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FloriTurf nears three decades in Florida’s turfgrass industry

January 4, 2024

For nearly three decades, FloriTurf has been at the forefront of turfgrass farming operations in Kenansville, Fla. Originally an Ohio-based enterprise, founders Cecil Collins and Bill Campbell expanded their business to Florida. They hired Donald Johnson as a manager and part-owner in 1994 and he acquired the business shortly thereafter.

Johnson and his wife Nancy, married for 45 years, devoted themselves to establishing a reputable sod operation in Florida. Upon Johnson’s acquisition, his wife left her job at an attorney firm and assumed the responsibilities of running FloriTurf’s office.

Seven years ago, their son Travis purchased the farm from his parents.

“I don’t think I have anybody that’s doing a job here that I haven’t physically done at some point in time and I think that helps,” Travis said. “The problems a sod farm has are things I’ve experienced from a young age.”

Over the past 29 years, FloriTurf significantly shifted from leased lands in Osceola County’s northern and western regions to securing long-term leases, encompassing approximately 1,000 acres in the county’s southern area.

Travis Johnson looks forward to leading FloriTurf into the future while adapting to industry needs and changes. (Photo: Sod Solutions)

Travis Johnson looks forward to leading FloriTurf into the future while adapting to industry needs and changes. (Photo: Sod Solutions)

Licensed turfgrass varieties

FloriTurf harvests around 500 acres of Bahia grass across multiple ranches in the region, concentrating solely on cultivation and sales, without engaging in delivery or installation services.

The company was an early adopter of Empire Zoysia, introduced by Sod Solutions. It remains a long-term licensee for this variety. Johnson emphasized the significance of Empire in diversifying their offerings beyond St. Augustine grasses.

Travis expressed excitement about Sod Solution’s recent release of CitraZoy Zoysiagrass from the University of Florida.

“As a grower, it’s easy to grow and has less problems than other varieties making it easier for the homeowner to maintain,” he said.

After a year of cultivation, Travis observed CitraZoy’s resilience to billbugs compared to adjacent zoysiagrass fields that suffered damage.

Looking forward

Travis is excited about FloriTurf’s venture into the bermudagrass market, which presents new opportunities for the business. While they haven’t extensively explored bermudagrass before, he anticipates acreage growth in this area. FloriTurf is a recent licensee of Celebration Bermudagrass. He explained the increasing customer inquiries for bermudagrass beyond sports fields indicate emerging market demands.

Over the years, the company primarily focused on grass cultivation. However, as the farm expanded, it diversified into growing various grass varieties and has become more active within the industry as well as staying updated on local regulations from the water management district.

FloriTurf is a member of the Florida Turfgrass Association (FTGA) and Turfgrass Producers International (TPI). They are gearing up to host the TPI 2024 International Education Field Day at their newest sod farm in early February.

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