PAYING MY DUES

When I first joined Grounds Maintenance, I gained a position on the magazine based on my merits as a journalist. I approached the job with four years experience as a news editor in Graham, Texas, a bachelor's degree in journalism and publication in a variety of newspapers and magazines, as well as HBO. Five years later, I realize that my credentials as a journalist, while important to my position at Grounds Maintenance, are only part of the resume I bring to the job.

Some weeks ago, a reader sent me an e-mail wanting an answer to one specific question: Have I paid my dues in the green industry? When I first read his e-mail, I was a little indignant, I admit. I wondered really what that had to do with the fact that I operate mainly as a journalist, providing articles that inform an industry and offer direction regarding how to best accomplish daily tasks as a grounds manager. But then I realized the validity of his question. As I put together a magazine that focuses on instructing ways to help you do your job more efficiently, you have every right to expect me to have paid my dues. It's the credibility you've come to expect from Grounds Maintenance.

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That said, I have not paid my dues sitting on a lawn mower 12 hours a day. While I did do that to some extent in my youth, helping my brother with neighbors' lawns for a cut of his pay, it was barely of a professional nature. I have, however, paid my dues helping manage a pecan farm in Texas, spending as many as 15 hours a day grafting trees, sprigging coastal hay, trimming trees, bailing hay, planting trees, swathing and the even less glamorous picking up rocks and tilling — even hoeing — around trees. I've spent the better part of 15 years caring for the nearly 3,000 pecan trees on my husband's family farm. Equipment maintenance? Done it. Pest control? Done it. Managed a smile as the sun beat down during 100∞F-heat before afternoon even hit? Done it. Gotten the job done while dodging snakes, spiders and fire ants? Done it, done it and done it.

But, thankfully, you don't have to rely on my experience alone. I am only one part of the magazine you turn to each month for technical assistance. Mark Welterlen, our associate publisher and editorial director, holds a Ph.D. in agronomy and was a professor at the University of Maryland. He also worked as a golf course superintendent. Katie Eagan, our associate editor, helps manage the magazine with additional journalistic expertise, and Jennifer Ray, our art director, brings our whole magazine together with her creative layout design. Our newest staff member, contributing editor Karen Kerkhoff, has bachelor's and master's degrees in horticulture.

So, Scott from Florida, thanks for your question. I welcome reader feedback and questions. So if you have either, please send me an e-mail or call.

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