As state governments continue to impose restrictions on businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, landscaping and irrigation professionals are among many businesses feeling the effects of these precautionary measures.
In Norwich, Connecticut, Brandon Hyde, vice president of Hyde Park Landscaping, emphasizes that the landscaping industry is “in a unique position” to continue operating, according to an article by The Bulletin. This is because crews mainly operate outside and typically have limited interaction with the public.
Hyde respects the state’s decisions so far, but he is hoping the landscaping industry won’t be shut down, as many companies need a way to make up for a light winter.
“It’s critical for our businesses to get out there and make some money, now that our season is here,” he says in the article.
Rick Stewart, owner of Stewart’s Landscape and Lawn in Norwich, says his own business practices haven’t drastically changed due to the virus.
Both Hyde and Stewart say they’ve lost some customers due to the economic uncertainty at the moment. However, they both still have regular customers that will want their services.
“We’re a maintenance-based company, and people still need their property maintained, whether it’s commercial or residential,” says Hyde.
Hyde also says his company is applying stringent measures to keep his employees safe. He put in place additional protocols that include social distancing, wearing gloves and cleaning equipment after every use.
Stewart says he understands if customers become reluctant to spend their money on landscaping in uncertain times. If he ends up with a significant decrease in business, he’ll focus his resources on maintaining his full-time employees, rather than look for summer help.
For some landscaping companies, the surge of newly-unemployed people looking for quick employment has helped their own hiring needs.
Craig Bauer of Bauer Lawn Maintenance Inc. in Swanton, Ohio, says in an article by the Toledo Blade, he historically relies on the H-2B temporary visa program to provide the staffing level he needs to keep his business running during the summer.
Bauer says now that coronavirus concerns have delayed the program, he has 25-30 commercial landscaping positions he needs to fill immediately.
“In my business, the grass grows every day. It needs to be cut, so we can’t really shut down,” Bauer says in the article. “We can really plug in about anybody, anywhere.”
Rodas Outdoor Services, Wedgefield, Florida, is another company that’s offering temporary, landscaping jobs to people who are currently out of work. According to an article by Fox 35 Orlando, owner Eddie Rodas made a post on Facebook offering temporary employment weeding plants and trimming trees. Within 24 hours of posting the offer, Rodas says about 50 people reached out to him for a job.
Rodas said his plan is to take on two temporary workers a day. He is also challenging other businesses to reach out and help people who are out of work right now because of COVID-19 shutdowns. “I wouldn’t survive without my community, and when it’s time to give back to them and you as a business owner, you got to step up to see what you can do.”
The ability to continue operations comes down to whether landscaping and irrigation businesses are considered “essential” by the state and local governments. While some states have already deemed it “essential,” others are unclear whether it’s permitted to continue operating.
Tim Habazin, president of Northern Scapes in Pleasant Hills, Pennsylvania, joined thousands of business owners statewide who made calls and sent urgent emails to local and state and public officials hoping to get more clarity, according to an article by Trib Live.
“At a minimum, the lawns need mowed. A lot of my customers are elderly and can’t do it themselves,” says Habazin in the article. “If the lawns get too high, it’ll open the door for animals and insects, which can carry other diseases — Lyme, for example.”
“Not to mention if people are quarantined to their homes, a neglected yard won’t help with their psyche. I see lawn maintenance as being essential,” he adds.
For landscaping and irrigation companies seeking information on their status of being classified as “essential” or “non-essential,” several industry associations are working to provide information on this.
The National Association of Landscape Professionals, Fairfax, Virginia, has assembled a state-by-state list of who has shut down and who is allowing lawn and landscape contractors to continue as essential services. It also has a resources and news page on how people can help advocate that their state allow lawn care and landscaping to be essential services.
The Irrigation Association, Fairfax, Virginia, has provided a resources page with state-specific guidance on landscaping and irrigation companies continuing operations. It also has created a COVID-19 resources LinkedIn group for association members to share information with one another regarding their experiences navigating the current public health crisis.