Student Spotlight brings you the perspectives of horticulture students and insights into the future of the industry.
When people in high school would hear Zach Jones wanted to pursue a career in horticulture, their response was one of confusion – why would you want to go into that industry? He, in turn, was just as perplexed because of that reaction.
Jones got the same reaction a lot of future landscapers received when they voice their interest in pursuing a career in the industry. But instead of buying into that groupthink, it only motivated him more to become a success.
“That’s one of the stigmas that I’m trying to break – if you’re a true landscaper, you’re a very highly skilled individual and you’re not just a Joe Schmo off the street who says that he can do stuff,” says the senior at the University of Maryland. “I got that a lot in high school. People would ask me why I wasn’t going into like computer science. I think it just kind of drove me further to pursue this industry because I wanted to prove people wrong.”
It’s that type of attitude that earned Jones the Richard Foster Award, which is given to an outstanding student planning a career in landscaping, lawn care or a horticulture business. You can read more about that in Insider.
That attitude will also serve him well with his ultimate goal in the industry – owning his own company. Jones says he’s thought a lot about how his future company would look. As far as services go, he’d like to focus on maintenance, design/build and tree care. Culture-wise, he wants his employees to know he appreciates them.
“Despite the fact that you’re probably not out there with them, but you have to show them that you understand the work that they’re doing,” he says.
While owning his own company would pay the bills, it would also offer him an opportunity to educate about how to properly landscape.
“The simplest things from over mulching, to not pruning correctly,” he says. “We have to get out of the realm of thinking that everything needs to be cut back every year. We need to let things grow naturally. A lot of clients say that they like everything to be pristine all the time, but I think my woody plant professors said it best – no plant was ever evolved to be cut back.”
But before he owns a company, he wants to get experience in the working world as an employee, “just to continue gaining that leadership experience and managerial aspects of the business,” he says.
“But, I think, at this point, the only way for me to really understand the financials behind it is to learn from the business – like the actual landscaping business rather than just taking a class. Just to see a landscaping company’s financials and understand what’s coming in, what’s going out.”
Jones is set to graduate this coming spring and doesn’t plan on losing sight of his goals.
“What motivates me to continue moving forward in this industry is just the fact that it’s always changing,” he says. “No day is the same. You never know what you’re going to walk into when you go to work every day. That’s exciting. It’s challenging. It’s very stressful some days, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”