What Does a Marketing Intern DO at a Sod Farm Anyhow?

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021I really didn’t know what to expect of a marketing internship at a turf farm. I also didn’t come into this with any specific expectations other than to harness some concrete skills that would set me apart from the competition as I entered the work force. I took the Red Hen internship because I knew I would be working with quality people, within a community I am passionate about and farming/ small business is in my roots. My intuition was — this would be fantastic place to learn and grow.

In the beginning, I spent time touring the farm, shadowing staff, taking a lot of notes, listening to a few stories (some fact, some fiction) and really taking it all in. Before long, I was getting my feet wet.

Five Tower Lane

Some of the projects I ended up working on were designing new business cards (utilizing photographs I took), postcard advertising mailers, Facebook cover art, hats, as well as dabbling in website design. I enjoyed the design projects; they allotted me independent creativity while teaching me those concrete skills I was hoping for.

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Organization is the key to success.

I also researched and wrote up social media policy for employees as well as researched social media management tools and their effectiveness for this particular small business. Along the lines of social media, I also worked diligently to beef up the farm’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts. My goal was to utilize Twitter to update cutting status, Instagram to entertain and thus gain followers and Facebook to inform and entertain, all of which would ultimately lead to followers and thus sales.

A cluttered desk just means you’re working diligently on many projects, right?

Writing up articles for submission to Turf Producers International (TPI) newsletter and magazine, the farm blog and other newsletters, was another big undertaking.  When writing about Red Hen’s involvement in the SB 150 birthday party, I had the privilege to speak with planning committee members Johnathon Geels, Landscape architect with the Troyer Group and Drew Elegante, owner of South Bend Brew Werks. Both were a pleasure to interview and gave notable insight and quotes that ultimately helped me deliver a great article.

I sat in on an irrigation event the farm hosted, presented by Purdue and MSU county extension offices. Attending, writing a blog about that event, and taking pictures for it was a definite highlight.

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Lyndon Kelley of MSU and Purdue extension offices speaks on irrigation tactics.

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Irrigation event field trip.

I went out on a limb when researching the TPI media packet. I noticed an upcoming issue would be touching on product diversification, which is significant to the Red Hen operation. I quickly jumped on the opportunity to write about this and got it approved by management.

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A substantial amount of time was also spent working one-on-one with customers. I would place their orders, talk to them about their lawns and more often than not, listen to the solutions Jeremy Cooper (Turf Operations Manager), the sod expert of the office, had for them. It was refreshing to work with a business that understands how to treat customers well and works hard at it every single day.

Customer service 101: You never know what you’re gonna get!

Among all these projects, my favorite was shooting video and pictures. I was able to
deliver a bank of quality pictures to the farm in thousands. Getting up at the crack of dawn to capture the sunrise on the farm, laying on the sod and venturing through 10 foot tall corn, all in the name of unique shots, contributed to an overall amazing experience.

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Lisa Courtney, my internship manager, was a wealth of information. She is a google extraordinaire and at times, I feel she is a living and walking encyclopedia.  If you need answers, she’s got them and if she doesn’t, give her 10 minutes and search engine and she will!  She has taught me so much in terms of technology, I.T. tips, website knowledge, design strategy, etc…  I can’t begin to explain all the nuggets she’s thrown at me during the course of the internship, but I can say I’m very thankful to her and I’m so honored to have had the opportunity to work next to her.

All the staff at Red Hen has been pleasant to work with. I appreciate the laid back yet professional atmosphere. There is a real sense of community and common sense work ethic within the organization which I think greatly adds to their effectiveness and overall success.

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Sod crew inked

Red Hen Sod Crew

I must say this internship was a wonderful experience.  It was a goal of mine to “wow” them.  Well, I’m not  sure I can say I’ve met my goal but they have definitely “wow’d” me!

Tomatoes inked

Leslie signature

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Crabgrass in the Fall – Having a Completely Crabgrass-free Lawn is a Tough Chore!

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Crabgrass growing next to a sidewalk

Crabgrass growing next to a sidewalk  >>> Image Source: Purdue Turf Tips, Weed Management Next to Sidewalks and Driveways (July 14, 2014) – CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO READ MORE

As most of you are WELL aware of, crabgrass is a common summer annual weed in our Michiana lawns.  In July, crabgrass plants were busy flowering and spreading their seeds, but each year it will die out naturally after the first frost.

But what can you do about crabgrass in the months between July and October/November when we usually see our first frost?

Unfortunately, the best time to control late summer / early fall crabgrass is to go back in time and deal with it in THE SPRING with a PRE-EMERGENT herbicide (like our 13-0-5 Fertilizer + Crabgrass preventer), along with mowing right, watering right, and fertilizing right.

Crabgrass is tough to kill and reproduces very effectively.  To expect a 100% crabgrass-free lawn is probably not very realistic – Mother Nature has the upper hand. The most effective approach to controlling this weed is to nurture and maintain a dense, healthy lawn to out-compete crabgrass (and other weeds by default), and prevent it from establishing in the first place.

We’ve been getting quite a few calls and visits from customers whose lawns are mostly free of this weed EXCEPT along areas like the edges along sidewalks, driveways, and roads.  These sections have two major issues going against them:

(1) SALT from winter that is still hanging around in the soil; and

(2) COMPACTION from things like foot traffic, auto/mower tires, and piled snow.

Crabgrass – among other weeds – is very tolerant of growing where there is salt and compaction.   Turf grasses are sensitive to both salt and compaction, and tend to NOT grow well in these spots.  Kentucky bluegrass is especially sensitive to salt damage, while perennial ryegrass, fine fescues, and tall fescue are more tolerant, but not totally resistant.

Another common trouble-spot is along the seams where sod was laid but the edges of the rolls were probably not placed close enough together.  The turf growing in these seams is thin and weak, allowing weeds to out-compete your grass.

Again, the crabgrass you see now in late-August WILL die off with our first frost.  But what about using a POST-emergent herbicide?  There are effective products to use, but TIMING is everything and ALWAYS READ THE LABEL.  Common to these post-emergent crabgrass herbicides is that you need to apply them when the plant is YOUNG … and, well, once we get past mid-July the crabgrass plants are usually
too large to control effectively. Another challenge to treating crabgrass that has already shown up is that these post-emergents work best at temperatures below 85ºF on clear days with low humidity.  That’s pretty hard to do in the dog-days of summer!

So what do I do this time of year in my own yard? I pulled a few out of my front yard the other day. I have more in the backyard and I plan on leaving them. I am not going to try to attempt to eradicate them with herbicides at this time. They are very big and tougher to kill. I am going to tolerate them because they will die with the first frost. Every year I tell many customers that you can apply Crabgrass preventer 2 times in a year.   If crabgrass was bad this year, I would look to doing better prevention next year.

On the other hand, if you’re up for the challenge, we do carry some post-emergent herbicides that we’d be happy to educate you about.

For more in-depth, science-based information, check out Purdue Extension’s publication, “Control of Crabgrass in Home Lawns” by CLICKING HERE.

As always, give our team a call if you have any questions – 574-232-6811.

Jeremy and the Red Hen Turf Farm Team

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