— Photo from New York State Nursery and Landscape Association
“Kind of a reunion”: Jerry Parmenter poses with the Dr. George L. Good Gold Medal of Horticulture, a lifetime achievement award named after Parmenter’s friend and mentor. Also pictured are New York Nursery and Landscape Association President Melissa Caggiano; Donna W. Moramarco, who nominated Parmenter; Dr. Good’s wife, Carolyn; their daughter Jennifer, and granddaughters Katie and Madeline.
VOORHEESVILLE — Jerry Parmenter, founder of Elemental Landscapes, in Voorheesville, has won many awards for his work in the green industry, but his latest, the Dr. George L. Good Gold Medal of Horticulture, has a particularly special meaning to him.
The award, which Parmenter described as a “lifetime achievement award,” is named for the late horticulture department chairman at Cornell, whom Parmenter said was his “advisor, mentor, and friend” when he studied there in the 1990s.
As chairman of the department and Parmenter’s advisor, Good had a hand in everything that Parmenter learned at the college, guiding him through the courses “based on what he thought I needed to build my background.”
But more than that, he was a relatable figure for Parmenter, who described his experience at the prestigious school as a bit disorienting at first.
“I felt like I was in over my head,” he said. “I’m a hard worker and everything, but I don’t consider myself a brilliant Ivy Leaguer.”
Parmenter said he was nervous to meet Good, but was relieved to find that he was “just a super regular guy,” with whom he shared many of the same hobbies, like hunting and fishing.
“He became my mentor, and I ended up working at his house and being part of the family, basically,” he said.
Together, the two would take trips, and they formed the first team that represented Cornell at a horticulture competition at North Carolina State University.
In 1997, Good won what was then called the Gold Medal of Horticulture, given by the New York State Nursery and Landscape Association, and was chairman of the awards committee when he died in 2008. After his death, the gold medal — the association’s top award — took his name.
Now, Parmenter himself is chairman of the awards committee, and was honored this year for his own accomplishments in the field, which he listed as follows:
— From 2008 until 2010, he was the chairman of the Certified Nursery and Landscaping Professional program, and has been co-chairman since 2019;
— He wrote two chapters, Landscape Principles and Landscape Design, in the CNLP training manual;
— He was president of the eight-region state Nursery and Landscape Association in 2014 and 2015;
— He taught plant identification and hardscaping for the CNLP Region 3, of which he was also regional president for many years;
— He was behind an effort to update and digitize the CNLP Training Manual; and
— He created and moderated the NYSNLA “Green Industry Management Summit” which is a summit of green industry leaders.
Although he’s chairman of the gold medal committee, Parmenter said that his nomination caught him by surprise, since it’s the kind of thing that typically comes toward the end of a person’s career, or even after they’ve died.
As chairman of the committee, Parmenter said he was “bugging” the head of the association about the nominations because the state fair, where the award is presented, was coming up.
“At the end of June, I was like, ‘Where are the nominations? I haven’t heard anything,’” Parmenter recalled. “And he said, ‘Well, we’ve got an issue here. You’re the top nomination.’”
Executive Director Brian Duff told The Enterprise that nominations come from the membership, and that the “Awards Committee had its work cut out for them in their deliberations.”
Parmenter said it took him six or seven weeks to “fully digest it,” and that, at first, he didn’t think he “was even deserving of it.”
Besides being a commemoration of his achievements, the ceremony also served to reunite his family with Dr. Good’s, who had gotten to know each other over the years.
“It was cool,” he said. “It was kind of a reunion of sorts at the ceremony.”