PLANET 32nd Annual Student Career Days Celebrated
March 26-28, 2008
Planet’s Student Career Days is an annual event that draws the largest gathering of potential landscape employees entering the job market. These are college students mostly on the verge of graduating and seeking employment in a field relating to the turf industry. Some of the students are attending for their second and third year.
The event begins with a landscape related tour of the host city and workshops for the students on a variety of subjects relating to the green industry.
The highlight of the event takes place on Saturday at a local technical college and is a competitive event. Each college divides their students into teams who then compete in a variety of activities such as wood construction, annual and perennial id and paver installation. All tests are timed. The college with the highest combined scores for all events receives a trophy.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Thursday morning started with a supplier meeting at the host hotel. This was to inform the industry about the appointment of Jason Cupp of Highland Outdoors Inc. of Kansas City as the new president of PLANET. We then boarded tour buses for the turf tour.
This tour took us to Pike’s Nursery. At the nursery, we toured their greenhouses and were given a demonstration of some of the various services that they offer. We got to see how plants were propagated and some of the techniques that were used in the growing, trimming and shaping of plants that were placed on display for sale. A little different variety of plants was offered for sale in Atlanta. Because of the difference in weather between Atlanta and Kansas City, the plants offered for sales were what we would consider exotic or tropical although to the Atlanteans these were actually everyday plants.
Our next stop was The Georgia Aquarium. Lots of fun, but not really work related so it was purely for enjoyment. I did, however, pet a hammerhead shark so I feel like it was worth it.
Our third and last stop was at the Smith-Gilbert Arboretum. This is operated by the city of Kennesaw and is a 13-acre garden very similar to Powell Gardens here in Kansas City. It includes a woodland trail, a rose garden, a conifer collection and varieties of hollies, maples and sculpture.
It was a private residence recently sold to the city of Kennesaw and is now open for tours and educational programs. Our tour was led by two ladies from the Master Gardeners program. They walked us over the 13-acres and explained the various gardens and arrangements. The owners were very interested in horticulture and would see different styles of gardens or plants on their travels and come back to Atlanta to try to incorporate them into their own garden. Some of the experiments were failures because of the climate of Atlanta not being conducive to the types of plants, but some were very successful and they introduced several new varieties of plants to the Atlanta area.
They also have a vegetable garden on the 13-acres for a national project called “Plant A Row”. These vegetables are grown during the course of the year - and it is a much longer growing season in Atlanta than in Kansas City - and then donated to local food pantries.
One of the highlights of this tour for me was the college students. We were with a group of students from Bringham Young University in Idaho, who were picking weeds out of an undisturbed pasture area. They do not have weeds like henbit and some of the plantains in Idaho, so were picking samples to take back to their professors.
The final event of the day on Thursday was the Industry/Faculty Reception. PBI/Gordon co-sponsored this with the Georgia Green Industry Association and Metro Atlanta Landscape & Turf Association. Each sponsor was allowed two minutes to speak and tell a little about their organization. Doug Obermann was the speaker for PBI/Gordon and encouraged everyone to take an ink pen and WeedAlert.com business card that we had brought with us to the reception. Many of the faculty from various colleges and universities across the country had never heard of WeedAlert.com and we had several come by the table to pick up a dozen or more cards to distribute to their students. There was a good crowd and the reception was combined with the PLANET annual meeting and installation of officers and board of directors for the next year.
Friday, March 28, 2008
The only activity we had Friday was a briefing with the college students that would participate in the event we co-sponsored for the competition on Saturday called Turf and Turf Pest ID.
Weed Man of Calgary, Alberta, Canada was the main sponsor for this event. They have sponsored the event for about four years. Weed Man offers the high scorer of this test a prize of $10,000.
During a roll call of the students that would be participating in the test, we handed out small tokens to each student. Our token was a giant weed chart, which was very well received. Several students asked for more copies and some of the faculty asked for up to 50 copies to be shipped to them for their student’s use.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
We traveled to North Georgia Metro Technical College in Acworth, GA for the competitive events. These took place over the course of the entire day. Our event was Turf and Turf Pest ID and was held from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Originally, we had been assigned two rooms to administer the test, but Phil Fogarty from Weed Man preferred that all of the 100 students be kept together in one room, so we were moved to an auditorium in another building.
The test began with a roll call at 1:00 pm, explanations of the test itself and time was called to start. Each student had up to two hours to finish 40 multiple choice questions identifying pictures of grass, weeds and bugs and then go outside to look at 10 pots of grass species. They had to identify these species by common name, botanical name and spell the botanical name. As a side note – quite a few of the weed pictures the students were required to identify came from our giant weed chart.
After the test was completed at 3:00 p.m., we graded the tests. These had to be checked and then double-checked by the four person team. One team worked on the multiple choice answers and the other team worked on the identification section. The high scorer was Paul Reed, from the University of Florida with a 92. This test was actually more difficult than it first appeared as there were only 3 scores in the 80’s and over 70% of the balance of the scores falling at 50 points or below. A copy of the test is available if anyone would care to see it.
Other events that took place during the day included mower operation, landscape installation, exterior landscape design, irrigation troubleshooting and wood construction to name a few. The final scores were tallied and awards were distributed at the closing ceremonies on Sunday morning.
Mary Ellen Scheib