Thursday, August 13, 2009

In spite of it all, this sod farmer is a happy man

Times have gotten tough for sod farmers. Let's count the ways: The crash of the real estate market, stalled development, the crummy credit market and the oft-repeated (and increasingly annoying) practice by water agencies and headline writers in referring to turfgrass as “water-hogging turfgrass.”

These have combined to significantly dampen demand for sod in many parts of the country.

Ok, enough of the negativity. Here’s a spot of positive news, which we picked up from the Southwest Farm Press.

Fred Pittillo, the owner/operator of Turf Mountain Sod farm, Hendersonville, NC, was recently named North Carolina’s Sunbelt Farmer of the Year. Pittillo farms about 1,200 acres of fescue, Kentucky bluegrass and bentgrass in the western, mountainous part of the state.

Actually, Pittillo sounds like an interesting guy for a lot of reasons, starting with his introduction to the world of work as a young boy when his job was to hand milk one of the family’s four or five cows on its western Carolina spread, which relied upon two horses, Pug and Pearl, to work the fields and help the family to put food on the table.

From that day to this — including stints in the construction business and growing carrots for Campbell Soup — Pittillo has relied upon a strong work ethic and charging a fair price for a quality product to keep the family enterprises going. Maybe that's enough, right?

“My family is still close and I am a happy man,” says Pittillo in the article.

Oh, and just a final note about turfgrass — Let's all stop for a minute and envision in our minds what our neighborhoods, parks and school grounds would look like without turfgrass. I don't think many of us would like what we would see. — Ron Hall

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