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1-Minute Mentor: John Kavanaugh

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John Kavanaugh
John Kavanaugh

Owner of Kavanaugh Landscaping & Irrigation, Ruston, La.

Who’s your mentor?

The gentleman I first went to work for, Fred Hoogland is my mentor. He’s elderly now. He’s not working, but I’ve always maintained a relationship with him. I did a student internship for him (at Hoogland’s Landscape) when I was at Louisiana Tech University, and I worked there for a year after I got my degree.

Why the interest in irrigation?

I went to college and majored in horticulture with a landscape design
option. Originally, when I was just a landscape contractor, I would sub my irrigation out to another contractor. As my company grew and there weren’t that many guys to sub out to, I decided I needed to learn and have it all under one roof. I began my business in 1978, and we evolved into irrigation in the early 1990s.

What’s the most challenging part of working in irrigation in Louisiana?

To educate the public is one of our greatest challenges. That’s part of the spirit of declaring July Smart Irrigation Month (SIM), trying to educate the public. They’re the ultimate user. They’re the one that’s going to push that button or turn that dial.

Photo: Severn Doughty
Photo: Severn Doughty

This is the first year Louisiana is recognizing July as SIM. As president of the Louisiana Irrigation Association (LIA), tell me about your role in the proclamation.

We went through the department of agriculture and up the ladder of the government to get our Commissioner of Agriculture & Forestry (Mike Strain) to understand this is an important part of agriculture, turf and ornamental (T&O), and water is an issue every where in the world at some point or another. We want this conservation month to get the word out. It may be a couple of years until this gets big, but somebody’s got to plant the seed. That’s what we’ve done. You’ve got to start somewhere.

How is the LIA encouraging statewide participation in SIM?

It’s ironic. If you look at some of the license plates in Louisiana, their tag lines (say) this is the “bayou state.” We’ve got surface water everywhere but not everyone wants to mess around behind an alligator (laughs). It takes a lot of money to make that usable for the community. We’re trying to train our members, the irrigation contractors, to educate clients. One of the hardest things about my business is selling a sprinkler system, telling the client to run it two or three times a week, and they want to run it every day. We want to water just enough, not too much. After you finish the job and turn it over to the customer, they have the day-to-day responsibility.


Off the clock

What’s the best part about your job?

To drive back by years later and see the landscapes grow and evolve. I’ve seen peoples’ grandkids swinging on a tire swing from an oak tree I planted 30 years ago.

What takes up your time outside of work?

I enjoy motorcycle riding and floating my streams—whether it is in a raft or a canoe. I’m also an active Methodist.

Do you recall the first motorcycle you ever bought?

A 1966 Harley-Davidson Sprint. I was in high school. I’ve ridden motorcycles most of my life. Now I have a 2014 Harley-Davidson Wide Glide. I am a Harley enthusiast.

What’s your ideal vacation?

I’d love to go up into Tennessee and spend a couple of days floating the rivers and riding the mountain roads up there. That’s my ultimate vacation.

 

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Sarah Pfledderer

Former Associate Editor Sarah Pfledderer is a West Coast-based contributing editor for Landscape Management.

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