Turfgrass Producers International (TPI) held its Summer Convention and Field Days July 29 through Aug. 1 in Philadelphia. More than 500 attendees from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and across the United States gathered in the City of Brotherly Love.
The pre-convention activities included an educational farm/ag tour of Sheppard Farms & Eastern Fresh Growers by owner Tom Sheppard. The next stop was a visit to nearby Coombs Sod Farms where owner John Coombs displayed his combination turfgrass and extremely successful potato operation.
The final stop on the tour was a visit to Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, with Tony Leonard, director of grounds, and his staff.
The following day’s educational sessions included a presentation by columnist/author Gene Marks who addressed current political, economic and technological trends that might impact today’s business owner.
International grass athletic field advisor and educator Jared Minnick, a long time sports field manager and founder and president of Growing Innovations discussed in his presentation how, with proper care and maintenance, natural grass sports fields can stand up to extremely high traffic demands.
Other presentations detailed innovative products and services designed to help turfgrass producers operate businesses more efficiently, reduce operating costs and or increase productivity.
Melanie Stanton, TPI’s executive director, gave an overview of some of the changes that have taken place over the last several months, including TPI’s increased social media presence on Facebook and Twitter and the association’s heightened visibility and interaction with other green industry associations, organizations and industry representatives.
One of the highlights of the convention was an exclusive video interview featuring former NFL wide receiver, Ricky Proehl whose career in the NFL spanned 17 seasons. Currently the wide receiver coach for the Carolina Panthers, Proehl shared why he and the majority of NFL players prefer practicing and playing on natural grass rather than artificial turf surfaces. TPI plans to release excerpts of the video in the coming weeks.
During TPI’s business meeting, members were introduced to the association’s new officers and incoming trustees.
TPI’s Field Day was preceded with a Preview Jubilee & Dinner on Wednesday hosted by Dave and Donna Johnson of Johnson Farms in nearby Deerfield, N.J. Along with a tour of the 1,600-acre sod and nursery operation, A tricycle race, live auction and generous sponsorship support raised over $25,000 for The Lawn Institute. On Thursday, New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher made a surprise visit.
“Words can’t describe how proud we were to have been given the opportunity to showcase our farm, but to be given the chance to host a TPI Field Day was an honor,” says Dave Johnson, who hosted the Field Day. “Something we will never forget.”
Photos: Linda Bradley, Jim Novak