WORKSHOPS on improving the viability of turf farms have reaped solid benefits for one Freemans Reach turf farmer.
Anthony Muscat owns and operates Greener Lawn Supplies and after his son attended a ‘cost of production’ workshop and revised their figures and work practices, they recorded a 15 per cent increase in profits despite selling 20 per cent less product over a period of 18 months.
Other turf farmers in the area can get on board the program, with the next in the series of workshops scheduled for next week.
Run by Greater Sydney Local Land Services, the workshops were part of a national turf levy-funded project to support turf producers, a growing part of the Hawkesbury economy.
“We wanted to do something practical that could help those in the industry improve their sustainability and thus, profitability,” GSLLS’s turf expert Matt Plunkett said.
The Muscats asked Mr Plunkett to come out to their farm to help them put the knowledge to work.
“The agriculture team at Greater Sydney Local Land Services provided me with one-on-one technical support and training in breaking down the true cost of turf production,” Mr Muscat said.
He found that despite more than 25 years in the business, he hadn’t factored in the full cost of growing, delivering, marketing and installing his turf. As a result they realised they weren’t going to be able to replace their equipment on their current return for investment.
“It was truly shocking to discover the true expense of our outlay, especially when we found we were often selling below cost.”
He found this was particularly so on his kikuyu, which he’d been selling at around $2.50 a square metre. “So we put the price up,” he said. “We raised it to $4 for commercial and $5 for retail.
“We lost customers, but we gained others. We’re selling less but making more of a profit. Now we’re encouraging other growers to get involved.”
His best-selling product is Sir Walter buffalo at $7.50 a square metre commercial and $9 retail.
“Sir Walter was the best return,” he said, so he grew a lot more of that and halved his area under kikuyu.
“We also changed some of our markets. We’re now doing residential and whole lawn replacements with full prep work as well – we’ve diversified our product.”
A quirky new product which is part of that diversification is turf for ‘potty purposes’ for high-rise building pets. It’s a product in two sizes - half a square metre or quarter of a square metre of turf for dogs or cats to toilet on.
- Greater Sydney Local Land Services’ next free workshop for turf farmers is on Tuesday, February 23 at its demonstration farm on Southee Road, Richmond, 10am-1pm. Entitled “Enhancing Profitability through Better Turf Nutrition Practices” the workshop also offers the first 15 producers to register a free soil test. Register or enquire further on 1300 795 299.
- Other turf workshops they offer are on water and energy efficiency, advanced chemical management and business improvement programs.