Photo courtesy of Mario Malagisi

Mario Malagisi is a well-rounded student, and that’s not just by chance. He’s set himself up to learn as much about the industry as he can.

The senior at SUNY Delhi in New York started out with a two-year degree program studying landscape design and management. Malagisi wanted more than two years of education, so he switched gears and entered the Golf and Sport Turf Management program at the university – a four-year educational track. But, he didn’t drop the landscape design program altogether, so he plans on graduating in 2020 with a double major.

“I’m basically double majoring, taking my design classes as I am taking my turf classes,” he says. He’s pretty much done with class work, so the rest of his time in school is going to be spent at a six-month long internship.

Part of his curriculum at SUNY Delhi requires him to secure an internship every semester for more hands-on experience. His six months, starting in February, will be spent with Femia Landscaping. Malagisi has previous experience with the company, and this time around, he will be focusing on pesticide management.

“I’ve always loved the outdoors between fishing and hiking, going out on the boat. So having the ability to work outdoors and being immersed in nature is awesome. But I think the biggest driving force of this was actually my father,” he says.

Malagisi’s father is a landscape contractor and observing him at his job has encouraged Malagisi to branch out and explore more facets of the industry. “Seeing what he does has allowed me to build on what more we can do,” he says. He hopes his knowledge in both design and turf management will help to accelerate the industry.

He’s worked at a garden center since he was 15, which has only built on what he’s learned inside the classroom.

“Not just at the garden center, but at every other internship site that I’ve worked at, I’ve applied something from school,” he says. He was able to combine in-class knowledge with field experience on a recent drainage project. Malagisi stood out amongst other employees at his previous internship because he was able to set up a laser level, set up a transit and knew how to shoot elevations. Plus, his design background has taught him how to read landscaping plans – all of which is one less skill an employer will have to teach him.

He’s got an eye on the future of the industry, too, and is all too familiar with the issues plaguing landscaping companies across the country.

As far as labor goes, Malagisi sees technological advancements in equipment as one way to soften the blow of a shrinking work force. He’s seen equipment implemented that can perform the job of half a crew with just one machine

“It’s about better equipment, newer equipment hitting the market that is going to be the new trend in lieu of labor,” he says. And, he’s got his sights set on owning his own landscaping company some day with plenty of experience to back those goals.

“I’m pesticide certified in two states, so basically I can be a one-stop shop to my customers,” he says. “I can offer design, maintenance, ornamental and turf care, as well as everything else.” L&L