Turf has unfairly gotten a bad rap and while there’s been a lot of talk about changing that, the message rarely makes it outside of our industry’s confines. But a new initiative is looking to take turf’s positive message further. Grass Roots, a cooperative initiative between the United States Arboretum, the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Turfgrass Federation is focused on turf including its uses, management, benefits, and value. Part of the initiative will include an interactive exhibit at the National Arboretum.
“Over the years there have been a lot of decisions made about turf that were based on emotion – not facts and scientific data,” says Kevin Morris, president of the National Turfgrass Federation an executive director of the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program. “So we’re trying to change that. The National Arboretum is in a unique position because so many of their stakeholders are individuals that commonly have a negative view of turfgrass. The Arboretum wants to change that by getting more science-based information out there.”
The turf exhibit will have 14 “stations” situated on an approximately one-acre site located at the center of the Arboretum. Stations include areas such as irrigation, sports fields, golf, fertilization, and green roofing. “The Arboretum knows from past exhibits that most people won’t read more than about 30 words on a sign so the challenge is to get the most important information out there with simple displays,” Morris says.
“It may seem like basic stuff but the truth is that a lot of people are disconnected from this kind of information. We’re really trying to engage the community more – and most importantly, address those who are outside of the turf industry. The truth is that we all talk a lot to each other about the good things we’re doing with turf but we need to get that message outside of our industry.”
With more than 500,000 visitors to the Arboretum each year, including members of Congress, it’s truly an ideal location for educating the public on the scientific truths about turf. “A focus on education has the ability to be a huge positive and is our primary goal,” Morris says.
“We’re very open to programs and demonstrations and even companies using this space to bring clients or host Congressional staff. So much of the public has become disconnected from turf – particularly in urban areas. We are hoping to bridge that gap.”