From turf to trees, BYU landscape specialty manager keeps campus looking sharp.
When she’s leaving a BYU football home game, Karma Anderson never has to worry about traffic. Working for BYU Grounds, Anderson helps oversee the routine four-hour post-game cleanup, which involves hundreds of people picking up trash and hosing down surfaces.
“I’ve been a BYU football fan forever,” she said. “Once I was out on the football field at four a.m., and I stopped and thought, ‘Wow, how many people have this opportunity to be by themselves on the field like this?’”
In her work at BYU, Anderson frequently sees things others don’t, whether it’s the detritus left by spectators under the bleachers after Stadium of Fire — those who spill half-eaten frozen lemonades are the worst offenders — or a tree branch that needs pruning.
Newly appointed as BYU’s landscape specialty manager, Anderson is now responsible for all of BYU’s athletic fields, including the soccer and intramural fields, Miller Park, LaVell Edwards Stadium and the football practice field.
She’s also responsible for all of BYU’s trees and shrubs, which is no small charge: there are 15,000 trees in 200 varieties and 109,000 shrubs in 161 different species on campus. To handle all this, Anderson manages ten landscape specialty supervisors, who in turn each have crews of seven or more student employees.
“I’m in the office probably 30% of the day, dealing with equipment requests and staffing. The rest of the time, I like to go out and walk the fields, look at the trees and shrubs to ensure that presentation is being kept up to the high standards BYU has,” she said.
Part of the job is being finely attuned to imperfections. “I’ve trained my eye to look for dead branches, dry spots, crooked edges, grass that needs to be weed whipped,” Anderson said. Athletic field turf also requires meticulous care to be safe and optimized for play, needing just the right combination of aerating, topdressing, pest management, mowing, water and fertilization.
It’s hard work, but for Anderson, tending land is second nature. Growing up on a dairy farm in the Pacific Northwest, she was the “outside” sister among six girls, always preferring to work in the yard to indoor hobbies. At then-Ricks College and later at BYU, she was thrilled to discover she could pursue a degree in horticulture.
After graduation, she worked for 26 years at Utah’s Thanksgiving Point, beginning when it was just 500 acres of farmland in the mid-90s. With the staff there, Anderson helped build the beautiful Ashton Gardens, which was difficult, she said, given the area’s soil type, water quality and wind.
Two years ago, Anderson switched gears and was hired by BYU to manage the landscaping of the Provo Temple, work the Church contracts out to the university. Although she recently changed positions, the Provo Temple remains Anderson’s favorite “BYU” spot; she believes its setting with Rock Canyon in the background is one of the prettiest among all the temples. Another favorite part of BYU is working with students.
“I enjoy the caliber of young adults here at BYU. They’re so good and eager to learn, and I love watching devotionals with them. You definitely feel a spirit here at BYU. I’m sure people who have worked here for years get used to that feeling, but when you’ve just come here, you notice a difference,” she said.
When she’s not caring for BYU’s fields and trees, Anderson still spends plenty of time outdoors, doing yardwork, fishing and four wheeling with her family (although not often camping — there is such a thing as too much time outside, she said). Indoors, she loves watching British shows, like “The Great British Baking Show” and “Call the Midwife,” with her husband of 24 years.
And wherever she is, she tries to appreciate the beauty in landscapes, looking beyond their imperfections. “I remind myself to notice the color combinations of flowerbeds and take time to look up at a well-pruned tree,” she said.