Angie Bradley says that she didn’t envision getting into the landscape industry when she was a kid. In fact, she’d always wanted to be a pilot. But growing up on a family farm, she says that landscaping was “in her blood.” Even so, that didn’t make it any easier starting out in a male-dominated industry in the mid-1980s. Bradley says that over the years she had to work hard to prove herself — but she is encouraged that’s been changing for the better with more women coming into the field.
Bradley considers her official start in the industry to be in 1985 when she was a senior in high school and working for TruGreen in North Carolina. From there, she moved to Michigan and completed her two-year certificate in turf and sports commercial management. Since then, Bradley has worked in a number of different markets including Chicago, New York, and Colorado.
Along the way, Bradley had been actively recruited by companies who heard about her or witnessed her work ethic — but she says she was still met with resistance, sometimes from customers. She can remember a specific moment when a male customer was adamant that she wasn’t his technician. He kept asking, “Where’s the guy?”
“Over the years I’ve been frustrated by people telling me I belong in the office — or that particular customer who told me I belong in the kitchen,” Bradley says. “I can do the job just as good as any man can.”
Despite the pushback, Bradley forged ahead. She says that pure “stubbornness” might be part of what kept her going — but clearly it was determination and grit, something she says she learned at home. Bradley says that the “farm life” is by no means an easy life — and she grew up farm strong.
“I grew up with five stepbrothers and two half-brothers and I was the middle child,” she recalls. “From day one, I was doing everything they were doing — working on the farm, just like them. It was actually my mother that I got my hard work ethic from.”
Having been in the industry for 35 years, Bradley’s been able to witness the evolution. She says that she’s been relieved to see a marked shift.
“Years ago, I feel like I had to really fight to make sure my voice was heard,” Bradley recalls. “There were points in my career when I would provide a more detailed response than a male colleague, but my opinion wasn’t listened to. I had to fight to be considered a knowledgeable resource. But that’s changed substantially and I’m glad that more women are coming into the field with less resistance.”
Today, Bradley serves as the Chief Operating Officer at Oasis Turf & Tree in Loveland, Ohio. In this role, she oversees all production and employee training. Bradley says that if any of the staff was reluctant to be managed by a woman when she first started, they’ve overcome it.
“I think it comes from leading by example,” Bradley says. “I make it clear that everyone knows there’s not a single task I’m asking anyone to do that I haven’t done myself. Early on, I showed my presence in the field a lot. I’d show up and bring lunch and just start working with them.”
In fact, the team has so much respect for Bradley, they’ve been known to show up with signs at some of the competitive runs she participates in. Bradley has battled cancer twice, but she hasn’t let it stop her from training for her marathons. Though still in the midst of her second battle, and immunocompromised as a result, Bradley says she still couldn’t find peace working at home, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I tried it for a day, but I need to be with my team,” she says. “They’re here, so I had to be there. I feed off their energy. Fortunately, the staff took extra precautions so that I could feel safe being there. We’re all in this together and I need to be with them.”
Bradley says that she’d offer a few pieces of advice to women considering the green industry.
“First and foremost, stay true to yourself,” she advises. “Have the confidence that you can go out and do anything that you have the desire to do; so much of success is having confidence in yourself. When you go out and lead, you inspire the people around you to be their best, too.”