Lawn & Landscape Looks Back: May 1999

Features - Business Management

Our first year of publishing proved the old adage that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

November 17, 1999

Jimmy Carter was in the White House. There were hostages in Iran. Ordinary People won the Academy Award for best film. The U.S. hockey team won the gold medal at the Olympics. And Lawn & Landscape magazine was born.

It was May 1980, to be exact, when our first issue was published – you knew us as American Lawn Applicator back then. Key article topics in that first issue included computerizing green industry businesses, pesticide exposure issues for applicators and timing fungicide applications for maximum performance.

Not surprisingly, looking back at the article dealing with computers illustrates how far technology has come in the last 20 years as contractors interviewed for the article boasted of recently purchasing a Sperry Univac BC8, a Radio Shack TRS80 and a Burroughs L-6000 computer for between $4,000 and $20,000 each.

Another article in that issue could easily have been written for 1999 publication, although researchers in 1980 most likely imagined that an answer to the question of “chemical lawn mowing” would have been uncovered by now.

Our Changing Face

    A company never likes to change its name, but such a move may be necessary as your organization evolves over time.

    That has been the case for Lawn & Landscape as we have worked to keep pace with the evolving professional lawn care and landscape industry. As a result of changes in the industry and our magazine’s focus – from serving just the professional lawn care operator in 1980 to the full-service contractor in 1999 – our name has changed as well.

    As the industry grew through the 1980s and maintenance services became more popular, we broadened our focus to include issues related to managing equipment, scheduling crews and offering multiple services. At the same time, we changed the name of the magazine to reflect this changing focus, and American Lawn Applicator became ALA/Lawn & Landscape Maintenance.

    Through the late 1980s, the maintenance portion of the industry continued growing, and maintenance services became firmly entrenched as the service around which much of the industry was built. ALA/Lawn & Landscape Maintenance was shortened to Lawn & Landscape Maintenance.

    Following the recession of the early 1990s, the market resumed growing. Clients, began demanding more from their contractors. Providing just lawn maintenance was no longer enough to satisfy these clients, and companies found themselves expanding their service offerings to keep these clients happy. Hardscapes, water features, holiday lighting, and irrigation all became hot services.

    Reflecting this change, we targeted the magazine and its editorial focus squarely at the full-service contractor by altering the magazine’s name to Lawn & Landscape in 1995.

    – Bob West

“Use of dwarf-type turfgrasses will likely not occur in the near future, while chemical growth regulators have been marketed with marginal success,” wrote John Kaufmann of Michigan State University in 1980. “In the near future, however, it is certain that chemical lawn mowing will move closer and closer to being a reality.”

The Professional Lawn Care Association of America held its first convention and trade show Nov. 12-14, 1980 in Louisville, Ky., and representatives of ALA were there.

“PLCAA fills a definite need in the lawn care industry, and if the success of their first convention is any indication of how successful the organization will be, they can’t fail,” wrote staff members Maureen Mertz and Gaynell Radus, noting the event drew 704 attendees and 70 exhibitors.

Remember When ...

    This issue marks the beginning of Lawn & Landscape’s 20th year of publishing. For those of you true industry veterans who have been at this for 20 years or more, we’d like to invite you to share your thoughts with us on how the industry has changed over the last 20 years. What about the industry is better or worse today than it was in 1980? What will the future hold? What will the industry look like in 2020 when Lawn & Landscape celebrates its 40th anniversary?

    Feel free to put your thoughts on these issues down on paper and fax them to Nicole Wisniewski at 216/961-0364 or e-mail her at

THE NAME GAME. Our first issue featured advertisements from companies that have continued to serve this industry over the years – Finn, LESCO and Rhone-Poulenc – as well as those that have disappeared – Mobile Automation, Flexitube and Solder Absorbing Technology.

At the same time, some of the people the industry has come to rely on for expert information have been contributing to the magazine for two decades now. Our first year’s issues include such names as Barry Troutman and Chuck Darrah from ChemLawn, who are now with Environmental Care and CLC Labs, respectively. And some influential researchers have enjoyed long-lasting homes as Joe Vargas (Michigan State), Nick Christians (Iowa State) and Pete Dernoeden (University of Maryland) can all be found today at the same schools they wrote their articles from in 1980.

The author is Editor of Lawn & Landscape magazine.

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