We’ll Get Through This, Together
by Travis Council, President, Turfgrass Producers of Florida
I write to you today several weeks into the fight against COVID-19, hoping that by the time this newsletter reaches you we’ll have “flattened the curve” and are beginning to heal.
At our farm, we’ve been blessed to work every day through this mess (so far), and I’m profoundly grateful. It’s good for our customers, good for our employees and has kept my mind focused. Over and over again I find myself saying, “We’re just taking this one day at a time” – something echoed by many of you during phone conversations and on our recent Zoom grower call.
I believe we’re in for a long haul as the economy tries to negotiate an astounding number of unprecedented situations, and I suspect our industry may not fully feel the effects for months to come. So what can we do, other than what we’re doing? Here are a few things to consider:
Prioritize People: Over the past few weeks, I’ve realized that my faith, my family, my friends, and my employees mean more to me than ever. As government squabbles and people protest and things begin to “open up”, we should continue to prioritize the safety of our families, our employees and our customers. This is obviously good for the people we care about; it’s also good for the long-term health of your business. Don’t let up on the focus on safety, such as encouraging worker distancing whenever possible, utilizing masks, and sanitizing equipment. Embrace new ways of working and interacting with customers (such as paperless invoicing and curbside pickup) that maintain wise precautions for a virus that isn’t done with us yet. And don’t forget to take care of yourself. You are your business’s most valuable – and often least considered – asset.
Think Long-Term: The Florida sod industry has a unique reputation for cooperation and collaboration that’s been steadily forged over more than two decades. Let’s consider ways to keep our markets stable and support the long-term health of our industry. Let’s collaborate on common challenges so that everyone benefits. Let’s use this time of intense change to adopt better, more efficient ways of operating. Learn something you don’t know. Try something you didn’t have time for before. In short, while we (or many of us) have time on our hands, let’s think big and beyond this crisis.
Help Someone Else. We need to focus on helping each other whenever and wherever we can. I encourage each of you to call the other growers in your area and see how they are doing. Ask questions. Share some good ideas. Point someone in the right direction to find information they lack.
Being a farmer means we’re used to adapting to change, be it from weather, markets, regulation, and apparently, viruses. The Florida sod industry is definitely adapting to this change and TPF is right there with you. We’re working tirelessly to stay on top of COVID-related information and provide ways for our members to interact. Since Growing Better 2020 had to be canceled, we’ve instituted a new way to connect: a biweekly online video conference call open to all producer members. This short meeting provides a way for you to share what’s going on in your area and learn from others in the state. We’re also exploring how to use it to share information on specific topics going forward.
We’re also continuing to work on or monitor a host of other issues that are industry-critical, including:
- Dropping Lake Okeechobee levels and a potential water shortage emergency in south Florida;
- The revision of the sod BMP manual, including how FDACS-OAWP will collect the input information required under SB 712 and how the every-two-year verification visits will be conducted; and
- Lethal viral necrosis of St. Augustinegrass research, education and messaging.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say “thank you” to our allied partners for your understanding and solidarity with us, and to those in other Florida associations and agricultural organizations who are in this fight alongside us.
So let’s just keep taking one day at a time, communicating with each other, helping where we can, and thinking BIG. We’ll get through this, together.
Take Care Everyone,
Travis Council owns Council Growers in Ruskin, Florida, where his family has produced citrus and sod for over 30 years. Travis has served on the TPF board of directors since 2014 and as president since 2018.