March 15, 2010
Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO Executive Director

Recently Allan Dennis, editor of Horticulture Review, and I had a wonderful opportunity to visit the home office for Sunshine Grounds Care in Orangeville.  

Sunshine was started by Tim van Stralen in 1987, after graduating from the Humber College Landscape Technology Program. At that time, I was the coordinator of the program and remember Tim as a conscientious, well mannered, hard working and very shy student. Twenty-three years later, Tim (shy no more) and his nine brothers have built an impressive, professional organization serving four provinces and one U.S. state.  

The moment I entered the building, I could sense this was a special place. The television screen in the lobby displayed a greeting, “Welcome Allan and Tony from Landscape Ontario.” The tour began in the café, where I met a number of other brothers and staff members. We talked about the brothers’ respective histories, the company’s philosophy and operations. The business is based on a very simple philosophy of passion for service and sincere care for customers, employees and community.

Tim and his brother Peter described their aspirations, company vision, employee philosophy and the need for balancing family, business and spiritual life. Employees are encouraged and recognized when they provide unexpected and special customer service. They refer to this as a “pickle.”   

We also discussed environmental stewardship and the importance of community contribution. As far as I know, Sunshine Grounds is the only company in North America with a full-time environmental coordinator. Scott Bryck is dedicated to greening all aspects of the organization. He plans to introduce other environmental services to the company’s offerings.   

As we were talking, I began thinking to myself that Sunshine accurately reflects the vision of Landscape Ontario: to grow prosperous, professional, ethical, valued, recognized and trusted horticultural operations. I could not help feeling a little proud that Tim was one of my students and that Sunshine Grounds Care was a member of the Landscape Ontario community.   

As I was leaving, I turned to Tim’s father, Fred van Stralen, and said, “You must be very proud of your children.” Without hesitation, he replied, “I am very thankful.”  

That one word made a huge and positive impression. I imagine that Fred’s “thankful” attitude has, and continues, to influence the Sunshine and van Stralen life journey.  
It certainly influenced me.  

Being thankful reduces fear and uncertainty. In our increasingly fast-paced and insecure world, thankfulness stimulates positive thoughts and feelings.  It reveals our blessings. It provides hope. It encourages and supports. It grounds us.  

Thanks, Fred. 
Tony DiGiovanni may be reached at