Growing sod a 'green' business for farmers

Monday, October 15, 2001

By B. Ray Owen

Special to Business Today

The grass is always greener when you're making money.

Southeast Missouri has a growing agricultural industry in sod farming, which offer the traditional four grasses -- Bermuda, zoysia, fescue and bluegrass.

In recent months, several acres of rolled sod were on the fairways of the new Dalhousie Golf Course, which is expected to open next spring along Bloomfield Road in Cape Girardeau. Rolled sod is being used to replace and repair fairways at Kimbeland Country Club Golf Course in Jackson.

Golf courses aren't the only market for sod, though.

"We do a lot of home landscaping," said John Edwards of Mid America Sod Farm, which has 165 acres in production and offices in Cape Girardeau. "A lot of homeowners are using sod on new home sites." It was golf, though, that brought Edwards into the business in 1983.

"A local course had some sod trucked in from St. Louis," he said. "Nobody was growing it here then. I decided it was time." Other sod producers in Southeast Missouri include Greenfield Turf Farm, with over 300 acres near Chaffee, Delta and Steele; the Strother Family Sod Farm, largest in the Bootheel area, near Bragg City, with about 400 acres in production; and Green Acre Sod Farm in Sikeston.

In Missouri, about 5,500 acres of sod are grown by more than 50 farms. More than 300,000 acres are in production nationally, with a market value of about $800 million.

Gary Michie, a horticultural graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, and his wife, Melissa, operate Greenfield Turf.

"We've been involved in sod growing about seven years," said Michie. "Before that, we had a landscaping business." Greenfield Turf has provided sod for at the Cape Girardeau Country Club and the Jaycee links in Cape.

"We haul a lot of sod to the St. Louis metropolitan area," said Michie.

Michie, and others in the sod farm business, offer instant grass for new subdivisions developments, golf courses and others wanting greenery overnight.

Green Acre Sod Farm is one of the newest in the area. Robert Cooke is president of the company, which planted its first sod in May 2000 and started cutting in April. Green Acre provided the sod for the Dalhousie Golf Course.

Sod farmers, who can cut sod in squares or rolls, usually cut sod the day it is to be put down.

In past years, roll sod was confined to sizes a man could handle.

Technology has changed that, with big-roll harvesters and big-roll installers. The giant roll equipment is ideal for large area installation of sod for golf courses, parks, large estates and commercial areas. The rolls can be as big 42 feet wide and more than 1,200 feet long.

Once the sod is removed, sod producers refill the ground and replant. It usually takes about a year to replace the sod grasses.

B. Ray Owen is business editor of the Southeast Missourian.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: