Family affair

Departments - L&L Insider

In its 20th year, Renewal & Remembrance brings together families, companies and the industry.

August 8, 2016
Kate Spirgen
Approximately 600 volunteers traveled to Arlington Cemetery to participate in the 20th Renewal & Remembrance volunteer event.
Photo by Kate Spirgen

ARLINGTON, Va. – Going to Arlington National Cemetery is like coming home for the landscape professionals who volunteer each year at Renewal & Remembrance.

Now in its 20th year, the National Association of Landscape Professionals event has evolved into a family reunion of sorts, where people from all across the industry come to pay their respects, donate their skills and reunite with one another. And the family has grown too. Since 1996, attendance has gone from about 50 attendees to 580 today.

“This is our chance to do with actions what can’t be put into words,” said Weed Man’s Phil Fogarty, who spearheaded the first Renewal & Remembrance event in 1996. “Our work is a way of letting families know we refuse to forget.”

And it truly is a family event. Landscapers make a vacation out of the service opportunity, including their spouses and children in the trip to Washington, D.C., both to serve and to spend time together.

Brett Lemcke, NALP president, brought his wife and children: twin 3-year-olds and a 5-year-old. He said he loves the camaraderie, the teamwork and the respect for the grounds from the volunteers. “This whole association is a family to me and this event is a good mid-summer way to say hello to everybody and have some fun,” he said, adding that he admires the passion of the volunteers who work hard to make this event happen.

Sabeena Hickman, NALP CEO, said she fell in love with the event the second she came to her first one eight years ago. “There aren’t a lot of events you put on besides your own wedding where you get goosebumps like this.”

“It makes me feel so good about the industry that I serve,” she said, noting that this is the busiest time of year for landscapers. “It shows you that they have such a high priority in terms of giving back to Arlington National Cemetery. So, it just makes you feel proud.”

The event, sponsored by Caterpillar, New Holland, Dow AgroSciences, Kubota, John Deere, Nufarm and others, has evolved from lime applications to include work like spreading phosphorus and doing aeration while also performing arbor work, hardscaping and irrigation adjustments.

Passing on the spirit.

Miles Kuperus, Jr., and his family had never been to Arlington National Cemetery before they came to volunteer and had no idea what was in store for them when they arrived 10 years ago.

“It really showcases the kind of heart our industry has and the love of country and the care for green spaces, and I think it really embodies everything that we do today so it’s natural for us to be involved with this event,” said Kuperus Jr., CEO of Farmside Landscaping in Sussex, New Jersey.

His entire family still comes down and in fact, it’s the only time this year they’ll all be able to get together for a vacation.

Kuperus’s son, Miles Kuperus III, was only 13 when he attended the first event. Now at 23, he works fulltime at Farmside Landscaping and is a leader at the event, focusing on sustainability. He ensures that the cemetery is left as clean as when the volunteers arrived, and that as much as possible is recycled. He and his younger brothers ride in their pickup truck to make sure that all of the debris is collected and disposed of properly.

“It was just kind of natural,” he said of his involvement. “We had been doing it for a long time. It’s fun interacting with people from across the nation and different companies and it’s just a fun time.” And the family has taken that spirit back home with them. One of Farmside’s staff members served in Iraq and when he arrived home, he wanted to honor those who had served. So he put his ideas to action, talking to Kuperus about starting a monument.

“He said, ‘I opened my mouth and now I have to do something about it,’” Kuperus said.

They called the local chamber of commerce and described the soldier’s dream. They built the monument honoring the soldiers who fought in each war that lasted more than a year from the Revolutionary War all the way to the War on Terror.

“I think that’s a culture that you bring back to your company as a leader, whether you come down with your family or not,” Kuperus, Jr., said. “It starts a culture and people respect that.”

Bringing others in.

Mike Kravitsky V, owner of Grasshopper Lawns in Pennsylvania, and his son, Michael Kravitsky VI, who was only 6 years old at his first event, have been there since the beginning. “It’s just a part of the summer,” Kravitsky VI said. “It’s what I’ve always done. Going to Washington once a year. It’s a great experience.”

About 10-12 people from the company come down for each event and Kravitsky says he’s seen a lot of changes over the years, but they’re all for the best. He and his children have both brought in friends from outside the industry just to give them the volunteer experience.

“It’s the coolest thing you could ever do,” Kravitsky V said. “To be able to be in Arlington Cemetery and actually work for a difference in that cemetery. It’s been 20 years and I still get goosebumps walking through those gates.”

M&A tips from Davey president

Pat Covey gives his insight on mergers and acquisitions, which includes allowing a deal to evolve over a few years. By Brian Horn

KENT, Ohio – After making 20 acquisitions between 2010 and 2014, Davey Tree took a breath in 2015 and 2016, but will again look to grow through M&A in 2017.

“We had to take a step back and make sure everything was functioning correctly,” said Pat Covey, president and COO of the company, which ranks third on Lawn & Landscape’s Top 100 list with 2015 revenue of $821 million. “It’s good to take a little pause.” Covey said one word to describe the company’s approach to M&A for the end of this year and into 2017 is “prospecting,” with deals expected.

Lawn & Landscape caught up with Covey during a visit to Davey Tree’s headquarters in Kent, Ohio, last week and learned some tips on how to approach M&A.

Form a relationship. Aside from looking at the nuts and bolts of a deal like financials, Covey said the first action executives should take when investigating an acquisition is meeting with the owner.

Getting to know the owner on a personal level gives good insight into how the company is run and how the employees approach the job, Covey said.

Photo courtesy of Davey Tree

“Nine times out of 10, the company follows the seller,” he said. Some acquisitions take more than three years, and a good chunk of that time is the two parties becoming comfortable with each other. “Every seller has different reasons they’re selling,” Covey said. “Getting to why they want to sell the business is important.”

Do the simple research.

Doing something as easy as looking at a company’s website or driving by after they have completed jobs can give you a good idea on the company culture and how employees serve customers. Pay attention to how the uniforms are maintained, if employees have uniforms, and keep an eye on how the trucks are maintained.

Ask for referrals.

As the president of a company that employs more than 8,000 people, Covey can’t be intimately involved in every transaction. He will reach out to local managers and ask who is a good competitor in their area.

Covey then will send a letter to the competitor to gauge their interest on selling. Even if he doesn’t hear back, he’s at least planted a seed for when they’re ready to sell.

Don’t kill the brand.

A company doesn’t always have to change branding to Davey, and it usually doesn’t, especially if the brand is doing well. “We’re maintaining the name for as long as it makes sense,” he said.

“We had to take a step back and make sure everything was functioning correctly. It’s good to take a little pause.” Pat Covey, president and COO, Davey Tree

Covey said Davey tends to let the acquired company keep its branding with the addition of “A Davey Company” added to it. He added that there is no set time to know when the acquired company should change completely to the Davey brand.

Keep it quiet.

Covey said it’s always best if the seller keeps the sales talk quiet with maybe only a few key employees knowing. Any word leaking could cause a stir among employees, which might delay or stop the deal.

Don’t look for the perfect match.

Covey said it’s rare that a company will check off every box on your checklist, which isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes if the seller is weak in areas where Davey is strong, it’s almost better because Davey can mold them to fit with Davey.

However, the safety record is a prime concern for Davey when considering an acquisition, and if the seller’s approach to the issue is different than Davey’s, Covey said that’s tough to overlook. “It’s hard to change a poor safety culture.”

Kerin out as BrightView CEO

ROCKVILLE, Md. – Andrew Kerin stepped down on July 21 as chief executive officer of BrightView and was replaced immediately by Pat Velasco on an interim basis.

The former Brickman CEO is departing BrightView after being named CEO in May 2014 when KKR, Brickman’s parent company, officially acquired ValleyCrest, leading to an eventual merger. ValleyCrest’s Roger Zino was named vice chairman at the time, but resigned in late 2015, along with several other executives.

“We thank Andrew for his service to BrightView over the past four years,” said Paul Raether, chairman of the board of directors of BrightView.

“Andrew helped lead the transformative merger of Brickman and ValleyCrest to form BrightView, the industry leader in landscaping and snow services.” Velasco previously served first as CEO and then as chairman of Capital Safety, now part of the 3M family of safety businesses.

“For many years I have seen BrightView team members, and those of the company’s predecessors, enhancing and contributing to our local communities,” Velasco said.

“I am thrilled to support BrightView in the next steps of its journey.” Velasco currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Gardner Denver, Crosby, and PurePOWER Technologies, and will join the Board of BrightView.

He is also on the Board of the Gary Sinise Foundation. Prior to Capital Safety, Velasco worked at multiple companies.

In December 2014, it was announced the merging companies would be called BrightView, which officially rolled out its new brand in March 2016.

BrightView is working with Korn Ferry to retain a permanent CEO. – Brian Horn

Photo courtesy of Scott Jamieson

Trees that comfort a nation

Editor’s note: At this year’s National Collegiate Landscape Competition, Scott Jamieson, vice president at Bartlett Tree Experts, mentioned in his speech how he felt after 9/11 and how the green industry would be affected. To recognize the 15th anniversary of 9/11 next month, Lawn & Landscape asked him to expand on his thoughts.

Like most of us, I remember exactly where I was on Sept. 11, 2001. I was watching the Chicago Fire Department working to get an elevator unstuck that was going to take me up to my committee meeting with the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association. I was in downtown Chicago, right on Michigan Avenue when someone told me about the odd coincidence of two “small planes” hitting the World Trade Center Towers. Instead of running the committee meeting, we turned on the TV and watched the horror unfold on CNN.

When someone took a call and told us the Pentagon had just gotten hit, we all knew it was time to leave downtown Chicago. Once back at my corporate office, we pulled my team together and began to figure out where everyone was because we had operations in both New York City and Washington, D.C. Everyone was OK, but we did have a crew working at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, and they were locked in for hours before finally being released.

As vivid as those memories still are for me, I also remember the day after, Sept. 12. Walking my dog early that morning, it took some time to shake the thought that maybe it was just some bad dream. When it was clear that it was no dream, my mind began thinking, “Who will want tree care now? What will we do with all our crews today? Tomorrow? This year?” I thought, “Who could possibly think that tree care is important or necessary after what has just happened? The world has changed and the future of our business is in peril.”

In the days and weeks that followed, we quickly discovered that our clients wanted us caring for their trees. People wanted normalcy and our clients found comfort in their landscapes. People stayed home; they “nested” and they wanted their nests surrounded by trees.

Years later, after I joined Bartlett, I was taken out to the secret nursery where Bartlett was growing more than 400 trees for the 9/11 National Memorial. Those trees were ultimately planted on the plaza in New York City at the site of the 9/11 National Memorial. Trees, more than 400 of them, from every state that a victim called home.

When you visit the memorial today, you see the waterfalls called “Reflecting Absence” that cover the exact footprint of each tower. Those waterfalls provide no comfort, they reflect absence. As you move back into the plaza, it is the trees that give comfort as they seem to embrace all who visit. Trees were selected as the only landscape element to comfort a nation.

I met the co-creator of the memorial, Peter Walker, a few years ago. Peter is an iconic landscape architect and now in his 80’s. He told me how pleased he was of the work Bartlett did growing those trees for more than five years and now caring for them on the plaza still today. He told me that as he travels the world most of his designs have been altered and changed.

Hardscapes are gone, perennials and annuals completely changed around but one element typically remains: the trees. He looked directly at me with mist in his eyes and said, “Scott, for the rest of my life I will make trees the center of all my designs. Trees are meant to endure and the trees I designed for the memorial will be there for more than 100 years.”

The author is vice president and Midwest division leader for Bartlett Tree Experts.

Ask the Experts

Respirators and vehicle safety boxes

Q: My question is concerning respirators as we continue to try and interpret the OSHA rule on silica dust and what our best option would be. I am researching masks and I am curious about what type would cover the requirement for any of our crew members cutting stone.

A: That is an often asked question since there can be some confusion of respirator types: dust mask, nuisance mask, respirator with filters, etc.

In your situation, I would opt for NIOSH-approved N-95 dust masks even if your workers are exposed for less than four hours. If you Google the term as written above, you will find a host of manufacturers/vendors. There are three options on these masks that you should insist upon. First, make sure the dust masks have two bands (not one) placed behind the head and used to secure the mask over the nose and mouth.

There should also be an adjustable nose piece over the bridge of the nose used to customize or adjust the bridge area since noses come in many shapes and sizes. And finally, I would purchase dust masks with the exhale opening mechanism on the front.

Keep in mind that some manufacturers indicate that their product can be washed and reused. I don't think this is a good idea. These dust masks can be purchased for around $1.50 each when purchasing them in quantity. I would discard those that have become sweaty and dirty. You can extend the life of the masks by having the workers place them in a clean plastic baggie at the end of the workday. This would be a much better option than throwing them on the work vehicle's dashboard or seat.

Workers with facial hair are a problem and it is very difficult for them to get an effective fit to prevent dust from entering their respiratory system. You will need to decide upon a safety policy for dealing with this situation.

And lastly, don't forget to write up the policies regarding worker protection from silica dust in the workplace, including the type of work being done, personal protective gear and engineering (wet-saw technology) being used and all training of the employees related to their safety and health.

Q: We are in the commercial landscaping business and we are in the process of updating our vehicle safety boxes in our trucks. Is there a list of what we should have in our vehicle safety boxes? Do you recommend fire extinguishers in the vehicles? Do you recommend traffic cones, or emergency triangles for roadside breakdowns?

A: Here are my recommendations for safety boxes and equipment on company vehicles:

1. Break down your listing of safety box components into those items appropriate for an emergency roadside breakdown and for an emergency first aid kit.

2. For the emergency roadside breakdown portion, you will need traffic cones (enough to clearly denote the size and scope of the vehicles and trailers), safety vests for use by your employees who are being transported to worksites (including their use on jobs where they are exposed to vehicular traffic while performing their work), flashlights, jumper cables, safety signage and possibly a siphon pump and air compressor.

3. For the emergency first aid kit, you will need to assure that it has enough supplies based on the size of your crew(s). A good source of information on first aid kits can be found by searching the internet and using OSHA first aid and 1910.266, as your key words. Please remember that the first aid kit is only as good as its contents when needed, so I would place someone in charge of checking kits on a regular basis to ensure their usability.

4. Fire extinguishers should be based upon the identification of hazards present at your worksites. Generally, all-purpose extinguishers are recommended as long as they are fully-charged and your employees have been trained on their use. Many fire extinguisher companies will provide your employee training for you. Again, as above with first aid kits, someone within your organization should be assigned to checking the status of fire extinguishers. They tend to be misplaced and not available when needed in an emergency.

5. Consider both a fire protection and first aid policy statement in your written safety program for the firm. In the event of an incident involving an employee or employees, OSHA will ask to see your written safety program. The methods of training your workers and the topics and dates of your worker training should be fully documented just in case.

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

Coming next month

Marty Grunder has been writing for Lawn & Landscape for more than a decade, giving our readers great ideas to better their businesses. Well, what better way to help owners than to round up the best of the best of those columns and package them for readers to take anywhere?

So, we partnered with Ariens/Gravely, Bartlett Tree Experts, Focal Point Communications and Marty to bring you the Owner’s Almanac in which we gathered some of Marty’s best columns from his 13 years writing for us. Next month, you’ll receive the Owner’s Almanac as an easy-to-read, separately packaged handbook with Lawn & Landscape’s September issue.

In addition, we started sending out the Owner’s Almanac newsletter in July, giving you access to those columns online as well.

Each column is full of great advice on how you can improve your sales, marketing, leadership and management. If you implement just a few of these ideas, you’ll have a better company, employ a better team and be a better leader.

If you get L&L delivered to your office, make sure you get your hands on it first to snatch up this booklet of business and leadership tips and advice.

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