Keeping Md. green

At Work

State agriculture inspector makes sure greenhouses are free of pests and diseased plants

January 03, 2007|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to the Sun

Bob Trumbule

Entomologist

Maryland Department of Agriculture, Beltsville

Salary --$53,000 a year

Age --48

Years on the job --20

How he got started --After getting an undergraduate degree in horticulture and botany and a master's degree in entomology, both from the University of Maryland, College Park, Trumbule went to work for the state Department of Agriculture. He started as a nursery inspector.

Inspections --Businesses that sell plants, such as greenhouses, nurseries and landscapers, must be licensed by the state, which requires regular inspections. That's where Trumbule comes in. Much of his job is inspecting these businesses for harmful diseases and pests. He is one of six state inspectors who examine more than 400 nurseries and 1,200 plant dealers in the state.

Typical day --Trumbule says no day is typical and that's one of the best aspects of his job. His day usually starts in his office following up on e-mails and phone calls. He then heads out to the field. About 60 percent of his work is performing inspections. He typically completes 100 a year and his assistant will tackle more than 200.

During an inspection, he examines plants and takes samples that will be tested in state labs. "You get an eye for problematic plants and a feel for what doesn't look right. You can't physically look at every plant at every nursery." A report is then written and sent out within five days of the inspection. It includes what the inspection found and any recommendations for control. His territory lies between Carroll County to the east, Garrett County to the west and Prince George's County to the south.

Consumer protection --"We often fly below the radar but we are guided by a consumer protection as well as an agricultural protection mission."

Weed fighter --Since 1999, another facet of his job is overseeing the weed biocontrol program. It uses biological organisms or "good" bugs to control noxious weeds. For this, Trumbule is often out in the field performing experiments.

Gentler style --He doesn't approach the job as a plant policeman. "We don't wear badges and we don't come in heavy handed. Although there are times we have to condemn plants and destroy them. But 90 percent of the time, the nursery owners are super helpful."

The good --Trumbule said he has always wanted to work outdoors. "Being able to justify going out in the field anytime I want. And never having the opportunity to be bored."

The bad --"Realizing that I can't always get it all done."

Philosophy on the job --"Treat people with respect and realize you're setting an example. I'm a representative of the state and possibly the only one many of these people will ever meet."

Extracurriculars --Looking at plants all day doesn't wear on Trumbule, who says he's an avid gardener during his off hours.

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest

Special to The Sun

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