment – given that landscapers are on the frontline of sustainability practices – might be an effective recruiting tool.

Anna Baker, an MSU student, agreed with Crocker. Even having grown up on a cash crop farm, she says horticulture could’ve been better represented at school career fairs.

“I think there’s a disconnect in horticulture programs. It’s so much more than landscaping, lawns and turf,” Baker said. “We need to be marketing horticulture better.”

A balancing act.

Myers said she’s noticed younger generations crave a better work-life balance, and in some ways, COVID-19 protocols have given them exactly that. For instance, they show up in staggered start times or report to the jobsite rather than the company headquarters to save time and to keep employees from riding in the same truck.

“All the other industries are going to offer these things,” Myers said. “If we get behind and don’t take those things into considerations, people will go find jobs in other industries. It’s as simple as that.”

Additionally, inflexibility with female employees is a recurring problem in the industry, Myers said. She pointed out that colleges have an equal male-to-female ratio, and at many, they are even predominantly female. But, despite a workforce shortage in the landscaping industry, there are still far more men working in the field than women.

One of the reasons why is some employees don’t have regular access to bathrooms while out in the field. At other companies, MSU student Abby Denning saw that the team uniforms were only designed for men.

During one job or internship interview, Denning said the interviewer asked her if she’d be OK working with some of the guys who were “rough around the edges.”

“The question was frustrating,” she said. “It doesn’t really matter to me how people appear. I want to work with who they are.”

All eyes on the future.

Denning said people are going to start asking more questions about the industry now since the spotlight is on it.

“There’s a growing awareness on the homeowner’s side of things because they didn’t travel much for COVID,” she said. “They were all home.”

So, with all eyes on the industry, the students expressed hope that it would start embracing more modern practices, especially on the education side.

Franziska Collier, another student at Cuyamaca, said virtual internships may become an option in the future for segments of the industry that don’t require as much field work. Additionally, she believes teachers should be more open to asking questions about reading material since books can’t be updated and some information online is outdated.

“We should be able to question something,” Collier said. “Teachers and people in the industry should be open to that.”

In the classroom, students said they should be treated as though they’re in the field. That means more open-book tests rather than simply memorizing facts – professionals need to look things up all the time, like dealing with certain pests or what to do when a particular issue arises.

“In our industry, it’s so important to have an application. You’re not going to memorize that unless you have a place to apply that,” Baker said. “(At an internship), you’re getting so much more than just memorizing facts in your class.”

SavATree acquires Kaiser Tree Preservation

This marks SavATree’s first Rhode Island office and 52nd branch operation.

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. – SavATree acquired Kaiser Tree Preservation of Exeter, Rhode Island. This is SavATree’s first Rhode Island office and 52nd branch operation.

Kaiser has been providing a customer base in Rhode Island with general tree care and plant health care services since 1974. Kaiser Tree Preservation built a tick and mosquito control program which will complement SavATree’s existing services.

In addition to the current offerings, clients will now have access to a wider range of services including lawn care, additional organic options and consulting services.

“We’re very excited to join forces with Kaiser Tree Preservation, a leader in professional tree care in Rhode Island, that has a legacy for outstanding service,” said SavATree CEO Carmine Schiavone. “We are confident that our teams are a great fit, and together we will continue to serve our customers to the highest quality standards.”

“SavATree shares our same philosophy and commitment to upholding an environmentally responsible approach to landscape care," said Kaiser Founder Herb Kaiser.

“Together, we will continue to provide our customers with top quality services.”

Bartlett Tree promotes Johnson, Martin as VPs

Erik Johnson manages six offices and Nicholas Martin oversees consulting services.

STAMFORD, Conn. – Bartlett Tree Experts recently promoted Erik Johnson and Nicholas Martin to the role of vice president. Johnson manages Bartlett’s five offices in Connecticut and one in central Massachusetts. Martin oversees consulting services for the company.

Johnson first joined Bartlett in 2009. As local manager of the York and Lancaster, Pennsylvania locations, he led these offices to receive their first ever company award for excellence in safe work practices.

In 2018, Johnson broadened his leadership skills when he took on a new role assisting in the management of all of the company’s operations in Connecticut. Since that time, his regional team has continued to grow, expanding its client base and geographic footprint as well as improving sales even through the pandemic.

“It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to make a positive impact while also developing your own career,” Johnson said. “For me here at Bartlett that’s meant not only contributing to the bottom line, but also being given the chance to help others in the company realize their potential.”

Martin began his career at Bartlett in 2011 conducting tree inventories as an inventory arborist and became assistant manager of the Bartlett Inventory Solutions team three years later. When the company began further developing the consulting side of its business, Martin was selected to lead this venture.

“It’s exciting to play such an important role in the formalization and expansion of Bartlett’s Consulting services,” Martin said. “We have a real opportunity to help clients in a new way that still dovetails closely with Bartlett’s core business.”

Former Little Beaver president dies at 94

Billy Roy “BR” Haynes passed away on Saturday, March 13.

LIVINGSTON, Texas – Billy Roy (BR) Haynes, loving husband, father and second-generation president of Little Beaver passed away Saturday, March 13, 2021, at the age of 94 surrounded by his family in Livingston, Texas.

Haynes’ passion and life’s work were in the family business, but he had a diverse range of interests and experiences at the heart of which was service of fellow citizens and country. Haynes was born on Oct. 2, 1926, in Livingston, Texas, to Newman & Lillian (Peebles) Haynes. He grew up in Livingston and graduated high school in 1943.

He briefly attended Texas A&M University, but soon left to join the war effort in World War II. He enlisted in the U.S. Merchant Marines and served in the European theater delivering material to England, Italy and Russia.

After returning to Livingston, he worked as a golf pro at a private golf course before finally joining the family business, Haynes Manufacturing Co. (now Little Beaver) with his father.

Initially working as a salesman, Haynes traveled the eastern and central U.S. selling the company’s products, which at the time included a tractor-mounted mower, brush saw, tree girdler and post hole digger. After his father’s retirement, he took the reins of the business and looked for ways to grow both the product line and the markets they reached.

Haynes focused on improving the business from a strategic standpoint. Recognizing the potential of the product in a wide variety of markets, from fencing and deck installation to signs and playground installation, Haynes was instrumental in expanding the company’s involvement in the rental and fencing industries. Under his leadership, the business was active in industry associations, joining ARA in 1961 and FenceTech in 1972. After a successful 27 years leading the company, Haynes passed the business to his sons, Joe and John, upon his own retirement in 1987.

BR’s ambition and knack for business showed itself in every facet of his life. He joined the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department in 1960 and was elected chief in 1963, ultimately retiring from the department in 1977. Under his leadership, the department was brought into the modern era, with new equipment and a new station.

Haynes was also a devoted family man. He and his wife, Fayelene, were married 70 years, and raised five children. The couple traveled extensively throughout the western U.S. after his retirement, enjoying the many National Parks and other scenic areas.

Toro acquires Left Hand Robotics

The acquisition supports the company’s technology strategy.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – The Toro Company acquired Left Hand Robotics. The acquisition supports The Toro Company’s strategy of leadership in next generation technologies, including alternative power, smart connected and autonomous products. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Based in Longmont, Colorado, Left Hand Robotics is recognized for developing autonomous solutions for turf and snow management. Its patent-pending software and advanced technologies for autonomous navigation are designed to provide professional contractors and grounds managers with future solutions to improve their operational efficiency and tackle outdoor tasks with precision.

Senske Services acquires assets of Sun Pest Management

Founded in 1969, Sun Pest Management provides pest control and lawn care.

KENNEWICK, Wash. – Senske Services has acquired assets of Sun Pest Management in Clarkston, Washington.

Senske is a family-owned provider of lawn, tree, and pest control services throughout the Western United States. Founded in 1969, Sun Pest Management has provided pest control and lawn care in the Lewis-Clark Valley for more than five decades. Services will continue uninterrupted by the current team of employees doing business as Sun Pest by Senske Services.

Russ Craber, Sun Pest Owner, sought an acquisition partner and felt that Senske would be a good fit for his customers and employees.

“The Senske name is solid regionally, and still expanding with purpose and planning,” Craber said. “I’m glad to give my former employees the benefits that can be provided by a larger entity, and one with a similar culture to our own.”

Clarkston represents the sixth location in Washington for Senske Services.

“We look forward to expanding into southeastern Washington,” Senske President Chris Senske said. “With over 50 years of experience, we are lucky to have their team join the Senske family as we continue to grow and expand.”

Ruppert Landscape opens new branch in Durham

Sam Wells from Raleigh will lead the branch.

LAYTONSVILLE, Md. – Ruppert Landscape has expanded its landscape management operations to include a new location in Durham, North Carolina. This branch joins two existing landscape management branches in North Carolina, located in Raleigh and Charlotte, and will serve existing customers as well as support new growth in the region.

“Like many of our branches, the Durham office evolved from a satellite operation, and its permanent establishment is a strategic move designed to better serve our customers,” said Fred Key, region vice president in the company’s landscape management division. “When we open new facilities in the regions where our customers’ properties are concentrated, it allows us to be more responsive and efficient in our work.”

The Durham team will be led by branch manager Sam Wells, who has led the Raleigh team for the past four years and has been with the Ruppert organization for over eight. He holds a bachelor’s degree in applied horticulture science from SUNY Cobleskill and is a landscape industry certified technician (CLT) and certified commercial applicator with over 27 years of combined landscape industry experience.

“Over the past several years, Sam has led the Raleigh team in building strong customer relationships and building a solid team,” Key said. “He has taken on the challenge of opening this new location and expertly navigated the purchase and reconstruction of the new facility and is busy putting together his team. We have complete faith in his ability to get the Durham operation up and running and are excited to see what the future holds for them.”

Massey Services promotes Williams to regional VP

Darlene Williams has been with the company since 1994.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Massey Services recently promoted Darlene Williams to the role of regional vice president, which became effective Feb. 1.

A 25-year veteran of the pest management industry, Williams initially joined Massey in 1994 as a service manager in training. In 1996, Williams was promoted to general manager of GreenUP Osceola and was promoted to technical training director of the GreenUP division in 1998. Her career advancement continued in 2000 when she was promoted to regional manager of GreenUP’s Central Region. Williams was transferred to regional manager of the South Central Region in 2018, the company’s largest region.

“Darlene’s commitment to total customer satisfaction has been evident throughout her 25 years of service with Massey Services,” said Tony Massey, president of Massey Services. “Her long-term experience in our industry, knowledge in all facets of our business and her passion for training and developing her team has all contributed to her ongoing success. We are excited about Darlene’s well-deserved promotion and the great things she will continue to bring to our Central Florida regions.”

In her new role as regional vice president, Williams will oversee the company’s East Florida, North Central, South Central, Midwest and West regions.