Women Find Satisfying Careers in Groundskeeping | Outdoor sports, hunting and DIY

Think back to the vintage lawnmowers of the past. Brand names like “Yard-Man” and “Lawn-Boy” sent the message that cutting grass was a man’s job. Although this may have been the image portrayed when these businesses were established in the 1930s, some women have always been involved in mowing the lawn around the house, then as now. Times have also changed in the lawn industry at large. Nearly a century later, groundskeeping is still seen as a male-dominated business, but today more and more women are finding that the “grass is greener” for them in this field. . Two women from south-central Pennsylvania who have made groundskeeping their occupations came to their callings by very different paths.

Career change brings fulfillment

In the case of Sheri Becker of Adams County, her career change was unplanned. After running the former Fieldstone Meadows horse farm in Dallastown, Pennsylvania for more than 20 years, the death of the farm owner and subsequent sale of the property meant that Becker was thrust into the job market there. is six years old, at 47 years old.

Becker eventually responded to a job offer for the grounds maintenance team at Cross Keys Village: The Brethren Home Community in New Oxford, Pennsylvania. This is a large non-profit retirement community, located just minutes from her home. She came from a family of gardeners – mostly vegetables and a few flowers – but she took the job with some trepidation. After years of working alone setting her own hours, she worried about maintaining regular working hours and having co-workers, all of whom were men at the time.

Cross Keys Village proved to be an ideal choice for Sheri, who prefers working outdoors. While most of the 20 field and maintenance crews are men, there are now also other female workers and volunteers on board. They receive acceptance from male colleagues and residents of the retirement community. Sometimes a resident will approach Sheri in her golf shirt, baseball cap and sunglasses, to say in surprise, “Oh, you’re a girl! Some residents with a groundskeeping request even specifically ask, “Could you send one of the ladies?”

Becker’s job title is “gardener,” for which his employer provided hands-on training. The year-round position includes duties ranging from lawn mowing and snow removal to trash cans, plant care, plant replacement, mulching, weeding, watering and leaf removal. ‘fall. With a 300 acre campus, there is never a shortage of work. Sheri, whose hours are 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with a half-hour lunch break, is known as the “plant.” She solves plant problems and her specialties include planter design and hand pruning. She also finds particular pleasure in creating outdoor seasonal decor.

A young mother runs a successful landscaping business

Martha Keckler Caudill started her own lawn care business when she was 14 in Gardners, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. What started as a teenage member of the Carlisle and Gettysburg Garden Clubs who dabbled in weeding and maintaining neighbors’ landscaping turned into a career. The business she founded, Keckler’s Landscaping, now based in York Springs, Pennsylvania, is still going strong 20 years later.

Satisfied landscape client and neighbor Kate Michelman, left, points out nearby blooming hydrangeas to her landscape maintenance contractor, Martha Keckler Caudill. The two struck up a friendship as well as a business relationship.

Initially, Caudill’s parents wanted her to go to college, but Martha protested that it was not the right choice for her.

“I always knew I wanted to be in landscaping and horticulture,” said Caudill, who grew up on a farm with her six siblings and loves being outdoors.

With college off the table, Caudill’s parents, who were entrepreneurs themselves, encouraged her to start a business. Her mother put her in touch with two local garden clubs, where Caudill went to learn. She liked what she discovered and started her business venture distributing flyers to her members, offering to do lawn work.

“I did a ton of weeding in the flower beds,” Caudill said. She also pruned and trimmed by hand, as well as cut the grass with an electric mower. As she was too young to drive, the initial challenge was getting to and from work, which usually involved her mother dropping her off and the landlord driving her home.

At age 15, Caudill joined the National Junior Horticultural Association. The purpose of the organization is summed up by the acronym HYCEL, which stands for Horticulture, Youth, Careers, Education and Leadership. Caudill embraced all they had to offer, absorbing knowledge through various projects. She eventually served as an officer at the local, state, and national levels, where she became president and eventually alumni chair of the organization.

As Caudill, who was home-schooled, neared graduation, she was offered a scholarship to study horticulture at the Royal Conservatory in Scotland. She also had the opportunity to enroll in the two-year professional horticulture program at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Not wanting to lose the clientele she had built up with her landscape maintenance business, Caudill chose to continue working for herself.

Caudill did not miss the Longwood Gardens certification program. Instead, she opted to continue her education in horticulture via evening classes, with the two garden clubs she belonged to each contributing $1,000 toward her tuition. She tended lawns for clients during the day, drove 2.5 hours to Kennett Square to go to class, then drove home late at night and got up early the next morning to go to work. It took him 10 years to complete the courses and get his certifications from Longwood Gardens, with plant use certification being his main focus.

Although she has never done paid advertising, Caudill has no shortage of clients seeking her services. She jokes that she gets her customers through word of mouth shared at card clubs, book clubs and wine clubs. She also gets business from her clients’ neighbors and other people who see her working outside.

She remembers a time when there were men who felt that as a woman she was unqualified for her job. Caudill told them, “You should only hire me for my skills and credentials.”

Her services currently include mowing the lawn, which she does one day a week. Otherwise, his attention is mostly devoted to landscape maintenance, such as seasonal tasks like weeding, edge trimming, mulching, pruning, hedge trimming, felling, fertilizing, and leaf raking. . She also installs landscaping features, including flowers and bulbs. Caudill tries to be eco-friendly, especially when it comes to supporting birds, bees and other pollinators.

She controls costs by buying used equipment when possible.

“I don’t like debt and I don’t need the latest and greatest,” Caudill said.

Her clients determine how often she comes to their properties. As for his fees, Caudill bills the yard for mulching, weeding by the hour, and sets a flat rate for special jobs. She handles her own billing monthly, preferring to create handwritten invoices on pre-printed forms. Ninety-nine percent of its customers are residential properties. She also serves a warehouse and works on call for a municipality. Most of its customers are located in the Carlisle-Gettysburg-Mechanicsburg area.

For its first eight years in business, Caudill was a solo operator with no employees. Since then, she has hired two high school or college students to work with her during the summer. She patiently trains them, not only in landscaping, but also encouraging them to “value your work”. Ideally, they start with her around the age of 16. Most stay until they are 20 or 21 years old.

Caudill’s working day generally extends from dawn to dusk. His assistants accompany him in a diesel van with a tipper that carries mowers and wheelbarrows and tows a trailer. She doesn’t mind the long hours, noting, “I can’t believe people pay me to go do this every day. I love my work.”

Caudill Landscaping operates from late winter to late autumn, with Caudill taking flight during the colder months. This period provides the opportunity to spend some extra quality time with her family, which includes 4-year-old twins and a 5-month-old child. She is already looking forward to being able to homeschool her children in a few years.


The Caudill family is spending quality time on a Saturday morning at home, husking sweet corn from their garden. From left to right, Meriam, 5 months old, Benjamin, 4 years old, Daniel, Martha and Felicity, 4 years old.

Caudill manages to juggle business and family with the help of her husband of 11 years, Daniel Caudill, and one of her sisters, who provides childcare just five minutes from the house.

“You need a good support system,” Caudill said.

Daniel, who is a self-employed plumber and electrician, not only picks up the children from their carer, but also assists Martha’s business by sometimes helping with mowing.

Since Martha Caudill realizes that her health is her wealth, she tries to train and take care of her body.

“You have to be tough if you want to give it your all,” she said.

When asked what the future holds for her and her business, she replied, “My future looks like what I have today.”

Expansion is not part of its plans. Because she’s been in business for 20 years, Caudill said, “I now know my limits and don’t take more than I can handle.”

She offers this career advice for both men and women:

“Find something you like to do” and do it.

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