MALTA Growing Strong

Men laying new hardwood flooring

Atlanta landscapes are awakening with forsythia blooming, azaleas and dogwoods ready to pop, and lawns beginning to green upwhat better time than now to plan the improvements and changes youll want to make once spring finally arrives? When youre thinking about hiring a landscape professional, theres a word to consider adding to your vocabulary: MALTA.

The Metro Atlanta Landscape & Turf Association (MALTA) is a 22-year-old organization for professionals in landscape design, construction and maintenance. Not only does MALTA help homeowners locate reputable professionals, but it also helps the industry as a whole maintain high standards through association, education and decoration.

Photo courtesy of Ashford Gardeners Inc.

Starting from a seed
MALTA began in 1984 as the brainchild of Richard Bare, George Morrell and Max Graham. Both Bare and Graham had relocated to Georgia from other states that had professional landscape organizations, and they decided it was time Atlanta did, too.

Today, nearly 600 members strong, MALTA is committed to promoting professionalism within the landscape industry, increasing public awareness of the value of the industry, collecting and disseminating industry-related information, fostering a spirit of cooperation among members and advancing membership in the eyes of the public, according to its code of ethics.

Staying ahead
MALTA promotes this industry professionalism among its members by setting standards of practice. The association holds regular meetings and educational programs encouraging members to stay current on landscape industry news and trends. There are monthly dinner meetings that provide a chance to network and hear speakers on important industry topics. MALTA also provides quarterly educational workshops and offers pesticide classes required for many certification programs.

MALTA does a good job as far as providing courses for [pesticide] training and all other aspects of employee training and running a business, says MALTA president Rick Upchurch.

Strength in numbers
As a team, MALTA members work with lobbyists to make sure their message gets taken to the Legislature, according to Rick Upchurch, MALTAs president and owner of Nature Scapes. In 1994, MALTA began its Workers Compensation program, allowing members to get better insurance rates together than they would have on their own.

The insurance benefit is probably the first question that prospective MALTA members ask me about when they call for information, says MALTA Executive Director Mary Kay Woodworth of the Workers Compensation program. Since its inception, it has been an absolutely positive benefit for the members. Once they learn about the additional benefits that MALTA offers, including the industry seminars, the business management tone of the newsletter and the networking with contractor, vendor and affiliate members, prospective members realize the value of joining.

Photo courtesy of Ashford Gardeners Inc.

Recognizing great work
MALTA also has an awards program that recognizes outstanding landscape projects of various types and budgets. Members provide pictures and an explanation of a project, and independent judges from the industry select the winners. MALTA keeps images and descriptions of some of the awards on its Web site,

Helping you find the pros
The MALTA Web site is one of the organizations main benefits for the general public. On the Web site, visitors will find tips for choosing a landscape professional so that before the first call is made, homeowners will know what they are looking for. The Web site also includes a Landscape Source search page, which helps the homeowner locate a MALTA member organization or landscape supplier that specializes in the type of work the homeowner needs. For example, if you want colorful flowers, regular lawn care and a retaining wall built, you can search for a landscape professional who performs seasonal color, maintenance and installation.

Homeowners might feel more comfortable hiring a professional who is concerned enough about the industry to become a member of an organization like MALTA. What these organizations do is help bring a set of standards to the industry to protect the public, Upchurch says. That is MALTAs mission, to promote professionalism and benefit its members, the industry and the public.

We hope to improve the quality and professionalism of other contractors, so we can help the homeowners get what theyre paying for, says MALTA past president Ray Wiedman of Outdoor Expressions.

Even so, it is always necessary to do your homework. Visit Web sites, contact previous clients and insist on references. Make sure that the company can provide what they are promising. A reputable company will be pleased to provide the information you request.

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