How old was Ryan Herwig when he first pushed a lawn mower? “I was probably a little bit younger than I should have been,” he said. After ramping up his skills on his parents’ “good-sized city lot” in Muscatine, Iowa, he started taking care of his grandparents’ lawn and landscaping — they even paid him for it. Before long he was working throughout the neighborhood, mowing, pruning, pulling weeds and planting flowers.
He didn’t know at the time that he’d started on a long-term career path. When he went off to college, his first agriculture business courses clicked, and he graduated with a degree in agribusiness, economics and agronomy. “When I was at Iowa State, I worked for the USDA Plant Introduction Farm,” he said. “I graduated, did an internship and got offered a job with a commercial landscape company.”
That job brought him to Minnesota, and after a couple of years he switched to Rainbow Lawn Care. “I can use a bit more of my education here,” he said. “In agronomy and horticulture, I learned a lot about plant health. Now I go to people’s houses and diagnose the health of people’s lawns and their plant needs. A lot of people have a lawn disease or just some areas that have never done well. Some people just don’t know how healthy their lawn is, or what they could be doing to make it better.”
“There’s a lot of people in the green industry — they know you do something just because other people have done it. They’ll just push the basics — mowing, spraying weeds, fertilizing X number of times. That’s why I fit in at Rainbow — it’s much more science-based. We’re concerned with why we’re doing things, doing it safely and properly, not just throwing another chemical at it.”
What does it take to be successful as a lawn care consultant?
It takes a blend of personality — understanding business, but having love of the green industry. To just cut grass — a lot of people do that. To go beyond and do the consulting, it does take a bit of a special blend.
How seasonal is the business?
Right now is the slow time. In another month or so, it’s going to be go-go-go. People don’t remember they have a yard until they see it again. Right now it’s preparation, contacting clients, getting the conversation started, getting the crews ready to go. At the end of the year we do a lot of holiday design. That keeps us really busy from end of October through the end of the year.
What will people see when their lawns emerge this spring?
It’s been a hard winter. There was a lot of salt put down. There’s going to be a heavy amount of vole damage — the snow’s been down a long time and they keep active under there. Japanese beetles start and end the year as grubs. They do damage to the yard and they attract gophers, voles, raccoons and skunks. □