Fire Belly FireBlog
While it’s sometimes difficult to remember that even though the cold wind still blows here in New Hampshire, there are warm spring breezes throughout the majority of the country at this point. Yes, it’s been a long winter and even the first two weeks of spring have brought temperatures well below normal. However, I’ve enjoyed catching up with a good number of our loyal FireBelly Lawn Care customers in the last few days. As your dandelions begin to bloom and your grass begins to green we welcome you back to the season of lawn care!
If you have yet to order your seasonal package please do so now. And as always, if you ever have any questions about how to keep your lawn green the healthy way please don’t ever hesitate to call.
We recommend using “Iron X” from our friends at “Gardens Alive.”
We get lots of comments from other lawn care professionals here, sometimes we approve them sometimes we just delete them. Believe it or not they aren’t always “Family Friendly.” It seems like we get at least one comment from Trugreen employees per month and yesterday we received this from a person who claimed to be a Trugreen sales person. I guess I don’t completely disagree with everything he says but I certainly would take issue with a couple of his claims.
I know one thing for sure, employees of Trugreen, whether they are lawn techs, sales people or managers work about as hard as anybody does at any job ANYWHERE. It’s a production driven system and a great career path. In the past I’ve applauded Trugreen for introducing their own “Tru Natural” program. As they say, “a rising tide raises all ships.”
I’m acquainted with more than a few people who either work at Trugreen now or have in the past. Heck, I even worked there for a brief period of time back in 1996. Yes, it’s true the Trugreen products and programs do work. When the program is delivered appropriately it works very well. There are hundreds of thousands of happy Trugreen customer’s out there and they continue to be the world wide leader in lawn care. I just happen to think we can do the same exact thing, create healthy turf, without using so many chemicals and pesticides.
I guess I just don’t know why their employee’s keep sending me messages!
I’m kind of surprised at how little snow mold we’ve seen this spring here in the North East. With so much snow fall this winter and the way we had covered lawns for such a long period of time , it’s really been a minor issue on most lawns.
Most lawns that is! Even though snow mold is a relatively wimpy disease and will almost always grow out it can really take away from the appearance of a lawn deep into the spring time. The picture here is of a lawn in front of a strip mall near my home. The landscaper does a great job maintaining it and when they mow it just right it really looks tops! I’ve watched them maintain it for the last few years and I admire how nice it really looks.
Here is the draw back though. When you take into consideration the “too much is never enough” philosophy of chemical lawn care this is a perfect example! I’ve never actually seen the company who maintains the property perform a fertilizer treatment but I do know that it is on a typical chemical program. (My bank is in this plaza and I’ve seen the fertilizer all over the parking lot after applications have been done.) The deal here is that the applicator really cranks up the rate of the fertilizer when doing a treatment. I guess the thought process is that if the lawn looks this good now, it can look even better if it gets even more fertilizer than it should. The irrigation system is always chugging away and there were times last year when it was really glowing!
That was all good and well until this spring when the snow melted. This lawn is loaded, and I mean, loaded with gray snow mold. The turf is matted down and it just looks awful. I’m pretty sure it will grow out but it’s going to take some time. I really hope the landscaper doesn’t take a look at this and think that they should break out the mechanical dethatcher because that will only make it worse. Too much nitrogen applied to a lawn, especially water soluble synthetic nitrogen can have as much of a negative impact on a lawn as a positive one. The snow mold on this turf is clearly a result of over fertilizing last fall. In other words, I think you could say it legitimately has a hangover. When most lawns in the area are coming out of dormancy and looking very green, this one looks awful.
The drug metaphor always applies when you are talking about chemical lawn care. Too much can really make you feel like a million bucks temporarily but it always comes with a cost. I can honestly say that if this lawn was treated organically last year it may not have reached the glowing nuclear green highs that I saw last season but it certainly wouldn’t be struggling the way it is now.
Organic lawn care takes a much more holistic approach to caring for turf. In place of forcing growth through water soluble nitrogen fertilizers, growth is created by caring for the soil. Healthy soil, which is biologically active and not sterile from the over application of chemicals can maintain the nitrogen demands for turf easily. It also, for the most part, makes snow mold a thing of the past.
Driving to work this morning I noticed that my local neighborhood hardware store had put up some new language on their display sign. Since the snow from Friday’s April Fools Day storm has just about melted many of us in Southern New Hampshire have begun to think about treating our lawns. Advertisements for different types of lawn care products have increased ten fold as we put the winter behind us finally.
Let me say this before I begin, County Stores, the store who is advertising the Scotts 4 Step program is one of my favorites. It has old fashioned service and you can get absolutely anything you need. I bypass the big box stores often to spend my money here. Secondly, The Scotts company is obviously one of the most historic and celebrated lawn care corporations in the country and although they are likely one of the largest purveyors of pesticides in the world I don’t mean to take any particular issue with them right now either. It’s the advertisement for Grubex that has me a little bit worried. The control of grubs in home lawns is a very important part of lawn care. It’s my opinion that we’ve gotten a little bit carried away with our absolute dependence on preventative pesticides to deal with them but again, that’s not my point here. I saw the sign and thought it may be a good time to do a quick version of the “life cycle of a grub” essay. The main reason is this, no matter what type of control product you are using for grubs this year, none of them are going to work if you apply them now.
Grubs are the larval stage of any beetle. They are typically white worms that feed on the root system of your lawn. In some cases a severe infestation of grubs can destroy large swaths of turf if they are left untreated or go unnoticed. Grubs are probably second only to crabgrass when it comes to enemies of a nice lawn. When trying to explain the life cycle of a grub it usually makes sense to start with the time of year when they are actively feeding on turf and doing the most damage. However in this case lets start now in the spring.
In the spring grubs come to the surface of the lawn where they prepare to make their final metamorphosis into a beetle. Whether it’s a Japanese Beetle, a European Chafer Beetle or a June Bug Beetle, grubs are simply not feeding in the spring time therefore they can not ingest any insecticide that has been applied to the lawn. As temperatures continue to warm, the grub will become a beetle.
Summer is the time of year when beetles can do damage to plant material other than the lawn. They feed on vegetable gardens, any green leafy plant and trees and shrubs. It’s like one big party for flying beetles this time of year not only because they are eating like crazy but because they are mating like crazy too. This is the time of year when the life cycle of a grub truly begins. Beetles will mate in the summer and lay their eggs in turf to begin the whole thing over again.
Grubs typically hatch towards the end of the summer and begin to feed heavily on the roots of the turf in the early fall. They can continue to do damage, often unseen deep into the fall and can wipe out a lawn with ease. The turf may become discolored and can pull up like a carpet as the root system is decimated. It is during this feeding period, especially in the beginning when grubs will ingest anything designed to kill them such as a pesticide. If they go untreated they will burrow down in the soil as far as they can to escape cold temperatures and then surface in the spring of the following year to start the process over again.
The point is this, do NOT apply anything to your lawn to kill grubs in the spring time, especially a systemic grub insecticide like Grubex. Grubex will not become active until about a month after it is applied. (by active, I mean part of the tissue of the root system of your lawn, that’s what I mean by systemic, as opposed to contact insecticide.) By the time the grub control is working there are no grubs in the lawn. Secondly, it will have a residual of only a couple of months, so that by the time the next generation of grubs are feeding on your lawn in the Fall, it will be gone. Perhaps this sign is advertising grub control for use in a couple of months when it is most likely to be effective, I’m not sure, but if you are going to employ the use of chemical insecticides please be aware of the most effective ways to use them.
More on grubs in your organic lawn later in the week.
The warm weather here in the North East is hesitant to arrive but we know for sure that it can’t be far away as April looms on our calendar. We wanted to take a quick moment to thank all of our new partners and wish them luck as their stores begin to fill up with customers eager to treat their lawns without the use of chemical fertilizers and dangerous pesticides. The feed back we’ve gotten so far about our “Organic Lawn in a Box” has been incredible. Many of our merchants are thanking us for making an organic lawn care solution both affordable and easy to understand.
We think what makes the “Lawn in a Box” such a hit is that if FINALLY takes the guess work out of going organic with your lawn. In the past a homeowner would walk into a lawn and garden center and often times be overwhelmed with the amount of choices that faced them in terms of what exactly to apply to their lawns. In recent years there has been an incredible increase in the number of products that have arrived on the market when it comes to natural lawn care and the choices can be overwhelming! There are four step programs galore when it comes to using chemicals and if you want to take a chance with those products it can be as easy as, “okay, I use the green bag now, the red bag later,” and so on and so forth.
The other great feedback we’ve gotten is that the liquid foliar concentrates allow the end user to reduce the pure bulk in terms of product greatly. Organic granular products need to be applied at very high rates in order to get the results that our concentrated liquid products offer. The truth is the granular products do work well but it’s difficult to lug a hundred pounds of fertilizer around the store, to your car and then apply it to your lawn. The “Organic Lawn in a Box” just gives you that extra level of convenience.
Fire Belly has a full line of retail products with the “Organic Lawn in a Box” being the flagship of them all. We also offer, “Organic Lawn in a Box PLUS TWO,” which is a six step program that includes liquid corn gluten and a bio-stimulated winterizer product and “Organic Garden in a Box,” which offers the end user a season long program to care for their annual, perennial and vegetable gardens!
If ever there was an industry, hobby or occupation that has had a serious identity crisis in the last five years or so it has to be the great pursuit of creating a nice lawn. We have new companies popping up almost daily doing the best they can to meet the need of consumer demand for a chemical free lawn care service. There are also new consumer products that arrive on shelves and disappear in the lawn and garden section as if it were the seasonal holiday section of your local Walmart Store. This incredible changing of the guard in the lawn care industry, both service wise and for the do it yourselfers has created more confusion than any of us would like to deal with. Trust me, it gets confusing even for us who are supposed to know what we are doing.
An interesting exercise is to “google” the key words “organic lawn care” followed by any city, say…Charlotte, NC. What you come up with is search results that represent an interesting mix of companies. You have the same old historic players that have represented the industry for decades now. Some of them are legitimately trying to provide a truly chemical free lawn care option while some of them simply come up with a new catch phrase for what they are doing and call it good, even without changing the products in their trucks. You see many results about training programs and workshops, be it for homeowners or professionals touting the newest technology and methods to eliminate the use of chemicals on your lawn. You also almost always see three or four new companies who have just sprung up with names like “green organics” or “safe soil” this or “bio lawn” that. This is no doubt an industry looking in the mirror trying to figure out exactly who it is. Over the next five years some of the old will succumb the trend because they don’t want to change and some of the new will catch lightning in a bottle. (or exactly the opposite)
Here at Fire Belly we want to bridge the gap between old and new. Some of the older companies have gotten a bad rap for the things they’ve done and we don’t think that really reflects well on the business. Some of the newer companies have been considered snake oil salesman because they are attempting to take advantage of an opportunity that doesn’t come along all that often. Fire Belly has entered into an incredible partnership with a company called Natural Technologies Incorporated with one very important mission in mind. Let’s bring the two sides together and make it a little bit more simple to understand for everybody. We aren’t new, we have decades of experience both in the chemical business and the “not so” chemical business. We don’t like snake oil but we don’t like organophosphates or algae blooms either.
Fire Belly and Natural Technologies will continue promote the simplification and transition to organic lawn care for homeowners by promoting our four and six step organic lawn care programs we call “Organic Lawn in a Box.” http://www.firebellylawncare.com/lawn-in-a-box.php
We have begun the process of creating a truly unique dealer opportunity for companies that want to either transition their existing clientele to a truly chemical free program or want to add the opportunity it to their existing business options. We have begun to build this network across the United States and Canada. Let’s simplify the process, keep it honest and give the consumer what they want. (Not what we want them to want.) We welcome any inquiries, contacts or questions along the way and hope we can help put this argument to bed once and for all and end the confusion.
Yesterday a friend of mine on Facebook posted a picture of his lawn. It was very early in the morning and I would guess that he was walking out the door and heading off to work. All the rain and warm temperatures have caused a pretty quick snow melt which is exposing our lawns after a very long winter.
Our lawns here in the North don’t seem to look at all like they were when we last saw them, in fact, they look pretty bad. He posted a picture of his matted down, winter warn lawn, which to me exposed a perfect example of a common winter turf disease called Snow Mold. To him it seemed like some sort of scary carpet fungus had grown under his layer of snow when he wasn’t looking. His comment under the picture was, “WTF is that stuff.”
So without further adieu, here is everything you ever needed to know about Snow Mold. (And Probably More.) This is an excerpt from a training manual I wrote several years ago.
- Leaves become water soaked, turn reddish-brown, grass blades are matted together and are covered with a whitish pink mycelial growth that is slimy when wet.
- When exposed to light, spots may exhibit a pink coloration.
- Usually kills leaf blades only, unless under extreme conditions.
- Fungus with or without presence of snow or ice cover
- Fine fescue
- Tall fescue
- Perennial ryegrass
- Kentucky bluegrass
- Shoot attacking fungus.
- Spread by mechanical means.
- Pathogen survives unfavorable conditions as dormant mycelia in living or dead grass plants and debris
FACTORS THAT MAY PROMOTE DISEASE DEVELOPMENT:
- Wet humid cloudy weather.
- Cold 32 to 45 degrees.
- Develops under snow if soil is not frozen.
- High nitrogen fertility in fall.
- Excessive thatch.
- Soil pH above 6.5.
- Poor drainage
- Avoid the use of any chemical fertilizers, especially in Fall.
- Control excessive thatch.
- Improve air movement.
- Provide surface drainage.
- Mow to normal height at end of season.
- Minimize snow accumulations.
It’s always been assumed by homeowners and turf managers that snow mold was a disease that is completely out of our control. If there is a long stretch of snow cover and the lawn is dormant for an exceptionally long period of time, snow mold would be inevitable. A good rule of thumb is to keep away from excessive applications of nitrogen in the fall and early winter. If the lawn is actively growing when we get a snowstorm you will probably have a problem in the springtime when the snow melts. There are two types of snow mold, gray snow mold and pink snow mold. The gray type appears to be just areas of turf that are matted down and have not yet begun to grow. It is inevitable that many of your lawns will have some gray snow mold on them every year. The best thing you can do is to gently rake the affected areas allowing for better air circulation to get through and to help the grass come out of dormancy. Pink snow mold is a little bit different and almost resembles red thread. It is circular patches of pinkish areas and sometimes has a substance that almost looks like cotton candy. There have been years of extended snow cover where snow mold has caused permanent damage to lawns but not very often. The good news is that if your lawn is covered with this particular disease, it will likely grow out and recover one hundred percent.
For many years we assumed that snow mold was a simple fact of life that you, as a turf manager (homeowner/service provider) had no control over. If it snowed a lot or if you had an extended period of snow cover you would find your lawn loaded with snow mold come spring time. What we’ve found in recent years is that when you use organic methods to care for your lawn and you decrease substantially the amount of synthetic nitrogen that is applied annually, Snow Mold becomes much less of an issue. The reason for this is that the pathogens that create the disease are much less likely to become visible and active in an environment that is alive with biological activity. Once again, soil that is sterile and void of biological activity is much more likely to be under attack by disease, insect and weed activity. This is not to say that you will never see snow mold ever again but it can be minimized significantly when you employ organic lawn care methodology.
After a full year of review, study and several incarnations of the legislation, the Environment and Agriculture Committee in the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted down the implementation of a law that would prevent the application of many pesticides where children congregate. Those who were involved with the creation and support of the bill were not surprised by the committees failure to take action on the proposed legislation as the vote followed party lines almost to a tee with only one republican crossing the aisle to vote for the measure. Although this comes as a disappointment to everybody involved with the effort to pass the bill, Representative Suzanne Smith, who sponsored the bill released this statement,
“At last week’s public hearing, proponents of HB495 spoke eloquently of the need to protect children who play on the grounds of schools and day care centers from possible health risks due to exposure to pesticides. At the close of the hearing, all involved thought we did an excellent job presenting clear concise information and good solid research.”
Representative Smith has been an absolute key figure in bringing this information to the forefront of a very important debate when it comes to the safety of our children. Her work, along with the effort of Ellen Fine of the “Leah Collective” should be commended publicly and we all owe them significant applause for everything they have done over the the last year. It’s my opinion that even the members of the committee who voted against the legislation should be given thanks for giving the case so much consideration.
In the end, I imagine it is ironic that many of the members of the committee stated, on the record, that they were from agricultural and horticultural backgrounds. Many of them spoke of their own personal beliefs in regard to organic methods in the lawn and garden and often said that they personally would not use pesticides on their own property. In most cases it was simply their political belief that the government need not take action on an issue that would essentially control a freedom of choice. Although I strongly disagree with this stance, one can’t help but see the political process and how it effects our everyday issues. The Republican members of the committee believed that since there was no legislation saying that turf managers had to use pesticides in the care of their turf, there shouldn’t be legislation that says they can’t. Simply put, the conservative “hands off” approach to government prevailed over the theory that it is the job of our legislators to protect our children.
Damage Done to the Lawn Care Industry
Throughout this entire process I have to say that I’ve been frustrated often by the misinformation that was generated by both sides involved with the debate. As this argument concludes I firmly believe that pro pesticide lobby and some very ill advised members of the lawn care industry have done significant and I mean SIGNIFICANT damage to the image of the turf care industry.
Talking to many of the supporters of the bill I often found that their perception of our industry was that all lawn care companies and turf managers have a blatant disregard for the environment, the public safety and to be honest, the health of our children. When a company like Syngenta or Bayer stands up with their fist in the air to defend the use of pesticides one can see that it is their goal to keep their revenue flowing. If the sale of a companies products is made illegal, well, naturally they have a serious problem. However, when a lawn care person stands up to do the same thing it perpetuates the stereotype that all “lawn guys” are evil. The truth is that most lawn care services don’t employ the arsenal of cancer causing agents that the anti pesticide people think they do. The list that was bounced around for prohibition has some very scary chemicals on it that even the most evil lawn care service would never use. In fact the list of pesticides that most lawn care companies use is limited to 4 or 6 products. Most lawn care companies don’t want to use even these products because they cost a lot of money AND because they know that their customers don’t want them too.
My question, with that being said, is why would a lawn care person stand up and angrily defend the use of chemicals. To be honest, it made a thoughtful and progressive industry look archaic and old fashioned. The lawn care industry is not an empty, egotistical suit that is out of touch with what the consumer wants. It is a “boots on the ground” progressive movement in environmentalism. (At least it’s getting there)
Here is a small excerpt of the testimony that I presented to the committee,
“I want to read a brief quote from a book written by Annie Spiegelman, a popular garden writer, it’s called “Talking Dirt” and its about just how effective and easy the switch to chemical free agriculture can be. She writes comically,
‘Spraying toxic chemicals is so 60 years ago! It went out with those silent, smiling mothers on Valium who held babies in one hand and a cigarette and a cocktail in the other, swaggering around their suburban lawns that had just been sprayed by the Chemlawn guy.’
I can tell you long gone are the days where a tanker truck pulls up to a field and pumps pungent, colored liquids that contain Orthene into the trees and cholordane into the grass. Todays turf manager is responsible and educated. They want to do what their customers expect and what their constituents and bosses demand.
Using Annie’s words as a starting point I truly believe that it is time for New Hampshire to take substantial action and implement this legislation to be certain that children are NOT exposed products that are known to cause cancer or to interfere with a child’s hormones.
The turf industry has come a long way and this measure we are debating today would finally bring the entire argument full circle. By implementing legislation that helps companies decide what product is appropriate for use and what isn’t New Hampshire will be taking the final step in protecting it’s citizens from an unnecessary danger.
Even though the bill was not passed I would like to challenge those involved to continue the work but in a different manner. Truthfully, the use of pesticides really isn’t necessary to create healthy grass and after listening to even the opposition of the bill, I think everybody knows that now. Let’s continue to spread the message that there is a better way, a Safer Way. I wrote in a previous essay that it would be the invisible hand of economic influence that would actually create a prohibition of the use of pesticides and I believe that is where this is going. Instead of the state telling you what to do as a turf manager the rule of supply and demand will do just fine. Do an internet search of any city followed by the term “organic lawn care” and you will find thousands and thousands of responsible companies doing the right thing.
If anybody in the general public is reading this, please don’t let the ignorance of a few ruin the reputation of the masses. Let’s move forward with this movement on our own accord.
Many people always assume that the months of December and January are the “off season” here in the lawn care business. The truth is that the winter months are always just as busy as the spring and summer months but just in a different way. Typically, lawn care is replaced by thoughts of Christmas in the minds of consumers but dyed in the lawn care wool professionals just can’t seem to put it away.
This past week was no exception at Fire Belly as we kept things rolling as best we could but I was a little bit surprised by the number of comments were submitted on our blog. Two of them stuck out at me like glowing Christmas lights at the mall, they stuck out enough for me to consider mentioning them here today. For reasons that probably don’t make a lot of sense to most people outside of our industry, lawn care has become an incredibly emotional subject for people who find themselves employed or connected to it. Just ask anybody who has staked their claim on an opinion about the use of pesticides in lawn care. If you love pesticides and are a supporter of their use, typically you are as fired up about their prohibition as August Busch was around 1919. If you happen to be afflicted by chemical sensitivities or if your a true environmentalist you happen to fall on the teetotaler side of the issue, and your not afraid to make your voice heard.
I wrote a letter to the CEO of TruGreen Landcare this past spring. I posted here on our blog and I continue to get comments about it even today. It was a real letter, meaning I typed it, printed it and sent it out via snail mail. I get lots of response from readers about the letter even today and the two comments I mentioned were directed at this particular post from 8 months ago. Two arrived just this weekend;
I think Mr. Kelly should a little more research on a company before he goes and accuses them of ignoring important topics such as an organic lawn program. 20 years in the business doesn’t give him any insight into the way a specific business is run.
Posting stories with false information such as this on the web isn’t going to get any company to want to do business with you, and isn’t that the real purpose for sending your letter to the CEO of Trugreen, To solicit business?
Good luck with your new venture, I truly do hope it is successful for you. I hope nobody goes posting negative smearing posts like this about you in the future.
I have worked for Tru Green for 7 years. They could care less about chemical contamination of our communities. They had me out 10 time a year applying pesticides in the pouring rain and spraying trees & shrub in 40 mph winds. They only care about abusing employees and making a hugh profit. Greed is there way.
I feel compelled to respond to both of these comments in as much of a sensible and non emotional way as I possibly can because I think that as much as we appreciate the ability to speak our opinions, sometimes it makes sense to try to keep our eyes on the road. Although I occasionally get emotional myself about our industry I have a pretty good grip on the history and future of where things are going.
The first comment is pretty sarcastic. It obviously comes from somebody who would fall on the Augie Busch side of the argument and he feels the need to have his voice heard. (which is good.) I can absolutely appreciate his feelings on the matter and I would guess he may even be a long time employee of TruGreen but probably not a high level employee. The truth is, the letter that I sent, actually did make it to it’s intended recipient. Richard Ascolese, who is the President of TruGreen Landcare. Mr. Ascolese forwarded it to Steve Donley, who is the President and COO of Trugreen. He was kind and attentive enough to actually reply to me in writing. His letter was well thought out and cordial. It concluded with a request for me to arrange a meeting with Dr. Kirk Hurto, vice president of Technical Services for Trugreen and Roy Cohen, Vice President of Human Resources. As a result of this request, I was able to have several meetings and conversations with both men.
I found them to be extremely intelligent (obviously) and thoughtful. I really got the impression that they didn’t think I was “accusing” them of anything and we had several very intelligent and productive conversations. Now that you mention it, yeah, I guess my letter was to solicit business. Jason, can you think of any better way to promote what I think is right than to go straight to the most successful and largest lawn care provider in the world? I actually think that my “20 years in the business” does “give me insight into the way a specific business is run.” In fact I worked for TruGreen for about two weeks in 1996 when the company I was working for was purchased by them. Yes sir, I’ve actually been an employee.
The point of my letter was to try to get a message across to the brass at Trugreen. They are well aware that there are many MANY people who are of the opinion of the second comment that was submitted this weekend. They are a very big company with many thousands of employees and customers in the millions. They have struggled as of late and not everybody is thrilled with their service or perhaps, more importantly their response to the environmental lawn care movement. As a large corporation however, it is their goal to make money. It’s what they are in business to do, they make money and this isn’t always about making friends. What I wanted to get across to the big guys at Trugreen was that, in my opinion, they were on the doorstep of the biggest opportunity in the history of their company. I can’t remember if I actually used this worn out cliche or not, but if they took some specific operational actions, TruGreen as a corporation could actually “have their cake and eat it too.” My goal was to suggest to them that they launch a full fledged organic division, not just another program, but a separated organic division that was legitimately chemical free. Much the same way they have their tree and shrub division separate from lawn care.
Can you imagine actually having your cake and eating it too? I still think they could have the best of both worlds.
In regards to the second comment that was unsigned. Your opinion is unfortunately a VERY common one and it reminds me of a conversation I had with a very high ranking executive at the company about five years ago. (He is no longer with the company so I won’t mention his name.) We were at a golf tournament put on by the Massachusetts Association of Lawn Care Professionals. I ran into him as we were preparing to tee off as he was in the group behind me. Although I was not close with him, we were acquaintances so when we saw each other we exchanged pleasantries. I asked him how he was doing and his response was this, “well, we are trying to do a billion dollars in sales, fifty dollars at a time, how do you think I’m doing?” It came off a little bit stiff but it did make a lot of sense.
After my conversations with Dr. Hurto and Mr. Cohen this past year I can tell you that they actually do care, they aren’t evil anti environmental maniacs. They see the challenges associated with lawn care in the year 2010 but their number one priority has to remain profitability. I certainly can’t say that I could do it any better than they are but I know I would do it a little bit differently. What remains after all is said and done however is the fact that this will continue to be an emotional issue with very well defined sides. Right now public opinion is definitely not in the favor of Trugreen but they still remain the largest and most successful lawn care provider in the world. I just wish that they could see that cake. Unfortunately for them, the pure size of their business virtually guarantees that violations will continue. They will continue to be viewed as “the evil empire” no matter how many “Tru Natural” commercials they air or how many times they change their logo. The good intentions of upper management will continue to be tainted by a system that is pressed for maximum productivity. The comments will keep coming to blogs like ours but they will still keep making money. Maybe we can find a way to help them make money but make fewer enemies along the way.