By Mike Jiggens
THE first Canadian in 16 years has assumed office as president of Turfgrass Producers International, based in Illinois.
Claus Zander, president of Zander Sod Co. Limited in Kettleby, Ont., took over the reins as TPIâ€ˆpresident during the summer. The last Canadian to serve in that capacity was the late Richard Schiedel who founded the Greenhorizons Group of Farms Ltd. His term of office ended in 1994.
Zander rose through the ranks of the TPI executive, beginning as a trustee and then moving on to secretary-treasurer and vice-president.
Juggling both a leading sod producing company and his duties as TPI president for the next year are expected to result in a particularly busy year for Zander, but we managed to catch up with him for some questions and answers about what lies ahead during his presidency.
Q: What are your goals for your term as president?
A: To further the goals and current initiatives of the association.
• Continuing to serve and educate our membership through traditional print media and electronic resources such as our website and e-newsletters.
• Continue providing members with education and networking opportunities at our meetings and via our Turfgrass Forum.
• Communicate the many benefits of natural turfgrass.
• Represent turfgrass as a sustainable, environmentally-friendly choice for landscapes.
• Address issues as they arise such as artificial turf, pesticide and fertilizer use, etc.
• Maximize communication and any synergies that exist with other turfgrass organizations such as landscape architects, sports turf managers, golf course superintendents, etc.
Q: What do you feel that you personally bring to the table?
A: With over 15 years of experience on association “boards,” I have worked with many leaders in our green industry. One learns of the incredible amount of time and effort that is invested in organizing conventions, conferences, seminars and trade shows. I have gained a wealth of knowledge from these events and hope to share the information with our future leaders.
Q: What kind of Canadian influence might we expect this year with regard to TPI?
A: TPI is a truly global association of sod growers. We have board members from all over the continental U.S., as well as one member from Norway.
TPI has committed to funding a Canadian research project at the University of Guelph through the Lawn Institute.
Q: Give us an idea of what your schedule will be like this year with your commitment as president.
A: I am now serving my sixth year on the board, typically the board meets four times per year. We have a mid-winter conference at the beginning of February, a spring meeting to review financials and set budgets, our summer convention, including field day at end of July, and a fall board meeting when needed. This year we have cancelled the fall board meeting and the executive board will do a conference call to go over any urgent items.
Q: What are the challenges that lie ahead this year for TPI?
A: We will need to effectively communicate and heighten the visibility of our industry with legislators, consumers, educators, etc.
Q: What is the current state of the sod growing industry (especially in Canada), and what lies ahead for the next three to five years?
A: Due to the challenging economy, the sod industry is experiencing tough times globally. Our market is mostly comprised of new housing, golf courses, sports fields, commercial works and retail. Many growers have reduced their sod acreage and diversified their operations. We are optimistic that sales will rebound as the economy recovers.
With new varieties and types of grasses being developed we see more of a differentiation coming between growers.
Q: As president, will you be looking at bolstering Canadian membership in TPI?
A: Yes, I encourage all growers in our industry to join! The more members we have, the more information there is to exchange and the stronger the voice to enlighten politicians and the public. We have a strong Canadian representation and hope to keep that growing.
Q: Any other thoughts about the year ahead?
A: We must address the increased legislation and regulation that will continue to affect turfgrass in our landscapes.
In his inaugural column as president in the September/October issue of TPI’s Turf News, Zander emphasized the advantage of networking within the organization and of attending TPIâ€ˆmeetings.
“Over the years, I’ve save literally tens of thousands of dollars from information I’ve gained sitting on the tour bus, participating at a round table discussion, banquet, education session or part of an open forum where growers have shared their successes with diversification,” he wrote.