The Agronomist: The Work You Do Is Award-Winning - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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The Agronomist: The Work You Do Is Award-Winning

I get to do some very cool things in my job, not the least of which is to represent the landscape industry in organizations dedicated to the stewardship of pesticides.

In this case, I am referring to The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance, a group consisting of cooperative extension folks, pesticide safety educators, registrants (a fancy name for pesticide manufacturers) and end users of pesticides such as those of us in the landscape industry.

As you may or may not know, prior to joining NALP six years ago, I was in the professional lawn care industry. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about how the pesticide industry was regulated and knew all the various groups and agencies that touched upon the topic. I was quickly disabused of that nugget of ignorance.

On the other side of what we see at the industry level, meaning the folks at the state Departments of Agriculture that we all get to know and our trusty cooperative extension agent that is all too willing to jump in and help solve a perplexing problem, there are groups, organizations, councils, committees, societies, boards and on and on, all with membership that overlaps one to the other. Most of these groups are focused on agriculture but are open and welcoming to us in the non-ag space (non-agricultural users include landscapers, pest control, mosquito control and stuff like that).

I think that the reason that these groups are so welcoming to us (other than our sparkling personalities) is the realization that, from the perspective of the public and the consumer, we are the pesticide applicators that people know. In the United States, people are almost entirely removed from how their food is produced; hence, the sarcastic rejoinder suggesting that people in the city think their food comes from a supermarket.  

I was honored to be elected to the board of directors of TPSA this past February, and we held a meeting of the board a couple of weeks back in Indianapolis. We were fortunate to be hosted by a member company that provides a wide variety of environmental services, from asphalt paving to waste recycling. The company has a beautiful corporate headquarters and conference facility to encourage interaction and dialog.

We were at the facility twice during our visit and I could not get over the amazing landscape design and maintenance (Some people talk about interior design or the quality of food, I talk about grass and trees. I’m weird that way…). The thought occurred to me that the maintenance contractor should enter the property into NALP’s Awards of Excellence program that recognizes America’s best landscapes. If you’ve ever visited the NALP offices in Virginia, you can’t help but notice the photographs of past award winners that adorn just about every square foot of wall space in the halls and conference rooms.  

Coincidently, and another really cool thing that I get to do, I am a judge for these awards. Each year, along with a panel of fellow judges, we review submissions from members across the nation in various categories, such as construction and maintenance in both commercial and residential settings. This judging process consists of approximately two weeks of my jaw being on the floor. Our members are unbelievably talented. 

And that comment includes you, the members who have never entered the Awards of Excellence. I can tell you without fear of contradiction that you…yes, you…are already doing award-winning work out there, but you’ve never been recognized.  

The competition for the 2024 awards is already underway. You’ll have to identify a property that you are either building or maintaining and begin documenting with photographs what you’re doing. Perfect examples include a distressed property that you’ve been hired to revive or a spectacular new building that you’ll be installing. Lots of photos, lots of notes. Then, when next year’s contest is announced, you’ll have all your ducks lined up for a killer entry.  

And I’ll have two weeks of my jaw being on the floor. 

This article was published in the September/October issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Edge magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.

Bob Mann

Bob Mann is the director of state and local government relations for NALP.