TurfPro editor, Laurence Gale writes:
One of the biggest challenges our industry faces in the coming years will be inspiring the next generation of turf professionals to join our sector. We desperately need to start finding ways to encourage more people to come and work in this diverse, international industry.
To help start this process, I have asked a number of our leading professionals to write a piece about how they came to work in this industry and the opportunities it has given them.
Andrew Turnbull -Turf Agronomist
Tell us about yourself?
I have had a wide experience of the turfgrass industry: Head gardener, golf course greenkeeper, head groundsman, course manager, construction agronomist, college tutor, all leading to being an innovator in developing biostimulants for turfgrass surfaces. Along the way I have studied for a BSc (Hons) and Master of Research degrees.
Who or what inspired you to take up your career?
I always wanted to work outdoors and drifted into landscape gardening, tree surgery and growing plants. But it was when I started at Wentworth as a greenkeeper that I realised that all my previous experiences came together in working on a golf course. I got a great buzz out of people using my work instead of just walking around and looking at it when I was gardening.
Which individuals have inspired you or helped you develop professionally?
- Malcom Ulhorn - The owner of the landscape company I worked for in the 1980s encouraged me to go for a C&G in greenkeeping when I was only looking after client’s lawns.
- Graham Matheson – Head greenkeeper of the Edinburgh Course at Wentworth who took me through the ropes of turning me from a gardener into a greenkeeper.
- Martyn Jones – Former curriculum leader of Turfgrass Studies at Myerscough College who got me into studying turf science for the love of it, not just to get the next promotion.
What three pieces of machinery or innovations have in your opinion helped drive our industry forward or helped make your job easier?
- Aeration, equipment especially the Verti-drain
- Worktruck, with mounted sprayer, top dresser, spiking/slitting equipment
- Koro, making it so much easier to strip surfaces, particularly in sports pitch renovations
Working on the Isle of Jura
What concerns do you have for the future of our industry?
- Higher expectations from members/customers/viewing public, leading to impossible demands on the guy in charge
- Education - being treated as a ‘bums-on-seats’ exercise by colleges and training providers, and by greenkeepers/grounds staff as a stepping stone to the next promotion instead of learning to improve how we carry out our job.
How do you think we can entice the next generation of industry professionals to come and work in this industry?
- Be more forward in promoting the value of what we do, e.g. making sport possible whether a hack around the local course or a World Cup final. Make people want to be part of sport instead being viewed as just a grass cutter
- Improve working conditions and attitudes, e.g. clean up sheds and brew rooms, i.e. be more Scandinavian in cleanliness
How have recent events impacted on your job and how would you like to see the government support our industry?
The largest impact on my business has been the reduced ability to visit golf courses and sports stadia and meet the guys, and no trade shows. The government could do more to support education and turfgrass research, not just Apprenticeships vital through they are. Managing the land and water environments are higher up the political agenda and, as grass is the most efficient carbon capturer (?), the turfgrass industry could play its part on carbon capture and keeping our environment clean.