Who cares for your yard?
For some, the family chips in to tackle yard work each weekend. For others, a neighborhood kid earns money mowing lawns. Even more people, however, hire professional landscapers to handle yard maintenance, from controlling pests to spreading fertilizer to trimming grass, bushes, and trees. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that close to 900,000 landscaping professionals are employed nationwide and earn on average just $30,000 per year. Half of landscaping professionals have a high school diploma and less than a quarter have a four-year college degree. For an industry that employs so many, the pay, lack of educational opportunities, and workplace hazards are daunting, unsustainable, and often dangerous. We must do better by our landscaping professionals: it begins in our yards.
A tough job.
Becoming a landscaper means working in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable. Leaf blowers operate at decibels close to that of airplanes. Pesticides are known to cause serious side effects, including cancer. Much of that is due to maintaining the “traditional” American lawn of grass and hedges. Due to “the desirability of the kind of work involved in landscaping,” many companies hire seasonal guest workers from over 80 different countries through the federal H2B visa program. In 2017, the Department of Labor reported that half of the guest workers entering the U.S. through the program supported the landscaping industry.
Landscapers to Growers.
All landscapers, both local and guest workers, deserve a safe, healthy, fair, and fulfilling work environment. Shifting the role of landscaping from “maintaining” to “growing” will achieve that. The first step is transitioning our grass lawns to native plants that bear fruit and bolster the local ecosystem. Imagine yards containing berry bushes, wildflowers, and fruit-bearing trees; what was once unpleasant and cumbersome work for landscapers would become a joy! The second step is to train landscapers in nuanced cultivation. Seminars, hands-on experience, and more would empower landscaping professionals to plan, plant, and care for these green spaces. Imagine the benefits of a program dedicated to training growers: a healthier work environment centered on planting, cultivating, and harvesting through safe and noninvasive techniques; increased knowledge and skills for all workers resulting in better wages and benefits; dissemination of best practices for productive urban landscapes, leading to fruitful communities in the U.S. and abroad; the list goes on. Let’s turn landscaping into a Growing profession!