TPI’s 2019 International Education Conference roared into Charlotte, North Carolina February 18-20 when more than 450 TPI members from nine countries and 36 states came together for an exciting week of learning, networking, and meeting new friends.
The event started early on Monday as more than 150 people traveled to Charlotte Motor Speedway, Hendricks Motor Sports, Bank of America Stadium (home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers), and BB&T Ballpark (home of the Triple A Charlotte Knights). A special highlight of the day was when attendees were rode in vans around the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway at speeds exceeding 80mph. Attendees learned about the myriad events held at the Speedway over the course of the year, ranging from stock car races to drag races to STEM classes for middle school students. At Hendricks, the group saw a number of track-driven cars from the various Hendricks drivers as well as some of the shop areas. A frequent comment from the large number of TPI members watching the shop area how the large, well-lit, climate-controlled area looked like a dream! The stadium and ballpark tours were full of insider information about game day preparations and field maintenance for high traffic areas!
Later that evening, TPI president Eric Heuver welcomed a full house to the President’s Reception in the Providence Ballroom. The energy in the room was deafening and set an exciting tone for the week as the crowd spilled into ballroom lobby areas into the evening.
The 2019 Education Conference kicked off with a theme of change as keynote speaker Shawn Rhodes of Shosin Consulting opened the conference with his talk entitled Creating A Pivot Point: Leveraging Change Without Sacrificing Results. This session was followed by breakout sessions focusing a number of business and agronomic topics including technology on the farm, sod shelf life, TPI’s new PR initiative (#keepitreal), natural grass water needs, lessons learned in the industry, managing change, and turfgrass marketing and pricing information. Speakers included TPI’s Executive Director Dr. Casey Reynolds; a member panel of Tom Diveley (Harmony Outdoor Brands), Laurie Griffen (Saratoga Sod Farm, Inc.), and Ryan Menken (Jasperson Sod Farm); a second member panel of Bobby Winstead (Winstead Turf Farms), Fred Pittillo (Turf Mountain Sod), Merett Alexander (NG Turf), and Joe Wilkins (Green Valley Turf Co.); as well as several university researchers, including Ben Campbell, PhD (University of Georgia); Doug Karcher, PhD (University of Arkansas), John Stier, PhD (University of Tennessee), Jay McCurdy, PhD (Mississippi State University); and Roch Gaussoin, PhD (University of Nebraska).
Phil Davis, the founder and president of Tungsten Branding kicked off Wednesday’s education slate with his talk about branding entitled The Grass Is Always Greener… Until It Isn’t: The Changing Perceptions of Public Opinion. The day’s breakout sessions included topics such as innovative farm management (Diane and Greg Mischel of DeBucks Sod Farm, Inc.); plant and soil interactions (Adam Thoms, PhD, and Nick Christians, PhD, Iowa State University); as well as updates on TPI’s government relations initiatives from Dr. Casey Reynolds; and repeats of some of Tuesday’s sessions.
Annual Business Meeting
TPI Officers and Staff led the 2019 TPI Annual Business Meeting where they presented information on TPI and TLI budgets, TLI scholarships, current and new initiatives, and more. TPI Executive Director Casey Reynolds, PhD spoke about TPI’s current and future endeavors in attending and speaking at turfgrass events throughout the world, TPI’s involvement in regulatory affairs, developing new benefits for TPI members, new supplier categories, and a new TPI website that will be launching in 2019.
TPI Vice-President Hank Kerfoot presented two Dr. Henry W. Indyk Scholarships to deserving recipients Sara Lechlider and Krysta Bouchard. He also provided updates on a new public relations initiative that was launched in 2019 and will include consumer and market research on natural grass as well as new TPI resources that will allow members to promote their use. “We’re excited about getting this underway and promoting the use of natural grasses while also putting more resources in the hands of TPI members”, says Casey Reynolds, PhD.
TPI Past President Bob Weerts was the featured speaker at Wednesday’s Inspirational Breakfast as he shared his intensely moving story of faith and loss and how TPI members form a family for all of us. The morning allowed all in attendance to reflect upon their own blessings with a reminder from Bob to not take anyone for granted and to let people in your life know how much you love and appreciate them.
The Exhibit Hall opened with a tremendous crowd ready to visit with the 59 exhibitors and event sponsors lining the hall. The energy was high in the action-packed aisles for more than two hours on Tuesday evening and again on Wednesday afternoon as vendors were able to share information about their products with the attendees. TPI is fortunate to have so many supportive vendors and sponsors that make our events possible!
Show and Tell
New board members John Keleher (Australian Lawn Concepts), Bob McCurdy (McCurdy Sod Farms), and Aaron McWhorter (NG Turf) wrapped up the conference in Charlotte by sharing their farms with members at the always-popular Show and Tell Sessions. These sessions are always popular for attendees because it provides an opportunity to hear about the successes of other operations, as well as the challenges and the solutions to them. Thanks to John, Bob, and Aaron for sharing their stories.