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Time well-spent at the LM Growth Summit

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Photo: Lou Ferraro, Park South Photography
2019 LM Growth Summit attendees (Photo: Lou Ferraro, Park South Photography)
Photo: Lou Ferraro, Park South Photography
2019 LM Growth Summit attendees (Photo: Lou Ferraro, Park South Photography)

“If you’re not here, you’re missing out” seems to be the consensus from attendees of the 2019 LM Growth Summit.

“Anyone who has thought about attending and hasn’t should reconsider and come,” says Brandon Hyde, vice president of Hyde Park Landscape in Norwich, Conn. “It will be an experience they won’t forget.”

As lawn care professionals, it’s so easy to estimate the return on investment (ROI) of a new piece of equipment, but the ROI of time is harder to calculate.

“To take three days away from your company is sometimes not easy to do, but I think it was three days well-spent for us here,” Hyde says.

Now in its eighth year, the LM Growth Summit is unique based on how it’s structured. There are individual one-on-one meetings between supplier-partners and attendees and plenty of time for lawn care operators (LCOs) and partners to network at meals and during activities each day.

“(This) gave us the ability to interact with others in the industry, which you wouldn’t normally get,” Hyde says.

The individual meetings are a leg up on traditional trade shows, says Dwight Bizzell, vice president of Bizzell Nursery Co., in Sikeston, Mo.

“We are really one-on-one,” he says. “You don’t have to sit there and wait to ask a question or have to come back because they are too busy. If you’re serious about your business, these people are serious about theirs, as well, and they’re not here to just waste your time. (It) makes you feel exclusive.”

It’s also a great opportunity for attendees to get exposure to partners and products they may not have heard of, as was the case for Dusty Montiel, general manager of One Two Tree in Miami.

“One of the companies here I would have never come across if I wouldn’t have been here — Anuvia,” he says.

Product demos at LM Growth Summit (Photo: Seth Jones)
Try it out Attendees got a chance for product demos on equipment like this spreader/sprayer from Turfco. (Photo: Seth Jones)

Montiel says he was very excited to see how the company’s granular fertilizer will work in his location with the different types of grasses he works with.

Twenty-seven attendees from lawn care operations around the country participated in this year’s event, and they say the experience was invaluable.

“It’s a value that you can’t put a dollar figure on,” Montiel says.

Partners

Eight partners — representing equipment, fertilizer, herbicide, fungicide and insecticide vendors — joined the 27 attendees. Here’s a snapshot of the partners and the products they highlighted:

Quali-Pro

Houston-based Quali-Pro has 50 active ingredients, 130 formulations and 400 stock keeping units, which allow the company some flexibility in its offerings.

“We can put a lot of products together that normally other companies wouldn’t think of doing and come up with synergy, and it’s something that end users need,” says Jeremy Moore, national accounts manager.

One such combination is Negate, which is a combination of metsulfuron methyl and rimsulfuron herbicides. Nick Strain, business director, says it’s an “affordable product to control Poa in Bermudagrass lawns.”

Another is Strobe Pro G, which is a granular fungicide combination of azoxystrobin and propiconazole. Strain says one of the benefits is low dust following application.

Quali-Pro’s insect control offerings also garnered interest during the LM Growth Summit.

“A lot of our customers have asked about mosquito control, which we have a new product called Proflex that has shown excellent control,” Moore says.

Strain says another overlooked part of lawn care is plant growth regulators (PGRs). Quali-Pro offers T-Nex and Ethephon 2SL PGRs.

“I think they’re the unsung hero of the lawn care side of it,” he says. “If you’re spraying, if you have a lot of fence posts, a lot of areas you don’t want to weed eat, places to trim, look at your PGR options. They can be a big time-saver if you look at them versus labor and fuel. It’s much cheaper to use a plant growth regulator in those areas to reduce trim time.”

Turfco

Turfco, from Minneapolis, may have just celebrated 100 years in business, but “we are very focused on innovation,” says George Kinkead, president.

Kinkead says his family’s company, now in its third generation, has an eye on the future of its customers. Its main focus is on how to increase staff productivity through different equipment designs.

“When you’re selecting equipment, it’s critical if you look at what type of equipment you are going to buy and (ask) ‘am I going to attract people and retain people that I want to?’” he says. “In our mix of products, we basically focus on innovative products that can give you the ability to scale and retain employees.”

Partners meeting with lawn care operator (Photo: Christina Herrick)
Connections At the Growth Summit, LCOs meet with partners they might not have otherwise. (Photo: Christina Herrick)

Highlights of the Turfco presentation include ride-on applicators, a walking aerator and a riding aerator with a seed box on the front.
Kinkead says aerators used to be a challenging piece of equipment for operators, but Turfco designed the TurnAer XT5 with a reverse function, so users don’t have to lift and turn the unit. As the product was out for testing, he says it was the “first time I saw a guy with a smile on his face running an aerator.”

For the TurnAer XT8 stand-on aerator, Kinkead says, “They’re three times as productive as the walking units. Some guys even have productivity above that.”
Turfco also offers a drop-seeder attachment for the TurnAer XT8. It has a 30-inch seeding width that matches the XT8’s aerating width. It holds up to 65 pounds of seed and mounts on the front of the aerator.

Turfco also demoed its new T5000 riding spreader/sprayer. It’s a larger version of its T3100. The T5000 spreader/sprayer includes hands-free speed control and a boomless sprayer. It can hold 60 gallons of liquid product or 325 pounds of granular product.

Prime Source

Prime Source is a post-patent and proprietary chemical company based in Middlesex, N.C., with 76 products in its portfolio, including herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, liquid nutrients and adjuvants.

“(If) we see there’s a void out there in the market, we will come up with solutions,” says Justin Watts, senior vice president. “Some of that may be some of our own products. Sometimes we will partner with other manufacturers where it makes sense.”

Watts says one such partnership is Zelto, a biological nematicide that Prime Source brought to market with Marrone Bio Innovations. And Watts says Prime Source is primed for the future with some promising products in the pipeline.

“We’ve got a lot of stuff in the hopper that we’re really excited about, that we can’t say a whole lot about now,” he says. “It’s really looked good in some university trials that we’ve been doing this summer.”

Walk Behind Spreaders

For Michael Falconer, president of Walk Behind Spreaders, the evolution from lawn care professional to entrepreneur came out of necessity for his lawn care operation. He used LESCO hydro spreaders because he found them to be the most efficient spreaders for his mainly residential business.

“We felt those power spreaders were the most efficient, quickest for residential on and off the truck and the lowest priced if you have to buy one for every single truck,” he says.

Michael Falconer demonstrating power spreader (Photo: Seth Jones)
Show it off Michael Falconer (left) first built a power spreader out of need for his lawn care operation. (Photo: Seth Jones)

When LESCO stopped producing them in 2009, Falconer decided to build a power spreader of his own. He sold his first spreader in 2014.

Upgrades to Falconer’s spreader include a larger frame, Honda engine, stainless steel and aluminum features and more. The spreader is also available with a four-wheel kit.

“A lot of people want it to be more stable,” he says.

While a three-wheel spreader may tip over in transit, he also makes a carrier for the spreader to prevent this.

Falconer says these spreaders are best suited for 5,000- to 10,000-square-foot plots. And, he’s working on an electric version.

“When I was building it for my business, everybody else needed it. That’s how it turned into its own type of business,” he says.

Falconer says some of the highlights to his spreader are its efficiency in both use and upkeep.

“It lasts forever,” he says. “It’s easy to work on and the least-expensive built powered spreader that’s available.”

Anuvia

Anuvia Plant Nutrients is a manufacturer of homogenized granular fertilizer products made from organic materials. The organic material used is reprocessed, broken down and infused with other nutrients designed for the turf market.

“It’s sustainable, and it’s certified organic … USDA biobased as well,” says Chuck Barber, vice president of Anuvia. “You’re not only feeding the plant; you’re feeding the soil.”

Barber says Anuvia’s fertilizer doesn’t leach, volatilize or denitrify. Each fertilizer prill includes nitrogen, phosphorus, potash and iron.

“Now, there is no fertilizer that’s 100 percent efficient, but this is very efficient compared to your standard fertilizer that you might be buying today,” he says.

Barber says coming to the LM Growth Summit is particularly special for the company because the company met one of its largest customers at the LM Growth Summit a few years ago.

“It just shows what this format can do,” he says. “We’ve become friends, which we both value, and our company values as well.”

Barber and John Fowler, vice president of turf market sales, say that’s at the heart of the LM Growth Summit — developing relationships.

Steel Green

The goal for Steel Green Manufacturing at the LM Growth Summit was to raise awareness for the brand, which has only been in business for a year and a half.

“We’re here to help (end users) in any way that we can,” says Matt Smith, sales manager.

Steel Green demoed some of its ride-on spreader/sprayer models. Sizes range from the largest model — the SG52, which can hold 50 gallons of liquid and 325 pounds of granular materials — to the smallest model — the SG36, which can hold up to 30 gallons of liquid and 225 pounds of granular product.

Steel Green rep demonstrating machines (Photo: Seth Jones)
The rundown Mike DePriest of Longs Peak Landscape gets the scoop on Steel Green’s machines. (Photo: Seth Jones)

“It’s small enough to get through those gates but more productive,” Smith says of the SG36.

Each Steel Green spreader/sprayer has a zero-turn radius and comes standard with a 21-hp engine, dual drum brakes and a 20/50 amp charging system.

Steel Green is known for its ability to help create customized equipment by listening to and meeting a client’s needs.

“You might need two pumps on your machine; we’re the guys that are going to figure out a way to make that happen,” he says.

Smith says another calling card of his company is customer service.

“We answer calls, we live and breathe this industry,” he says of the five founders, noting that customer service extends to taking cellphone calls and answering inquiries via Facebook.

Nufarm

This year marks the fourth time Nufarm has attended the LM Growth Summit as a partner. Both Jamie Heydinger, national cool-season LCO manager, and Rod Marquardt, national warm-season LCO manager, see the importance in returning year after year.

“We keep doing it every year, and it’s because we find value in it,” Marquardt says. “You want to build a relationship with (the attendees), and you don’t do that by sitting at a table for 30 minutes, talking business. You build a relationship through having dinner together and having breakfast together, golfing together and spending time together.”

These conversations, they say, are both with existing customers and new people in the industry.

“You go to the next level of what they’re dealing with, and you get to know them more,” Heydinger says.

Heydinger and Marquardt took the opportunity at the LM Growth Summit to educate attendees unfamiliar with Nufarm’s broad portfolio and companies Nufarm has acquired in the last few years, including Etigra and Cleary Chemical Corp.

Nufarm is also the exclusive distributor for turf and ornamental, aquatic and industrial vegetation management products from Valent U.S.A.

“We have solutions for about every conceivable issue you might have, and then we continue to innovate and add more products to the pipeline,” Heydinger says.

Gregson-Clark

Part of what Rhett Clark, president of Gregson-Clark, hoped to get out of meeting with attendees was to hear if users have ideas or things they wish the company’s spray equipment offered.

“We like to innovate,” he says.

The company, which is based in Caledonia, N.Y., manufactures commercial spraying and liquid-handling equipment.

Partner and lawn care operator chatting (Photo: Christina Herrick)
Quality time Attendees say the one-on-one meetings with partners are a leg up on traditional trade shows. (Photo: Christina Herrick)

The company’s V-series skid sprayers feature a balanced, compact design, which is well-suited for use in pickup trucks. The sprayers are available in sizes from 50 to 300 gallons and standard or custom pump and engine combinations, hose reels, spray hoses and guns. For pickup trucks, the hose reel can mount opposite the pump and engine. For vans and flatbeds, it can mount underneath.

Modular add-on tanks are available with the V-series skid sprayer, so users can carry two different solutions and three-way valves, which enable users to work from either tank or transfer between tanks. Heavy-duty wiring is included in electric rewind rails, which use the vehicle’s battery. Users can also add-on the 505-injection system for spot treatment or blanket applications. Other accessories that operators like to use are a high-pressure strainer, air gap fuel system, closed roller die, air pump and removable diffuser for composting applications, strainer bags and boom kits.

We’re all friends here

When asked what he thought of the LM Growth Summit, Jim Beveridge of Yards Done Right in Westlake, Ohio, says, “I already told our entire Facebook group about it.”

Beveridge is the “mayor” of Facebook, says his wife, Judy. Mayor may be an understatement as Jim and Judy Beveridge are administrators of the Professional Lawn Care Applicators Group.

Jim Beveridge says he started this group, which has just shy of 2,000 members, three years ago because he saw a need for those in the lawn care industry to connect. And while it’s grown, the Beveridges say the group stays close to its roots, where conversations are civil and embrace the spirit of helpfulness, whether it’s an issue with a piece of equipment or a question about a product.

“It’s just a great sounding board for anything that happens day to day in the business,” he says. “It’s basically something where people will open up and talk freely.”

Lawn care operators checking out equipment at LM Growth Summit (Photo: Seth Jones)
Innovate At the LM Growth Summit, Gregson-Clark looked to gain insight for new product ideas. (Photo: Seth Jones)

There are criteria for joining so the administrators can protect the integrity of the group. There are also ground rules to follow. Members get perks including discounts on products such as lawn signs, answering services, fertilizers and more from vendors who are also members of the group. There’s a mentoring arm, as well.

“We’ve got guys that this is their first year, and we’ve got guys like Jim going on year 43,” Judy Beveridge says. “We’re just here to help educate and support each other and save money along the way, too.”

A few of those nearly 2,000 members attended this year’s LM Growth Summit, and this added to the personal feel, says Vinnie Ambrose, owner of Ambrose Pest & Turf Management in Lakeland, Fla.

“It’s cool to come and reconnect with people in the Facebook group that we connect with on a regular basis,” he says.

Christina Herrick headshot (Photo: LM Staff)

Christina Herrick

Christina Herrick is a former Editor for Landscape Management. A Journalist graduate from Ohio Northern University, Christina is known for sharing her insightful experiences on the road with her audience.

Photo: Seth Jones

Seth Jones

Seth Jones is is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. A graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Seth was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. He has more than 23 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories.

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