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Turfgrass Producers help out after Southern US Hurricanes

 One of the farms that experienced temporary flooding was Doguet’s Diamond D Ranch Turf Farm in Nome, TX. Owner Mike Doguet is a brother to member David Doguet of Bladerunner Farms and Doguet Ventures. While much of the farm was under water, his warehouse facility was high and dry. Mike reports that his local veterinarian called and asked if the facility could be used as a staging area for hay and other livestock and pet foods. Even though Mike and family had to be rescued from their home by boat, the house itself did not flood, and he lost over 300 round bales of hay himself, he said, “Sure, anything we can do to help.” With the assistance of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service they set up a distribution system to accept donated hay and feedstuffs and disseminate it throughout the affected area. Mike reports that donations poured in from all over the country. In one afternoon alone, over 500 round bales were delivered from the supply point. Mike’s son-in-law, Matt Willey, reported, “There were trucks lined up all along the road. We had an assembly line inside the warehouse getting dog and cat food unloaded.” The supply yard was still in operation the second week of October, but was winding down. 

Keith Wittig, Central Turf Farms owner, is a TPI Board of Trustees member, reported an average of four to five feet of water over his entire farm. Some areas had as much as six to eight feet and some with as little as two feet. The entire area not only had to deal with the rain falling (about 25 inches), but the amount of rainfall caused the Colorado River to flood, adding to the deluge. The major flooding occurred three to four days after the 

hurricane. The rain water was being absorbed into the soil but with what wasn’t running off, the river flooding was too much. 

Almost all of Wittig’s employees were affected. There was a great community effort to help. All employees were back to work by the first part of October. Wittig also wanted to make it known that he was very appreciative of the TPI members’ outreach. On Saturday, September 2, TPI Associate Executive Director Karen Cooper, who lives in New Braunfels, TX, delivered 221 pounds of chicken, 20 bags of potato chips, 350 paper plates, napkins, and plastic-ware to provide meals to over 200 first responders in the Wharton area. Wittig says, “We have been really blessed. People brought food. Calls from all over the country offered trucks, generators, anything that we might need or use.” 

In addition to Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma hit Florida on September 10th, and after roaring through West and Central Florida it started breaking down as it traveled North and affected parts of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina before officially dissipating September 16. Central Florida turf farms received the brunt of the damage. Gary Bradshaw, our Field Day host last February at SMR Farms, reports that they fared far better than some just a county away. Some of the homes on the property also suffered roof damage. Bradshaw says, “We were really blessed, many people had it far worse.”

Betsy McGill is executive director of the Turfgrass Producers of Florida. She also reports that the damage across the state was sporadic. She said that there are two farms with potential total damage. She adds, “There is going to be a lot of wait and see. Lost production and harvest time was very significant.” Damages are still being tallied, but totals to sod producers will be in the millions of dollars. There will be a definite impact on supply and on timing.

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