Jump to content

The Lost Ship of Sustainability??

Sign in to follow this  
Dave Wilber

1,067 views

My inbox has been blessed with some really good questions in the weeks since #GIS19. I like this one:

"Have you given up on the idea of sustainability?" 

At first pass, I scoffed. Please. Me? Never. And then I considered the source of the question and the context of the conversation. Let's start with context. Because that word, in its wide range, can mean so many things. The author of the question was speaking to me about agronomy. Then  to the point of source, we are talking about a Superintendent who has always been a deep thinking thought leader. So I decided that I'd look a little deeper at the whole subject.

In the early 90's my youthful excitement to apply ideas, along with my need to get noticed for those ideas, led me to seek out the emerging culture of eco-agricultural thinkers. This meant taking in writings of authors from Acres, USA Press. It led me to attend local and state anything that had to do with environment friendly agriculture. I got close with the growers and grazers who were using the same water sources as I was. I created a "community compost operation" and lastly, went almost entirely pesticide and salt fertilizer free. Inside of all of this were some pretty amazing people. Wide ranging. From generational Fruit, Wine Grape and Cannabis growers to Beef, Pork and Dairy producers to cool old ladies who just wanted to grow some strawberries to a wide range of specialty producers of just about anything that would grow. I'm a third generation agriculturist myself so in a way, there were as much my people as Turfheads. If not maybe more.199407618_tallship.jpg.fc5637231cc615d2a9a7b90320a79cd8.jpg

What I didn't grasp at the time is that I was the interloper, because I wasn't producing a "market crop". "It's Golf", they would say, "it doesn't produce anything other than recreation". And quite frankly most of that crowd didn't really get or participate in the sport. I had all the lines that we all say about Turfgrass being a major contributor, and they listened, nodded and held their same beliefs. But I was bound and determined that I was "producing" a "sustainable"  product. And my ability to speak a bunch of different agriculture languages made this a fun sell for me. I was trying to be more "organic" more "sustainable" more "eco" so I could be looked at as a participant and not just a tourist. 

What I learned was that my passion and my situation was unique and that really, if you want to, you can figure out a way to program a quality turfgrass management program with just about as much or as little input as you want. Really. And I learned that the best growers, producers, agriculturalists were the ones who relentlessly studied, observed, collected data and applied strong logic, while leaving behind the hype. 

Nothing piled against the rocks is any longer sustainability material.

Lets get back to the original question, "Have you given up on the idea of Sustainability?". The answer is a distinct and strong, "No". I haven't given up on the idea of chemical free management. I lived it as a Super. I live it now as a consultant. I am always looking at ways to reduce inputs of any kind and increase the quality of the product. In some climates, working hard to fool. nature means doing this in some un-natural ways. And yes, that could lead to a use of a pesticide of some sort, or a chemical that overcomes a barrier to producing a playing surface. I'm not as naive as I once was. But in the same way, I am more dogmatic about how to look at the infinite number of choices we now have in our techno powerful world.earthrace.jpg.1b5c93a50a96085b16421b684291bea4.jpg

My old friend Tom Mead and I were talking about a project years ago. Mead, who was working for Tom Doak at the time and had been a Super himself and I hit it off straight away because we were of a "sustainable" mindset. Meaning we were always looking for ways not to apply chemistry first. This particular conversation has to do with grassing choices. We both knew there were two roads. One road was the higher road. It would fall more to what the "general handbook" would say. It would require some chemical enhancement and it would be understandable to 90% of Turfheads everywhere. The lower road was the road less traveled. It would require more creativity and observation. It may mean a lot of different as less frequently used inputs in the beginning, developing a bank account that would pay interest for a lifetime of less input. Both ways, under capable hands, would produce a playing surface. Both could be talked about at the bar at the end of the day by golfers who don't know any better and be declared a win.

So, what tips the ship? Which wind requires which sail? Or is it lots of fuel and big horsepower engines? That, in and of itself is the eternal and unanswerable question. And to me right there, is why Sustainability, while sailing into and out of storms, fog, doldrums and fair weather is never going by the wayside. Because, clearly, show me an agricultural professional, captaining any kind of ship, who stops looking for the best way to be the operator, master and commander of every tool at their disposal and I will show you a crash of Titanic proportions. Nothing piled against the rocks is any longer sustainability material. What constitutes a ship wreck in the golf world? To me it's the sad sign of golf courses going away. Hitting the rocks for various reasons, but gone none the less.

Both ways, under capable hands, would produce a playing surface. Both could be talked about at the bar at the end of the day by golfers who don't know any better and be declared a win.

Bermuda-Triangle-mystery-SS-Cotopaxi-missing-ship-found-theory-1367928.jpg.5e069475f7107cfc53e56f0c997c2342.jpg

But if the ship is in the water, making waves, seeking cool ports and using its crew and every board foot of its waterline, it is, indeed Sustainable. Give up on Sustainable? Never. Our precious turfgrass demands it and further requires we don't label it and box it in so that we can claim technique over results.

Sign in to follow this  


5 Comments


Recommended Comments

Thanks for the article Dave.  I love reading your thoughts.

Could you explain to me your definition of the word Sustainable or Sustainability as it relates to golf courses for me?

Not trying to be passive-aggressive here, but I still don't get it and I want to learn what I don't understand.

Why does it mean for a golf course to be sustainable?

 

All the best,

Dave Schlagetter

Indian Hill Club

Winnetka, IL

Share this comment


Link to comment
43 minutes ago, Dave Schlagetter said:

Thanks for the article Dave.  I love reading your thoughts.

Could you explain to me your definition of the word Sustainable or Sustainability as it relates to golf courses for me?

Not trying to be passive-aggressive here, but I still don't get it and I want to learn what I don't understand.

Why does it mean for a golf course to be sustainable?

 

All the best,

Dave Schlagetter

Indian Hill Club

Winnetka, IL

Dave....I expected to get this question and it certainly didn't take long. I'm glad you asked and I don't think you are being passive aggressive at all. I used to speak on this topic regularly to both Golf and Non-golf people.

I use the following which I think is standard dictionary stuff:

avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. and the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.

It's pretty vague. Subject to much interpretation and can lead to people tuning out.

So for me, it's gotten a lot simpler. It's the answer to a question: "Can I continue down this path without depleting my available resources and can this path support a minimum of outside inputs?"

Again, there's lots of room in there to go toward Economic, Biological, Labor, even psychological. Makes is a very big topic.

When I started visiting "organic farms", back in the day, there were people claiming sustainability. Yet the quality of the food and animals that I saw wasn't good at some places. Meaning they got lower prices if they sold at all. To me, that's not sustainable.

By the same token, when my family first started running cattle on a new piece of ground, that ground wasn't producing enough feed for number of cow/calf pairs that we brought on and we had to buy supplemental feed and our vet bills were higher as the animals weren't as healthy. Not sustainable. With added inputs to that ground in the form of mineral and maunre, we were able to increase the feed supply and reduce our vet bills which increasing calf rate of gain and getting animals to market sooner. Sustainable.

Another example...A super who was going "pesticide free" called me and wanted me to come and look at his greens. He was very proud of the work, but the quality wasn't there and the facility, a public one, was having trouble with customer satisfaction. He was inundated with fairy ring and the product clearly wasn't looking or playing good. I convinced him that we had to 1. Apply some rescue chemistry in the form of ProStar, 2. Remove some accumulated thatch and increase topdressing frequency and 3. Add some carbon based digestive oriented materials to his fert spray program.  The fairy ring (a symptom) treated easily. The thatch was back into management. His N was reduced by more than half and was applied at a proper time in line with when the plant needed it. Leading to an overall reduction in needed materials and labor. Sustainable. And the golfers were happy with the greens and he was competition oriented in his market. Increasing business. Sustainable.

Bottom line...Sustainable isn't always about an adoption of a single technique or philosophy.  It's more about producing an end goal that can continue to tick all the boxes and provide the best possible for the least worry and input.

Hope this helps.

 

Share this comment


Link to comment
2 hours ago, Dave Schlagetter said:

Thank you Dave.  

Like your response.  Love the last paragraph.

Enjoy your weekend.

Dave Schlagetter

You are most welcome!!!

Share this comment


Link to comment
Guest
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...