April 15, 2009
Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO Executive Director

I expect most of your customers purchase products and services for aesthetic and prideful reasons. They are proud of their home surroundings and want the landscaping to look good. Yet, we provide more than a nice appearance. I cannot think of many other industries that provide as many diverse benefits to society.   

Landscaping, gardening and green-space preservation and enhancement provides many benefits to society be it from an economic, environmental, community pride, lifestyle, health, tourism, aesthetic, recreation, therapeutic or spiritual perspective.

The horticultural industry also offers many solutions to a number of relevant challenges of the 21st century, including pollution, rising heating and cooling costs, climate change, the urban heat island effect, sun exposure, nature deficit in our children, health, etc.

It is time to tell our story of societal benefit to the public.  

Little-known facts

  • Economic contribution is valued at $14.48 billion
  • Approximately $7 billion in Ontario-based on multipliers generated from Statistics Canada Input-Output (“I/O”) tables - $6.98 billion in output and $7.5 billion in value added impacts
  • Employs 110,750 full-time equivalent positions
  • Total direct and indirect full-time equivalent employment is 132,776 jobs. With the number of seasonal jobs the actual number is higher  
  • The sector induces a significant number of additional jobs through household spending by employees. It is estimated that for every two jobs, another job is generated in the economy
  • Employs 66,388 full-time people in Ontario, with 33,000 of those jobs related to the growth and care of turfgrass
  • Generates $3.8 billion in employment income and another $850 million in end-user taxes through PST and GST. Landscape crops are the only sector of agriculture that pays GST  
  • The Canadian public spent $8.1 billion on landscape and garden products and services in 2007
  • The farm gate value of landscape crops (trees, shrubs, sod, perennials, annuals, potted plants, cut-flowers, etc.) was $2.3 billion. In Ontario it was $1 billion. As an agricultural segment, this is larger than corn, wheat, soybeans, fruits and vegetables.
  • There are approximately 20,000 companies operating in the sector, providing significant employment due to entrepreneurial skills  
  • The industry has experienced double digit growth for many years.
  • The sod and nursery sub-sectors report the highest annual growth rates at 7.9 and 4.6 per cent, respectively
  • A total of 90 per cent of farm gate receipts are distributed among three Canadian provinces: Ontario (50 per cent), British Columbia (24 per cent) and Québec (14 per cent)
  • The 2006 census of agriculture reveals that the urban market holds the most potential for our sector, with 24.4 per cent of all gross farm receipts generated by farms that are located in metropolitan areas, compared to 7.5 per cent on a national level
  • The production, horticultural services, horticultural equipment manufacturing, and trade and distribution sectors are a stimulus to the entire Canadian economy

Benefits to society

Most of the industry is aware of the wide range of benefits that our sector provides beyond the economic measurement. Here is a short list of benefits from a literature review of documented research compiled by the George Morris Centre at the University of Guelph.

Landscape for environmental enhancement  

  • Reduces energy costs through the shade, cooling and windbreak effect. Evergreen trees reduce the impact of cooling wind in winter and deciduous trees provide shade in the summer
  • Stabilize soil and reduce runoff in open spaces
  • Provide natural habitats and protect biodiversity
  • Moderates climate extremes, helping to mitigate urban heat islands
  • Produces oxygen
  • Sequesters carbon
  • Ameliorates pollution
  • Improves air quality (indoor and outdoor)
  • Removes contaminants from soil (phytoremediation)
  • Improves water quality
  • Improves water management (flood control) and erosion control
  • Reduces impacts of weather through windbreaks and shelterbelts
  • Reduces noise pollution
  • Controls urban glare and reflection
  • Attracts birds and other wildlife

Landscape foreconomic benefits

  • Increased property values (residential and business)
  • Enhances beauty of buildings and communities
  • Increases public safety and reduces crime and accidents
  • Attracts tourism
  • Assists municipalities in reducing maintenance costs and deriving new economic benefits, including spin-offs from parks, sporting facilities and increased tourism

Landscape for health

  • Aesthetic contribution
  • Improved privacy and security
  • Increases community health and vitality through civic involvement. Beautification projects represent a sense of pride and value by residents and businesses
  • Reduces stress and improves productivity (workplace, schools)
  • Introduces calming effects and reduced discomforts
  • Promotes quicker recovery (hospitals)
  • The practice of horticultural therapy improves mind, body and spirit
  • Increase human health (e.g., use in medicine)
  • Improve life satisfaction and well-being
  • Increase positive emotions
  • Improve general quality of life in urban settings
  • Create pride in community through community gardens and allotment gardens
  • Promotes attention and concentration improvements for children
  • Reduces aggression and violence
  • Provide space for recreation
  • Enhances sport field safety
  • Encourages healthy active and passive lifestyle pursuits

Key trends impacting the sector

The sector is positioned for continued healthy growth in the future, because of the following trends:
  • Aging baby boomer cohort, estimated to spend between $7.8 billion and $14.4 billion annually on garden and garden-related activities during retirement
  • A return to cocooning or ‘staycation’ due to continued interest in renovations and a poor economic outlook
  • Rising concern for the environment, encompassing regulatory change and Gen-Y influences and attitudinal changes towards the importance of green
  • Continued public and government awareness involving the huge and varied societal benefits of the sector from an economic, environmental, community pride, lifestyle, health, tourism, aesthetic, recreation, therapeutic and spiritual perspective
  • Landscape, gardening and greening activities present the public with solutions to a number of relevant challenges of the 21st century (i.e. pollution, the urban heat island effect, rising heating and cooling costs, etc.)
  • Investments in ornamentals have demonstrated financial benefits to homeowners appreciating resale values

Sources:  Deloitte - The Impact of Ornamental Horticulture on Canada’s Economy, January 2009; Economic Profile of the Turf Industry – Ontario Turfgrass Foundation – 2009

Years ago I was listening to a presentation from one of our members.  His description of our industry has stuck with me: “We are in the business of enhancing lives.” What a wonderful way of looking at what we do for a living. It is time we spread our life-enhancing message. This is what the “Green for Life” program is all about. 
Tony DiGiovanni may be reached at tonydigiovanni@landscapeontario.com.