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SUNY Cobleskill's new four-year landscape contracting degree is expected to better prepare landscapers to draw up contracts, market their services and read a balance sheet.

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''Landscape contracting is a growing industry, but there are so few people [in it] who have the proper training,'' said Jack Ingels, professor and head of the plant science department at SUNY. ''The new bachelor of technology in landscape contracting will have a much stronger emphasis on business,'' than the two-year program that has been around for at least 35 years."

And there is a major need, according to some landscape contractors.The industry is growing, but only a small number of colleges offer accredited bachelor's programs in landscape contracting, none of which is in New York State, Ingels said.

The state Education Department recently approved Cobleskill's new contracting program. Now Ingels plans to seek accreditation from the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, which has been lobbying for more schools to teach business skills to landscape contracting students. ''The lack of business education was one of my biggest disappointments with college,'' said Geffrey Redick, owner of the Wilton-based Redbud Development. ''I came into this business with a lot of experience on the construction side. The business side wasn't there. I had to learn that on the run.''

Redick, who founded his firm with his wife, Karen, three years ago, earned a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from Cornell University in 1993. ''The field has changed dramatically over the past decade or so. At one time, a couple of guys could grab a pickup truck, a wheelbarrow, a couple of shovels and rakes and they were in the landscaping business,'' Redick said, ''That's not the case today.''

The bachelor's degree will be a welcome addition to many of the 100 or so students enrolled in the college's two-year program, Ingels said. About 80 percent of the students in the two-year program typically continue on for a four-year degree.

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June 27, 2019, 2:04 am PDT

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