Landscape Games come to K-State

By Bryan Richardson

The 2012 Summer Olympics are months away, but K-State is hosting an Olympic-themed competition this weekend.

The Professional Landcare Network Student Career Days started Thursday and lasts through Saturday. Students from 61 colleges nationwide are here to compete in what is essentially an annual lawn care and landscape Olympics.

Most of the competitions will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at various locations on the Kansas State campus. Thursday provided an opportunity for students to attend workshops in their respective competitions.

Rip Tompkins, of ArborMaster Training, taught the arboriculture techniques workshop. For this event, a two-person team will demonstrate the knowledge needed by arborists. Each member takes a written exam, and one teammate will perform a rope toss while the other performs a tree climb.

Jonathan Fair, a junior at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, looked on as the instructor taught the students about proper technique. Not everybody appeared to be listening, but Tompkins had Fair’s undivided attention. Fair admitted he wasn’t good with knots, a key factor in a secure tree climb. In fact, he didn’t have much experience with tree climbing at all.

“Competing in things I know nothing about is expanding my horizons,” he said. “It’s a little overwhelming right now.”

Fair is competing in three events this weekend: sales presentation, arboriculture techniques (tree climbing) and 3D exterior landscape design. Sales would appear to be the event where Fair could use his previous experiences best.

Fair, 30, worked in e-commerce for many years in Austin helping a hookah business expand. He said he began to become sick of the late hours on the computer and not seeing enough sunlight.

Also, Fair longed for a better financial situation. “I was sick of not being paid what I’m worth,” he said.

Fair decided to go back to school and is majoring in horticulture and crop science, which he said will provide him the ability to make his mark.

“There’s lots of niche markets right in front of people,” he said. That’s why Fair, despite his knot struggles, attended in the tree climbing workshop. He said there’s an appeal to making a couple thousand to prune a tree, a skill many people don’t have.

This is his second time participating in Student Career Days. Fair said there are just some things he can’t learn at Sam Houston, a smaller university. “It’s really generalized degree fields,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of opportunities to learn about all of this.”

The event also has a career fair from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday. However, Fair said he wants to eventually use all of his knowledge to become his own boss.

“I try to be a renaissance man in life,” he said. “I see myself owning my own business. I’m sick of working for the man, basically.”

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