TOCA Talk – Fall 2017

Fall 2017 TOCA Talk

This edition of TOCA Talk is proudly sponsored by Advanced Turf Solutions, an independent and employee-owned green industry distributor. Thank you, members of the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association, for supporting this industry through your information, education, and outreach.

President Lacy Ravencraft throws down a Fall Freebie Challenge

Greetings TOCA friends!

As we settle into September and are inundated by the fall flurry of activity, I wanted to take a moment to share with you a few updates and reminders to help keep TOCA top of mind.

Pedal to the Metal

We’re never going to experience the bliss of being ‘not busy’ in our varied careers, but we can certainly rely on each other for inspiration and collaboration this fall. Recognize the chances we have to rally TOCA-style for the killer combo of peer recharge + getting things done. Mark your calendars for these rapidly approaching TOCA opportunities:

  •  GIE+Expo. Don’t miss the TOCA Breakfast on Friday, October 20.  Media only members should plan to arrive at 7:30 a.m. for the Bayer press conference, and all TOCA members and guests arrive for breakfast at 8 a.m. The Green Industry & Equipment Expo runs October 18-20 at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville.
  • Irrigation Show & Education Conference. Next up is TOCA’s Fireside Chat at the Irrigation Show, held Wednesday, November 8 at 2 p.m. at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

A Chili in the Air

Whether you’re loyal to Gold Star, Skyline, Dixie or Camp Washington, you won’t want to miss out on TOCA’s 2018 Annual Meeting in Cincinnati. Bad puns aside, I am pleased to say the program development planning is well underway. A productive kick-off call is fast evolving into an exciting lineup of topics critical to our collective business success. Special thanks to Joe Shooner, Jon Kiger, Marisa Palmieri, Kristy Mach and Den Gardner for their efforts to ensure a solid professional development schedule, with a little TOCA flair and fun! So…

Save the Date for Cincinnati! TOCA’s 29th annual meeting will be held May 1-3, 2018, at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza. (Those attending the GIE Expo TOCA Breakfast sponsored by Bayer will be the first to view the full schedule!)

Phone a Friend

With all of these great opportunities to gather, share ideas and collaborate on projects, remember—the more the merrier! As active contributors to the green industry communication realm, we all have awesome contacts we rely on to get the job done and get the word out. Let’s invite them into our TOCA world! For the next TOCA event you plan on attending, bring a buddy. Find someone in your circle to invite to the TOCA breakfast, Fireside Chat, Golf Industry Show breakfast or annual meeting. Take it a step further, and introduce them to a fellow TOCA member who shares the same goals. Fresh perspectives bring new ideas and create powerful connections.

Fall Freebie Challenge

I believe in the value of growing our TOCA family, and so I’d like to invite each of you to participate in my Fall Freebie Challenge. Ground rules are simple: Be one of the first five TOCA members to get three people from three different companies (excluding your own) to join TOCA in 2017, and I will personally cover the cost of your individual TOCA membership in 2018.

Thank you, TOCA friends, for all that you do. Now let’s get out there and grow! LR

The Queen City Set to Provide the Royal Treatment to TOCA Members in 2018

By Den Gardner, Executive Director

Les Nessman (at left) and the entire WKRP radio crew.

Les Nessman, famous on-air personality for the fictitious television series “WKRP in Cincinnati” in the late 1970s and early 1980s (yes, I know some of you young professionals weren’t born yet), said it best about our exciting news of the 2018 meeting coming to Cincy.

Simply put, his sign-off phrase after each broadcast was: “This is Les Nessman saying good day, and may the good news be yours.”

Although you may not have watched WKRP even if you were alive and well during that hey-day of serial television, one thing is clear: It is good news for TOCA as we visit our third city in Ohio in our 29 years of annual meetings. First it was Columbus in 1993, second Cleveland in 1998 and now 20 years later back in Ohio.

The Queen City promises to give TOCA members the royal treatment. First, mark May 1-3, 2018, on your calendar. TOCA members will be at the historic Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza.

After our second largest meeting ever in Tampa last year, the pressure is on to bring an event to Cincinnati that meets the expectations of its members from professional development to tours to award ceremonies and much more.

The theme of the meeting is still in development. Our TOCA Program Committee of Lacy Ravencraft, Marisa Palmieri, Jon Kiger, Joe Shooner and others are developing a top-notch program.

TOCA thanks Global Prairie for handling the 2018 logo and awards program for 2018. We also appreciate GP for taking on the commitment of creating a theme for the annual get-together and staging/managing the logistics for the award program. We will have more information for you at the GIE+EXPO annual TOCA breakfast regarding the 2018 meeting.

The meeting itself will take on a familiar look for members. There is the traditional board meeting on Tuesday, May 1, in the afternoon. An optional meet and greet reception will be held Tuesday evening and first-timers to the TOCA meeting will be treated to an evening dinner, courtesy of Ewing and Focal Point Communications.  The format following Tuesday evening is:

  • Wednesday morning – meeting begins, recognition of scholarship, internship, Plant Health Writer of the Year, Environmental Communicator of the Year. and educational program
  • Wednesday afternoon – tour or golf
  • Wednesday evening – opening night reception, silent auction
  • Thursday all day – breakfast committee meetings, workshops, seminars, business meeting
  • Thursday evening – Award reception/dinner
  • Friday – Home at leisure

Wednesday afternoon will feature our usual Green Industry tour. Among the areas being considered include the Great American Ball Park (home of the Cincinnati Reds), plus Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum. The nonprofit garden cemetery and arboretum is the fourth largest cemetery in the United States and is recognized as a U.S. National Historic Landmark.

Says TOCA program committee member Joe Shooner of Focal Point Communications in Cincinnati: “It sounds odd, but it’s actually a really popular spot. The area is beautiful.”

For those interested in the annual golf outing, two courses are under consideration: Aston Oaks and Devou Park (actually across the river in Covington, Kentucky). More details to come on the selection for this event.

The Wednesday night reception will feature our second annual TOCA Foundation Silent Auction. After the great success in our first year in Tampa, we are excited to offer this great event again. Last year’s auction brought in more than $4,000.

Thursday presents more professional development throughout the day. The annual awards dinner and presentation of the best communications work of TOCA will conclude the activities in the evening.

The 2018 agenda will be more complete by the TOCA breakfast at GIE+EXPO in late October. Watch the TOCA website for more information in the meantime.

See you in Cincinnati in 2018!

TOCA and Bayer Offer Member Breakfast Reception at GIE + EXPO Meeting

The Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) is again providing a breakfast reception at the GIE+EXPO in Louisville, KY.

Bayer sponsors the breakfast, with the room provided courtesy of Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI).

For Whom: TOCA Members and Invited Guests

When: Friday, October 20, 2017

Where:  Kentucky Exposition Center, Room C112

Time: 7:30 a.m. – Bayer Press Conference
8 a.m. – TOCA Breakfast

We encourage you to bring a prospective member/guest to the breakfast. Whether or not you plan to attend, please RSVP.  Any questions, call  952-758-6340 or email to  See you in Louisville!

Content Marketing Panel to Present at the 2017 TOCA Fireside Chat

In a world this busy, no one has time for boring content. This year’s TOCA Fireside Chat, sponsored by Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply, will feature a talented panel of green industry communicators with advice on creating content marketing that wows! The event will take place Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. at the Orange County Convention Center during the Irrigation Show and Education Conference.

TOCA is excited to welcome this year’s panelists, members Jason Schmaderer of Swanson Russell, Tessa Riess of Hunter Industries and Bethany Chambers of North Coast Media.

“Each communicator has a unique focus, with agency, corporate and editorial perspectives represented,” said Lacy Ravencraft, TOCA Board President. The panelists will share tips and general information on how to effectively wield the powerful tool that is content marketing.

If you are a communicator, or just interested in green industry communications, be sure to stop by during the Irrigation Show and prepare for a fun, information-filled hour of food, networking and the latest and greatest on content marketing!

2017 TOCA Media Intern: Ireland will forever shape my professional opportunities

By Martin Richardson, TOCA media intern with

The time I’ve spent in Ireland this past summer as the 2017 TOCA media intern was one of the best opportunities of my life. I have had so many rich experiences and opportunities that I personally believe will forever shape and influence my professional life while fostering personal growth and development. I’ve also had the opportunity to learn about a new country including their values, traditions and beliefs while meeting many fantastic people. For me, these achievements are the direct result of the effort invested in me by the partnership between TurfNet, TOCA and Bayer.

Bray Head cliff walk in Co. Wicklow.

This internship has provided invaluable hands-on training and experience through the participation in my daily tasks and projects that allow for the practical application of my academic knowledge and the development of course maintenance skills necessary for a career in turf management. As a member of the grounds crew at The Island Golf Course in Donabate, Ireland, I worked side by side with other coworkers for the preparation of a links course from day-to-day play all the way to professional tournament play. Additionally, I felt that I was able to contribute to the course by assisting coworkers, offering my experiences, and working on projects throughout the summer.

Most of my days were spent at The Island where my supervisor, Dave Edmondson, and fellow coworkers, Mark, Kevin, Mitchell, Jordan, Keith, and Pat taught me the processes for maintaining a links course. But I also really appreciated that Dave provided me independence and times where I was given opportunities to offer my opinion, discuss my past experiences, and make decisions. All in all, it was fascinating to see how the elements and course conditions of this country are intertwined to create a beautiful yet challenging golf courses. Everything is taken into perspective including the Irish Sea, the dunes, the grasses and grounds native to this country. It was so interesting to learn how there are differences and commonalities compared to my work experience in Minnesota at Hazeltine National Golf Club.

Marty, shown at left, with the rest of the TurfNet Team volunteering for the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open the first week in July. They had to go home after the event while Marty had more time in Ireland!

While I was able to learn a lot from my position at The Island, my most memorable experiences were four tournaments this past summer. I worked on the grounds crew at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club, the (British) Open’s  Regional Qualifier Tournament and Captains Day both at The Island Golf Club, and I attended the British Open at Royal Birkdale Golf Club. These tournaments gave me first-hand insight to the amazing courses in Ireland and the UK. They also enlightened me on the hard work that goes into maintaining a links style golf course. Waking up at 4 am just to get to the course to prepare for the day to start.  Then back again at 5 pm to prep the course for the next day.  It was all well worth the long days to see a beautiful product come together and to see some of the world’s best players on the courses I helped prepare.

Marty Richardson is on his way out to mow tees during his time as a volunteer at the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club.

In addition to working hard on these tournaments, I’ve developed personally in my communication, written and interpersonal skills. Part of my internship was writing a weekly blog. Before now, writing was not a strong suit of mine. I enjoyed improving my writing skills through meetings and editing sessions with Jon Kiger, John Reitman and Peter McCormick of TurfNet. They were an enormous help in giving me stellar guidance as to what to write and how to describe things for my blog. By the end of the summer my blogs improved and they did not need as much editing before being posted on TurfNet. Back home members of my family enjoyed reading the blog and it was through it that they could follow my activities on an almost daily basis.

Another exciting part of my personal development has been the expansion of my networking skills. From the very beginning of this process when the superintendent at Hazeltine, Chris Tritabaugh, introduced me to Mike O’Keefe from Ohio State International Internships Program, to the annual TOCA meeting where I met suppliers, agencies, media representatives and TOCA staff members through this summer where I connected with many locals on and off the golf courses, it has confirmed to me how genuinely nice all people are no matter where they are from. It has taught me patience, understanding and the appreciation of my listening skills when trying to understand what they are trying to convey to me. I am now able to meet people more openly and I’ve also learned how a good “pint” can bring many together and break the ice to a conversation that’s more exaggerated and fun.

Internships provide practical lessons but also encouragement, inspiration, and role models for upcoming generations. This summer program has provided me significant opportunities for networking from superintendents, golfers of all ranks, media writers like Karl Hansell a Communications Executive at BIGGA, to industry organization leaders like Jon Kiger and John Reitman of TurfNet; Mike O’Keefe from Ohio State; Den Gardner and Kristy Mach from TOCA, and Jose Milan and Pat Morrow from Bayer.

As for being an intern, I have a couple of suggestions for future interns to make this the best experience possible. First, is to have an open mind and be willing to have new experiences. Being adaptable for learning new situations and meeting new people are a must for success. It’s important to understand the reasoning behind their processes and procedures. The second is to make sure that you put in as much as you can into the internship. The more you put in to this experience and allow yourself to open up and take all of it in, the more you will get out of the experience.

Overall, my internship in Ireland has been a success and has offered me a tremendous opportunity to grow and develop. It has propelled me to be able to overcome challenges and develop my career in turf management. I was able to gain practical skills, work at and visit many fantastic courses, and make connections that will last a lifetime. I will be able to apply these to my career and life, I could not be more thankful to all of you that have been with me throughout this journey one way or another.

Read Marty’s Blog here.

Professional Development & Gardner Award Q&A brought to you by…

(Left to Right) Jill Odom, Dawn Rigby, Sara Bojar, Jennifer Klemmetson, and Debbie Clayton. (Not pictured, Scott Covelli)

In each issue of TOCA Talk, the TOCA Professional Development committee provides content such as:

  • Recaps of sessions at the annual meeting
  • Q&As with Gardner Award winners
  • Member Profiles
  • Relevant information from other professional and industry meetings.

Please let us know if you have ideas for stories or want to contribute related information to further professional development of TOCA members.

Contact: Sara Bojar ( or Debbie Clayton (

The Professional Development Committee continues its ongoing series featuring TOCA Gardner award winners.

Honest Stories about Surviving Setbacks

Nicole Wisniewski, editorial director, Grand View Media, shares why she thinks “I Survived” won a Gardner Award for special projects in publishing. “This project was near and dear to me as a writer and reporter because I learned so much from the people I interviewed and I knew their lessons learned would help readers.”  Read more…


“So You’re Considering the Dark Side”

Seth Jones is a popular culture/science fiction fan and also the editor of Golfdom magazine.  Using a sketched out concept, designer Pete Seltzer found the perfect artist and commissioned artwork to bring the issue to life.  Read the story behind this one-of-a-kind cover.

Syngenta Welcomes Back Golf – TurfNet’s 2016 Olympic Golf Blog

Golf returned to the Olympics after more than 100 years. TurfNet partnered with Syngenta to cover the return of the sport.  TurfNet provided coverage of the history of golf in the Olympics, the current state of the golf market in Brazil (from both the player and superintendent perspective), the design, building and maintenance of the course, and of course the competition for Men’s and Women’s medals.  Their coverage brought home some TOCA hardware as well.  Find out how Jon Kiger and the TurfNet team were able to cover the historical return of golf at the Olympics.

Membership News

TOCA members attend Cultivate ’17 and work to put the “O” back in TOCA

Members Russ Warner, Pat Morrow, Laurie Riggs and Leslie Halleck helped promote TOCA at the Cultivate show.  The membership committee looks to bring more communicators in the ornamental market to TOCA.  Read more about their efforts… 

The 2018 Membership Drive is Coming Soon

Watch your inbox for TOCA membership renewal information in October.  For the second year in a row, we are offering the Young Professionals Program.  Read on for more information on the program… 

Member News

New TOCA members offer data for members

BRANDT Announces Distribution Partnership with SiteOne Landscape Supply

TOCA Foundation News

TOCA Seeking Media and Marketing Communications Intern Hosts

In 2018, TOCA will offer two internship opportunities to members and students.  The TOCA Media Internship is entering year six — and host applications are currently being sought.  Sponsored by Bayer through the TOCA Foundation, the internship program involves the selection of a college student for an eight- to 10-week summer employment with a green industry publication that’s a member of TOCA.

The inaugural TOCA Marketing Communications intern host is also being sought. TOCA member companies that are involved in public relations activities will host the intern. The marketing internship program is being funded through the TOCA Foundation by Den/Sandy Gardner and Dave Hansen. The Gardners are owners of Gardner & Gardner Communications, a marketing/association management firm based in New Prague, MN. Partner/CEO Hansen of Swanson Russell leads the marketing communications firm based in Lincoln, NE.

Companies interested in hosting an intern in the summer of 2018 should apply by December 31, 2017.  For more information on hosting or applying for a student internship, head to the TOCA internship page or contact Kristy Mach.


Seeking Nominations for Hall of Fame, Plant Health Writer of the Year and Environmental Communicator of the Year

Do you know the ideal candidate for the TOCA Hall of Fame?  How about Plant Health Writer of the Year or the Environmental Communicator of the Year?  Nominations for those distinguished awards are due March 1, 2018.  For more information, check out the web pages for each honor bestowed annually at the TOCA annual meeting.


Scholarship Applications Due March 1

TOCA has been awarding a scholarship to worthy students for the past 27 years.  Forty students have been the beneficiaries of the TOCA Scholarship.  The deadline for students to apply is March 1, 2018 but it’s never too soon to identify, encourage and reward deserving students outstanding in the field. Or on the lawn.

TOCA Running Club

Fall Running Tips and Motivation: “Your sweat is your fat crying.  Keep it up.”

Dan Gardner, special TOCA running correspondent, provides your fall running checklist and other helpful tips and motivation.