Photos courtesy of CPI Horticulture/Landscaping.

The students at Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology are not only learning about the green industry in the horticulture/landscaping program, they’re learning about how to use their skills to give back to their community.

Joe Luther and his students partner with the Builders Association of Central Pennsylvania. Using materials donated by EP Henry, the students create and construct an area for attendees to relax during the Centre County Home and Garden Show.

But when the show is over, the patio doesn’t get demolished. The students deconstruct it and take it to the home of a veteran as part of Patio for a Patriot, which is part of EP Henry’s “Heroscaping” program. Nominations are taken from the public during the show and then a panel reads through the nominations and votes on who they think is most deserving.

“It’s a tough decision because in all honesty every one of them is deserving of something,” Luther said.

This year, 19 students spent 10 school days building the sitting wall, fire pit and putting green that were all incorporated into the patio for Army Staff Sergeant Vince Reynolds, who served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and lost part of his leg.

Luther said while the project teaches the kids about service, it’s also a good opportunity to teach them hands on experience.

“It’s easy to build this stuff on a concrete floor inside the shop, but it changes the outlook of these kids as well,” he said. “I can’t teach this type of stuff in my classroom. It’s real world, hands on learning and they really get their eyes opened to it.”

Lawn & Landscape names scholarship winner

A University of Nebraska student with aspirations to be a landscape designer won this year’s Richard Foster Award, which recognizes outstanding students planning careers in the landscape, lawn care or horticulture business.

Lawn & Landscape named Elizabeth Pierson as the winner of the the sixth-annual award.

“Elizabeth’s willingness to seek out different experiences in horticulture shows the strong interest she has in making a career in the industry,” said Chuck Bowen, Lawn & Landscape editor and associate publisher. “Her desire to learn not only about design but also working hands-on with the different elements of a landscape is a great example for the industry.”

Pierson is a senior year at the University of Nebraska, where she currently has a 3.4 GPA.

Elizabeth Pierson, winner of the Richard Foster Award, is a senior at the University of Nebraska and plans to become a landscape designer.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Pierson

She hails from Sabetha, Kansas, where she became more interested in horticulture after working in a greenhouse for four years in high school. She then worked at a retirement complex, performing grounds works where she learned to work with shrubs and perennials while preparing the outdoor landscape for winter.

From there, she accepted positions at a large retail greenhouse, with her university’s landscape services, while still attending school. Her overall drive to succeed in the industry also impressed her professors. “Elizabeth is interested in going beyond the landscape ornamentals learned in my earlier classes and frequently helps her peers to select plant and hardscape material for use in design work,” Richard K. Sutton, professor at the University of Nebraska, wrote in his recommendation letter.

“Elizabeth has shown initiative by getting outside her comfort zone, seeking an internship on the East Coast, which to me demonstrates another feature of a leader – getting outside the box.”

That internship was at Chapel Valley Nursery, which she completed recently.

“They had me learn many different areas of their operation,” she said. “This included landscape installation, maintenance, design and corporate. I worked in a variety of areas. As a student from the Midwest, I was exposed to a whole new high-end scale of landscaping.”

Pierson plans on using all of these experiences to pursue a career as a landscape designer.

“I aspire to share my passion for horticulture with others and to take on the challenges of the industry,” she says.

“Thanks to Lawn & Landscape, I am able to achieve my goals through my college journey. I look forward to my senior year and furthering my education with hopes to give back to others in the industry.”

To be eligible for the $2,500 scholarship, students must be enrolled at a recognized two- or four-year college or university working toward a degree in horticulture, environmental science or other field related to a segment of the green industry.

LawnGuru closes $1-million seed round

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – LawnGuru, an on-demand marketplace for lawn mowing and snow removal services, closed a $1 million seed funding round, led by Sierra Wasatch Capital. Other participants included Canyon Creek Capital, Briggs and Stratton and Sequoia Capital’s scout program.

LawnGuru will use the investment to support its national growth and expansion while continuing the research and development of the company’s technology.

In addition to closing its seed round, LawnGuru has grown its revenue by more than 1,100 percent since 2015.

In April, it moved headquarters to a new office in downtown Ann Arbor and will be releasing an all-new Android version of its app.

In April, it moved headquarters to a new office in downtown Ann Arbor and will be releasing an all-new Android version of its app.

The company is also hiring several for positions, including sales, customer service and marketing. Prior to launching the LawnGuru platform, the developers had built a multi-million-dollar lawn and landscape business.

“Our time spent in this industry has given us an exceptional understanding of both sides of this marketplace,” said Brandon Bertrang, LawnGuru co-founder and CEO.

For a round up of on-demand apps in the green industry, see The mowing middlemen.

Ask the experts

Assessing risks on the job

Q: Do we need a fire extinguisher at each job site, in each work vehicle?

A: Fire Extinguishers come under OSHA Fire Protection Standard - 1910.157. This standard specifically deals with portable fire extinguishers and is based upon the types of fire extinguishers that would be needed at various worksites.

Fully charged and prominently displayed or located extinguishers are an important part of your firm's fire protection and prevention program. I would suggest that you write a separate safety policy for fire protection at your office and shop complex, and for the crews that operate vehicles and equipment at jobsites.

The policy should state the types of fire hazards that exist and who is responsible for checking extinguishers for their current condition, replacing damaged or un-charged extinguishers and training workers on their use.

Q: Can you tell me more about conducting risk assessments on the jobsite?

Flying debris exits the mower’s deck chute at 200 miles per hour and can obviously cause serious injury or property damage.

A: The following are the four steps in the JSA (Job Safety Analysis) process:

1. What is the job? For example, using a zero-turn mower to cut a large acreage of turf.

2. Break the job into steps. You will need to break down the job into various activities during the mowing activity such as:

  • Before starting, check the mower for adequate fuel and oil.
  • Ensure that the unit's rollover protection structures are in the up and locked position.
  • Ensure that the deflector shield is properly installed.
  • Start the unit from the operator's station only.
  • Check the area to be mowed for obstacles and debris.
  • Don't mow in areas where fellow workers and bystanders can be injured by flying debris.
  • Don't mow too close to water retention ponds or drop-offs like retaining walls.
  • Don't mow on slopes greater than 15 degrees.
  • Allow slopes to dry from dew or rain before attempting to mow.

3. Identify potential hazards. Ask yourself if it is possible for employees to be injured on a job and identify those scenarios.

For instance, in the example above, the ROPS protect the operator if the unit were to overturn on a slope, or drive off a retaining wall. Of course, the operator must be wearing the all-important seatbelt on zero-turns equipped with ROPS to provide the necessary protection during an overturn.

If there are low-hanging limbs on trees in the area to be mowed, make sure that employees return the ROPS to its up and locked position as quickly as possible.

4. Develop solutions and recommended actions. Your goal is to quickly eliminate, control or minimize the hazards to which your workers are exposed. For example, place a unit out of service if the deflector shield has been damaged or falls off. Flying debris exits the mower's deck chute at 200 miles per hour and can obviously cause serious injury or property damage.

5. There is just one other thing to keep in mind as you assess risk in your firm's jobsites.

Make sure that you document all of the hard work you are doing. The JSA process should become part of your written safety program that is required by OSHA. It shows that you have an organized and effective methodology for identifying risks, prioritizing them and developing and delivering training to mitigate the hazards.

Sam Steel NALP Safety Advisor & Consultant National Association of Landscape Professionals

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

Landopt CEO Tim Smith Stepping down

PITTSBURGH – LandOpt CEO Tim Smith is stepping down after 12 years serving the national network of landscape contractors.

During his tenure, LandOpt grew from a startup to serving more than 50 locations, with more than 30 locations active today. LandOpt provides a proven business system and coaching for its members.

Smith was instrumental in developing the product and service and implementing the system and coaching customers on its use to transform their businesses.

Smith will continue to support LandOpt contractors with his service at the board level.

Transitioning to CEO more than eight years ago, Smith has had the opportunity to build an exceptional team at LandOpt that will continue to transform the Green Industry in the years ahead, he said.

Smith will continue to support LandOpt network contractors with his service at the board level.

A search committee has been assembled to find Smith’s successor. Smith will continue to fill the role of CEO until a time of transition to ensure continuity and success for his team and customers.

“I remain confident in the future of LandOpt and the exciting opportunities that are ahead for my team and our customers,” he said.

Smith holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Pennsylvania State University.

He is looking forward to time with his family and continued commitment to community efforts.