Safety First

Extension programs promote best practices, professional development
A young woman wearing a blue shirt tends to plants at a commercial greenhouse growing facility. The plants are in pots outside. It is sunny. She is checking a plant to see if it is healthy.

It is July at Van Berkum Nursery in Deerfield, and blocks of potted perennials are in full bloom. Clusters of magenta phlox, golden-hued rows of coreopsis and a full spectrum of daylilies brighten the landscape. Bees and butterflies drift lazily through the foliage.

Looks can be deceiving, though. Keeping plants healthy and beautiful is an ongoing battle. And for commercial growers like Van Berkum Nursery, having certified pesticide applicators on staff is the key to winning that battle — and growing breathtaking plants.

Pesticide application is a complicated process comprised of dozens of consequential decisions. UNH Extension’s Pesticide Safety Education Program is a comprehensive resource for greenhouse growers, landscapers and other professionals who use pesticides. With a year-round slate of workshops, the program has become a go-to professional development resource.

There’s “the cost of product, labor, weather, regulation compliance and environmental considerations, like the nearby wetlands and the health of pollinators when plants are flowering,” says Kate Fox ’12. Fox is the assistant grower at Van Berkum and one of four staff members who hold a pesticide applicator’s license. “It’s a lot. Some pests can emerge as a problem overnight, so we need to be able to make decisions quickly.”

The most important component of this complicated equation? Safety. Fox and colleague Perry McLellan ’95 attend Extension workshops and trainings to make sure they have the most current knowledge to keep themselves, their staff and their customers safe.

“As a smaller grower, we can’t afford to go by word-of-mouth when it comes to safety,” McLellan says. “Staying up-to-date with information from a trusted source is important to us, and we know UNH Extension is that source.”

UNH Extension’s Pesticide Safety Education program offers workshops and resources for commercial growers and other professionals year-round. See the latest events and resources here.

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