By Karen S. Barnett


The Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) will serve up an educational smorgasbord of cutting-edge sessions, speakers, and networking events to green industry professionals at its annual Green Industry Conference (GIC), held in conjunction with the GIE+EXPO, October 24–26, 2012, in Louisville, Ky.

According to GIC Subcommittee Chair Phil Fogarty, Weed Man-Lake County, Cleveland, Ohio, “For 2012, our theme, ‘Don’t grow it alone,’ speaks to our commitment to build a program around opportunities for you to meet, exchange, and learn from your peers.”

While GIC is PLANET’s marquee educational event, it is one of an ever-growing number of professional development opportunities the association considers paramount in its role as the voice of the green industry.

“Our voice is as strong as the members and industry participants that make up our vast network,” said PLANET president Norman Goldenberg, Landscape Industry Certified Technician, TruGreen, Memphis, Tenn. “Educating our industry is the best way to ensure this collective voice is conveying accurate and timely information on everything from legislative issues to irrigation systems maintenance. We do that with smart, topical programs that invite participants to share their knowledge and experiences in a way that benefits everyone. The better trained we are, the greater our level of professionalism to operate successful businesses, offer excellent customer service, and make a positive impact on decision makers in Washington, D.C., and in our home state.”

To continually foster and refresh this critical industry voice, PLANET’s professional development resources are built by industry leaders and staff working together in committees — meeting in person and on conference calls year-round. “We are truly a member-driven organization that works with the best and brightest to enrich the profession,” said PLANET’s CEO, Sabeena Hickman, CAE, CMP. “We have wonderful players who volunteer time away from their families and businesses to shape and contribute to the programs we offer so others can learn and grow. With support from our sponsorship partners, we’re able to make these programs available and affordable to all.”

From GIC to the Green Industry Great Escape, the Lawn Care Summit, and interactive safety training modules, the rich array of PLANET programs offers something for everyone, whether you’re a seasoned professional or a student looking to enter the green industry. And, those looking to show that their investment in education and training makes a difference often seek credentials.

PLANET’s certification program — Landscape Industry Certified — is a powerful distinction for individuals who have taken their experience, skills and desire for excellence to the next level by studying, testing and becoming certified. They stay on top of their game by maintaining their certification every two years through recertification.

“As a Landscape Industry Certified individual, education plays a big role,” said David Hupman. The Brickman production specialist from Blue Ash, Ohio, who holds the Manager & Technician designations, noted that, “We cannot expect ownership, quality and efficiency if we are not willing to train on it. And to maintain my certification, of course, I pursue continuing education credits. I’m always educating and improving myself.”

Hupman said he finds a wealth of Continuing Education Unit (CEU) opportunities to recertify at PLANET. “The association offers everything from webinars to events, but my favorite is GIC where I can listen to some of the industry’s best presenters, and network with experts and colleagues from all over,” he said. “I always feel refreshed after GIC — ready to come back and implement all that I have learned. Getting educated and motivated from this one event is a win-win in my book.”

The connection between education and networking, is unbeatable. Former PLANET President Bill Hildebolt, Ph.D., Landscape Industry Certified Manager & Technician, blogged on [ital><ITAL] P future.”

Hildebolt, owner of Nature’s Select Premium Turf Services, Inc., Winston-Salem, N.C., went on to say that networking is not limited to events. PLANET also has a resource in its premier green industry search engine known as PLANET Universe at

“The opportunity to learn from the experience of others is not just limited to attending conferences, having breakfasts with champions, or watching educational webinars. These are important and widely recognized venues for improving one’s professional knowledge base,” said Hildebolt. “But an equally important resource, which must be one of the best-kept secrets of the PLANET Universe, is the intellectual treasure trove of information contained in 30 individual Crystal Ball reports. These reports have been produced over the past 35 years by the Crystal Ball Subcommittee, and each report is focused on a specific subject of special interest to the green industry.”


Navigating the resources

The importance of education and training is clear with obvious benefits. PLANET serves up a host of programs for industry professionals to choose from with savings available to PLANET members. What’s the best route to professional improvement? PLANET’s International Certification Council Chair offered the following advice.

“Everyone has their own reason for pursuing certification. Whatever the motivating factor, it’s important to have a game plan backed by drive and commitment,” said Michael Becker, Landscape Industry Certified Manager, Estate Gardeners Inc., Elkhorn, Neb.

To help create or improve your existing game plan, start with a visit to PLANET’s website, [ital><ITAL] a P to network.

Your virtual tour will set you well on your journey of learning and growth, and PLANET’s staff stands ready to field any questions and offer advice along the way at 800-395-2522. The association’s network of resources, mentors, tools and events are continually growing and expanding to meet your changing educational needs. For a list of staff representatives with handy email addresses, click on the “About Us” tab at and select “PLANET Staff.”


Karen S. Barnett is PLANET’s director of certification and has been involved in green industry association management for 15 years. She is staff liaison to PLANET’s International Certification Council and is a member of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE), as well as the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).