January 3, 2024
Geeking out about the green industry
By Julia Harmsworth

Pam Cook, account manager at Clintar Commercial Outdoor Services in London, Ont., and LO's incoming treasurer, said horticulture has “always danced” in her life.

Cook has worked in horticulture for 20 years. She grew up in Thunder Bay, Ont., got her Bachelor of Applied Science in Horticulture from Olds College and completed the Horticulture Technician program at Fanshawe College. She worked in maintenance and plant healthcare before her love of customer service brought her to working with clients.

When asked what prompted her to pursue horticulture as a career, Cook said the lightbulb came in the form of her grandmother’s cactuses.

“My grandma was the greenest thumb you’ve ever met. She would be the lady walking around the store picking up cuttings off the floor and rooting things in her apartment,” said Cook. “When she passed away, I was like, ‘I’m going to grow grandma’s plants.’ I kid you not, I killed them in the first month of owning them and thought, ‘Oh no, I should learn more about what to do.’”

Cook has been involved with Landscape Ontario since the beginning of her career. She joined the London Chapter Board in 2012 after encouragement from her boss, Curt McCallum at CLC Tree Services, who emphasized the importance of giving back to the industry. In 2018, she became the London Chapter representative for the association’s Provincial Board of Directors. In November 2023, she was elected to the provincial executive as treasurer.

Within the London Chapter, she helped organize the Plant Symposium and build a community garden at Indwell Commons in London. She is particularly enthused about her involvement on the 2023 Congress Committee, given her long-time admiration of the annual trade show and conference, which takes place in Toronto each January.

“To come full circle and be part of what I looked at 20 years ago and said, ‘That would be cool to be a part of’ — that’s a pin in my hat,” said Cook.

Cook said being a part of the landscaping and horticulture community is “absolutely fantastic.” Her favourite part of volunteering is the opportunity to connect with different groups of people from across Ontario and build community.

“There’s something to be said about participation and meeting people. Really, the best thing you can do in your career is meet as many people as you can and learn more about everybody’s perspectives. I think it makes you a better, more well-rounded person in the end.”

In 2018, Cook co-founded Women in Landscaping, a community group that seeks to build a community of women in the profession who inspire and support each other. The group hosts networking events and engages in community outreach to build connections. Cook and co-founder Carla Bailey spoke about it on the Landscape Ontario Podcast in March 2022.

“We watched a lot of women not have a lot of support within their community. There’s a lot of times when you might be the only woman on a crew, you might be the only woman who works in the business, and there weren't a lot of places where you could get together and have conversations.”

She also spoke to a lack of resources for women in the profession. For example, many women do not know where to get a good quality pair of women’s work pants.

“The other thing we noticed is a lot of women leaving industry early on because they didn’t see anybody that reflected themselves in a workplace. So, they didn’t see a future or potential for themselves within industry,” added Cook.

When asked what she would like to see in the profession’s future, Cook spoke of maintaining a high level of professionalism, bringing more awareness to the trade, and recognizing the scientific research that backs up sustainability efforts.

“We are the next step to fostering all the green industry and the green infrastructure within Ontario. I think we can all relate to the conversations of climate change and carbon reduction,” said Cook. “I think our industry is one of the forefront industries that will make changes and can help other industries and other people make changes.”

When she’s not working or volunteering, Cook teaches horticulture courses at Fanshawe College, spends time outside with her partner, Greg, and two kids, Greyson (9) and Waverly (5), and talks to people about the green industry.

“I’m the biggest geek you’ll ever meet. I love gardening, I love flowers, I love growing things, I love learning from season to season,” said Cook. “What do I do outside of work? I grow more plants. I plant more trees.”