L&L Insider

Departments - L&L Insider

January 9, 2014
Lawn & Landscape

Volunteering for vets

A pair of irrigation suppliers volunteered to help a couple of good causes involving veterans.

Netafim did its part to help grow food for homeless vets

FRESNO, Calif. – GrowGood, a non-profit based in Los Angeles, spearheaded a program to create a kitchen garden in partnership with the Salvation Army Bell Shelter, located in Bell, Calif.

The shelter provides transitional housing, counseling, job training, health care and many more services for homeless vets with PTSD and other individuals.

GrowGood, founded by Andrew Hunt and Brad Pregerson, undertakes agriculturally-oriented projects in urban environments. As a corporate partner, Netafim USA teamed up to provide dripline irrigation materials and a series of irrigation workshops.

“We target underserved groups and believe in the power of food to unite people and lay foundations for healthy communities,” Pregerson said.

“Our goal is to achieve multiple positive outcomes,” he said. “The Bell Shelter Garden is intended to grow enough fresh produce to feed hundreds of residents daily, while encouraging better nutrition and opportunities to learn new job skills.”

He and Hunt mustered a corps of volunteers and contacted corporate sponsors for materials to make the garden bloom. Netafim USA supplied more than 2,000 feet of Techline dripline for the project. Netafim District Sales Manager, Bill Millward, also lead a series of step-by-step irrigation workshops for shelter residents.

“The workshops provided hands-on irrigation training so the shelter clients would be involved in the installation,” said Millward, who conducted the training along with Master Gardener Mel Crudge.

“The sessions were a great chance to gain real-world job experience in irrigation system planning and installation. They covered construction of the raised planting beds, trenching, installation of the irrigation controller, pipe, main lines and valves, along with a Netafim dripline system.”

Residents were joined by volunteers from the Master Gardeners association and college students from USC and UCLA.

“Participation in the construction of the garden, and the commitment to keep it flourishing have provided our clients with benefits on many levels,” said Steve Lytle, director of the Salvation Army Bell Shelter.

“It is very therapeutic for residents with PTSD to be involved in a meaningful activity and work outdoors in a structured environment. Our residents are very proud of their results. The Bell Shelter also has a nearby vocational school with instruction in landscape maintenance and the garden has provided a pathway towards this program.”


Hunter participated in a trio of Home for Our Troops projects

SAN MARCOS, Calif. – Charitable work is one of Hunter Industries four corporate values, and the company showed that with its participation in Home for Our Troops.

“Home for Our Troops is an ongoing project with several homes in process across the country at any one time,” said Todd Polderman, Hunter Product Marketing Manager.

“Hunter Industries supported the irrigation needs to three homes near the company headquarters in San Marcos, Calif.”

The three homes are complete and the tenants were in various stages of moving into the homes as of early December. Hunter was approached by Volvo Rents to take part in the project.

On the days Hunter employees volunteered, the focus was on planting shrubs and laying sod, Polderman said. 

Hunter was also responsible for installing drip irrigation zones to irrigate the shrub material, and the company provided all of the irrigation equipment to the installing contractor and provided technical expertise on the sites.  

Each project took four to six months to complete, while the landscaping was completed in two weeks. Planting took one day.   

“A big challenge with any volunteer project is to get the volunteers trained quickly and to make sure their work is quality,” he said. “We held a quick drip emitter installation seminar and then assigned a skilled Hunter person to each crew to make sure everything went smoothly.”


The OTF show in review

Growth and changes were on tap for Ohio’s turf conference.

By Chuck Bowen

I sat down with OTF Executive Director Brian Laurent at this year’s Ohio Turfgrass Foundation show to pick his brain about the state of the industry, tradeshows and what green industry professionals in the Midwest can expect from the association in the coming years.

L&L: OTF has seen some ups and downs in the last few years. What made this year’s show stand out to you?

Laurent: We have certainly seen our fair share of obstacles over the last several years. Fortunately, we’re moving in the right direction as indicated by a great turnout at this year’s conference and show. There were many highlights, including another exceptional series of educational presentations, a show floor occupied by 124 companies representing all areas of the turfgrass industry and a packed house for our keynote speaker, Jim Tressel.

What will stay with me when it’s all over are the comments received from our exhibitors, especially first time participants and those returning after taking many years off. These companies were very pleased with the foot-traffic and number of qualified leads they received, even some from markets that may not be their primary target.

Our show is unique in that our attendees come from all sections of the industry … lawn care, golf, sports and more. This opens the door for new opportunities in many cases. It’s always nice when they tell you that they’re looking forward to returning again next year.

L&L: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing your members right now?

Laurent: One of the biggest challenges facing our industry is a lack of qualified and dedicated labor. At nearly every meeting that I attend, this topic is always discussed.

It seems as though many organizations are having a hard time finding enough quality people willing to show up on time and perform the tasks necessary to get the job done.

Communicating the fact that there are several options for long, successful careers in our industry is crucial to opening the door to future leaders of our industry.

Regarding opportunities, it seems as though we’re in a period of recovery and people have more room in their budget to attend events and spend more time investing in their own personal growth.

There are several opportunities for individuals to network and interact with their peers through social media, webinars and other online mediums, and of course at some of the many events held throughout the year.

Taking advantage of these resources is a major benefit to our members and is crucial to the immediate and long-term success of their programs.

L&L: What was the most interesting thing you saw or heard on the floor this year?

Laurent: Trying to pinpoint just one thing from the floor would be very difficult. There were several new and innovative products and services on display this year.

One popular attraction on the show floor was the hover-craft golf cart made famous by the Bubba Watson YouTube video. Windy Knoll Golf Club in nearby Springfield, Ohio has two of them and they were kind enough to bring one over for display. It’s not every day that you get to see a hover-craft golf cart.

Also, it was rewarding to have nearly 1,000 people in attendance as we recognized several students and industry professionals for their achievements over the past year during our awards and scholarships ceremony on the show floor.

L&L: What can attendees look forward to at future conferences?

Laurent: We’re excited to be moving the 2014 conference and show to Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Sandusky, Ohio.

Having our conference, tradeshow, hotel rooms, hospitality options and more all under one roof will provide our attendees and exhibitors an experience unlike anything we’ve been able to offer before.

Additionally, the move will make it more affordable for many of these individuals and companies to attend.

The Foundation will benefit from reduced expenses as well, allowing us to utilize revenue generated from the event to further support our mission instead of going towards overhead costs.


Dangerous duo

Tree care and racing came together at the 2013 TCI EXPO.

The Tree Care Industry Association injected some racing into its annual tradeshow in November in Charlotte, N.C. The EXPO’s keynote speaker on Thursday was Jeff Hammond, a previous crew chief and current FOX Sports NASCAR commentator. Hammond’s talk was titled “Teamwork at 200 MPH” and highlighted how his experiences on a pit crew could be related to the tree care industry.

“You’ve still got to have communication, you’ve got to have teamwork, and let’s face it, your business is dangerous,” he said in comparing the two industries.

NASCAR was a recurring theme throughout the week, with the EXPO’s welcome reception taking place at the NASCAR Hall of Fame Thursday night.

Along with the trade show floor, which allowed attendees to get an up-close look at this year’s newest equipment, the EXPO also featured educational sessions. Throughout the EXPO, seminars highlighted topics on safety, business and arboriculture.

A large focus of the educational sessions was how to make sure your team is as safe as possible, whether it’s by hiring the best employees, training with the most successful outcome or making sure your employee handbook highlights the proper procedures.

A forum was held so young business leaders could ask questions and get advice from others who had been in the industry for years. One topic discussed in length was how to promote your new business. Suggestions included using direct mail fliers through the post office, and promoting yourself on Angie’s List.

Another topic discussed was the idea of seeking out a mentor in a neighboring city that could give you some tips and advice if you run into a snag with your business. Next year’s TCI EXPO will take place Nov. 13-15 in Hartford, Conn.

Photos Courtesy of Katie Tuttle


Tree shortage could be hitting contractors right now

While business may be picking up for landscaping companies across the country, some may hit a bit of an obstacle when deciding what plants to include in a project. A nationwide tree shortage has hit the industry, and it doesn’t look like it will end anytime in the near future.

“Tree shortages (mainly in the 2-2.5-inch caliber range) that are appearing right now are just the leading edge of a much more severe, widespread shortage of desirable trees that will be needed for landscape construction projects throughout the country,” says Nancy Buley, director of communications for J Frank Schmidt & Son Co. in Boring, Ore.

Trees can take anywhere from 5-10 years to propagate. When nurseries closed their doors during the Great Recession that meant fewer trees were being propagated to hit the market right now.

“Oregon nurseries propagate a large percentage of the nation’s shade trees, and everyone suffered significant decreases in their annual sales,” Buley says. “Some major tree nurseries in Oregon and other propagation centers went out of business, leaving fewer propagators in the business.”

Kevin Finley, general manager of Mariani Nurseries in Wisconsin, said you won’t see nearly as much of a shortage in container and perennial plants because those don’t take as long to propagate.

“That inventory, you can evaluate it and respond to demand a little quicker,” Finley says. “There’s not quite the build-up of inventory. But with trees, when things were really, really strong I think a lot of growers were having a hard time meeting demand; there was a big buildup of field stock – shade trees, that type of thing.

“With demand, it didn’t just drop a normal recession level of say 10 or 12 percent. In some cases it dropped 50 percent.”

That left an abundance of trees with nowhere to put them, which meant nurseries were losing money on them. That access inventory is now gone and Buley says Schmidt is expecting eight years of shortages.

“It’s going to take years for our nursery customers to recover from the recession,” she says.

“Even though the nursery economy appears to be steadily improving, growers won’t be able to afford to ramp up production right away. Many will have to spend money gained from improved sales on deferred capital improvements, equipment purchase, wage increases.”

Buley adds that it’s not only the recession that caused the shortage, but also the havoc wreaked by Emerald Ash Borer, Asian Longhorn Beetle, and other diseases, along with natural disasters and droughts that have hit the country.

“They’re still mopping up after Hurricane Sandy, but eventually the trees that were lost will have to be replanted,” she says.

What now? So what does this tree shortage mean for landscapers? For one, you’ll have to be more careful about what trees you place in a bid, which is a change from years past, Finley says.

“The pendulum swung so dramatically from two years ago when they would bid jobs and they wouldn’t even think where they could get the product because the product was so plentiful,” he says.

Buley said contractors shouldn’t assume the trees they want will be available at the bargain they bought it at last year. She also said contractors should be willing to expand the distances they travel for trees, be prepared to place deposits to hold trees for future delivery and align with quality nurseries and listen to their advice on upcoming availability and site-appropriate substitutions.

“Send your want-lists to nurseries as early in the design process as possible – give them a heads-up as to the varieties and quantities you anticipate needing in the future,” Buley says.

“Landscape architects can no longer assume that the trees they draw on their plans will be out there for the contractor to find. They’ll need to make sure the trees exist before they specify.” – Brian Horn