Proud Product of American Agriculture!

From Growing Green Grass Founder Jerad Minnick:

This blog has evolved into an idea sharing tool for natural grass fields more so than a personal blog for my own. But tonight I want to share something personal.  Today, March 25, 2014, is National Agriculture Day here in the USA.  National Agriculture Day is “to celebrate the abundance provided by American agriculture” to the entire world.  This year’s theme is “365 Sunrises and 7 Billion Mouths to Feed”.  See this video:

It is appropriate for this blog to encourage the celebration of National Agriculture Day because we as turfgrass managers are part of the American agriculture society. Certainly we are not providing food, clothes, and durable good for every single person in this entire world like the American farmer. But we are growing plants, interacting with nature, and improving the environment. Here in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, turfgrass is the #1 “crop” grown in the region equaling 3.8 million acres. Amazing! Well done to each and every turfgrass manager out there.. lawns, sports, golf.. even the do it yourself homeowner!

But National Agriculture Day is personal to me because I am a product of the abundance provided by American agriculture.  Because of my slick shoes and fancy suits,  it likely comes as a surprise to many… I grew up on a family farm in the middle of north central Missouri’s fertile agricultural region. My family still operates that farm today.  And they will continue to do so for generations to come, just as so many other American family farms (87% of farms are family farms).

Why do they choose that life?  Simple.  Because  the demand on American agriculture is huge. Currently, there are over 313 million people in the United States.  Out of all of those people, less than 1% are farmers.  By 2050, agriculture production must double to meet the demand by you.. me.. your kids.. my kids.. and the other 9.6 billion people who will be living on our planet in 2050.

Yes, I said production must DOUBLE! Yes.. Increase by 100%. Wow! With less than 1% of the population involved, that kind of production increase will be IMPOSSIBLE! Right??

Thankfully, IMPOSSIBLE doesn’t exist to American agriculture. That demand will be met. Guaranteed.  How do I know?  Because I have experienced the spirit of the American agriculture personally.  At 62 years old, my father has never really taken a single day off.  Even with a rare muscle disease that has tried to hold him back, he has never stopped working.  I have travelled over 50,000 miles in the last year.  Stood beneath the Eiffel Tower… gazed atop a skyscraper in Tokyo… watched the sun set off the California coast. And all the while, my dad has been out there in “flyover country” (the preferred term of so many of my “big city” friends to describe those”red states” out there with nothing in them) just working away.  And my mom is there supporting him.  My grandpa worked the same way his entire life. Never, ever, ever have I heard them complain. Never in my life have I heard them say “I can’t”.  Never in my life have I witnessed them cut a corner or take the easy way out of a challenge.  Never in my life have I known them to see anything as IMPOSSIBLE.

Making the impossible possible is what the American agriculture does.  And THAT is the spirit that National Ag Day celebrates.

And THAT is why I am thankful to be a product of American agriculture. Growing up on a farm is absolutely a different life.  Waking up early, working late until you are too tired to go anymore.. and then going for another 2 hours, and always having to find a way to do a job by yourself that should take 3 people.  Being part of less than 1% of American people isn’t easy. But it taught me lessons that I appreciate and use daily!

People ask me where I get some of my crazy ideas.  Or why my big push is to encourage others to realize that Nelson Mandela was right when he said “It Always Seems Impossible  Until Its Done”.  Or my favorite.. “Impossible Is Not Something That Can Not Be Done, It Is Just Something That Has Not Been Done Yet”.  Being a product of America agriculture, I know no other way of thinking.  I appreciate and THANK YOU for letting me share that spirit with you on this blog.    The spirit of making the impossible possible.  The spirit of American agriculture.

Happy National Agriculture Day!  Please THANK an American farmer!

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Welcome to the Future?!

As part of “ThinkDifferent”, I have repeatedly made the statement that “within 5 years, there WILL be a natural grass alternative to synthetic turf.”  That is a statement that the natural grass industry is closer to than any of us realize.  Through combining the best technologies and techniques with creative thinking… we are close!  No one has any idea what the future holds!

During a recent visit to France, I got a peek into what the future does hold for natural grass fields and us as Grass Field Managers.  For possibly the first time ever, two grass field agronomists (Mr. Chris Hague from Denmark and myself) spent several hours in a NeuroMusculoskeletal Biomechanics lab with some of France’s top research and medical specialists.  Country and western singer Brad Paisley’s 2009 hit “Welcome to the Future” played in my mind as we were exposed to research on the interaction between players and the field surface from a scientific, biomechanics perspective. Or maybe the more proper song would have been the introduction to the “Twilight Zone“, as we truly were introduced to an entirely new dimension in which grass fields soon will be moving.  Either song is fitting.  And the opportunity Chris and I had to be introduced to some exciting new ideas technology for natural grass fields was game changing.  Let’s take a quick look:

The group Natural Grass is responsible for the game changing ideas and research taking place in France.  Their concept revolves around the use of granulated cork in a sand root zone for a natural grass sports field.  The cork mixed in sand absorbs energy displaced into the sand from each step a player running takes.  The energy is being absorbed, lowering the injury potential.   The cork in the field gives, not the player’s ligaments or tendons.   What a great idea yeah?!?  Wow.

Granulated Cork Pieces

Granulated Cork Pieces

The agronomic benefit is similar.  With the energy absorption, the compaction potential in the sand root zone is lowered/ eliminated.  The result is an air-filled root zone in which strong, healthy grass roots can always exist.  Strong, healthy roots allow the grass can always continue to grow and recover.  And a grass sward that is always growing and recovering can take an increased amount of traffic without an increased amount of maintenance.

THE FUTURE!?!?

4" Width x 8" Profile Sample

4″ Width x 8″ Profile Sample

The research behind the cork concept is being done at the George Charpak Institute for NeuroMusculoskeletal Biomechanics.  The institute has 3 teams for research:

1) Musculoskeletal Modelling and Clinical Innovation: Oriented towards patient-specific biomechanical modelling of the musculoskeletal system, this research aims to improve the understanding of pathologies resulting from degenerative processes, traumatism or handicap, as well as develop computer aided diagnosis and therapeutic tools, or design implants and technical aids
2) Biomechanics and Nervous System: Motion Analysis and Restoration: This research is based in clinical site (CHU Henri Mondor Creteil). The aim is to better understand relationships existing between motion muscular actuators and their neurocontrol command.  Analyzing and modelling motion disorders that happen subsequently to a neurological handicap, leads to design and objective evaluation of rehabilitation protocols.  
3) Biomechanics: Sport, Health and Safety: This research, carried out in clinical site (CHU Avicenne-University Paris 13), copes with three issues: inter-relationships between sportive practice and musculoskeletal remodeling in order to optimize performance while reducing induced pathology; mechanisms of injury after impacts (road crashes, sports) to improve protection devices; tissues and structures characterization at various loading speeds

(*Information from the Institute information sheet provided us)

The Institute has completed 4 years of testing on different concepts for sports field and how they react to energy absorption and the human body.  The work is amazing.  And the results are eye-opening.  There truly is a relationship between the shock from players legs and the field surface.  Not only does the data expose the need for absorption in the soil, but also for we as grass field managers to embark on an aggressive surface testing program.

biomecanique_en

Again….  THE FUTURE!?!?

Will it become common for grass field managers to be communicating with fitness experts and biomechanical experts?  I think YES!  Outside experts becoming involved in research and innovation for natural grass create entirely new possibilities for the limits of natural grass fields.  EXCITING!

Chris and I also had the opportunity to visit Aube Stadium in Troyes, France.  Aude is the first stadium to install the “AirFibr” system on their field (summer of 2013).  Thank you to Aube Head Grounds Manager Eric Robin for hosting us!

R to L: Chris Hague, Eric Robin, Jerad Minnick

R to L: Chris Hague, Eric Robin, Jerad Minnick

(As you look through the Natural Grass website, yes there are a few more components/ parts to the first Natural Grass product, “AirFibr”. The additional of synthetic microfibers helps with stability of a weakened root zone for winter time play, and silica sand helps with superior drainage in the French market.  And yes, some of the information Natural Grass has is commercial, as they believe in their product and want to sell it.  

But let us focusing on the concept of the cork and the energy absorption.  Let us see the creativity and importance of the Natural Grass relationship with some of France’s best researchers in the biomechanics field of study)

Here is another snap shot of the particular “Air Fibr” product: 

Coupe-Technologie-AirFibr_en

Background on Organic Sand Amendments… and How Global Communication is Improving the Industry 
During a tour of the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) last fall (October 2013) with Mr. Simon Gumbrill of Campey Turf Care, STRI’s Dr. Christian Spring lead us past an abandoned trial on sports field root zone mixtures involving coconuts husks.  Seeing visible squares of live and dead grass, Simon’s inquisitive mind asked the question of what was happening.  The plots containing coconut had survived the uncommon summer heat of 2013 better than the plots without, even with the trial abandoned.  

That experience left me curious about the possibilities of organic soil amendments for sand to increase durability and decrease compaction potential without introducing something like peat.   Peat is great for golf.  Why do we always have to follow golf?  For sports peat is expensive and can lead to compaction potential.  

With those thoughts on my mind, later that week I was meeting with Premier Pitches Mr. Carl Pass and Mr. Russell Latham and discussing the topic of sand reinforcement and sustainability for high traffic fields. Carl and Russell had recently visited Paris, France to see a new reinforcement  product with cork called “Air Fibr”.  There and then the connection to France and the USA via England was made.  Now our United States marketplace has another idea for innovation and natural grass durability for the future.  Communication and sharing is changing our world…  Thank you to everyone involved in sharing, communicating, and idea exchange.  Together we are re-defining our FUTURE!