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Growing Innovation: Issue 19, November 24, 2016

“Our industry’s marketing is on a roll”

Sarah Mason, Coastal Turf, NSW 

There’s no part of the turf business that Sarah Mason doesn’t love – and she’s across it all, from growing and harvesting, to delivering and installing, to making sales and managing the company’s website. Sarah’s a hands-on woman, and her enthusiasm for work today is overshadowed only by her excitement for what the future has in store.

“I think now is a great time for the industry, and the future is looking so bright,” she said. “Turf farms at the moment are all so busy, and we’re all doing a fantastic job of presenting a really quality product. On top of that, people are starting to see the value of turf more and steer away from synthetics, while our potential for research and marketing projects is stronger than ever.”

Sarah’s love of turf began at 16, when her parents bought a turf farm. She started working on it straight away, and while her roles have changed over the years as her own family has grown, today she works side by side in all aspects with her father, John.

“We’re a small farm with 31 acres growing turf, from which we harvest about 80,000 square metres a year,” Sarah said. The business, Coastal Turf, grows four main varieties: Queensland blue couch, wintergreen couch, palmetto buffalo and carpet grass.

“We’re always experimenting with new varieties too, and are big on using technology to track our grasses from paddock to lawn,” Sarah said. “Because we’re one of those unique industries where the person who made it is also the person who’s dropping it off, we have that strong connection to the customer. So we’ve now got a system that allows us to say to the customer, ‘Okay, your grass was grown in paddock six and this is what should be happening with it now – if it’s not, what can we come out and do to help fix that?’”

Sarah said that people tend to write turf off a bit, but the product and industry shouldn’t be underestimated. “People might think, ‘Oh, it’s just a lawn, it doesn’t matter’, but grass is so much more. For example, your lawn can cool your house by 10ᵒC in summer if you have it butted up to the building. And backyards and front yards and public green spaces have such benefits for health and wellbeing.

“In fact, our industry is rolling out a really exciting marketing project through Hort Innovation that’s encouraging families to get out and enjoy those benefits more. It’s all about backyard cricket. There’s information showing people how to make an easy backyard pitch, and they’ll be able to send in their own photos and win prizes.”

Sarah said Coastal Turf will be promoting the campaign on the business website. “I think it’s a great one to get behind. If all our little turf farms put a little bit about it up on our websites and social media, we can help spread the message so much further so much faster.”

Another piece of work that Sarah is excited about is the industry’s current erosion control project. “It’s a really important one that’s trying to get turf as a Standard for erosion control. I’ve been following this one for a while, because that’s another thing – I make a point of trying to understand what the levies we pay are going towards. And honestly, I think we’re going to have some great new levy-funded projects coming through. Because of the way Hort Innovation is now set up, we have the opportunity to pair with other industries as well – particularly nursery, because it’s such a natural fit to work together.

“I think this is important, because when we lay turf in yards or parks we need to be able to understand the plants that are going in there as well, so we can match the right grass up for the area. I’ve just learnt recently, for example, that some trees are much thirstier than others and will actually steal the water from where the turf is. So closer collaboration and opening the conversation up between our industries can only be a good thing.”

As for what else the future holds? “I’m happy to see more and more women coming into the industry, with business being passed down not just father to son, but father to daughter.  It’s one of the few industries where I don’t think women are treated any differently, as long as you get in there and get just as dirty as everyone else, and the opportunity for women is great. As for me, I’m going to continue to help make customers smile, because it’s such a happy and rewarding job.”

Go to issue 19 of Growing Innovation

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