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TPI Midwinter Conference is Texas-size success

March 5, 2013  - By
TPI Midwinter Conference
AlamoAn historic tour of San Antonio included a stop at the Alamo.
Roundtable ForumThe Roundtable Forum provided members the opportunity to address important issues.
Texas LonghornEnjoying the opportunity to be photographed with a Texas Longhorn.PHOTO CREDITS: Jim Novak

Turfgrass producers from around the world gathered in Texas at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter for the 2013 Midwinter Conference of Turfgrass Producers International (TPI) Feb. 11-15 for what many agreed was an outstanding program. More than 350 attendees representing more than 100 turfgrass-producing farms from Australia, Canada, England, Mexico, Norway, Scotland, South Africa and the United States participated.

Tuesday’s pre-conference activities included The Lawn Institute Memorial Golf Tournament at the scenic Briggs Ranch Golf Club and raised funds for turfgrass research and education. There was also an opportunity for non-golfers to enjoy a San Antonio historic tour and take a cruise on the picturesque Riverwalk. The late afternoon included a Next Generation Leaders Meeting that provided an informal setting for next-generation turfgrass producers to get acquainted with their peers and talk to experienced turfgrass producers and suppliers.

Wednesday’s activities included a Woman’s Forum and a pre-conference seminar featuring Wayne Rivers, president and co-founder of the Family Business Institute. His presentation, titled “The Business Side of Succession Planning: The Eight Building Blocks for Creating a Sustainable Closely Held Business,” provided those in attendance with numerous things to consider to effectively manage and formulate plans for the future of their business.Following lunch, TPI’s Roundtable Forum provided a casual format in which select topics of interest were designated at each table, giving attendees an opportunity to engage with other turfgrass producers and address specific issues related to the table topic, pose questions and share ideas with one another.More than 40 leading manufacturers were on hand to exhibit their products and services over a two-day period. This provided everyone with plenty of time to browse, ask questions and get acquainted with sales representatives and the products/services they provide.

Thursday’s Education Session offered something for everyone. Following a warm welcome to attendees, TPI President Bobby Winstead announced that Don Heslop of Biograss Sod Farm in Sandy, Utah, was the proud recipient of TPI’s prestigious Distinguished Service Award. The award recognized Heslop’s volunteerism and his contribution over the last decade in helping to coordinate TPI’s annual Field Days. Heslop was only the sixth recipient to be so honored by TPI.

The program also included a recap of TPI’s recent South Africa Study Tour; a Show & Tell presentation about Turf Mountain Sod in North Carolina by Trustee Linda Bradley; an especially interesting presentation by Ian True of Trebro Manufacturing that provided a look at advancements in turfgrass harvesting technology around the world over the last half century, and Dr. Katerina Jordan, University of Guelph, who addressed recent research pertaining to commercial sod production and soil.

A series of concurrent breakout sessions also offered attendees with an opportunity to pick and choose from programs of interest, including panel discussions titled “The Greatest Challenges Facing the Turf Industry” and “Profitability & Efficiency in Your Business,” and “Internet Marketing for Small & Medium Size Business” presented by Lee Gientke, founder and managing partner of Webmix Marketing out of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Thursday evening’s activities included The Lawn Institute Banquet & Fundraiser at the scenic Knibbe Ranch, which proved to be a fun evening for all. The banquet had great food, wonderful entertainment, some exciting armadillo races to raise money for the foundation, and members even had an opportunity to be photographed with a Texas longhorn steer.

Friday’s Education Session proved just as informative and rewarding for those in attendance. Dr. Milt Engelke of Turfgrass Development, addressed “Developing Sustainable Turfgrass Systems.” Concurrent breakout sessions included a panel discussion titled “The Things I Learned Growing My Business.” Dr. Mark Simmons of Ecosystem Design Group, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, University of Texas presented “Upping the Green – Turf, Green Roofs, Prairie Parks and Roadsides for the Sustainability.” Dr. Ambika Chandra, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, addressed how a team of turfgrass breeders, extension specialists, plant physiologists and agriculture economists are working together to develop turfgrass cultivars that are stress-, salt- and more drought-tolerant.

The afternoon concluded with an interesting debate featuring former Congressman Charlie Stenholm, senior policy advisor at OFW Law in Washington, and Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh, professor of agriculture economics at Kansas State University. Their topic: “What’s Ahead for the Economy & Agriculture.”

Later in the afternoon, attendees toured David Doguet’s Bladerunner Farms in nearby Poteet, Texas, to view research and development sites used to evaluate new zoysia grasses and enjoy a Texas-style crawfish boil and a great western band.

More than a few people commented that both the social and educational sessions made this among the best TPI conferences they had ever attended. We agree!

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Turfgrass Producers International – TPI

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