The New Jersey Nursery & Landscape Association Back to the Land

The New Jersey Nursery & Landscape Association

For more than 90 years, the New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association (NJNLA) has been representing landscapers, landscaper designers, landscape maintenance contractors, retail garden centers, and wholesale production. Its mission is to protect the interest of these landscaping professionals, increase their knowledge of landscaping, and industry trends, and promote them as "stewards of the environment and providers of quality products and professional services."

"We're the largest and oldest association representing the nursery and landscape industry [in New Jersey], and the only one that is statewide," says Carl Nordstrom, the executive director of NJNLA. "We have three full-time staff and a cadre of volunteers who serve on committees and conduct educational programs for our members."

The group offers landscapers the opportunity to register with the association, which it claims adds credibility and helps fortify a landscaper's business. Members must adhere to the NJNLA's code of ethics, which requires them to follow certain group-sanctioned practices, such as ensuring that they'll obey all plant patent laws and regulation, and that the materials they grow, sell and install "conform with the grade and size standards contained in the American Standard for Nursery Stock approved by the American National Standards Institute." The code also stipulates that members obey all local and state laws, and carry all the required insurance.

21st Century Resources

NJNLA's website can be useful to property managers as well. The site lists certified landscapers, nurseries, and architects, and also has a section listing award-winning landscapers. You can also get tips about landscaping via the "Plant of the Month" section. The section lists a plant or tree, (January's was the Japanese Laceleaf Maple, for example) its colors throughout the year, its height and spread, proper exposure, moisture and soil, and other information about the plant and how to tend it, written by an association member.

The site also features the "Water-Wise" section, filled with tips for saving water and making plants stronger— such as grouping plants based on their water needs, using plants that need less water (the website promises there are plenty of attractive species in this category), planting new plants in the fall when it rains more, and building basins around shrubs and tree to limit runoff. Another section is devoted to "Tips of the Month," and offers hints to improve your planting throughout the year.

Law of the Land(scaping)

Keeping NJNLA's members aware of the legislation and issues that could affect their business is one of the group's key activities. For example, the group is somewhat critical of the border-enforcement measures recently passed by the House of Representatives, claiming that they "Sidestep critical provisions that would ensure the nursery and landscape industry access to a legal workforce."

The organization also takes issue with the anti-immigration movement's statement that there are "Plenty of Americans just waiting to dig rootballs and cut grass, if only employers would raise wages." NJNLA believes that an aging population, declining growth in the young workforce, and young workers' lack of interest in taking some jobs, making hiring foreign workers essential.

One piece of proposed legislation NJNLA agrees with is the "AgJOBS" legislation, which NJNLA's website describes as "a practical and bipartisan solution to the agricultural labor crisis."

According to the website of Larry E. Craig, a U.S. Senator from Idaho, the bill "would create a national computerized job bank that would match up willing American workers with agricultural jobs. American citizens should have, and under our bill would have, first claim on American jobs."

The senator's site also supports the belief that there is a shortage of U.S. workers for these kinds of jobs. As a result, the bill would create a "one-time program called [an] 'adjustment.'" It would allow foreign workers who can prove that they had been working in agriculture for a year prior to October 27, 1999 the opportunity to gain legal status if they commit to working another five years exclusively in agriculture. NJNLA's website provides a space where visitors can let their elected officials know where they stand on the measure.

Another hot-button issue NJNLA takes a stand on is the estate tax, which it claims is harmful to small business. Again, the site features a link that allows members and visitors to inform their representatives that they are in favor of permanently repealing the tax.

A Talk With the Chief

The New Jersey Cooperator recently sat down with NJNLA executive director Carl Nordstrom to get his thoughts on the Association, its programs, goals, and more.

What is the New Jersey Nursery & Landscape Association, and how long has it been in existence?

"The association was formed in 1915 by a cadre of nurseryman, most notably William Flemer who started Princeton Nurseries. Their original mission was to share information and practices to expand the nursery industry in New Jersey."

How is the association comprised now?

"We've since expanded into all segments of the industry, wholesale growers (30 percent), landscape contractors (50 percent), and retail garden centers (20 percent). Our current mission focuses on all segments of the industry—here's a quote from our mission statement:

"The New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association is the trade organization representing professionals in all segments of the nursery and landscape industry.

"We are dedicated to enhancing the regulatory and business environment of our members by protecting their interests, increasing their knowledge and promoting their image as stewards of the environment and providers of quality products and professional services."

What sort of programs do you offer members?

"The most important programs of the NJNLA are our educational and certification programs. We hold approximately five chapter meetings per year per chapter. There are three chapters statewide. We also hold an annual trade show, which also incorporates educational sessions each year in Somerset. We have our Certified Nursery and Landscape Professional (CNLP) program that requires a combination of education, experience, course work and finally a test to become certified."

What current legislative issues are important to NJNLA?

"Our group is working on many different issues facing the industry, immigration reform, invasive plants and pests, water restrictions and availability, additional costs of doing business in the state and over-regulation of the industry."

What are your current and long-term goals?

"Educational programming and recognition of the industry as a true profession with professionals at the helm."

Are there any community projects the group has worked on?

"Yes—we have worked on several community projects over the years, from work at the Rutgers Display Gardens to restoration of the Gardens at Drumthwacket, the Governor's residence. We are also involved with the Jersey Grown Program, and [we] try to provide educational information to the public during drought emergencies, etc."

In what areas do you see the group focusing its attention on in the near future?

"Labor is going to be a major issue for the foreseeable future. Guest-worker program reforms and practical immigration reforms must be addressed along a workable solution and transition of all the illegal aliens we have in this country to a point where they have the opportunity to become legal. New Jersey is becoming one of the most expensive and difficult states to do business in, therefore we need to keep a constant watch on the regulatory agencies and their proposals to over regulate the industry."

Anthony Stoeckert is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The New Jersey Cooperator.