TOCATalk – Summer 2014


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Letting the Good Times Roll

By Jason SchmadererJasonSchmadererPhoto.web
VP / Account Supervisor, Swanson Russell     
President, TOCA Board of Directors

New Orleans will never be the same following the 25th annual meeting held last month. Okay, maybe it will but TOCA managed to put on a darn good meeting in “The Big Easy” nonetheless. More than 80 attendees turned up in the French Quarter to celebrate 25 successful years and to hone the skills to build stronger green industry companies and brands for the next 25 years.

The measure of an organization’s vibrancy—especially after 25 years of operation—is not always easy to see. But this isn’t the case for TOCA. We welcomed a large number of first time attendees to Hotel Monteleone and this year’s festivities, while also kicking things up a notch by instituting several scheduling changes and revamping aspects of the educational sessions.  I’m a firm believer in celebrating success, particularly a milestone such as 25 years, but I’m even more interested in helping TOCA continue to grow into the type of industry organization communications professionals simply can’t afford not to be a part of.

And, as an aside, we certainly are growing. Our membership has now topped 240 and our goal of 250 members by May of 2015 is certainly attainable. Thanks to YOU who are working to make our membership numbers near an all-time high!
If this year’s meeting is an indication, we’re moving in the right direction as an organization. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Following the meeting, we asked for feedback from both attendees and non-attending members. Here’s what we heard:

– 100% of attendee members responded that the conference met their expectations
– Nearly 98% of attendees felt the educations sessions met their needs
– Well over 90% of attendees liked the scheduling changes
– 82% of non-attending members wanted to attend the conference
– Work conflicts were the most significant reason for not attending the conference

Can we continue to improve? Heck yes. And we plan to. But in the meantime, I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the success of this organization over the years and this particular meeting.  We couldn’t do it without you. I look forward to continuing to work with each of you and continue to get to know each of you better.

Until our next TOCA gathering.


Check out all the photos from New Orleans, click here.  A special thank you to Kyle Ellsworth, Ewing Irrigation Products Inc., for some great photos showing the flavor of the city and the meeting.

In the French Quarter Celebrating a Quarter Century – New Orleans: The Past Faces the Present Faces the Future

By Den Gardner, Executive Director Den New Orleans

Well, it wasn’t exactly at the same level as a reunion of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Not even close I guess. But from those who were there at the beginning of TOCA and then carried on the legacy of those original members who were there – it was close. And many founding members and early leaders were there. They were the people who put TOCA on the map in 1989 and in the early 1990s. The likes of Owen Towne, Jose Milan, Jerry Roche, Cindy Code, Debbie Clayton, Pat Jones, Steve and Suz Trusty, Margaret Bell, Bill Klutho, David Cassidy, Ron Hall, Cheryl Steelberg, Helen Stone, Felicia Gillham (in spirit if not in body after her unfortunate fall in the French Quarter resulted in an early exit back to California) and more. And many are STILL involved in TOCA to this day!

And for those among the 80+ attendees who found New Orleans to be their first meeting to those who have been there a half-dozen times or more, the words of Pat Jones probably sum up the best the feeling of attendees at a TOCA meeting: “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 indispensible.”

First, thanks to the work of the program committee – Lacy Ravencraft (chair), Kenna Rathai, Felicia Gillham and John Reitman. The revitalized program was well-received by our attendees and the survey results were very positive. (See Jason Schmaderer’s president’s column for more info.) And congrats to Lacy Ravencraft, winner of the first TOCA Volunteer Chairperson of the Year. Well-deserved. This will be an annual award moving forward.

Let’s get on to the highlights (not necessarily in chronological order):TOCA Zoo Group

• Congrats to all the golfers at Audubon Park Golf Club. No one got hurt and everybody was a winner. First place went to the team of Paul Burton/Pat Jones/Den and Dan Gardner. Second place went to the team of Owen Towne/Chuck Bowen/Mike Bigelow. Thanks to Briggs & Stratton for its sponsorship.

• The horticultural tour of the Audubon Zoo was well-received by 36 attendees.  Some highlights included: a behind-the-scenes tour by horticulturalist Dianne Weber, a history of the zoo and the refurbishing necessary after Hurricane Katrina (including maintenance and replacement of some oak trees – some as old as 400 years.)

• Recognition of Dr. Brandon Horvath of the University of Tennessee for being selected the winner of TOCA’s Environmental Communicator of the Year Award, sponsored by Project EverGreen.  Previous winners have included: Mark Welterlen, Bill Love, Tim Doppel, Doug Fender, Allen James, Rod Dodson, Jeff Gullickson, Kevin Trotta, Helen Stone, Allied Golf Associations of Colorado, Drs. Larry Stowell/Wendy Gelernter, Christopher Gray, Anthony Williams, Dr. Frank Rossi and Phil Fogarty.

• Recognition of the new TOCA Hall of Fame inducted three pioneers of the organization – Cindy Code, Pat Jones and Jerry Roche – at the recent 25th annual meeting in New Orleans.  The organization also grandfathered four previous inductees from its Distinguished Service Award program – Margaret Bell, Den Gardner, Owen Towne and Bob Tracinski – into the Hall of Fame as well.  Click here to view the presentations honoring each Hall of Famer.

• Recognition of Dr. Karl Danneberger of Golfdom for being named the Plant Health Writer of the Year, sponsored by Bayer. This was the second year of this program. Larry Aylward of Moose River Media was the first year a year ago.

• Welcome and recognition of Nathan Nordstedt of Kansas State University for being selected our TOCA scholarship winner. He was provided a $2,500 scholarship for the 2014-2015 school year. “This was an incredible learning experience,” Nordstedt said.

• Keynote speaker Paul Burton energized the crowd with his presentation on “regaining control of your day.”

• A new workshop at the TOCA meeting each year will focus on local issue reporting by journalists. This year Mark Schlefstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune and David Hammer of WWL-TV spoke of environmental issues in the New Orleans area.

• Also new this year was a series of roundtables (Tips, Tricks & Techniques: Talk Amongst Yourselves – Best Practices Roundtable Discussions)  as members moved from one table to another during four, one-half hour sessions led by peers and other experts on subjects like: How to get videos right the first time; Top apps for TOCA members; Innovative uses of social media; Making the most of your digital SLR camera; Going Mobile: online pubs, smart-phone-friendly sites, etc.; Talent development; Interviewing tips & techniques; and Mastering your world: conquering personal work challenges.

• Jason Jenkins, award-winning journalist, educated attendees on Tips for Today’s Multi-tasking Interviewer: How to Successfully Integrate Video + photography into Your One-Main-Interviewing-band.

• To close out professional development, golf course superintendent and nationally-recognized Anthony Williams inspired us about “Mastering your Craft and Maximizing Opportunities.”

• The afternoon program on Thursday concluded with the business meeting

Highlights of Major Activities by the TOCA Board Include:TOCA Beads
• Membership continues to be a major effort. The goal is 250 members by the TOCA meeting in Milwaukee in May of 2015. By the end of May 2014, TOCA membership stands at 241. TOCA membership increased from 170 in 2012 to 201 in 2013. Thanks to membership coordinator Steve Trusty and membership committee chair Ciara Ahern for their diligence.

• A second major accomplishment during the last year was Phase II of the web-site re-design. Many member activities — from members being able to renew their memberships, enter contest payments and register for the annual meeting all online – are now a reality. In addition, more tweeting and activity on Facebook have been accomplished in the past several months than the past two years. Thanks to Kristy Mach for getting that effort off the ground. Thanks to the work done by Associated Integrated Advertising and board member Brian Schoenthaler. Work on Phase III will be studied by the board and acted upon this fall and winter.

• Election and re-election of the board. They include the following re-elected board members:  Jason Schmaderer, president; Scott Hollister, vice president; Lacy Ravencraft, secretary-treasurer; and McGavock Edwards, past president.  Elected new directors were Ciara Ahern and Marisa Palmieri. Those re-elected directors are Patty Dimucci, Jeff Cull, Dan Jacobs, Larry Aylward, Linda Frerichs, Linda Beattie, Chuck Bowen, Brian Schoenthaler, Debbie Clayton, Cindy Code, Felicia Gillham and John Reitman.

• TOCA’s annual revenue for 2014 will be about $133,000 and expenses approximately $138,000. In addition, TOCA maintains a healthy investment portfolio of approximately $88,000. This is the first year TOCA will likely show a budget deficit, but this was approved by the board in light of the 25th anniversary activities. This included members attending the annual meeting not paying for the optional tour or golf (TOCA picked up the charges for one year), creation of the 25th anniversary booklet, stipends of $500 for past presidents to attend the meeting and more.

• The TOCA writing, photography, design and new media contests had 425 entries as it went almost exclusively to an online contest submission system. This will be tweaked for 2015, but overall acceptance was excellent.  The contest committee – headed by Chuck Bowen – will review the contest and entertain suggestions at revising some of the categories for the future.

• The GCSAA Breakfast reception at the Golf Industry Show (GIS) in 2015 will be in San Antonio Wednesday, Feb. 25.

• The Green Industry and Equipment Expo breakfast reception is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 24, 7:15 a.m., in Louisville. Bayer is the sponsor of this breakfast.

• The board agreed to continue its contribution to Project EverGreen, at the $2,500 level. This national alliance of end-user associations, companies and Green Industry suppliers educates and inform consumers about the benefits of well-maintained green spaces. TOCA publications and agencies are active in this 501c3 non-profit. Project EverGreen sponsors TOCA’s annual Environmental Communicator of the Year award program.

• The new TOCA Foundation (a proposed 501c3 public foundation) has its paperwork submitted to the IRS for approval. A decision should be known by this fall. The foundation will allow companies and individuals to make tax-deductible contributions to TOCA to fund programs for scholarships, internships, professional development for members and more.

• Work continues on opening TOCA’s first international chapter in the United Kingdom. TOCA will sponsor a half-day program at the January BIGGA show in England and host a lunch for prospective members. Ellie Parry of Forte (a marketing agency in the UK) is taking the lead in this effort.

Awards Banquet
To close out the 2014 meeting, the Awards Banquet featured:
Past Presidents
• Recognition of all past presidents in attendance (in order of service): Jerry Roche, Pat Jones, Cindy Code, Steve Trusty, David Cassidy, Bill Klutho and McGavock Edwards.

• Installation of three new TOCA Hall of Fame inductees: Jerry Roche, Cindy Code and Pat Jones. Those three join other Hall of Fame members: Owen Towne, Bob Tracinski, Margaret Bell and Den Gardner

• The communications award event – thanks to the team of Kristine White and Andrew Gillman of Performance Marketing — was another raucous affair. Thanks to Kristine’s leadership, a masterful job was accomplished on the awards program. White and her colleagues also produced the printed program for the meeting. (TOCA Communications Contest Award Winners, Gardner Award Winners)

The TOCA board also commended Associate Director Barb Ulschmid and Senior Counselor Kristy Mach for their tremendous work on logistics and audio visual creativity for the New Orleans meeting. Also, evil twin Dan Gardner was recognized for assisting with logistics for most of the organization’s 25 years.

TOCA thanks all of its sponsors for making the meeting possible. And remember, TOCA meetings always look to the future.  While we enjoy the camaraderie, appreciate the personal networking time you can’t get done at other trade shows, and enhance your professional skills through our workshops and be recognized for your communications skills through our contests, TOCA will always be about our family of editorial and marketing professionals.  A little dysfunctional, but isn’t every family?

As TOCA looks to the next 25 years, Jerry Roche, during his thank-you comments after being inducted into the Hall of Fame, reminisced about the early days of TOCA:
“Yeah, I was the first TOCA president. But I was a skeptic from the very beginning. I simply didn’t buy into the absurd concept that Den Gardner was trying to sell; that a bunch of competitors could not only live together in peace, but we could thrive together. Boy, was I wrong! Under Den’s direction, the organization came together so fast that it still makes my head spin. In my 15 years, I had so much fun and so many laughs, learned so much, made so many good friends and retain so many wonderful memories, that it boggles the mind. Were my initial feelings about TOCA unjustified? Heck, yes – thank goodness! Here’s hoping that it’s around for another 25 years and another 25 after that.”


2014 TOCA Contest

By Kristy Mach

The 2014 TOCA Communications Contest was the most successful contest to date.  Here is the contest, By the Numbers:TOCA Award Winners

426 Entries
65 Categories entered
32 Companies with entries

321 Entries submitted through the newly created online site
94 Entries were emailed directly to TOCA
11 Entries were mailed

The Gardner Award Winners will be featured in upcoming issues of TOCATalk.

For a complete list of the winners of this year’s Communications Contest, click here.


TOCA Awards Two College Scholarships in Recognition of 25th Anniversary

The Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association awarded two scholarships for the 2014-2015 school year – to Nathan Norstedt ($2,500) and Katie Wolters ($1,000). Both students are attending Kansas State University.

TOCA normally awards one, $2,500 scholarship. In honor of the organization’s 25th anniversary, and the quality of the applicants, the scholarship committee committed an extra $1,000 this year.

“The committee (Cindy Code, Steve Trusty and Felicia Gillham) felt the strength of the candidates was such that a second scholarship should be granted,” said Den Gardner, executive director. “The caliber of the students made the decision by the committee easy. We are thrilled to provide this monetary gift to these students.”

Nathan NorstedtNordstedt, who will graduate in 2016, has a 4.0 GPA in his major — horticulture. His overall GPA is 3.96. In his spare time he has been employed by nurseries and greenhouses. At age 15 he opened his own greenhouse and nursery business.

Nordstedt has taken a number of communications classes. “With my interest in both horticulture and communications, I hope to utilize this to educate individuals on the subject of ornamentals,” he said. He has been published a number of times in the Hutchinson Collegian.

Wolters, who will graduate in 2015, has been involved in the Kansas State Horticulture Club, the landscape contracting team and was a PLANET Student Career day competitor.  She has also received a scholarship from the Garden Writers Association.
Majoring in horticulture, she has been active in newspaper and newsletter writing. “Through my classes and internship, I have had portfolios, papers and blogs, all featuring horticulture,” she said. “Horticulture inspires me. As a landscape design major…I strive to continue seeing and designing original landscapes that also have a positive impact in people’s lives and on our environment.”

There were eight applicants for the scholarship this year.


SPOTLIGHT ON:  Gardner Award Winners
This issue:  Chuck Bowen, GIE Media

The Professional Development team will continue to spotlight TOCA Gardner Award winners this year in each issue of TOCATalk. 

TOCATalk Profile: Chuck Bowen, editor and associate publisher, Lawn & Landscape Chuck BowenMagazine
Award: Gardner Award for Writing
By: Kyle Brown, GIE

Tell me a little bit about the background of the article.

The article was a follow up to the story we broke in the summer of 2011 about the damage Imprelis was causing throughout the Midwest. We wanted to check in with LCOs to see how they had been compensated (if at all) for the damage, and tell the story of how such widespread damage could take place.

What was your process in approaching the story?

The process was similar to any other investigative feature we do. I outlined the questions the piece needed to ask and answer, and started to dig up sources who could talk. The story was on one hand easy to do, because the company that had created and marketed Imprelis   DuPont  had exited the specialty chemical business due to its missteps. But, that also made it difficult to get the company’s perspective on the story (either on or off the record) as it no longer existed. Beyond that, LCOs and other researchers were very willing to talk about what happened, both positive and negative.

What challenges did you run into while working on the story?

The main challenge was that DuPont Professional Products doesn’t exist anymore. Other challenges included tracking down the best sources and verifying their claims of damage, as well as dealing with a sometimes overwhelming amount of information that I had to distill into a still very long feature.

What made everything come together for you?

What I tried to keep in mind during my reporting and writing was that whatever I published had to be useful for the larger lawn care industry. Just telling the story of what happened and the damage caused would be interesting, but wasn’t news itself two years later. I had to take my questions and research to the next logical step: What does this damage and the experience of LCOs mean for the broader industry? Constantly asking that question of my sources and of myself helped me stay focused and, ultimately, helped me write the best piece I could.

TOCATalk Profile: McGavock Edwards

As part of the TOCA Professional Development Committee’s mission to provide in-depth content to TOCA Talk, we will be showcasing TOCA members throughout the year. In this issue, Jessica Simpson of Swanson Russell profiles active TOCA member, McGavock Edwards.


Tell me about your current position:McGavock Edwards

I’m a Vice President with IMRE, an integrated marketing firm and the general manager of our Raleigh, NC office. IMRE is headquartered in Baltimore, Md. and we have offices in N.C., Los Angeles and New York. I’m a multi-tasking master. On any given day, you’ll find me serving as a strategist, writer, coach and counselor. It’s my job to make sure our clients are reaching their audiences, getting the best strategy and creative from our team, and achieving their communication and business goals.

How long have you been a TOCA member? Have you held any positions with the organization?

I’ve been a TOCA member for more than 12 years. Throughout that time I’ve had the opportunity to serve TOCA in a number of ways. We did a two-year stint as the “Awards Ceremony” agency, I led the research for and updates to our TOCA Professional Communication Standards a few years ago, and I’ve served as board and committee member. I’m currently in my last year as past president and serve on the branding/communications committee.

Are you involved in any other professional organizations? How do you continue to learn?

An accredited PR professional, I’ve been pretty active in the PR community throughout my career, both locally and nationally. Currently I sit on the Honors and Awards committee for PRSA. Over the past few years I’ve spent a good deal of time focusing on the integration of multiple communication disciplines (PR, social, marketing) to create successful programs for our clients. And, figuring out the best metrics and ROI is a passion. Continual learning is what I love most about this career!

Tell me about yourself outside of work.

A North Carolina native, I’ve never strayed too far from home. Thankfully, Raleigh is two short hours from my coastal hometown of Wilmington. I’m an only child raising an only child (Elijah, 10) with my husband, Jeff, who’s a chef. Our home is typically filled with family and friends, and lots of good food and laughter.

What are you passionate about?

It could be a personal topic or something related to your career. Passions abound. I wish I had more time for helping at my son’s school, working on my tennis game and writing for pleasure.

Anything unique we should know about you?

I’m an open book, so I’m not sure there’s a lot people don’t know.  But, here goes: I’m a great shot with both a rifle and handgun. I once danced on stage with Baryshnikov. And, there’s a book written about my ancestors during the Civil War. “Widow of the South” is historical fiction, so not everything’s true, but it gives a glimpse into who I came from (and where I got my name).

What do you do in your free time?

Free time? What’s that?

Reading any good books?

I’m getting ready to start “The Paris Wife” which is on my book club list. The club is one of the most interesting studies in sociology that I’ve experienced.  It includes about 10 ladies with ages ranging from 30 to 65, from all different walks of life. Listening to their stories and learning from them is one of the coolest experiences in my recent history.

Do you have any future goals or aspirations?

I have no crazy aspirations like I had in my 20s (I was convinced I wanted to be the White House press secretary; glad that didn’t pan out). Today I’m living a fulfilled life, with hopes to one day leave a legacy where I’m known for nurturing the best in those around me — my family, my friends and my colleagues.

Now Accepting Applications 

John Deere Golf and Bayer CropScience are now accepting applications for the 2014 Green Start Academy. The two companies are inviting 50 assistant superintendents to attend an all-expenses-paid, two-and-a-half-day education and networking event October 15-17 at the Bayer and John Deere facilities in North Carolina. To be considered, assistant superintendents must go online (see link) to complete an application, and to submit a résumé and cover letter. Deadline for applications is June 29, 2014.

Calendar of Events | 2014-2015

October 22-24, 2014
Green Industry & Equipment EXPO (GIE + EXPO)
Kentucky Exposition Center
Louisville, KY

October 22, 2014
TOCA Board Meeting – 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Louisville Marriott Downtown, Room: TBD
Louisville, KY

October 24, 2014
TOCA Breakfast Reception – 7:15 a.m. to 8 a.m., Bayer Media Conference – 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.
Kentucky Exposition Center, Room: C105
Louisville, KY

February 25, 2015
Golf Industry Show
TOCA Breakfast Reception
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Room: TBD
San Antonio, TX

May 5-7, 2015 (Tues-Thurs)
26th annual TOCA Meeting
Milwaukee Marriott Downtown Hotel
Milwaukee, WI


New Members – Welcome!

TOCA New Members
Stephen Abernathy, Randall Reilly
Cynthia Andrews, Lebanon Turf
Sara Breyne, GCSAA
Ebony Busby, Syngenta
Brooke Carter, Cannonball
James G. Cutting, EPIC Creative
Deirdre D’Aniello, Cygnus Business Media
Karl Danneberger, The Ohio State University
Lisa S. Darrish, Cannonball
Todd Dechant, OxCart Products
Sharon DeWolfe, Jacobsen
Laura Drotleff, Meister Media
Bill Elverman, PKA Marketing
Melanie Fernandes, Syngenta
Rob Ghosh, Moose River Media
Glenn Gray, Buffalo Communications
Kerry Brooks Henderson, Gibbs & Soell
Steve Hughes, Masport Ltd.
Mark Ingbritson, Charleston Orwig
Craig Jakubek, Syngenta
Lindsay Johnson, EPIC Creative
Brian J. Laurent, Propel Solutions
Jeffrey Litrenta, EPIC Creative
Kristina McHale, Access Intelligence
Sherry Moss Mitchell, Nufarm Americas
Lyndsey Beam Newnam, Gibbs & Soell
Kristen Oakley, Syngenta
Jennifer Oliveri, Syngenta
Sherri K. Oosterhouse, The Content Shop
Doug Outman, Cannonball
Sara Pines, Honda Power Equipment
Ron Piskula, EPIC Creative
Katie Powell, Munro Companies
Sarah Provancher, GIE + EXPO
Dave Ravel, Syngenta
Brielle Stephenson, Syngenta
Sean Valk, Syngenta
Monica Vansaghi, Cannonball
Peter Van Schaack, Syngenta
Lauren Welker, Cannonball
Tracy Whelpley, Cannonball