May 29, 2002
Green Pencil:
The magic of gears and grease

By Rita Weerdenburg

I admit at the outset that my views will be considered by some as sexist, but as my job requires me to be an observer of the industry, I have long since formed the opinion that for many people – yes, mostly of the male gender – equipment is the main attraction of the landscape, landscape maintenance and snow removal business. This fact of life is not always immediately apparent to the casual onlooker, but years of attending Congress, Landscape Ontario’s horticultural trade show, really leaves little room for any other interpretation.

     The stereotypical mental image is all too familiar and is repeated, I’m sure, at equipment and trade shows across the country. The average age is 25 to 35; the attire is blue jeans, ball caps and work boots. Checking out what’s new in equipment is the only reason they attend trade shows. They travel in twos and threes and typically carry a plastic bag filled with manufacturer’s literature to be inspected more closely from the comfort of home. Equipment is stroked, tires are kicked and whenever possible, seats are sat upon. Conversation with the dealer’s rep is focused on power and capacity and available attachments. This is just the piece of equipment to make our jobs and our lives better and more productive.

     In all seriousness, however, equipment has become the landscape and main­tenance contractor’s single most important answer to the high cost and unpredictable supply of labour. While it is contended by some that lack of mechanization available to the various con­struction industries is a primary cause of their labour woes, the reverse view, I think, is much more appropriate. Of course there’s always room for new and improved technologies and applications. And yes, perhaps there could be more communication between the manufacturer and the end user. On the whole, however, as anyone involved in the industry for any period of time will tell you, we’ve come a long way, baby.

     Just how far we have come is well documented by equipment and communications specialist Chris Dennett, once again our feature contributor to this, our second annual Special Equipment Issue. The wide scope of specialized equipment available to today’s landscape and maintenance contractor is a strong indicator that, on the whole, the manufacturing industry is very much in touch with the needs of the industry, says Dennett. And, with equipment very much linked to productivity, having access to the right equipment can spell the difference between success and failure.

     The overwhelmingly positive response to last year’s first special equipment issue, together with Dennett’s rough estimate that equipment, large and small, outnumbers the average contractor’s labour force by a ratio of 10 to one is a clear indicator of the important role played by equipment in today’s landscape industry. We hope you enjoy our most recent instalment; as always, your comments and ideas for future issues are welcome.

     So, the youthful tire-kickers continue to uphold the tradition at equipment shows and lots everywhere. But who are the actual buyers? Those same fellows, with a few years of sweat and success under their belts, but the same fascination with mechanical magic. And the glamour of grease and gears never stops speaking to members of our trade, at least those of the male persuasion — like my husband!