Sunday, November 12, 2006 - 6:00 PM

Consulting: An Independent Consultant's Perspective.

Wendy Gelernter and Larry Stowell. Pace Turfgrass Research Inst., 1267 Diamond Street, San Diego, CA 92109

Private consultants provide services that include contract research, on-site agronomic assistance and problem solving, pest diagnostic services, development of best management practices/IPM/environmental compliance plans, soil and water analysis, forensic analysis, variety selection, teaching and education. 53% of all agricultural consultants are employed by seed, fertilizer, or pesticide companies, 29% are self-employed and the remainder are employed by firms that specialize in crop consulting but are unaffiliated with agrochemical companies. These trends are likely to be similar among consultants who work primarily in the turfgrass industry. The greatest opportunities for private consultants exist in those areas that are not sufficiently addressed by government and university research/extension programs. Key issues to consider when entering the private consulting field include: 1) independence from product sales, and the value (or lack thereof) that consultants and turf managers place on conflict of interest issues; 2) costs of business start-up and maintenance are frequently underestimated by newcomers; 3) the turf manager’s need for clear, bottom-line conclusions and recommendations can conflict with the researcher’s tendency to speculate, wax philosophical, and avoid committing themselves to recommendations; 4) competition from free or subsidized services provided by university personnel and agrochemical salespeople; 5) the consulting profession has a negative image in many quarters.