WSU Alumna Boldly Blazes Trail in Turfgrass Management Industry

WSU alumna Jennifer Camp (Turfgrass Management, ’98), the new Parks and Open Spaces Superintendent for Liberty Lake, Wash., decided when she was 16 she was going to go for a lot of “firsts” in her life.

“It all started when I began working in the agricultural industry during high school,” Camp said. “I worked in a fruit packing warehouse, where I was the first girl to be in the back cold room with all the boys stacking boxes of the fruit on pallets for shipping. A girl had never worked back there before me.”

At WSU, as a Crop and Soil Sciences major, Camp was the first female to go through the Turfgrass Management program as well.

“I guess it’s sort of been my thing, to see what ‘firsts’ I can accomplish–to go where no woman has gone before in the Ag industry,” Camp said.

Jennifer Camp with her daughter, Mia, and son, Mason.
Jennifer Camp with her daughter, Mia, and son, Mason.

According to Camp, there has never been much opportunity in the turf management field for women in the past, but now she believes there is a lot more ground that women can conquer in this industry. However, working in what is still considered to be a male-dominated field, women have to be prepared to prove themselves a little.

“Overall, it all goes well, but it depends on how you demand respect and how you carry yourself at your job,” Camp said. “As a woman, you have to prove to these men that you know what you’re talking about and can show them you have the stuff to get the job done.”

Camp showed this ability by working in the agricultural industry, which is a lot of hard, physical labor that also requires significant brain power. She said she worked in a plant nursery for years and it was a lot of physical work.

“As women, we can’t always do what men can do in the agricultural business, physically,” Camp said. “We just have to be smart and adapt ourselves a little differently to find ways around the problem, and with the use of quality equipment and good tools, we can get the same job done just as well.”

Now, as Parks and Open Spaces Superintendent, Camp has full responsibility for two large, popular parks and common areas in Liberty Lake, as well as the city’s 9-hole golf course. Camp also manages two separate maintenance crews of about five people each–one crew for the parks and one for the golf course.

Even though it has been 12 years since she was at WSU studying turfgrass management, Camp said that all the knowledge is still there.

“I like that I get the opportunity to use my education in turfgrass management at this job and I like the fact that my crews rely on me to use that knowledge,” Camp said.

Currently, Camp is working on implementing a new fertilization program at the Liberty Lake Trailhead golf course. She said she has been looking at it from a scientific standpoint, a point of view informed by her education at WSU.

For Camp, her best memories of WSU are the times she spent doing volunteer work at the university golf course and with the athletic fields, and in plant nurseries where she got a deeper understanding of plant materials and how to use them in landscaping, and to identify diseases in plants.

“Sitting in a classroom and taking tests was always my weakest point,” Camp said. “I tried to study but my hands-on experience was so important to me, so my grades suffered a little, but I managed to get through it.”

“But, if I had the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn’t do a thing differently,” Camp said. “That experience and my education are worth everything in the world to me and my future and it really paid off.”

By Chelsea Low, WSU CAHNRS MNEC intern