I know … everyone says they have THE BEST CUSTOMERS, and I truly mean it!

And, I have some of the funniest customers around.

For instance … Let’s talk about Landscapers!  Landscapers in general must have a good sense of humor just for the industry they are in. Mother Nature tends to throw a monkey wrench into a landscaper’s job plans weekly if not sometimes daily.  They might be trying to lay sod, but it rains two inches that night. Or they might be going to plant trees, and it snows two inches. Then they need to get the salters in the trucks and a day later take them back out. Yes every job and business has its challenges. But Landscaping in the Michiana area is a unique one.

I have been on some fun trips, events, conferences, lunches and dinners with my customers. I learn something new and always have a good time. I am amazed at how many of my customers have become a friend over the years. I am very lucky to be in the industry I am in, and to have met so many great men and women.

There are more days than I can count that a customer has called or texted me and made me laugh. Including today. Laughing makes for a great day!   Thank you!

Until next time, Jeremy and The Red Hen Turf Farm Crew

In the news … Red Hen-Red Gold Partnership Highlighted by Turfgrass Producers International

As our regular readers might recall, our Summer 2015 Marketing Intern, Leslie, was very busy with all sorts of projects (CLICK TO READ MORE).

One of the articles that Leslie wrote was submitted to the Turfgrass Producers International (TPI) magazine and we are very happy to announce that it has made it to PRINT!  

The article is about Red Hen’s partnership with Red Gold tomatoes and our diversification into producing a range of commodity crops in addition to the 100% Kentucky bluegrass sod that we are known for in the Michiana region.

You can READ about it by CLICKING HERE (pdf download).

Red Hen-Red Gold Partnership - Turfgrass Producers International SeptOct 2015

CLICK on this Snapshot to access the full-sized PDF of this Article

Red Hen Turf Farm is a proud member of several industry and professional organizations, including TPI.  The TPI website is a great resource for anyone seeking more information on the sod industry.  Turfgrass Producers International is the only international trade association dedicated to promoting the benefits of turfgrass sod worldwide.

Thank you, TPI, for your ongoing support of Red Hen Turf Farm!  For anyone interested in following TPI via various social media outlets:

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

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.

July 2015 042

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.

Summer 2015 094

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

July 2015 002

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.

lawn big roll 001

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.

Sunrise on Turf 087

Final Farm 048


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.

Red Hen Group Photo 002

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

Jeremy Reflects on the Small Business Mentality – and it’s National Small Business Week

Do you know what I miss when I shop, especially at the box stores?  It’s a small business mentality.

When I was young my parents started a video store in Elkhart, Indiana. I learned early on what customer service meant to my parents and their customers. I highly enjoyed working at the South Bend location. In fact, I did not start getting paid untiI was 14, so it must of been the free movies that kept me working there – RIGHT?

But now, looking back, it was the customers that kept me coming back. I know this might sound cheesy but it’s true.

I had one customer who took me on my first plane ride. I even got to fly the plane for a while.

I had customers bring me food, desserts and even invite me to dinner. At one of the dinners I went to they showed me a board game that I have since taught to my sons.

At that time, our customers could have gone to at least 3 different video stores — but they choose us. They wanted to rent a movie – sure – but more importantly they wanted a recommendation they could trust.

So sitting here at home on my iPad reading about how it is National Small Business Week, I thought about where I shopped tonight. Let’s just say that when we all walk in a big chain store, we are no more than a number.

But, as customers and small business owners and employees, we often can make a different choice and that choice can make a difference in our lives that goes beyond buying a product or a service.

Thank you for supporting small business.

Jeremy and the Crew from Red Hen Turf Farm

Straight from Red Hen’s FAQ Vault … Doing Off-Seasons the RIGHT WAY at Red Hen Turf Farm

PHOTO: One of Jeremy's To-Do Lists

One of Jeremy’s To-Do Lists

Here’s a question we hear A LOT once winter has taken hold of the Michiana area and we throw in the towel as far as harvesting sod is concerned …


Here’s what JEREMY has to say about some of the ways that he spends his off-season time:

PHOTO: Jeremy Cooper, Turf Operations Manager, Red Hen Turf Farm

Jeremy, Turf Operations Manager, Red Hen Turf Farm

I’m actually amazed at how many times we are asked this question. But, it’s a common conundrum for “green industry” professionals … how to make the most out of any off-season downtime that you might have?

Some days, we wish the answer could be, “Well, we HIBERNATE, of course!” but in many ways, Red Hen’s off-season is just about as busy as our sod-production season

Yes, some of our seasonal employees are laid off until early March, but on a daily basis we still have 8 employees working full-time …

 Approximately 2880 OFF-SEASON Payroll Hours ... That's a lot of hours!

Approximately 2880 OFF-SEASON Payroll Hours … That’s a lot of hours!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

@ 1:15 p.m.

It’s a Sunday afternoon, and I am leaving my house to car pool with Rick Glassman, the Environmental Education Coordinator from the St. Joseph County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) and some of my fellow SWCD Supervisors.

Screenshot - About the St. Joseph County Soil & Water Conservation District

Learn more at www.stjosephswcd.org

The St. Joseph County SWCD is one of the community organizations that I volunteer for. Every January, a few Supervisors from the SWCD go down to Indianapolis to attend the Annual Meeting for the Indiana Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts (IASWCD). We Supervisors also take advantage of being in Indy by paying a visit to the State House to speak to our District’s elected officials. We give them our annual legislative presentation materials that highlights all the work that the SWCD does for St. Joseph County, and how the SWCD’s funds (including tax dollars) are put to good use.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

@ 1:00 p.m.

I am heading for home after a whirlwind of meetings with our state legislators and attending a few sessions at the IASWCD Conference.  It’s been a real success.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

@ 8:00 a.m.

I am working from Red Hen’s office today.  I’m going through our website (www.redhenturf.com) ONE MORE TIME to catch everything that will need updated for the 2015 season.  I’ve got a meeting in 2 days with our web designer, and there’s plenty of editing that will need to be done.

I also plan out another Indianapolis trip that Lisa (our Office Manager) and I will be taking next week. We’ll be attending the annual Indiana Green Expo, Indiana’s most comprehensive green industry educational conference and trade show. I am also contacting some of our landscaper customers who will be attending Indiana Green with Lisa and I.  Our goal at Indiana Green will be to get some valuable training, and to check out the trade show and the Landscape Challenge. Some of the sessions that Lisa and I are thinking about attending include:

  • The Future of Lawn Care in the Midwest
  • Are You Wasting Money by Wasting Pesticides?
  • Invasive Species and the Green Industry – A Panel Discussion
  • Show Off Your Professionalism: How Do Your Customers Perceive Your Business?
  • How to Implement a Social Media Strategy

@ 3:30 p.m.

I arrive at a meeting in downtown South Bend to discuss the 2015 season with the regional manager for sod distribution to Home Depot and Lowes.

@ 10:30 p.m.

I arrive home for the evening.  Yes, that was a LONG but PRODUCTIVE meeting.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

@ 7:00 a.m.

Bright and early, I arrive at my first-ever South Bend BNI meeting. I only recently learned that on almost every Thursday morning, this eclectic mix of business professionals meet for an hour or so at the Morris Park Country Club.   BNI (or Business Network International) is a global network with local chapters. BNI’s mission is to provide its 150,000 world-wide members with tools to “increase their business through a structured, positive, and professional “word-of-mouth” program that enables them to develop long-term, meaningful relationships with quality business professionals.”   The weekly meetings include a 10-minute presentation by a featured speaker, dates for upcoming training opportunities, and more.

I was given the chance to introduce Red Hen Turf Farm to 50+ great people and then learn about each of their companies.  I hope to attend a few more BNI sessions before our sod season kicks in, and have a feeling I won’t be able to make it too many times between March and November.  These are short meetings and not too far away, so who knows?

Maybe you’re curious if your business would benefit from BNI membership?  Check out BNI’s Why BNI? webpage for a better idea of what to expect.

@ 9:00 a.m.

I arrive at Red Hen Turf Farm’s WORLD HEADQUARTER (haha!).  As soon as I get inside the door, I’m sitting back down with our web designer to go over Red Hen’s website plans.   

@ 1:00 p.m.

After the past few months of working on the early stages of a customized software project, we are meeting with the project manager from the company we’ve hired to design our “Turf Tracker” / CRM database / communication hub.  This is one of those projects where I’m contributing as part of a team, but our office manager, Lisa, is leading the effort.  We’re really excited about a soft launch possibly as early as the start of our spring season.  Our goal is to be able to provide better service to our customers, and being able to access and communicate information more efficiently is the key.

Friday, January 16, 2015

@ 8:00 a.m.

I arrive at Red Hen’s office and the phone rings.  The caller is asking about shade-tolerant sod, and we discuss some options.   Afterwards, I spend some time doing a little “team building” by catching up with my co-workers who I haven’t seen much of this week.

PHOTO:  Jeremy, Joe, Ron, and Don chatting over lunch

Jeremy, Joe, Ron, and Don chatting over lunch

@ 10:30 a.m.

Lisa and I are visited by two representatives from South Bend’s WorkOne office.  They give us more information about Indiana’s Operation: Job Ready Veterans program.  We are beginning the process of possibly employing veterans for a few positions within the next few weeks.  I’ve got some work to do to make sure we are fully staffed by early March.

During this meeting with WorkOne, we have a surprise visitor — the newest Red Hen team member who was born this past Sunday – Baby Boy Rhett Millar!  Congratulations to our owner, Gordon, and his wife, Casey!

@ 12:00 p.m.

The remainder of my Friday is filled with more marketing-related preparations.  I even get to check a few things off of my To-Do list.


@ 2:30 p.m.

After a long, productive, week, I decide to leave work an hour and a half early.  Next week is looking to be a busy one, too!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

And last but not least, I’ll throw the question back your way …


We welcome you to answer by leaving a comment or by sending us an email at jcooper@redhenturf.com

Until next time,

Jeremy, Turf Operations Manager, Red Hen Turf Farm