The history of Turfgrass Producers International (TPI)dates back to July 11, 1967. On that date 40 individuals who recognized both the need and the potential of an organization dedicated exclusively to serving the special needs of turfgrass sod producers and the industry founded The American Sod Producers Association (ASPA). Prior to that historic decision, informal gatherings had been held since 1959 in conjunction with the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) and at other locations.
Ben Warren was elected ASPA's first president, with George B. Hammond serving as the organization's first official secretary-treasurer. Mr. Hammond's home served as ASPA's address for incorporation which took place on October 13, 1967. ASPA was formally incorporated in the State of Ohio and later recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c (6), not-for-profit trade association. Incorporation transferred to the State of Illinois in 1988.
The initial purpose of forming the association as addressed in the TPI bylaws is “To maintain a trade association of individuals and firms engaged in the business of planting, growing and marketing sod.”
Within a year after it was founded, ASPA had grown to 100 members in six states.
In 1969, Dr. Henry Indyk of Rutgers University was named ASPA's first executive secretary, succeeding Mr. Hammond in the administration of the group. Dr. Indyk continued in this position until February, 1973 when he resigned. He was named ASPA's first Honorary Member. He was succeeded by Bob Garey of Garey Management Organization, Hastings, Nebraska as ASPA's executive director.
1971-1972 – First Membership Directory published.
1972 – ASPA’s holds its first Midwinter Conference and within five years after it was formed membership reaches 177 members in 27 states as well as members in Canada, Holland, Puerto Rico and South Africa.
1973 – Hastings, Nebraska is selected as the location of ASPA headquarters and the first issue of the ASPA Bulletin, a newsletter for members begins distribution.
1977 – First issue of Turf News is published – 16 pages and 10 advertisers. ASPA's membership reaches 330.
In 1983, the Board of Trustees voted to establish ASPA's own office and staff, naming Douglas Fender executive director, with an office in Hillside, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
By July 1982, 15 years after its founding, ASPA had 522 members in 46 states, 8 Canadian provinces, and 10 other countries. In recognition of it's international scope, ASPA held its first International Convention July 11, 1983, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
In 1987 ASPA moved its office to Rolling Meadows, Illinois. A new marketing brochure was presented for use by the Membership, and the membership reached 664.
At the 1988 Summer Convention and Field Days in Baltimore, Maryland, members voted to move ASPA's state of incorporation from Ohio to Illinois; an affiliate membership class was added; membership stood at an all time high of 738 and nearly 1,000 people participated in the largest Summer Convention ever sponsored by ASPA.
In 1989, a new committee was formed to promote the environmental benefits of turfgrass sod; ASPA was involved in the first "Green Summit ' meeting, a coalition of nine organizations within the green industry working together toward common goals; and with the continuous development of new programs, ASPA's staff was increased from two to three full-time employees.
In 1992, ASPA celebrated its 25th anniversary. Charter members shared in the festivities held in Chicago in conjunction with ASPA's Summer Convention & Field Days. ASPA's membership of 915 included representatives from every state in the United States plus members representing nine Canadian provinces and 22 other countries.
In 1993, a Ben Warren Memorial Foundation was established by ASPA as a tribute to the association's founding president and established to support turfgrass research and ensure and protect the future of the turfgrass sod production industry through science and education. In June 1997 Articles of Amendment were submitted to officially change the name to International Turf Producers Foundation (ITPF). Since its inception ITPF has raised over one million dollars for turfgrass research.
With over 14% of members coming from outside North America, ASPA members appointed the first international member to serve on the association's Board of Trustees.
In 1994, and in response to ASPA’s growing international membership and visibility, ASPA changed its name to Turfgrass Producers International (TPI). The association’s membership reflected 932 companies within United States, Canada and 33 additional countries worldwide. The membership voted to implement a major Turfgrass Public Education Program and the TPI staff increased to four full-time employees.
In 1997, the association reached its 30th anniversary and a new membership category was added to accommodate retired members.
In 1998, TPI’s membership exceeded 1,000. The organization restructured its committee system, adding new committees, such as “Technology” that would better prepare TPI for the 21st century.
In 1999, members elected the first non-North American president. Membership reached 1,063. TPI offered its first convention with "area-based" demonstrations. Turf News advertisers and convention exhibitors participated at record-breaking levels. TPI's budget exceeded one million dollars for the first time in its history and an additional person was added to the staff.
In 2000, Turf News Magazine editor Wendell Mathews retired after 22 years of service to the magazine. TPI hired its first Communications Manager to edit the magazine and other TPI publications.
In 2001, TPI's International Turf Producers Foundation (ITPF) introduced the 64-page book "Water Right - Conserving our Water - Preserving our Environment", an educational tool for green industry professionals to use in presenting the realities of our planet's available water supply to water-policy decision makers, businesses, educators and consumers.
Beginning at the 2001 TPI Summer Convention in Toronto, TPI's Board initiated the process of streamlining the committee structure, while developing more efficient means for member input and communications. Three subsequent strategic planning sessions were held with members, board and staff to determine the best ways to accomplish this objective.
In 2002, TPI's Board approved a full restructuring of TPI's committee system that resulted in Open Forum Roundtables, Task Forces, Working Groups and Advisory Groups. To maximize TPI’s public relations efforts and improve efficiency all PR efforts were brought in-house and the staff increased to six employees.
The President's Leadership award was introduced in 2003.
2004 saw an expanded Honors & Awards program introduced at the Santa Barbara Midwinter Conference, that not only recognized new honorary members, but also saw the introduction of the Distinguished Service and Innovator awards. A bylaws change was also approved giving Class B (Supplier) members the right to vote and to serve on TPI's Board of Trustees. ITPF Board amended its bylaws so that the TPI Board of Trustees is also the ITPF Board of Directors. The TPI board of trustees also approved the purchase of the association’s first building.
Year-end 2004 saw the retirement of Executive Director, Douglas Fender who had served the association for more than two decades. T. Kirk Hunter was appointed Executive Director, the third in TPI’s history.
In 2005, TPI relocated its office to its first association-owned property in East Dundee, Illinois.
In 2006, TPI’s membership reached a record-breaking 1,176 members; the largest issue of Turf News Magazine was distributed (July/August) with 128 pages of valuable information; and to accomplish the objectives of the International Turf Producers Foundation (ITPF), TPI hired its first Fundraising Director, increasing its staff size to 7 full-time employees.