The following conversation has to do with a caller that was directed to Jim Novak, public relations manager for Turfgrass Producers International (TPI), because she was interested in becoming a turfgrass producer. Judging by the caller’s voice, she sounded as if she was a senior citizen, according to Jim. He says she conveyed a gentle sweetness that you would expect from someone’s grandmother.
Their conversation went something like this:
Jim Novak: Hello, this is Jim Novak. May I help you?
Thelma: Yes. Hello, Jim. My name is Thelma. I saw your article on turfgrass.
Jim: What article might that have been?
Thelma: The one that appeared in the newspaper and mentioned all the farmers who grow grass and how they came to Chicago last year.
Jim: Oh, did you read an article about the Field Day in Manteno, Ill., at Payne Sod Farms?
Thelma: Yes, I think so. I read the article and thought, ‘what a wonderful way to make extra money.’ Just grow good grass and then I could sell it to my neighbors for their yards.
Jim: (Brief pause) Well… there’s a lot more to growing grass than you might think.
Thelma: Yes, but I was thinking that I could take out the garden in my backyard and plant some good grass and then the ladies at the church could help me sell it to our neighbors. I’m sure people would buy good grass for their lawns, don’t you?
Jim: (Another brief pause) Do you mind if I ask… where do you live?
Thelma: Oh, I live in Cicero.
(NOTE: Cicero is a small residential community just southwest of Chicago that is comprised of older, single family bungalow-style homes on lots that average less than 4,000 square feet. Backyards are relatively small.)
Jim: In Cicero?
Thelma: Yes, and I have a nice backyard between the house and the garage.
Jim: Well… I don’t want to discourage you but most turfgrass farms have hundreds of acres – some even have thousands of acres.
Thelma: Oh! But I just want to grow grass for my neighbors. I’m sure I can make some extra money. People are always looking for good grass, aren’t they? You should see some of the lawns here. I’m sure they would buy it from me. I just need to know what kind of seed to buy and how to grow it.
Jim: If you grew grass how would you harvest it?
Thelma: Oh, that’s not a problem. My lady friends are very smart, they’ll figure it out and we’re really good sales people too!
Jim: I think you need to see what’s really involved in growing and harvesting turfgrass. It’s very labor-intensive.
Thelma: That’s why I’m only going to grow it in my backyard. Then I can sell it to people with yards that are the same size as mine. I think we can make a lot of extra money, don’t you?
Jim: Uh… once you remove the grass from your yard how would you deliver it?
Thelma: Oh, we have cars. I’m sure I can get a lot of cars.
Jim: Do you own a computer?
Thelma: Oh, heavens no. (Laughing)
Jim: If you had a computer you could go to our website and see a video that shows you what’s really involved in harvesting turfgrass. At least that would give you an idea of what’s required. I don’t want to dash your hopes but I think that would be a very good idea.
Thelma: If I go to the church and I can get on their computer can you tell me what I need to do next?
Jim: Yes, I can direct you to our website.
Thelma: I’ll see if I can use the computer at the church and then I’ll call you. Is that okay Jim?
Jim: Sure, that’s okay.
Thelma: You’ve been very sweet and very helpful. I’m very excited.
Jim: That’s good.
Thelma: Thank you.
Jim: You’re welcome and good luck.
The above exchange actually took place and wasn’t fabricated. To the best of Jim’s knowledge, Thelma never called back to the TPI office. Of course, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t pursued her interest in becoming a turfgrass producer; she was one very determined woman.