Visiting with the Florida Golf Course Superintendents Association
Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to attend two different meetings of representatives of the Florida Golf Course Superintendents Association (FGCSA).
The first meeting was with the Board of Directors of FGCSA at their winter board meeting in Amelia Island on September 30th. That visit resulted from a discussion I had with the FGCSA’s Executive Committee about the funding prospects for EREF. Over the last year or so, the EREF board has been looking at various options on how to improve stakeholder involvement and financial support for EREF. We discussed those options with each of our major stakeholders, including the FGCSA, and garnered a lot of good information from them about the workings of their organization and their industry, as well as about the funding options under consideration. As part of that discussion, I was able to provide an update that framed EREF historically, and in terms of what it expects of its future. This was a great example of how even long-time allies can benefit from ongoing communications and personal interaction. The Board was an impressive group and I was very grateful for their warm and professional treatment.
On October 24th, I was invited by Dan Elchert of the FGCSA’s Palm Beach Chapter to go to Jupiter and give a water-policy and advocacy presentation to their joint meeting with the Treasure Coast Chapter. The bad news was that I had to follow a fantastic presentation by Greg Pheneger of Johns Island Club and the FGCSA ‘s Government Affairs director. I got to know Greg through years together at the Florida Turfgrass Association and he is a veteran of numerous efforts to improve relationships and policy outcomes with local governments around the state as they pertain to golf and the larger green industry. His practical and disciplined approach toward involvement and advocacy is THE blueprint for the industry. As much of this stuff as I also do, I learned new and nuanced approaches from Greg’s talk.
During the joint meeting, I provided an overview of the increasingly active efforts of local governments in bringing restrictive “blackout” fertilizer ordinances back to the table (Citrus and Seminole Counties currently) and what EREF and others were doing to address those efforts. In addition, I reminded the group that there are many entry points for unfriendly policy – on water use (permitting and pumpage limitations), on landscape design (restrictive plant lists, limited turf footprints, turf variety limitations), on chemical use (glyphosate restrictions), as well as on nutrient management. For example, how would a Paspalum-only mandate grab you? The conclusion that both Greg and I shared in our presentations is that we have a great story to tell, that many outside of our industries are unaware of the great work we do on environmental and natural resource protection, and that we are going to have to be increasingly active in getting that message out.
Going back to the benefits of ongoing communications, I took some questions after the Palm Beach / Treasure Coast meeting and was advised that EREF’s conditional willingness to support a winter fertilizer ban as being more consistent with recent research was NOT a general position that the FGCSA could agree with. I had to confess that EREF was not making it clear that this was a position relative only to residential turf management coming out of the FDEP / UF-IFAS studies on St. Augustine and Zoysia nutrient leaching, and that it must be accompanied by a professional lawn care exemption. It was healthy for me to be reminded that winter is prime time for our golf allies and that winter nutrient management is critical, is highly managed and protective of the environment, and is their particular specialty. Suffice it to say that EREF’s communications will make this important distinction more clearly going forward. My special thanks to Christy Lyle and Steve Wright for getting me lined up on this!
I will say again that it was great to have these opportunities to spend time with our golf allies and I hope to get some more of them.