Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Murder in Monterrey

There’s a right way to do things and a wrong way. Or, in the case of immigrant workers, there’s the legal way and the illegal way. Santiago Cruz, who spent three years working in North Carolina, was working for the legal way. It's believed it cost him his life. He was brutally murdered.
Colleagues are viewing his killing as a warning from vicious forces in Mexico not to tamper with their lucrative business. And what kind of business would prompt murder? No, we’re not talking drugs. We’re talking about the business of bilking fellow citizens out of their money on promises (rarely fulfilled) of working in the United States.
Santiago worked for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in North Carolina, and had traveled to Monterrey, Mexico, to fight corrupt recruiters who take money from people who want jobs in the United States.
This type of extortion is big business in Mexico, perhaps the darkest side of U.S. guest worker programs. Most poor Mexicans seeking work in the United States are not knowledgeable about the guest worker process. Or perhaps they’re desperate, desperate enough to pay shady recruiters exorbitant (sometimes thousands of dollars) fees on promises of working in the states.
Honest recruiters typically charge hopeful jobseekers minor administrative fees, usually just enough to cover the cost of processing their applications. Legitimate recruiters make their money from the fees that they charge U.S. business owners, not from job seekers.
Recruiting is a serious business in Mexico as Santiago’s brutal death illustrates.
He was discovered beaten to death in his Monterrey office. His hands were tied behind his back and his feet bound. FLOC represents about 7,000 guest workers that come to the Southeast each year to work in agriculture.

Raleigh's ABC11 Eyewitness News offered a full account and video of the tragedy on Nov. 16. Click on the headlne for the ABC11 report. — Ron Hall

Friday, November 09, 2007

Formula 1 mower

While landscapers now have some pretty cool-looking zero-turn mowers to zip around lawns on, when it comes time for some of the detailed work, the trusty old push mower is still pretty boring. Until now. Here's a concept mower that will have you mowing like an F1 racer. Check out the whole story from this blog.

— Mike Seuffert

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Leaders reflect on Spring Green's 30th anniversary

“All politics is local,” said the late Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, a longtime speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress.
Let it be acknowledged here (and recently verified by James Young, president of Spring Green Lawn Care Corp.) that: “All lawn care is local.”
His company turned 30 years old this past January. Spring Green, with 70 independent franchises and four company-owned locations generated revenues of $26 million in 2006, according a fine article written by Eric Krogh, generated by the prestigious Medill School of Journalism, University of Northwestern.
In the article, Tom Hofer, Spring Green’s CEO, points to location, specifically the lawn care-happy Chicago metropolitan market, as one reason for his company’s success and longevity.
“Chicago is just the best lawn care market in the world,” he was quoted in the article.
Equally important, said company president Young, is being recognized by customers as a locally run business. “The best opportunity to differentiate our brand from our competitors is to have that local presence.”
Click on the headline to read the nice article about Spring Green written by Eric Kroh. — Ron Hall

Friday, November 02, 2007

Why you must get active

You've heard us sound the rally cry for action many times. Primarily (or at least recently) we've amplified the calls of those who have been pushing for extension and permanent passage of the H-2B returning worker provision. As of this posting, much to the relief of many landscapers, it looks like that will pass. But the bigger message (and perhaps we've been too subtle in our expression of it) is that the important thing is to get involved in local government, at least make your presence known.

While it looks as if landscapers have received a temporary reprieve from the H-2B issue, it is by no means the only impediment Green Industry business owners face. Water restrictions, chemical application rule changes and now even "luxury taxes" are a concern. That's right, the same term applied to Major League Baseball's George Steinbrenner and the enormous salaries he pays out is being applied to landscapers.

Apparently, Michigan legislators are considering imposing a tax on certain services, including landscaping. The story, reported here. by Lansing, MI-based, suggest that a 6% sales tax will be added to these services, which landscapers say could cost them jobs. The good news, and the point of this rant, is to let you know that this is not a done deal. The most heartening news in the story is this line: "Landscapers and other small business owners voices have been heard. Lawmakers say they're open to considering alternatives to the service tax."

Be assured, however, that nothing will change if the voices of Michigan landscapers fall silent. Simply put you've got to find out what is happening at the local city council and at the state level. And then you've got to get involved.

For the complete story click here.

For more ideas on how to contact your legislative representatives click here.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Missouri Botanical Garden sets great example

The Missouri Botanical Garden set a new recycling record in 2007 with the collection of over 100,000 lbs. of horticultural plastic originally destined for landfills. The Garden’s successful Plastic Pot Recycling program in St. Louis is the most extensive public garden recycling program in the United States, collecting over 300 tons of waste in the past 10 years.
The “green” initiative is led by the Garden’s William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening, which organizes the yearly public collection of plastic garden pots, polystyrene cell packs and trays on six weekends in May and June.

In several years, satellite collections centers were established at retail garden centers in the St. Louis metro area; 2007 participants include Greenscape Gardens, For the Garden by Haefners, Crabapple Cove Nursery, Summerwinds at Timber Creek, Schmittels Nursery, Garden Heights Nursery and the City of Kirkwood Recycling Depository. Over the last four years, the program has been further expanded to include collections from green industry businesses such as landscaping contractors, public works departments, grounds management professionals and wholesale growers.

Over 100 volunteers contributed to the Garden’s recycling effort this year by donating more than 500 hours to assist in the collection and processing of horticultural plastic. Pots and trays are sorted by plastic type and granulated on-site into small chips that are easily transported for recycling. The plastic regrind is sold back to consumers as retaining wall ties and timbers for use in landscaping projects. The plastic timbers are water and pest resistant and can be cut and drilled similar to wooden lumber. They outlast traditional wooden railroad ties that have a lifespan of only ten to 15 years.

Proceeds from the sale of plastic timbers are used to fund future collections. Grants from the St. Louis – Jefferson Solid Waste District, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Environmental Improvement and Energy Resource Authority, and California-based Monrovia Growers also support the program.

“It is increasingly apparent that our disregard for the reuse of plant containers ends in millions of pounds of plastic being wasted into landfills each year,” said Dr. Steve Cline, manager of the Kemper Center for Home Gardening and Plastic Pot Recycling program founder and organizer. “Providing an alternative to pitching pots by offering a program to recycle them has sparked a sense of loyalty to doing the right thing. We continue to be impressed with the public and green industry response to this effort.”

The Garden looks forward to enhancing the program in 2008 by expanding the fleet of recycling trailers to additional nursery and garden centers, and making the satellite collections available year-round. Program organizers also hope to offer additional bins at collection centers so consumers can sort their plastic when it is deposited, making the collections more efficient by saving significantly on labor. Repositioning of recycling trailers at the Garden’s collection site will also make drive-thru deposits accessible throughout the year.

“Ultimately, our goal is to develop a workable system of collection and processing so that other communities can adopt a similar effort and evolve this into a common practice,” said Cline. “We are especially pleased that in the past three years Monrovia Growers has taken a leadership step forward on behalf of the green industry and supported the experimental phase of the program. This public/private partnership enables us to continue the growth of a fundamental recycling program such as this. We look forward to other green industry support, including the container producers, as we deal with this ongoing waste issue.”

For more information on the Garden’s Plastic Pot Recycling program, visit the Web site or call (314) 577-9561. For more information on purchasing plastic landscape timbers, call the Kemper Center at (314) 577-9441.
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