We’re in Valentine, NE at The Prairie Club talking with Director of Agronomy Brandon Arens. Brandon shares his strategy for improving quality of cut, reducing his carbon emissions, and reducing costs…all rolled in one!!!
Imagine this, you’re on your bike riding down a gravel road, alone, in the middle of Iowa farm country. You see the weather changing fast as you’re racing toward your destination…a flash of lightening gets your attention.
Then, magically, out of nowhere, you see two pickup trucks parked in the road. The drivers, you imagine, are probably talking about the impending storm. You hope they don’t decide to abandon their conversation when they see you pedaling like a maniac toward them. This was the situation I found myself in recently on my Connect To Protect Tour. Thankfully, the two trucks stayed put, which I found out later was because they wanted to see what the hell this maniac was doing in the middle of rural Iowa on his bike while a storm rolled closer. I introduced myself and asked if either of them knew where I could take shelter until the storm passed. I was directed to a cold storage building owned by one of the guys. I made my way to the building just as the rain started to come down.
After a couple minutes of standing in the barn, the owner, Kurt, showed up and came inside. We started chatting, he asked questions about me and vise versa. After a bit of small talk, Kurt offered to let me take a shower and get cleaned up in the rental house he owned across the street. I declined, saying that I would probably just get dirty again by the time I got to my destination for the night.
Kurt is a “retired” Veterinarian who now manages his couple thousand-acre farm, a herd of cattle and a passel of hogs while still practicing some side veterinarian work for select clientele…that’s retirement? Uh no. He works. He delivered a calf from a dying cow that day and, unfortunately, lost them both. And, in the process, got stung multiple times by some wasps.
While we continued talking, the storm worsened, the rain became more intense and it started hailing to the degree we could hardly hear each other speaking under the metal roof keeping us dry. As I watched the weather deteriorate, my biggest fear was that the gravel roads would not be safe to ride on with my fully loaded bike.
As we got to know each other, it became clear, we are two good guys who could trust each other, which led to Kurt making an amazingly generous offer. “You can come to my house, get cleaned up, have dinner and join me and my wife at our local high school football game, then spend the night…if you want” I think I said yes before he was done making the offer.
We got to Kurt’s house and he introduced me to his awesome wife, Judy. We somehow started talking about fishing and started swapping fish stories. A couple beers later, I decided to get cleaned up before dinner. Kurt decided it was only appropriate that we eat fish for dinner, so he pulled some Walley out of the freezer and by the time I was done cleaning up dinner was ready. The fish was great! The creamed corn was amazing…I got the recipe too!
After dinner we went to the football game and had a great time…even though the home team lost. After the game ended we went back to their house and chatted a little while before heading off to bed. The next morning, we ate the kind of breakfast I dream of…scrambled eggs, pancakes and the best bacon I’ve ever had!
Over the course of our time together, I got to know Kurt and Judy pretty well, and a couple things became clear, our politics differ, and that that was okay. One thing we agreed on is, in today’s America, it seems if someone disagrees with you about anything, they automatically become your enemy. This doesn’t feel like the America Kurt, Judy and I grew up with, where we could disagree with something someone was saying but we still respected the opposing opinion, and, on occasion, might even be inclined to change our mind if a good point that you hadn’t considered was made. We all agreed that this country has some work to do to get back to that level of understanding and empathy. We need to listen more and talk less…my father in law says, that’s why you have two ears and one mouth.
As I rode my bike to the next destination in my journey, I thought about the amazing time I had just had via a chance meeting on a gravel road in the middle of Iowa farm country, in the middle of this great country. One word described how I felt about being an American…
We are on the road again this week with Ken Benoit and the Connect to Protect Tour. We caught up with Ken In OH with some aches and pains, some bumps in the road, and more Best Golf Course Management Practices focused on Environmental Stewardship.
Ken’s is 1000 miles into the journey across the country and has already visited iconic venues in OH, IL and soon IA. Superintendents are intentionally reducing water use, fertilizer use and pesticide use, not because they have to but because it’s the right thing to do.
And some of the car drivers in OH might learn about the “right thing to do” when it comes to bikes on the road! “I’m just a guy on a bike, trying to get to Oregon,” says Ken. Listen to learn more!
This week the Turfgrass Hotline is tracking the Connect to Protect Tour, a 3000 mile coast-to-coast bike journey by my friend, Ken Benoit, CGCS. Ken is the President and Founder of EcoTurf Consulting and a long time golf course superintendent, conditioning golf courses for 25 years.
Ken, an avid and experienced cyclist, is riding 3000 miles in 30 days with 40 lbs of gear on the Connect to Protect Tour, highlighting best management practices for water quality protection across the US. His goal is “to raise awareness within the golf industry of the importance for golf course facilities to adopt BMPs and to demonstrate, to people outside the golf community, golf’s dedication to preserving and protecting water quality, pollinators and wildlife habitat.”
For Ken this is as much a personal journey as a professional one.
We recorded this interview on Monday August 17, right before Ken headed from State College to Westerville, OH, a 112 mile ride.