Relationship Spotlight: Toro and PGMS

The health of the grounds industry and its future are important to us here at The Toro Company. That’s why multiple Toro product divisions support organizations like the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS).

As a PGMS Platinum Partner in Professionalism, Toro supports PGMS’s efforts to provide education, networking opportunities and more to its members. We asked PGMS associate executive director Stephanie Bruno to tell us about these efforts in a Q&A session during GIE+EXPO in Louisville, Ky., in October.

Q: Let’s start with a little background. Could you tell us about PGMS and your membership?
Absolutely. Our mission at PGMS is to advance the grounds management profession through education and professional development. We have over 1,000 members, with the core of our membership being institutional grounds managers. They come from universities and colleges, hospitals, municipalities, parks and recreation departments, cemeteries, theme parks, hotels and resorts, and more. Many independent landscape contractors also participate. Supplier, educator and student memberships are available as well.

Q: What is the biggest benefit of PGMS membership?
One of our largest benefits is the School of Grounds Management (SGM®) — the educational component for our membership. We hold that twice a year, once during our summer conference and once at our annual conference during the GIE+EXPO. SGM is a certificate program that was developed to help people who are looking to become a Certified Grounds Manager (CGM®) or a Certified Grounds Technician (CGT®). The program has four different educational components: a human resources management track, a business and financial management track, a horticulture track and a non-horticultural technical management track. Participants earn credits for each education session they attend, including the field trip we offer each year in conjunction with GIE+EXPO. It takes about three to four years to complete the program.

Q: What are some of the other benefits available to PGMS members?
The networking aspect of our membership is unique — we are a large enough group to have national “clout,” yet small enough to get to truly know and interact with each other. We have branches throughout the nation, which meet at a local level and hold their own events. Each branch has anywhere from 30 to over 100 members and some meet monthly, while some meet quarterly.

People find the networking aspect of PGMS very beneficial. If any members have questions, we have an online forum that they can post to and allow other members respond. Additionally, our Certified Grounds Manager (CGM®) program sets up a candidate with a fellow CGM who serves as a mentor to them as they develop their Professional Grounds Manager Evaluation portfolio, serving as an additional networking and professional development aspect to PGMS.

Q: Can anyone attend a local meeting to see what PGMS has to offer?
Yes. We post all of the branch events on our website, and nonmembers are allowed at the events. Most events include an opportunity to earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) as well.

Q: What are some of the things you are able to offer with support from your supplier members?
Through our largest supplier members, we’re able to have access to behind-the-scenes tours and bring in new speakers for the School of Grounds Management. Their support also allows PGMS to hold events at a lower cost to our members.

In addition, supplier support allows us to offer our annual Green Star Awards program, which is in its 46th year. To be considered for this beauty/maintenance award, members submit 26 high-resolution photos of their campus, as well as a presentation of their sustainability practices and budget, and how they are able to maintain the campus based on those factors.

Another opportunity we offer is student scholarships. Between December and January, any PGMS member can sponsor a student pursuing a horticultural degree to apply. Last year, the highest scholarship we awarded to an individual was $4,000, with a total of $10,000 in scholarships given out.

Q: What would you say are the key issues affecting your members right now?
Doing more with less is one of the biggest issues for our members — adapting to changes in sustainability practices, reduction in staff, reduction in man-hours, reduction in budget. All of these things impact our members, so a lot of our education sessions focus on adapting to those changes in the environment that they’re experiencing.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add about PGMS?
A few years ago, PGMS had a conversation with APPA (The Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers) about the lack of a true grounds management accreditation program. That conversation led to the development of our Landscape Management and Operations Accreditation Program, which is endorsed by APPA. The accreditation process takes about six months to a year, and it’s overseen by an independent facilitator and an evaluation team of Certified Grounds Managers from related backgrounds. Institutions are evaluated based on the program’s three guiding principles — environmental stewardship, economic performance and social responsibility — along with other criteria. Accreditations are based on a four-star rating system, and reaccreditation is done every three years. It’s a fantastic program.

For more information about PGMS and its programs and resources, please visit, or email