Alabama Turfgrass Association – Member Spotlight on Incoming ATA President, Deven Peek: “My Heart is in Teaching and Mentoring”
Alabama Turf Times – Melanie Bonds, Executive Director, Alabama Turfgrass Association
It is ironic that Deven Peek, who dreamed of being an Air Force Pilot as a young man, has ended up with a career so fully grounded! Deven’s family had a small lawn service that was run as a part time operation when he was in high school. Deven had planned to work in the business part time as he pursued an education to achieve his dream of becoming a pilot, but midway through his freshman year at Auburn University Montgomery, his family was approached to buy out a larger local lawn care company. Deven was given the option to work in that business full time with the opportunity to take over the business when he turned 21.
During this period, Deven’s long-time friend Matt Simpson, an Auburn University Club golf course superintendent, told Deven about the Horticulture program at Trenholm State Technical College, a community college in Montgomery. Deven then transferred to Trenholm and started his education in Horticulture and Turf and earned an Associate’s degree in Horticulture.
Following some unforeseen changes within the family business, Deven took employment with Alabama State University on the grounds crew in 2007. At Alabama State University, his focus was overall operations and sports turf. In 2009 an opportunity became available in Deven’s hometown with the City of Prattville as the foreman of the Horticulture Department. Working in Prattville the focus of his work shifted to Turf and Irrigation.
During that time, Deven also worked a season on the grounds crew for the Montgomery Biscuits. Deven says, “I approached them and said, ‘I want to learn. I don’t want any pay because this will be purely experience.’ I made $90 for the entire season, and it was one of the best career-moves I made.”
During his time at Prattville, Deven was promoted to Assistant Horticulture Manager, later Division Manager and then to Superintendent of Urban Management. He was also running a small lawn and landscape business on the side, Full Bloom Landscapes, which he started in 2015. In March of 2018 Deven was given the opportunity to jump into his Full Bloom business full time.
Deven had several people who influenced him in his career and two of his mentors came from totally different backgrounds. “James Nichols was my supervisor at Alabama State University and is currently with the City of Alexandria, Virginia. He was my biggest career influence and showed me all the different avenues available in the green industry. Ken Johnson was my supervisor at Prattville when I was first hired. His experience with landscape materials helped that side of my profession grow. He is a floral genius and spent years with Calloway, Disney, and developed some very well-known properties around Alabama. There have been many colleagues along the way that have helped shape how my career has grown and to this day I still learn and grow from experiences with people.”
Managing his own business now, Deven encourages his employees to “take time and listen to those that have gone before you. The mentors you come across in this field are amazing, and they can teach you so much. Your time will come to take over, so just be patient and soak up all the knowledge you can.”
Deven enjoys working outside and viewing the fruits of his labor. But he also enjoys serving as a mentor to the newer guys and opening their eyes to what the industry has to offer. “I love it when it clicks, and people see they can make a good career out of any segment of the green industry.”
Because of the steady preparation and the broad background Deven brought to his business, he has seen Full Bloom take off. Currently managing the growth of the business is his greatest challenge. “We have many new projects coming on the books and want to make sure we are strategic in our growth and stay true to our vision.”
In July 2019 Deven started work as the Agriscience instructor at Marbury High School. He will be teaching turfgrass, Greenhouse operations, and Horticulture. “This will be my direct way to influence the youth to pursue the green industry. I have already started reaching out to colleagues and Members of the Alabama Turfgrass Association to see the needs of different career paths. I want to work with my peers to have employees ready for the workforce with a basic understanding and working knowledge of the green industry at graduation.”
A “War Eagle” fan, Deven enjoys Auburn football and likes to fresh and salt-water fish as time permits. He loves trips to the beach with his family. He is married to Kristen Peek, an anatomy teacher and softball coach. They have a son, Dalton, six years old, and a daughter, Ryleigh-Ann who is five years old.
Deven hopes to continue to develop his role as a future leader in the green industry. He looks forward to a time in the next few years when the industry will get the respect it deserves as a trade. “When this happens, I want to be in a place to help bridge the gap for some younger people to see how great this industry is and how it can be a fulfilling career path!”READ THE ISSUE