The 2018 National Collegiate Landscape Competition ended with students participating in a landscape installation competition.
Photo by Megan Smalley

More than 1,600 people came to the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ (NALP) National Collegiate Landscape Competition in 2018. The event took place March 14-17 at Alamance Community College in Graham, North Carolina.

While the number of college students participating in events increased, another reason for overall increased attendance was the inclusion of high school students in Future Farmers of America (FFA) programs. NALP teamed with Alamance Community College to reach out to FFA programs near the community college to invite them to the 2018 NCLC. Students and advisers from FFA programs in North Carolina attended on March 16 to meet industry professionals, learn about college horticulture programs and observe the landscaping competitions.

“(NALP) went to the FFA Expo this year and so we made the decision that we would reach out to local FFA chapters to invite them to this event in North Carolina,” said Jenn Myers, director of workforce development at NALP. “We have 183 students and advisers here at Alamance to walk around, observe and get a taste for what would be in their future if they go into the industry or to a two-year or four-year horticulture program.”

For the past decade, STIHL has sponsored the top two high school FFA teams from FFA Expo’s nursery and landscape career development event to compete at that year’s NCLC. Now, FFA students from local high schools could also be exposed to NCLC. Students from the local high school FFA programs couldn’t compete, but they used the event to observe and network.

Roxboro Community School was one of the high schools that brought about a dozen FFA students to the event.

“When we were invited to come to this competition, we thought it would be a great way for them to see the businesses, network and meet people,” said Gina Lunsford, a teacher at Roxboro Community School. “The information session they had for us provided the students with good information. In fact, it made five or six of my 14 students say, ‘Well, maybe I should look into this as a career,’ so my goal for the event was met.”

One of Lunsford’s students, Zachary Denny, had already planned to enter the landscaping industry upon graduation. Since he helps his father with a family landscaping business, he plans to study in the turf and landscape program next year at North Carolina State University. He used NCLC to network with professionals, check out equipment on display and observe techniques students used in competitions.

“Someday I want to take over my dad’s business, grow it and get more people,” Denny said. “So, when I heard this was a landscaping competition, I wanted to come to gain more insight on different designs and techniques I could incorporate into the family business.”

NALP plans to continue to invite high school students involved in FFA to NCLC next year, as well, in order to expose younger students to landscaping careers.

“There’s a realization that if we don’t get into the high schools early, we’re not going to win,” said Roger Phelps, corporate communications manager at STIHL, the platinum sponsor of NCLC. “The fact that more than 170 FFA school members were here was huge for me. STIHL has supported FFA for 17 years – we see the value in it. So, what we’re really concentrating on now is if we can get kids interested in high school and get them to a collegiate program, then we’re securing and ensuring we have those programs later on to feed the industry.”

Alamance Community College is a small school, but it packed in a lot of people at the 2018 NCLC, including 770 college students from 61 schools competing in events.

Many attendees said they liked the school’s small size for easier navigation around campus.

“Every year of this is unique,” Phelps said. “In past years, to get from one event to another took a 10-minute run or car ride. Sometimes a smaller campus is more convenient and a campus like this one had a nice, cozy feel. They did an amazing job.”

NCLC featured more than 30 competitions, including a mini track loader competition that debuted for 2018. The association also brought back the flower and foliage ID competition it tested in 2017.

Other returning competitions included tree climbing, hardscape installation, wood construction, plant identification, sales presentation, irrigation troubleshooting, skid-steer operation and more.

Several awards and honors were presented at the event. NALP presented over $107,000 in scholarships to 75 students at a reception.

In addition, NALP named Zeke Cooper of Cooper/Stewart Landscape Architecture in Cherokee, North Carolina, as its 2018 Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Cooper spoke at NCLC’s opening ceremony and he gave his advice to the students.

“I’ve learned a couple of things in my life,” he said. “You’ve got two choices every day: when you wake up, nobody on this planet but you decide your attitude and how positive you’re going to be. There are days it’s going to be rough, but as long as you stay positive, you can do anything you want. The other thing is your work ethic. You decide every morning how hard you’re going to work. So, look at yourself and think: ‘Am I giving it my all?’”

Brigham Young University – Provo students took first place in overall competitive events. The school received $5,000 from STIHL. Cal Poly – Pomona students took second place, and Michigan State University students took third place.

Individual winners were Marco Crosland of Brigham Young University in first place; Tyler Gilson of Michigan State University in second place; and McKenna Rowles of Cuyahoga Community College in third place. These top three students received scholarship money from the NALP Foundation.

In 2019, NCLC will take place March 20-23 at Colorado State University. For a complete list of winners from the 2018 event, visit bit.ly/NCLCresults2018.

Ask the Experts: Find tools for effective safety policies

NALP’s safety adviser provides direction on how to find training resources.

Q: As a NALP member whose core business involves chemical and fertilizer applications, where can we find specific resources and information for developing and implementing effective safety policies and training for our employees?

A: There are several excellent sources of information for companies that store, handle and apply chemicals and fertilizers. There are good resource materials available from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You should go online to www.EPA.gov and click on resources related to the EPA Worker Protection Standard. These materials deal primarily with pesticide handling and come in formats that provide employee training that is both effective for preventing exposure to hazardous chemicals and in a language that employees can understand.

Many states work closely with the EPA and can also provide you with resources through their state departments of agriculture and their cooperative extension partners at your state’s land-grant university.

The most important thing to remember is that the product label is the law. The label includes critical product information on toxicity, personal protective equipment and first aid that is vital to protecting your employees, customers and the environment. Supplementing the product labels are Safety Data Sheets that should be consulted and maintained by your firm for all chemicals used in the workplace.

Q: Can you share a listing of OSHA regulations and standards that specifically pertain to the landscape industry?

A: In our NALP alliance with OSHA and with the introduction of our new landscape industry specific OSHA 10-hour Construction Course safety training program, we emphasize the importance of the “Focus Four,” which is closely aligned with OSHA’s emphasis on identified hazards in our industry. These Focus Four areas include: slips, trips and falls; struck by or against; caught in or between; and, electrical hazards. Each area is broken down into many jobs on landscape and lawn care sites that create unacceptable levels of risk for serious injury and death.

For example, industry data year after year indicates that slips, trips and falls are the No. 1 cause of injuries among our workers. These could be falls from ladders, falls on slippery repair shop floors, falls from equipment and many more. Because it is so common in our industry, written safety policies and employee training should be prioritized.

Examples of “caught in or between” would include entanglement incidents where machine guards or shields have been removed or damaged and are no longer operable. OSHA has strict machine guarding standards that would be enforced if violations are found during an inspection.

It is very important to remember several OSHA standards may apply to the landscape construction and grounds maintenance sectors of our industry. Further comprehensive information is available at www.osha.gov and looking at 29CFR 1926 and 29CFR 1910, and the OSHA General Duty Clause.

Sam Steel, Ed.D., NALP Safety Adviser

Ask the Experts is brought to you in partnership with NALP, the National Association of Landscape Professionals. Questions are fielded through NALP’s Trailblazers, the industry’s leading company mentoring program. For more questions visit Landscapeprofessionals.org.

New Products: Dig in

Use these vibratory plows and trenchers to dig trenches for wiring or irrigation with ease.

Vermeer SPX25 Vibratory Plow

The pitch: The SPX25 vibratory plow is compact, powerful and built with tracks to minimize ground disturbance.

  • The Vermeer SPX25 vibratory plow is powered by a 25 hp Kohler gas engine that provides power for installing small pipes and cables at depths of up to 12 inches.
  • While installing utilities around obstacles, the SPX25 unit is equipped with a pivot-mounted plow that has a 55-degree swing angle that automatically adjusts when turning for improved efficiency.
  • An optional reel carrier can be mounted to the machine, helping to reduce the amount of jobsite equipment and labor needed.

For more information: Vermeer.com

Little Beaver Kwik-Trench Mini-Trencher

The pitch: Cut neat, clean trenches up to 12 feet deep with Little Beaver’s compact Kwik-Trench mini-trencher.

  • The push-forward models, KT 200B and KT 2400B, allow easy access into tight areas generally unreachable to full-size trenchers.
  • You can achieve cutting speeds up to 30 feet per minute.
  • Reduce backfill and cleanup time by depositing soil beside the trench.

For more information: Littlebeaver.com

Pro Sneak 365 Vibratory Plow

The pitch: The Toro Pro Sneak 365 vibratory plow delivers powerful plowing in a compact, maneuverable package.

  • The narrow tire configuration of the Pro Sneak spans 36 inches in width, allowing for passage through gates or other obstacles.
  • Also available on the new Pro Sneak 365 is the dual-tire option for increased traction in challenging ground conditions.
  • The Pro Sneak delivers consistent plowing of up to 24 inches deep, regardless of the terrain.

For more information: Toro.com

E-Z Trench Groundsaw

The pitch: Groundsaw mini-trenchers dig fast and leave minimal turf disturbance, trenching about 100 feet in 5 minutes.

  • A progressive cutting blade with replaceable heavy-duty carbide cutting bits digs through hard soils and roots.
  • It features a fully adjustable cutting depth from zero to 13 inches deep by turning a crank, which can be adjusted on the go.
  • The mini trencher is a compact size and only weighs 250 pounds for convenience.

For more information: Eztrench.com

Davey Tree acquires Elizabeth River Lawn and Landscape

KENT, Ohio – The Davey Tree Expert Company acquired the assets of Elizabeth River Lawn and Landscape, a commercial landscape company based in Suffolk, Virginia.

Elizabeth River Lawn and Landscape provides commercial landscape management services in addition to irrigation, landscape installation, tree care, snow removal and emergency response.

“Elizabeth River is excited to join Davey for many reasons. Most importantly, we value their commitment and enthusiasm toward honesty, customer service and high-quality full-service landscape and tree care,” said Jason Fawcett, CEO, Elizabeth River Lawn and Landscape. “With Davey, not only will our employees have additional career and training opportunities, but they will also have the opportunity to participate in Davey’s employee-ownership program.”

Dan Joy, executive vice president and general manager, commercial landscape services, said Davey is excited to welcome the employees of Elizabeth River Lawn and Landscape.

“Elizabeth River Lawn and Landscape Inc. is a commercial landscape company with a great reputation and this change allows their clients to experience Davey’s diversified service offerings in this area,” Joy said. “Clients will still see the same focus on exceptional service, but also now have access to Davey’s technology and equipment, and research and development capabilities provided by the Davey Institute.”

Based in Suffolk, Virginia, Elizabeth River Lawn and Landscape has additional locations in Virginia Beach, Yorktown and Richmond, Virginia. The company has about 140 employees and Fawcett will continue to lead the Elizabeth River Landscape Management offices.

Toro acquires L.T. Rich products

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – The Toro Company acquired L.T. Rich Products, a manufacturer of commercial zero-turn spreader/sprayers, aerators and snow and ice management equipment. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

L.T. Rich Products is known for its Z-Spray line of stand-on spreader/sprayers for landscape contractors and grounds professionals. Other products include the Z-Plug stand-on aerator that is designed to convert to a slicer/seeder, snow plow or dethatching rake, and the stand-on Snowrator for snow and ice management.

“This acquisition builds upon many of our core strengths valued by professional contractors as we strive to help them drive greater productivity, profitability and efficiency in their operations,” said Richard M. Olson, chairman and CEO of The Toro Company. “The Z-Spray line complements our current spreader/sprayer product offering to contractors, golf and grounds customers, while the innovative Snowrator is an exciting addition to our professional snow and ice management line. With our continued focus on innovation and technology, we believe these products have broad application across many of our professional markets.”

“With a shared commitment to innovation and serving customers, we look forward to having our products become a part of The Toro Company,” said Tom Rich, president of L.T. Rich Products. “We believe that Toro’s strong history, market leadership and resources will further enable our continued growth in the market.”

The L.T. Rich products will continue to be sold under the Z-Spray, Z-Plug and Snowrator product names. Additionally, Tom Rich and current employees of the L.T. Rich team will continue to be part of the business and production will continue in Lebanon, Indiana, for the time being.

2018 budget bill includes H-2B cap relief

By Lauren Rathmell and Megan Smalley

Congressional leaders agreed to include language in the 2018 budget bill that authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to issue additional H-2B visas. The National Association of Landscape Professionals said the language is identical to what was approved last year and grants discretion to the Secretary to issue additional visas up to the historic maximum number that were issued in a single year when a returning worker exemption was in place.

NALP and other Workforce Coalition members spent several weeks advocating for the language to be included in the bill. According to NALP, “champions on Capitol Hill have indicated that they will quickly urge DHS to act expeditiously on the matter. We will keep members informed on next steps for engagement.”

“We were able to get basically the same language we had last year, which provides the Department of Homeland Security to issue additional visas if they think they are warranted,” said Paul Mendelsohn, NALP’s director of government affairs. “I think the fact that we were able to get any relief language in the omnibus is a recognition of the members of Congress that this is an important issue. So, the secretary can authorize up to the maximum amount that was issued last year, which is somewhere in the vicinity of 60,000 additional visas theoretically possible.”

In 2017, President Donald Trump signed the spending bill on May 5 and the Department of Homeland Security did not take action to issue additional H-2B visas until July 18. When they did, Mendelsohn said it only issued an additional 15,000 visas. However, he said there is hope that more visas might go through in 2018 since the language is identical to last year.

“We’re hoping this can be implemented quicker and that they will recognize the demonstrated need to authorize the maximum that Congress has allowed them to issue,” he said. “Last year was the first year they had language like this and it took a while to formally act on it. The Department of Homeland Security secretary was John Kelly, who is now Chief of Staff. He made it clear he did not like guest worker programs. Now, Kirstjen Nielsen is secretary and she hasn’t made comments on her stance formally. But, there are 90,000-plus visa applications that have been certified by the Department of Labor as meeting need requirements. So, we’re hoping (the department) will act quickly, but we don’t have any way of knowing what they are going to do.”

Mendelsohn said NALP plans to continue to work with its members and the Workforce Coalition to push the Department of Homeland Security to authorize additional visas as quickly as possible.

SiteOne acquires three Village Nurseries locations, Terrazzo Stone Supply

ROSWELL, Ga. – SiteOne Landscape Supply acquired the Village Nurseries Landscape Centers distribution locations in Orange, Huntington Beach and Sacramento, California. Village Nurseries is a distributor of nursery and related products to landscape professionals in these markets and this acquisition further expands SiteOne’s footprint and nursery offering in California.

"Village Nurseries is a natural fit with SiteOne as they add nursery products to our existing irrigation, agronomic, hardscape and landscape lighting product lines in California. This acquisition aligns with our mission to be the best full-line distributor to landscape professionals and further bolsters our market position and strengthens our customer relationships," said Doug Black, chairman and CEO of SiteOne Landscape Supply.

The company also acquired Terrazzo & Stone Supply. Founded in 1956, Terrazzo is a distributor of natural stone and hardscapes products with locations in Bellevue and Marysville, Washington.

"Terrazzo is a natural fit with SiteOne as they add natural stone and hardscapes to our existing irrigation, agronomic, and landscape lighting product offerings in the Seattle market,” Black said. “We are committed to delivering the best experience to our customers and the combination of Terrazzo and SiteOne brings us one step closer to achieving that goal. This marks our fourth acquisition to date in 2018 as we continue to expand the number of markets where we provide a full range of landscape supplies and services to our customers.”