Telling our story

By |  April 7, 2017 0 Comments

Golf course superintendents, in general, are good about sharing positive stories, experiences and events to promote our profession. We’re most comfortable preaching to the choir or to like-minded individuals in the business.

I often refer to our business as a sort of fraternity. Although I’ve never been in a fraternity, I can relate through some of the experiences and comradery I’ve had throughout my career. No matter where I’ve hung my hat, it’s always the same — superintendents always are a good bunch of guys who will do anything for the good of the business and environment. And when high-profile subject matter is shared industry-wide, we’re at the ready to help.

If you need an example, just look at the bad press on neonicotinoids and bees. It seems like the entire country jumped on that train too quickly. Talk about extreme vetting! Or now, fertilizer ordinances that have blackout periods when the turfgrass most needs the fertility. We’ve dealt with noise ordinances, no pesticides and no backpack blowers, WOTUS, POTUS and OTIS. We’ve had to talk to city/county officials, police/fire and members/board members of our clubs. Our industry is ready to act anywhere it’s needed.

But I’m here to tell you that I think we’re missing a major segment of supporters. Well, I was missing them, anyway.

I was having a discussion about organic farming with my family. I asked the old question of what makes a fertilizer organic. After giving two examples of fertilizer with a carbon (C) element in them, I asked the simple question: Would you rather have plants grown with ground-up poultry byproducts or a clean, synthetic organic fertilizer? They all chose ground-up poultry. Nothing against the fertilizer industry and ground-up poultry — it’s a great way of recycling — but I use it on my grass, not my food. In my opinion, I would rather have clean urea fertilizing my food.

The discussion that ensued ran the spectrum of what we (golf) do as good stewards of the environment, and what some “organic” farmers really do. Yes, I used bees, water, riparian buffer zones, slow-release, biodegradable, recycled water for equipment washing, bird boxes, native plantings, BMPs and recycling. I think you get my point. It might have been a bit of overload for the family. But was it all just “golf course stuff?”

Interestingly enough, in the jury-rigged world of organic agriculture, most synthetic fertilizers/pesticides are prohibited. Exceptions to this rule are based on need. But what does that mean?

Anyway, here I thought all along that my family just knew that I/we/golf did all these great things. They certainly were raised on a golf course, but they weren’t part of the “choir.” I know I shared a lot of information, but they don’t get the emails, see the videos, read the reports or hear the experts talk. I assumed that just because I was doing the right thing and sharing this with them that they would not have an opinion influenced by someone or something else. You know, like TV, magazines or teachers at school.

There are so many influencing factors. I didn’t think of it as them not listening to me, but maybe someone else was their “expert” when it came to subjects not associated with a golf course. It was a bit of a slap in the face when I realized this.

So, what? Well, it’s time to talk to your friends, family and others about golf’s environmental awareness and start sharing some of our successes with them. You don’t have to bombard them, just share some of your expertise, or maybe share an interesting article or two from an expert. I can think of a few Facebook posts from Dr. Brandenburg that I should’ve shared with people not in the “choir.” Just saying.

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