November 3, 2020
Audrey Partridge
Audrey Partridge
Audrey Partridge is a longstanding member of the Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation (OTHF) Board, and a big believer in green career opportunities.

What advice would you give a landscape pro considering volunteering?

I would explain volunteering is all about what you will get out of it. If you associate with other successful people, you will succeed! If you are open to growth, you will soak it up. The volunteer environment is so enriching; you will find you connect with other volunteers, that you have similar struggles — and you can still laugh together when tough stuff comes by.

What does your Board participation actually entail?

We actually take an active role in fundraising, knocking on doors and asking for money. It has been tough to know if we should solicit funds during the pandemic, although members are all so busy. It’s like what happened during the 2000 recession, when there was so much demand for landscaping due to cocooning.

Do you see any other groups or industries with foundations as active as LO’s?

I do other fundraising for lots of causes, especially some that can tug on your heartstrings. Working for our OHTF is a bit tougher, but I don’t see any other industry working on the scale we do.

How did you get involved?

I was recruited by Hank Gelderman, who has a special way of getting volunteers. He said, “We would be so honoured if you would join us.”

Has your Foundation work seemed any different since you retired from an active role in landscaping?

It is a little different now that I am a bit removed. But I value it, it keeps my mind going!

What will the Foundation be like in 10 years?

Well, those of us left will be using canes. I hope to see new people eager to enrich the industry, and I have no doubt that will happen. They will be building on the work of astute, brilliant people including Neil Vanderkruk, Casey and Monica van Maris, Tony DiGiovanni, Hank Gelderman. They are all wise investors, who knew and know how to invest in people, property and the future.

Do you get a chance to connect with scholarship recipients?

Oh yes, we review applicants’ resumes, and they are required to write an essay, which gives a peek into their desires, vision, and whether or not they are grounded. Once chosen, we meet at a reception, and sometimes we see them at industry events such as Skills Ontario.

What inspires you about the new talent entering the profession?

Their grasp of technology is amazing, and I am so impressed with their commitment to the environment — they are tigers! They have been raised properly to have that zeal. Seeing their fresh new faces is like the first day of school, it’s lovely.

What action steps should up-and-coming landscape pros take to support the future?

First, I encourage all professionals to consider and implement all the educational opportunities within their own companies. Then beyond that, do everything you can to promote green careers for our immigrants. Do your part to support the Foundation by donating. Donate all you can, or at least some of it.

Encourage your employees to go to school by sponsoring them, with a contract that pays their tuition based on their marks, as well as a time commitment to stay with your company. After all, this is a good industry! We get to work outdoors, close to nature, and create beauty forever. We enjoy health benefits for ourselves by staying physically fit and working out aggressions, and we promote our environment’s health as well. How much more wonderful could it get? There is a vision, and we in the Foundation are trying.