The new board for the National Association of Landscape Professionals was installed during the association’s Leaders Forum last month.
Photo by Chuck Bowen

SAINT THOMAS, USVI – At the annual National Association of Landscape Professionals Leaders Forum last month, Daniel Levine, director of the Avant-Guide Institute in New York, spoke to about 200 attendees about major trends his firm is tracking in 2017.

1. Green is getting greener.

“Green and the ‘eco’ trend is probably among the top trends that we see in our office every day and will be with us for the rest of our lives,” Levine said. This runs the gamut from countries trying to reduce their carbon footprint to zero to individuals thinking more about where their food comes from.

Especially with the Millennial generation and younger, he said, “This idea of leaving the world a better place than we found it will be even more powerful 10 years from now than it is today.” He challenged attendees to think about how they, as members of the original green industry, can maintain a leadership position in this area.

2. Living spaces get smart.

Wearables like smart watches continue to grow in popularity, and that functionality is already spreading to home tech like the Nest thermostat and irrigation systems that can be monitored and controlled via smartphones. As customers gain high levels of control in other areas of their homes, they’ll come to expect the same from their landscape and lawn care, Levine said.

3. Simplicity is paramount.

As customers’ lives continue to grow more hectic, Levine said many are looking for ways to simplify, and landscapers can help by removing what he calls “pain points” from their operations. “Simplicity is something you all should be selling,” he said.

4. Corporate social leadership is next.

Companies should be responsible to the world around them, not exist just for profits, Levine said, and that means leading by example, not just donating part of their profits to charity. He cited companies like TOMS Shoes, which donates one pair of shoes to someone in need for each pair purchased. “I don't think as an industry you're telling your customers enough,” he said. “We need to share the good we’re doing with our customers because our customers care too.”

5. Wellness.

Customers are more cognizant of their mental and spiritual health and are interested in improving their overall health and connecting with people Levine said. “This is what greenspaces are all about. You are in a leadership position in this trend already. Everyone is nipping at your heels.”

Letters to the editor

Concerns about organic coverage

On behalf of the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), I wanted to express our extreme disappointment in your article entitled, “An alternative approach” in the December issue of Lawn & Landscape.

Members of our public affairs advisory council and our board of directors have asked that I share our concerns with hopes of eliciting change in the way you cover organic and synthetic lawn care issues in the future.

The article in question is filled with inaccurate information and misguided rhetoric. A statement from your source like “… I think that, essentially, chemical herbicides and pesticides are just toxic,” is irresponsible.

NALP has become increasingly active in advocacy issues, working to communicate the incredible benefits healthy lawns and landscapes deliver to families, their communities and the environment. As an industry, we need to work together in a united fashion to educate people about these benefits.

Cleaner air and water, increased oxygen, protection from insect pests and the diseases they transmit, and improved quality of life are but a few of the well-documented human health and environmental benefits this industry enables. Inputs are essential components of these vital outputs.

Within this industry, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to most anything, including products. I do know that our industry, comprising almost 1 million men and women committed to environmental stewardship, is dedicated to proper application and responsible use of products.

The vast majority of this industry includes small businessmen and women who have invested all they have in starting and growing their business and they are dedicated to doing the right thing. We look forward to working together with you on their behalf.

Sabeena Hickman

CEO, National Association of Landscape Professionals

Herndon, Virginia

Focus on professionalism

I was dismayed to read the comments in the December 2016 article entitled “An alternative approach” that denigrated the professional lawn care industry. Having started in this industry during the “Wild West” days, I am immensely proud of how we have fostered professionalism and continuously improve the quality of service that we bring to our customers on a daily basis.

We have a special duty to educate the public about the challenges in creating beautiful landscapes. We spend a great deal of time identifying and treating problems involving insects, diseases and weeds. Sometimes the preferred solution to a problem is employing a pesticide, other times allowing nature to take its course is preferred. But whatever course of action we choose it’s based upon established best management practices.

When we communicate about pesticides, demonization, distortion and fear-based safety messages have no place in the discussion. It is imperative that we make use of science-based research that demonstrate facts about these products and steer clear of emotional arguments. Likewise, we should not be led to accept the false premises of anti-pesticide advocates in an attempt to be seen as reasonable. It was acquiescing to false premises that brought about pesticide sign posting regulations, an enormous waste of resources that ultimately benefits no one.

Risks must be kept in perspective. Much of the discussion regarding pesticide risk is hysteria that is completely unmoored from reality and has no rational basis. I recall treating a lawn one day and having a neighbor angrily confront me about how I was affecting her health with what I was spraying. It would have been easier to take her seriously if there wasn’t a cigarette hanging out of her mouth.

We also need to be mindful that regardless of whether a product is organic in nature or synthetically manufactured is meaningless when determining its toxicological effects on man and nature. After all, nicotine, botulinum and anthrax are among the most toxic substances known, but they’re all organic, non-GMO and gluten-free.

Each product that we use in the green industry has an inherent risk, but that risk must be compared to the hazard the product poses, the probability of exposure, what level of exposure we have to the product and the consequences of that exposure. For most people, each of these risks is not only low but flies in the face of other risks that are far more hazardous.

The subjects of the article made a conscious business decision to offer organic lawn care services solely, and that’s all it was – a conscious business decision. We wish them nothing but good luck and success in achieving their goals, but note well that basing your marketing upon misrepresenting not only your competition but your own services as well is irresponsible and makes climbing to your own success that much harder.

Bob Mann

Agronomist, Lawn Dawg

Nashua, New Hampshire

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: We at Lawn & Landscape focus on fostering conversation in the industry. But we shouldn’t allow any of our sources to tear down anyone else’s position to further their own, and that’s what happened in our December issue. We give voice to many industry perspectives in our pages, but what our sources say does not indicate support from the magazine. Lawn & Landscape is product agnostic. Lawn care operators have tremendous choices available to solve their clients’ agronomic challenges, and that those choices aren’t binary. We don’t think LCOs must choose either synthetic or organic products. As long as products are used according to the label and for their intended purpose, we trust our readers to make the best decision for their business, the environment and their customers. – Chuck Bowen

Work & play

Not only will some of the nation’s best horticulture students get to compete at the National Collegiate Landscape Competition, they’ll also get a chance to enjoy some of the outdoor fun that Utah offers. By Brian Horn

Phil Allen has been attending the National Collegiate Landscape Competition for 20 years, and one thing continues to impress him – the energy of the students who attend the event. “It keeps me young,” says Allen, professor of Landscape Management at Brigham Young University, which will be the host school for the event this year.

Allen also stays young via his method of travelling from outdoor event to outdoor event.

During the National Collegiate Landscape Competition, students will test their skills in 28 real-world competitive events.
Photo by Brian Horn

“One of my crazy things is that I will often, on the day of the outdoor event, jog 20 miles just jogging event to event to event,” he says.

At the NCLC, approximately 800 horticulture and landscape students from about 60 schools will test their skills in 28 real-world, competitive events, and interview with industry companies at a career fair.

L&L caught up with Allen to find out what attendees can expect from the event and trip to Provost, Utah.

Get a head start.

Allen says a letter of intent to host the event was sent two years ago, and the school had a site visit in June to make sure they were prepared for the event. “We had a period last May prior to the site visit in early June when we spent almost full time figuring out locations for each of the 50 separate events,” he says.

Home-field advantage.

Hosting the event gives BYU a great opportunity to show off the industry to students, both current and future. “Like so many schools, we’re trying to figure out how to recruit more students,” he says. “The last time we hosted, we picked up 25 additional majors within a couple of weeks. We’re hoping something that good happens again.”

Extra credit welcomed.

Along with participating in the even, students can also stay and enjoy the area. “We have great mountains literally a stone’s throw from campus,” he says. “For those students who are interested, we are having a series of activities for Saturday afternoon.

Those include mountain biking, skiing, hiking and weather-depending rock climbing and tours of some of the finer gardens in Salt Lake.”

Perfect timing.

The event normally takes place when the host school is on spring break, but BYU doesn’t have one. That was until this year.

“We are actually having a one-day spring break on the outdoor competition day, which is actually pretty good,” Allen says. “It was total coincidence.”

The NCLC will take place March 15 to 18.

BrightView buys Top 100 company

PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. – BrightView Landscapes acquired Marina Landscape Maintenance last month.

Marina Landscape Maintenance employs nearly 400 people and services 200 client sites in Orange County, and the greater Los Angeles, Inland Empire and Northern California markets. In 2016, Marina was ranked 21st on the Lawn & Landscape Top 100 list.

Terms of the deal, which will not be disclosed.

“This is a great addition to the BrightView family and one that will help us strengthen our presence in the key Southern California market,” said BrightView Chief Executive Officer Andrew Masterman.

“Like BrightView, Marina has a long tradition of innovation and client service and we are delighted to welcome them into our company. We are continuing to seek out acquisition opportunities with landscape maintenance companies that share our dedication to clients and team members.”

“We have worked for decades to build up our maintenance business and we are gratified that a company like BrightView recognizes and values the commitment to our clients, employees and the industry,” said Marina Landscape Maintenance Vice President Marty Stowell.

“BrightView and Marina share many of the same values, including an unwavering commitment to our clients and to the safety, well-being and career advancement of team members.”

Stowell will remain as vice president and general manager.

King & Spalding LLP served as legal advisor to BrightView, and Massumi + Consoli LLP served as legal advisor to Marina.

This move marks BrightView’s first significant acquisition since forming in 2014. The company acquired a small tree company, Swan Hill Olive, near Phoenix in September of 2014.