Private companies aren’t the only ones having trouble finding people who are willing to steer a mower. “One of our biggest concerns is the difficulty of hiring seasonal employees,” said Darren Dunkle, director of parks and recreation for Washington, Missouri. “It’s nationwide--kids don’t want to work in the heat.”

Dunkle recently proposed to the city council that they solve their mowing difficulties by letting local contractors handle it. The $19,000 they would have paid for a seasonal employee could be used as funding. “The city would be spending the equivalent of one full-time employee to mow,” he said. “But the mowing work itself takes more than one person.

Contractors benefit from economies of scale, which means they can mow cheaper than it would cost a small town like Washington, population 14,000, to do it themselves. The park board was unanimous in their support for the plan, agreeing that an outside contractor could get a lot more done than one part-time employee. “Mowing takes up a significant part of the summer for parks staff. The more sites that need to be mowed, the less time parks workers have to work on other projects,” said Dunkle.