October 12, 2021
Article Image

How many times have you heard the landscape profession has an image problem? How many times have you experienced it yourself?   

I remember when I told my father I was enrolled in the landscape program at Humber College. He thought I was making a huge mistake. Earlier on in my career as a gardener, at social gatherings people would ask what I did for a living.   Inevitably, they would be surprised when I told them. I could sense they wondered if gardener was a real job, even though it is one of the earliest and most important professions.   

If you talk to many other trades people, they will tell you they have an image problem too. It seems that any job where people earn their livelihood by working with their hands is somehow suspect and inferior. 

From a landscape perspective, thankfully this is changing. In many ways the COVID-19 pandemic has brought our profession into the spotlight. People are rediscovering the value of nature, parks, gardens, landscapes and green spaces.   Our profession has been elevated.

There has been a steady and increasing awareness of the economic, environmental, aesthetic, lifestyle, therapeutic, social, recreational, spiritual and legacy benefits of gardens, landscapes and green spaces. There are few professions that provide so many life-enhancing benefits. Can you think of any?

I believe one of the best ways to counteract the image issue is to be proud of what you do, and do it well. Shine your light. Your work, your attitude, your actions, the way you treat others and your community contributions speaks volumes.

As your association, one of our most important jobs is to reflect what you do and who you are — to the trade and to the public. We are proud to do so, as our members inspire us daily. Here is a brief summary and update of some of the programs and activities that reflect our image.  

Participation House Garden Makeover 

Our profession is at its best when we contribute our time and expertise to those that need it. As part of our Garden Makeover program to recognize frontline heroes, each LO chapter donated a garden makeover to a worthy recipient. Each makeover was supposed to be valued at $5,000. In most cases, the generosity of our members easily exceeded that amount. . Recently, the Toronto Chapter completed their project at Participation House Markham, which exceeded a $50,000 value.   

One Bench One Tree 

One Bench One Tree is a project conceived by the Landscape Architecture Masters students at the University of Guelph. Their mission is “to give back to frontline heroes by offering a moment of rest in nature,” by providing at least one bench and one tree to the landscape of hospitals across Canada. 

Members of our profession have already joined this project and are contributing time and products.   

Trees for Life

Inspired by the success and experience of the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute Campaign, which is well on their way to planting 2 million trees on and adjacent to the Highway of Heroes, the board has decided to leverage the experience and expand across Canada. A new foundation has been formed for this purpose. Check it out at treesforlife.ca.

On a related topic, Landscape Ontario has never been busier fulfilling its mission and strategic direction. We have also experienced record membership levels. We need all of you to spread the word about the many great programs that you have asked for.  

By far, the limiting factor in the growth of our profession is workforce development. Here are two programs that are helping to deal with our image issue and our recruitment and retention challenges

GROW Program

The GROW Program is made up of three activities designed to help recruit and retain employees for your organization. Although it is currently offered in the greater Toronto, Hamilton and Muskoka areas, our goal is to expand it across Ontario.   

GROW includes the New Entrant Training Program, which provides six weeks of free basic training and a job placement at the end of the program. 

As well, GROW includes Supervisory and Crew Leader Training, which is open to your team members to develop skills to become crew leaders or supervisors.  

The third part of the GROW program is the Employer of Choice Program, which teaches business owners and HR managers the attributes that will make your organization attract and retain the best talent.   

Apprenticeship Program

To me, the Apprenticeship Program is a gift to the profession. In my view, every member of Landscape Ontario should enrol their staff in the program. The Apprenticeship Program will elevate the skills of your team at no cost to you, if you use the government incentives. There are absolutely no downsides as far as I can tell, and I have personally observed lives change for the better. Act now and register an apprentice by contacting Jessica Tucker at jtucker@landscapeontario.com.

My grandfather used to say “if someone wants to give you a gift, take it.” Please take the gift of apprenticeship as soon as you can.

Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO Executive Director