June 21, 2019
Jacki HartWhen I look back over the years that span my career in this industry, I sometimes reflect on changed attitudes as well as changed technology. It occurred to me this spring, that this year is the 40th anniversary of my career in the landscape industry in Ontario.

I started in the spring of 1979 with Weall and Cullen Nurseries. Back then, for the most part, women were the cashiers and administrators, while men were the ‘nurserymen’ selling plants and designing plans for customers. Denis Flanagan, LO’s Public Relations and Membership Services Manager, occasionally writes about those early days at Weall and Cullen — we actually worked together at the same location.

In 1991, when I started my own landscape company in Muskoka, Ont., I was the only woman in the district running a landscape services business. Back then, the annual Congress trade show was a sea of testosterone, and suppliers often asked to speak with the company owner (my husband), to set up an account, or to discuss a particular issue that needed to be resolved.

Out in the field, tradesmen on many worksites were often discriminatory in their attitudes toward me and my crew, and were stubborn in sharing access to materials and equipment.

Gradually, I’ve watched more and more women become growers, managers, business owners, and leaders in this profession. I’m grateful for the loyal and brave leadership of many women who have blazed trails for those of us who followed, where no path existed before.

I am thankful for Sally Harvey, Beth Edney, Lexi Dearborn, Janna Bradley, Monica van Maris, Christine Moffit, Joan Johnston, Kimberly Khoury, Carla Bailey, Jennifer Lemcke, Wendy Ladd, Michelle Kent, Jennifer Hobson, Margot Byers, Jen Cuddie, Janet Ennamorato, Kelly Keates, Audrey Partridge, Tanya Olsen, and many more. What an impressive list!

Their endless passion and commitment to making our profession a more vibrant, relevant and connected community is amazing. I’m proud to stand beside many of them, as we continue to mentor and inspire many young women to start a career in this awesome profession.

In order for this demographic shift to take hold across our many sectors, the biggest shift has probably come from changing attitudes across the board. My hat goes off to those who make no judgment or assumptions when a women steps out of a truck and strides across the yard, sporting steel toed boots and shakes their hand to conduct business.

Last month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Janna Bradley, COO of LMN, about her successful career. Janna, like many of her peers, knows how to stand her ground, isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo, and works hard to grow opportunities for those around her.

Janna and I discussed many aspects of business ownership and growth, at which she and her husband, Mark have been successful at over the years. Our conversation also touched on what it means to be a woman in the profession, since Janna is such an inspiring and a generous mentor to many others.

Here are some  highlights of my interview with Janna:

What’s been your favourite part about owning and running a landscape business?
“I really enjoy the outside aspect of landscaping, as I think everybody in the industry does. They get into it because they like to work with their hands and working in the green segment — whether it’s with trees or plants or creating something or designing something. It was always the satisfaction of completing some sort of a job. It was a lot of fun just going from a blank slate … and just seeing it grow over a period of weeks or days or months … and seeing the families who we built them for enjoy them as well.”

Can you think of any challenges you encountered based on the fact you are a woman?
“I don’t have any specific examples. There was never really any direct conflicts… because I’m a woman. I think what I found was quite the opposite is that they would maybe turn to me for a different perspective sometimes, and for that I was always very appreciative. It’s interesting to see the growth within the industry of women in landscape and so many opportunities within the industry that they can be in.”

What’s been your experience as a successful woman in the industry?
“I think the industry as a whole really does embrace women in the industry. We are finding there has been a lot more support from educators, academic programs, associations, that over the last four or five years are really championing the landscape industry as a whole, as a true career for women and for young adults too.”

What advice would you give women starting a career in landscaping?
“Just go for it! There are so many opportunities, whether your passion is marketing, or tech or field work, or you want to be outside or work in a greenhouse. Our industry is so vast. It’s not just landscape and laying bricks.”

This September, Janna, along with a panel of other successful landscape business owners, will discuss how to scale up your business without losing your life and your sanity on day two of the LO Peer to Peer Network’s two-day summit in Gravenhurst, Ont. For more details on the event, visit HortTrades.com/p2p.

Jacki Hart CLM
Prosperity Partners Program Manager