We’re so committed to the success and empowerment of women working in horticulture! We’ve experienced the loneliness of working in our male-dominated industry and battled against the stereotypes that try to tell us we can’t succeed here. Our mission is to inspire, educate, and empower women to get outside and get their hands dirty – this may mean working in your own yard for the casual plant lady but this might also mean pursuing a career in horticulture or turfgrass!
We are all for it and use our Industry Spotlight Series to celebrate women who are pushing the limits, changing the game, and taking our industry by storm!
We’re so, so excited to shine the spotlight on a true all-star in the turfgrass and sports field industry – Leah Withrow, Head Groundskeeper for the Reno Aces minor league baseball team! Leah is an actual boss babe in our industry. There a very few female head groundskeepers in all of minor and major league baseball – they can be counted on one hand! We understand how much representation matters and we are so grateful that young girls attending a Reno Aces baseball game may be able to see Leah on the field and dream of a career working in the horticulture or turfgrass industry.
Leah shared with us her story of finding sports turf management as a career option during high school and following her passion through college and into the industry!
Ohhh boy… I first heard about sports turf management when I toured NDSU; originally there looking at their engineering program. Well, senior year of high school I took calculus and realized real quick that that was not for me! I started weighing other options and the turf management program kept lingering in my head. Spring break of my senior year of high school we went to Arizona and I went to the Diamondbacks website and on their basic questions and comments page wrote something along the lines of: “I’m a senior in high school, looking at going into sports turf management in college and was wondering if I could shadow your grounds crew and see what it’s all about?” Within the hour I had a response and they wanted me to come out for 2 days, one non-game day, one game day. I showed up to Chase Field two days later and walked onto the warning track in the right field corner and fell in love.
My current role as head groundskeeper for the Reno Aces consists of planning, preparing and managing the playing surface at Greater Nevada Field. That includes daily, weekly and monthly maintenance practices such as mowing, fertilizing, aerating, topdressing, seeding and clay work. I also maintain the landscape around the stadium including the front yard and our seating berm. I’m also in charge of all the fun desk work like planning a yearly budget, ordering materials and supervising staff.
We love that Leah identified early in her life that calculus wasn’t her jam! Our industry is so unique and is the perfect career for people who don’t want to sit behind a desk all day, want to get outside, want to work with their hands, and maybe get a little sweaty! There are so many bright and intelligent people who fit this category and totally crush it in the horticulture and turfgrass industry, just like Leah!
We couldn’t resist asking Leah just a few more questions while we had her! Check out what she had to share with us:
Q: What would you give as advice to another woman who would like to join the turf industry?
A: The only advice I have would be to just do it. If you think it’s something you’d like, take that leap and just try it. Ask for that 1 or 2 day shadow, ask questions to the ladies and gents in the sports turf industry – what they think of it; don’t be afraid to dip your toes into this industry and just try it. I guarantee you’ll fall in love with it.
Q: What do you love most about what you do?
A: I love being outside every day. Even though I have small 20X20 office with a desk and computer, I don’t count it. My office is 2.5 acres of perfectly manicured grass and dirt. It’s where I spend the most time and where 80% of my work happens. The warm sun on my skin and the fresh breeze on my face are unbeatable office conditions.
Q: What is the greatest challenge you’ve had in your career and how have you grown from dealing with that challenge?
A: The biggest challenge I’ve had in my career is being recognized as female groundskeeper. I get a lot of confused truck drivers, sales reps and even turf guys that think I’m my boss’s wife or the secretary or that I’m one of the front office girls just hanging out on the field. I understand it is not common to see female groundskeepers, but it’s not impossible. It’s extremely frustrating to constantly explain yourself and your reason for being on the field or at a turf conference when my reason for being there is just as valid as any man’s. I think times are changing and once people know me, they know I belong on the field with the best of them.
Q: Do you have a favorite plant to share with our Plant Ladies (it can be turf if it’s your favorite!)?
A: Favorite plant is either Kentucky Bluegrass or mint. Both are extremely resilient and are able to grow in even the worst conditions.
Connect with Leah
Be sure to check out all of our Industry Spotlights of the amazing women who are taking our industry by storm!
If you’re interested in being featured in our Industry Spotlight Series, we’d love to connect with you! Get all the details here.