Support Your Local “Green Industry” Professionals
Article for the Tallahassee Democrat
November 7, 2014
By: Bruce Avery
Consumers have many options today when shopping for tree and landscape services. And yes, internet and web searches continue to be a primary method for research and selection criteria. But does any of it really help? In most cases I find it results in “information overload.” This is why contractor screening and referral web sites are growing, although even these services offer no guarantees that the consumer will receive a quality product or experience. So again, we’re back to step one.
I think we all recognize that choosing the right service provider is the single most important step in contracting for work. I also believe in supporting local vendors and contractors. These are our friends and neighbors and they too must make a living and pay taxes for our community to grow and prosper. Secondly, these people are much more likely to stand behind their work if you ever have a problem. So, how do we choose?
When shopping for tree and landscape services, referred to as the green industry, look for companies and individuals with the appropriate green industry credentials. These credentials were created to help consumers recognize those companies and individuals that have met their industries various levels of competencies to provide goods and services. Keeping these competencies and certifications current requires these people and their organizations to obtain continuing education units (CEU’s). This allows them to stay abreast of the most current applied science and technology information available, and to present it to their customers. Also, these credentialing organizations offer additional complaint resolution services, if needed.
Competing for the tree service market for tree removal, pruning, and specialty tree care services is a group of professional tree care individuals and companies, who are members of professional tree care associations that research, formulate and disseminate the most current tree care industry standards for practice and safety. The two most prominent associations are International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). (*There are others, but these are the best known).
ISA has credentialing programs for individuals meeting standard competencies in their respective fields: Certified Tree Worker (Climber and Aerial Lift Specialist), Certified Arborist, Certified Arborist-Municipal Specialist, Certified Arborist-Utility Specialist, Board Certified Master Arborist and Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (TRAQ). To verify a credential or locate a member go to www.isa-arbor.com and search “verify credentials” or you can call (217) 355-9411.
TCIA focuses more on the Company/Business as a whole and has credentialing programs for both the company and certifications for the individual employees. TCIA provides its members with access to numerous tree care safety and training programs and materials. This special focus makes member companies some of the most safety-conscious tree service businesses. The two memberships are TCIA Member Company and TCIA Accredited Company. To locate a member or verify credentials: www.tcia.org or call (800) 733-2622.
TCIA offers individual certifications for Apprentice, Grounds Operations, Climber Specialist, Aerial Lift Specialist, Tree Care Specialist, Plant Health Care Technician and Crew Leader, and. Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP). Members having the CTSP credential are recognized by the insurance industry for having a safe company culture and given additional discounts.
Competition in the landscape installation (designing and building) and landscape maintenance markets is even more competitive. It seems easy to plant trees, shrubs and grass, and even easier to mow grass and trim shrubs. But is it being performed correctly? There are a number of national landscape and maintenance associations, but here in Florida we are fortunate to have a state association that provides membership and certification programs specific to our state. The Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) provides credentialing programs for any professional desiring to expand his or her knowledge. Another program geared toward the homeowner and consumer is the Master Gardener Program administered by most local cooperative extension programs (*again, just a few of a numerous group).
In closing, almost every one of us has felt the effects of the economic downturn of the past few years. This has made both the consumer and the business owner find ways of saving money, which in turn benefits everyone. Will choosing a credentialed company and individual cost you more? It should, and you should be willing and grateful to pay for it. When looking to save money – cheap is just that. Remember the old cliché: “You get what you pay for.” Your trees and your landscape are investments in your property. So, who’s managing your investment?
Resources for helping with these decisions are sometimes available through County Extension Offices and City Foresters/Arborist. Diagnostic services that involve laboratory work to analyze soil and plant samples are critical to maintaining a healthy landscape and should be a part of routine maintenance.
Bruce Avery is an ISA Certified Arborist and a TCIA Certified Treecare Safety Professional. He is employed by AAA Tree Experts, Inc., an appointed member of our “Canopy Roads Citizens Committee.” and is a volunteer writer for Leon County UF/IFAS Extension. For gardening questions, email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov
Watch on WFSU’s TV show Dimensions, Stan Rosenthal UF/Leon County Extension Forester getting some important advice on hiring a company to take care of your lawn or landscape.