TOCA Talk – Summer 2016

TOCA Talk – Summer 2016


TOCA Talk is proudly sponsored by EnP.

EnP has been Engineering Optimal Plant Health™ for nearly 30 years. We manufacture liquid and dry fertilizers under three brands: EnP Turf, Foliar-Pak, and Age Old Nutrients. We believe that collaboration and the exchange of ideas are essential for innovation, which is why we are proud to support the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association.


GCSAA 2014 Board and Staff PhotosWherever We Are, There We’ll Be (or TOCA’s Flagship Event Is More About What We Do Than Where We Go)!

By Scott Hollister, TOCA Board Chair

Finding a home for the TOCA Annual Meeting isn’t the easiest of tasks.

In considering various locations, your board of directors takes into account matters such as the ease of travel in and out of the city, the cost of doing business there, the attractions available to attendees before, during and after the event. And then there is TOCA’s 27-year streak of conducting the meeting in a different city, which certainly isn’t a requirement we consider in this process, but is an accomplishment that makes our annual meeting unique.

I mention all of that because when we announced that our 2016 annual meeting would be heading to Omaha, Neb., it checked off all those boxes and then some. Still, I received more than a few good-natured comments from members about our selection, most along the lines of, “Omaha? Really?” And admittedly, Omaha isn’t likely to earn a spot on many TripAdvisor lists of top tourist destinations. For many, Omaha means steaks, Berkshire Hathaway, the Omaha Zoo (although I never realized how large it was), the College World Series … and that’s about it.

But because I live just three hours south of Omaha, I had a little more inside information than most on what the city had to offer as the host of our annual meeting. I’d made several personal visits there, for youth soccer tournaments and long weekend getaways. On a professional basis, I’d come to the city several times, most notably to attend the U.S. Senior Open when it came to Omaha Country Club in 2013.

Plus, I knew TOCA had a couple of secret weapons in our corner when it came to planning this event in the form of longtime members Steve and Suz Trusty. They live just across the river from downtown Omaha in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and I knew how excited and proud they were to bring our event to their little corner of the world and how much they would invest in making it a success.

TOCA Meeting Attendees on StairsSo color me not-surprised-at-all that our visit to Omaha in early May was exactly that — an unmitigated success. This year’s annual meeting attracted 65 attendees, including 23 who were attending for the very first time. TOCA’s communications awards, which were presented at the annual meeting, attracted over 400 entries this year.

The educational sessions — from Steve Wilbers’ on-the-mark writing session to the insights offered on the upcoming election and what it might mean for the Green Industry by Washington insider David Crow — were met with almost universal praise. And, of course, Omaha itself opened some eyes, whether you took part in the golf tournament at Omaha Country Club, the tour of Lauritzen Gardens and the Omaha Zoo or just explored the city’s revitalized downtown area on your own free time.

In short, it was another excellent edition of our organization’s flagship event. And that event would not have been possible without the extraordinary efforts of a few I would be remiss by not thanking here — our incredible executive staff at Gardner and Gardner Communications, our generous corporate sponsors, the folks at EPIC Creative for the work they did on the annual meeting logo and the communications award presentation and, of course, the Trustys for everything they did to make our visit to Omaha such a memorable one for everyone who attended.

Whether you’re a rookie or a regular attendee, I hope you’ll mark your calendars now for next year’s TOCA Annual Meeting, May 2-5 at the Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, Fla. It’s been an important part of my professional development throughout my career in the Green Industry, and I hope you’ll make an important part of yours, as well.


Den Gardner, Executive DirectorTOCA Members “Steak Their Claim” as Omaha Meeting a Prime Success

By Den Gardner,  Executive Director

 With 65+ members in attendance, the 27th annual meeting of the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) is in the books. With informative presentations, the awarding of our top communications awards and remarkable weather, the Omaha meeting was undoubtedly one of the association’s best in years. See 2016 TOCA Meeting Photos.

Omaha rolled out the red carpet and, thanks to volunteerism above and beyond by 2016 Volunteers Steve Suz TrustySteve and Suz Trusty (who also were named TOCA Volunteers of the Year), members saw the best of Omaha, got reacquainted with friends and colleagues, and made many new friends. Fully one-third of attendees in Omaha were making their first trip to a TOCA annual meeting.

Here’s what just a few of the “newbies” said:

First Timers“I enjoyed the writing workshop, and I wanted to explore the resources Dr. Wilbers presented during the meeting. Thanks for an awesome meeting!”

“I’ve served in a number of industries for more than two decades and have never encountered an organization quite like this one, so I’m glad to see this sort of networking taking place. I also like the hotel and the TOCA staff was very welcoming.”

“I thought this was fantastic! It was so nice to meet fellow writers who know the challenges that come with covering the green industry. Everyone was great and I thought the writing workshop was extremely helpful. It challenged me in specific ways rather than offering vague encouragement about striving to be better.”

Thanks to our annual meeting committee – Kyle Rubeling, Jose Milan, the Trustys, Matt Gersib, and Scott Hollister, plus the crew of EPIC Creative (especially Tim Merath and board member Fuzz Martin). The local support was second to none this year. We appreciate all the great work. TOCA is its members. You personify what’s great about this organization.

I still recall the words recently by Pat Jones about what TOCA means to him (and we hope many others: “The beautiful thing about TOCA is that it’s the one place that allows us to grow our relationships with each other without all the noise, distractions and deadlines we face every hour in our jobs. Most of us spend our days trying to educate and help readers and customers. TOCA allows us a chance to recharge our batteries, learn new things and become better people and better friends. That’s indispensable.”

Let’s get on to the highlights (not necessarily in chronological order):Dr David Shetlar ECotY Cindy Code Project Evergreen (3)

Larry Aylward PHWotY Jose Milan Bayer

  • Larry Aylward of Grand View Media and Superintendent magazine was named the Plant Health Writer of the Year, a program sponsored by Bayer. The program in its fourth year, named Larry as our first repeat winner. He was named to this award through his writing about drought issues in California and how it affected plant health.

?     Our professional development workshops throughout the conference were highly rated by attendees. Those included:

?Matt Strelecki, creative director, Meredith Corporation; and Jim Novak, director of public relations, Turfgrass Producers International, reported on the latest in infographic use.

?Steve Wilbers, Minneapolis StarTribune columnist and author of several books on creative b-b writing, keynoted the meeting and provided three hours of insight into making your writing do more to reach its intended audience. Steve was making a repeat appearance from his back-to-back presentations at TOCA in the early 2000s.

?The editor/PR panel of Brian Horn, Lawn & Landscape; Gregg Wartgow, Green Industry PROs, Sara Bojar, Bader Rutter, and Matt Gersib, MGPR, brought 90 minutes of entertaining and challenging discussion amongst themselves and the members about all issues affecting the relationship between those providing the news and those representing companies and associations working to get messages on their products and services to customers.

?David Crow, lobbyist and owner of DC Legislative & Regulatory Services, Inc. (DCLRS) in Washington, DC, enlightened and entertained members about the 2016 presidential race and how it will impact the Green Industry.

  • Also in attendance this year was TOCA scholarship winner Mara McGurl of the Mara Mcgurl Scholarship UGAUniversity of Georgia. Mara took time to attend the meeting and assist with some meeting logistics, while at the same time taking a half-day during the meeting to take a final exam for the spring. We appreciate her attendance and thanks to the major TOCA media companies that sponsor this award each year.
  • Not in attendance, but already serving his 2016 TOCA internship with TurfNet in Ireland is Nate McKinniss of Ohio State University. In a departure from how the internship program has previously been selected the past three years, the TOCA Foundation board determined to do a test in 2016 and use the intern selected by TurfNet and help supplement that program through this collaboration. This program is sponsored by Bayer through a $3,000 stipend.

Jon Kiger of TurfNet reports that Nate arrived in Ireland the week of the TOCA meeting and “hit the ground running.” Jon notes he is impressing his host course with his talents and work ethic. “I also spent a week with him as part of the volunteer maintenance crew at the Irish Open at the K Club. And when I say I was ‘part of the crew,’ I mean that I was an active ‘part of the crew.’”

Nate’s blog may be found here.

TurfNet’s blog from the Irish Open may be found here.

Ron Hall of Grand View Media was named to the TOCA Hall of Fame, joining this Ron Hall HoF Den Nicole Wisniewskiesteemed group of members: Bob Tracinski, Margaret Bell, Owen Towne, Cindy Code, Pat Jones, Jerry Roche, Jose Milan, Steve Trusty and Den Gardner.

See 2016 Hall of Fame News Release and a note from Ron Hall.

The meeting culminated with the evening reception, dinner and awards program, sponsored for 27 years by Syngenta. More than 400 entries were made to this year’s program and the first place and merit winners were recognized, along with TOCA Awards Recipients 2016the Gardner Awards, given to the top winners in writing, design, photography/video and special projects.

An overall thank you to Kristy Mach and Barb Ulschmid of TOCA staff for their commitment of time and energy and talent to all things TOCA. The meeting could not have happened without their expertise and diligence. And finally, thanks to brother Dan Gardner, who each year enjoys five glorious days with TOCA staff and members on vacation in whatever city TOCA holds its annual meeting.

Now, an update for members on the business news of TOCA.

TOCA Budget Update. Annual revenue estimated at $116,500. Three of our major revenue sources – annual meeting, contest and corporate sponsorships – all met their budgeted goals. Plus there is a reserve fund of $82,477. Regarding expenses, total expenditures will be about $112,000.

Corporate Sponsors/Publishers Scholarship. Slightly exceeded goal of $50,000. Jacobsen, Stihl and EnP, Inc.,  are first-time sponsors.  For a list of total sponsors, please go the TOCA web site.

Membership Update. The most important component of the membership recruitment effort will be on promoting the value of TOCA to members. Russ Warner and Andrew Gillman will lead efforts as chairs to expand and grow memberships. Efforts will focus on state associations, other national green associations, more ornamental companies and publications.

Additional focus will be on re-making the membership section of the web site and creating marketing materials to promote TOCA at green industry shows.

Contest Update. Second year online with entries. High marks again. Total of 413 entries from 35 different companies. Highest entries in organization’s history was 426 entries. TOCA pays an annual maintenance fee of approximately $1,100 for its online contest.

GIE+Expo Breakfast. This continues to be sponsored by Bayer. This is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 21, at 7:30 a.m., Expo Center in Louisville.

GIS Breakfast. The Golf Industry Show TOCA breakfast is now sponsored by Jacobsen/Syngenta, and GCSAA/GCM.  The 2017 breakfast will be Wednesday, Feb. 18. In Orlando. Details to come.

Irrigation Association Get-together. Have now held this with Ewing’s support for the past two years, first as a breakfast, then as a lunch. Upcoming discussion on how to grow attendance of this November event, which has been about a dozen each year.

Future Annual Meetings. 2017, Saddlebrook Resort, Tampa, FL,May 2-5.  Board directs staff to look at Charlotte, Denver and Cincinnati for 2018.  As an FYI, previous locations include: Atlanta, St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbus, Raleigh, Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Diego, Cleveland, Orlando, Boston, Phoenix, San Antonio, Charleston, SC, Seattle, Memphis, NAPA, Savannah, Minneapolis, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Tucson, Asheville, Nashville, New Orleans, Milwaukee and Omaha.

TOCA Board of DirectorsBoard of Directors Update. These members were elected to the board at the Omaha meeting (board members with publications noted):

Scott Hollister, President, Golf Course Management 

Lacy Ravencraft, President-Elect

Jason Schmaderer, Past President

Marisa Palmieri, Secretary/Treasurer, North Coast Media

Debbie Clayton, Director

Cindy Code, Director

Jon Kiger, Director, TurfNet

Linda Beattie, Director

Russ Warner, Director, GIE Media

Brian Schoenthaler, Director

Larry Aylward, Director, Grand View Media

Jose Milan, Director

Mark LaFleur, Director

Fuzz Martin, Director

Adam Slick, Director

Kristine White, Director

Board to discuss term limits, expectations and recruiting efforts in upcoming months. A report is expected at the October board meeting.

The International Chapter. (Jose Milan will join committee) There have been efforts the past 18 months to create a chapter in Europe. Two advocates in the UK have been recruited, but because of job changes, both are no longer in the industry. However, their are some positive developments that will continue in the months ahead. 

  • The BIGGA Conference was attended by Scott Hollister the past two years. We have interest in a half-dozen or so members internationally.
  • We have been given $2,500 from Bayer and $750 from Jacobsen to try for a meeting in 2017 in Europe.  As an FYI, Sami Strutt of BIGGA joined us at the GIS breakfast several months ago, along with a couple other people.
  • We will consider attending BIGGA again in 2017 under the right circumstances. Discuss things like: timing for show, publicity for workshop, other tactics.
  • We need more assistance from U.S. TOCA members to contact colleagues in Europe to join.
  • An international chapter has been created to develop a prospect list of companies and publications, freelance writers.

 Committee Structure. TOCA will move forward with the following committees: 

  • Membership
  • Sponsorships
  • Recognition Awards (PHWY, ECY, HOF)
  • Communications Contest – Larry Aylward
  • International
  • Annual Meeting – chair will always be sitting president and president-elect/VP – Scott Hollister, Lacy Ravencraft
  • Professional Development (professional development, TOCA Talk, etc.)
  • Communications/Branding
    • Social Media subcommittee
  • Futures Committee (scholarship/internship)
  • Advisory Committee (made up of past presidents) – always to be chaired by board past-president.In addition, each committee will be responsible for two reports per year – one before October board meeting and one before annual meeting in May.


Budget Update. Please note that the TOCA Foundation budget fiscal year is Aug. 1, through July 31.  Expected revenue in the Foundation for 2016 FY is $21,400; with expenses projected at $19,950.  The foundation will move to a calendar year fiscal year in 2017.

Update on Publishers’ Scholarship. Thanks to Golf Course Management, Total Landscape Care, GIE Media, Grand View Media, North Coast Media and EPG/Media & Specialty Information for supporting this program.  We continue to go to all two- and four-year schools (including Land Grant colleges, as well as the Ag Communicators of Tomorrow – ACT —  (which has 29 chapters across the country).  Efforts to recruit SouthComm Business Media and TurfNet will be implemented in 2017.

Internship. See previous information earlier in this article. Nate McKinniss of Ohio State University is the 2016 intern.

Environmental Communicator of the Year Award. See previous information earlier in this article. Dr. Dave Shetlar of The Ohio State University is this year’s recipient.

Plant Health Writer of the Year. See previous information earlier in this article. The winner is Larry Aylward of Grand View Media. He is the first repeat winner.


William Brown_Turf RepublicGardner Award Winner Q&A

The TOCA Professional Development Committee continues to feature Gardner Award winners in each issue of TOCA Talk.

In this issue, new member Dawn Rigby, of Advanced Turf Solutions, spoke to William Brown, Chief Executive Officer at Turf Republic and managing partner at TR Digital Media, about his work on the 2016 Gardner Award winning project for New Media – Marketing Communications.

Please briefly describe your winning project.

TR Digital Media built the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Conference (OTF) Show app with our mobile application partner, Avodigy. Our mobile application allows your event to become a digital experience, whether it is a turfgrass conference, small seminar or turfgrass field day.

The OTF is organized and run by Propel Solutions and Brian Laurent. They utilize the full functionality of our mobile event app platform, which brings value to exhibitors, sponsors and attendees of the OTF Show.

What were your main objectives for the app?

 Our objectives were pretty simple:  Provide powerful engagement features for exhibitors and sponsors to interact with attendees through appointment scheduling, social media, and messaging.  Additionally, companies have new ways to promote their businesses through the app with video and digital document sharing.

We also wanted more than a digital schedule. Attendees can track conference expenses and submit an expense report right from the device. They can interact with other attendees through the app’s messaging system. Additionally, they can find and interact with local business and travel including hotels and airlines.

Event organizers, like Brian and Propel Solutions, can build surveys and polls to gather conference and market intelligence. Communication to speakers, attendees and exhibitors is simple  when it can be done right from a mobile device.

In addition, the mobile app gives speakers the opportunity to share their presentations within the app, as well as share supplemental information, contact information, and social media information. Presenters can also upload supplemental videos that they have posted on YouTube or Vimeo.

What was your strategy and what influenced your approach?

 We knew the app had to be simple and intuitive. Whether the users are attendees, exhibitors, or event organizers, they don’t have time to add steps to a busy day schedule. We made the app extremely simple to fit into an event organizer’s conference preparation process.

If folks want to use it as a digital guide, they can. If others want to it to BE their digital assistant prior to, during, and after the conference, it can be that too.

Please give us a few examples of what you think stood out in your winning entry.

We believe it was our project’s ability to give the industry a fresh new experience for conferences and shows that stood out overall. The paradigm shift in our industry to digital solutions is occurring, and we wanted our app to lead the way when it comes to the best solution for conference and show engagements for attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and conference management.




Welcome New TOCA Members!

Claudia Alterman, GCSAA

Maureen Patricia Acquino, Irrigation Association

Matt Brown, GCSAA

Grant Gannon, North Coast Media

Rachel Gibbons, Iron Clad Marketing

Sam Gibbons, Grand View Media

Megan Hirt, GCSAA

Nathan Huffines, Syngenta

Amy Jones, IMRE

Dave Katzer, Global Prairie

Kyle Landenburger, EnP

Casey Mills, Swanson Russell

Chris Moyer, Dow AgroSciences

George Christie Murray, EnP

Dawn Rigby, Advanced Turf Solutions

Britney Riggs, Advanced Turf Solutions

Ben Shooner, Focal Point Communications

Dillon Stewart, North Coast Media

Yelena Tischenko, Grand View Media


TOCA Sends Its Condolences to Two of Our Members On Loss of Their Mothers

TOCA members Debbie Clayton and Seth Jones each lost their mom about a month ago, around the time of the annual meeting in Omaha. On behalf of all of our TOCA family, we offer our prayers and condolences to Debbie and Seth and their families in this time of sorrow.


Runners Walkers Crew

2016 Summer Running Column                                

By Dan Gardner, TOCA Special Running Correspondent

It was great to see so many of you at the TOCA annual meeting in May and especially wonderful to run alongside (OK – maybe better described as trailing far behind) so many of you at the TOCA Walk/Run.

Three frequently asked questions from readers (and novice runners) will be addressed in this month’s column.   1.  What should I wear when running?;   2.  If I get tired while running is it okay to walk?;  3.  Should I eat before I run?

Runners Walkers in LobbyDress:  The most important aspect of a good “run” is proper attire.  (You want to look good as cars, bikes, other runners meet and greet you).  This starts with a good pair of running shoes, of which I have written about in previous columns.  Be sure you have shoes designed for running.  Dress, also, for comfort and safety – the temperature, precipitation and wind are key factors in making your attire decision. And occasionally wear your TOCA t-shirts. Good for promoting the organization.

Walk:  Many runners walk during the course of a workout.  Some will run ½ mile then walk a ½ mile, and repeat.  Taking walk breaks is actually recommended by many experts to help build endurance.  Visit your doctor or local fitness guru about your own personal run/walk plan.

Eat:   It is a good idea to eat something high in carbs and low in fat somewhere around two hours before you run.  Some experts suggest an energy bar, bowl of cold cereal or possibly turkey/cheese on white bread.   An Omaha steak is not suggested as part of a pre-run diet.

Feel free to contact me – Dan Gardner at – your TOCA running columnist.  I’ll be happy to help you with any running questions or general health concerns.  Even though I never graduated from medical school, I’m very adept at finding answers on the interweb . . .

Finally – to help make TOCA the best membership association it can be – keep that brain working as you get much needed exercise and formulate how YOU can play a part in making TOCA the best association it can be. Until next time, be well, be smart, be healthy and be TOCA!


Summer Calendar of Events | 2016  Omaha Country Club golf course view IMG_1734

October 19-21, 2016 Green Industry & Equipment EXPO (GIE + EXPO) Kentucky Exposition Center Louisville, KY

October 19, 2016 TOCA Board Meeting – 2:00 p.m. to 4 p.m. Kentucky Exposition Center, Louisville, KY

October 21, 2016 TOCA Breakfast Reception – 7:15 a.m. to 8 a.m., Bayer Media Conference – 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Kentucky Exposition Center, Room: C105 Louisville, KY

December 5-9, 2016 Irrigation Show – New Member Meeting, Las Vegas Convention Center

December 31, 2016 TOCA Internship Host application deadline


January 17-19, 2017 British Turf Management Exhibition (BTME) at BIGGA, Harrogate, England

February 4-9, 2017 Golf Industry Show

February 8, 2017 Golf Industry Show – TOCA Breakfast Reception, 7:00 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. Orange County Convention Center, Room TBD, Orlando, FL

February 28, 2017 TOCA Internship Student application deadline

March 1, 2017 Application Deadlines for:

  • TOCA Scholarship
  • Plant Health Writer of the Year
  • TOCA Environmental Communicator of the Year

May 2-4, 2017 (Tues-Thurs) 28th annual TOCA Meeting Saddlebrook Resort, 5700 Saddlebrook Way, Wesley Chapel, FL  33543