MPSTMA MEMBER SPOTLIGHT:


JOE CHURCHILL
Sr. Turf Specialist
Reinders, Inc.


MTGF Representative / MPSTMA



What is your typical work day like at Reinders?

a.  Typical day involves helping sports turf managers and other professional turf managers face their daily challenges in their attempt to grow healthy, high-performing turf.
 

After schooling, what occupations led you to the situation you are in today?

a.   My first “real job” was working 12 years as an administrative assistant and eventually holding the title of Product Manager for Northrup King’s Medalist Turf Products Division and the Company’s consumer line of lawn seed products.

b.   After that, 10 years working as a sales rep, sales manager & soft goods manager for North Star Turf, a Jacobsen turf equipment and soft goods distributor back in the 90s.

c.    Then five years at Simplot Partners as store manager and sales rep.  SP was a soft goods distributor.

d.    Three years selling turf and forage grass seed for Land ‘O Lakes/Winfield Solutions in Wisconsin.

e.    The last eight years working for Reinders as a store manager and sales rep.

When you began, how did you come to understand all aspects of the industry?

a.   Great question! Volunteering my time, getting involved at local, regional and national levels within various professional organizations, Never saying “no” to a legitimate and real opportunity.  Getting to know key people in the industry:  manufacturers, academia leaders, successful turf managers, innovators.

How did you first become involved with MPSTMA?

a.    I was a member of both the Minnesota Parks Supervisors Association and the Minnesota Sports Turf Managers Association before they merged a few years back.  I was an instrumental contributor in bringing the two groups together.

How has your career benefitted from being a member of MPSTMA?

a.   Networking with other like-minded people.  Learning new things, trends, global challenges, etc.  Getting to know other MPSTMA members and nurturing friendships with many.  It’s also gained me access to the STMA, not only reaping the rewards of membership, but also allowing me to get involved in national committees and attend the STMA Annual Conference, which, by itself, is worth the cost of membership!

What challenges does your company face?

a.    Environmental regulation

b.   Costs of doing business that are beyond our control, e.g., transportation costs, regulatory fees, rising product costs, travel expense.

c.   Competitors who sell exclusively on price.  They fail to see their value and make no attempt to provide it

What are your passions and interests outside of work?

a.   Mowing my lawn, gardening, camping, hiking, reading, spending time with my wife, Barbara, and our 3 kids who have grown up to be remarkable young adults.  They take after their mother.

Qualifications and Awards?

a.     MPSA 2005 Supervisor’s Award

b.     MGSCA 2015 Watson Award.  Extremely proud of this one!

c.     Published contributor in national trade and consumer magazines

d.     Past & current board member of the MPSA, MGCSA & MPSTMA

e.     Appearances on local and nationally programming, both on TV and radio.

What are the biggest issues facing the MPSTMA today?

a.     Understanding and complying with environmental regulations

b.     Negative public perception of turfgrass maintenance mostly due to the use of fertilizers and pesticides.

c.     Maintaining current membership and adding new members.  Developing an outreach program to recruit new members, particularly those in outstate Minnesota and MASMS members.

d.   Recruiting current active members to become board and committee members.  This will help by bringing in fresh ideas on   how to maintain a vibrant organization.

What are the most important changes you’ve seen in Minnesota’s Green Industry throughout the years?

a.     The rapid growth of technology and its application to the Green Industry

b.     A greater environmental awareness and stewardship in the responsible use of inputs including, water, fertilizer, pesticides and fuel. 

c.     Better turfgrass plant genetics that focus on a lesser need of these inputs.

d.     A trend toward more science-based methods of turf management creating the need for more educated, free-thinking and overall more sophisticated turf managers.

What challenges do you see MPSTMA members (Park and Sports Turf Mangers) need to overcome for them to be successful today?

a.     The temptation to “keep doing things the way I’ve always done them.”  Getting stuck in a routine.  Not embracing new technology and methods that meet the increasing demands placed on providing the general public with safer, healthier and better performing sports facilities.

b.     Shrinking operating budgets, being asked to do more with less.  And most likely the combination of the two.

How has social media impacted your work?

a.     It’s created a ‘real time’ environment where you know what’s going on as it happens

b.     It’s created a new stream of information in which info shared can impact the masses instantaneously

c.     It’s a new way to network, make contacts, create opportunities

How do you think your profession will change in the next 10 years?

a.    More turf managers will outsource services shifting my focus to working with service providers rather than end-users.

b.   The use of inputs will be vastly reduced.  Pesticide applications will be almost nonexistent.  My focus will continue to shift toward helping turf managers manage plant health culturally/holistically to make them less dependent upon inputs (water, fertilizer, pesticides).

How do you think the natural turf vs. synthetic turf issue will play out over the next decade?

a.   There will continue to be a shift toward the use of synthetic turf.  It will never totally replace natural turf, but it’s use will be more critical as ball field scheduling continues to increase and a higher expectation is placed on ball fields that are not congruent to maintaining healthy natural turf.  The “Keeping up with the Jones” factor will continue to play a role in how many new synthetic ball fields are installed.  That will never go away.  Nor will false claims by synthetic turf manufactures/installers.  There is a place for them, nonetheless.  And we will continue to see the ebb & flow of synthetic fields being installed and then removed in favor of natural turf fields as they are not invulnerable to their own weaknesses, faults, maintenance challenges.

How do you think the STMA should approach the increasing number of synthetic turf fields being built?

a.     Learn to work along side them rather than fight them.

b.     Continue to promote the benefits of natural turf fields.

What changes if any are you considering or implementing this year?

a.   Continue to explore ways to help my customers meet their daily challenges by keeping myself abreast on new technologies, chemistries, genetics and innovative methods of using them.  Then sharing this info with them.

b.   Continue to show value outside of product availability and price.  Be a business partner providing solutions.

Do you find value in the Northern Green?

a.   Yes.  It’s a great way to network and learn.  We need to continue to upgrade our educational segments by coming up with timely sports turf related topics and key speakers.

What changes would you like happen with the Northern Green?

a.     Focus more on classroom education and less on the Innovation Theatre & Campfire sessions on the trade show floor.

Who would be included at the table if you could dine with anyone, living or not?

a.     Friday Night:        Gene Kranz, Gus Grissom, Buzz Aldrin & Yuri Gagarin

b.     Saturday Night:   Herb Carneal; Kirby Puckett, Yogi Berra, Jackie Robinson

c.     Sunday Brunch:  Dahlia Lama, Maya Angelou, Howard Schultz, Wayne Dyer

Anything else you’d like to add about yourself, family etc….

a.   This year marks 40 years in which I have worked in the professional turf industry.  With a little help from Above, I hope to make it to 45.  Maybe even 50!  As long as I continue to have fun and can make a difference in the lives of  fellow turf nerds, I will continue to get up every morning and grab my truck keys.