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Turfco’s founding family celebrates 100 years

Being in the same industry for 100 years is an achievement few family businesses can claim. From their grandfather who started National Mower Company in 1919, to the third generation Kinkead executives who run Turfco today, the Kinkead/Turfco ‘family’ recognizes the privilege of being part of an industry where everyone loves what they do. Now at the century mark, the Kinkeads and Turfco want to express their gratitude for all the support, collaboration and partnership that the company has received from turf industry professionals over the 10 decades.

“Turfco just wants to say ‘thank you, turf industries,’ for all the great time spent together working to solve challenges and grow these great industries,” say George and Scott Kinkead, president and executive vice president, respectively, of Turfco Manufacturing, Blaine, MN

And since words alone do not make for a memorable 100th year celebration, Turfco is making a $25,000 contribution to the Environmental Institute for Golf (EIFG) foundation to fund ongoing turf research. The EIFG is the philanthropic arm of the GSCAA, and the company wishes to recognize the challenge the industry is under to help in the pursuit of delivering beautiful, playable golf courses.

To further celebrate this milestone, the company has also launched a “100 Years of Thanks” giveaway for customers featuring a Turfco WideSpin 1550 broadcast topdresser as the grand prize. Five GoPro HERO7 Silver cameras will also be awarded. From now until Sept. 30, sports turf professionals, golf course superintendents, and assistant superintendents can enter online at www.turfco.com/100years.

Drawings for the five GoPro cameras will be held on specific dates during the promotion, so early entrants will have a greater chance of winning. The grand prize WideSpin 1550 topdresser will be awarded in the fall.

“Scott and I have spent our whole careers in this industry, and these are tangible ways to express our heartfelt ‘gratitude’ for the opportunities and collaborative partnerships we’ve experienced working with so many great professionals,” says George Kinkead.

The family’s lineage as makers of turf care equipment dates back to 1919. World War I, the “war to end all wars” had recently ended when Robert Stanard Kinkead, a veteran of the war, founded National Mower Company, based in St. Paul, MN. He started off making reel-type, sickle bar and pull-behind lawn mowers that could be hitched to horses or tractors. Robert was an engineer during the war and he noticed sickle-bar equipment while overseas. Through the years the company continued its growth with power mowers while rising to national and international prominence as an innovator in commercial-grade mowing products.

Fast forward to 1961 when Turfco, working closely with local superintendents, created the first mechanized topdresser. That invention brought the chore of topdressing into the 20th century! Topdressing used to consist of slinging sand from shovels across greens and fairways. The introduction of the topdresser made it faster, easier and more consistent. John Kinkead Sr., while still working at National Mower, spearheaded the introduction of many other turf innovations at Turfco.

Under the leadership of the Kinkeads, Turfco thrived as it continued to develop and market new product innovations that helped advance the turf maintenance industry.

In the early years, John Kinkead would pack up the family station wagon with a disassembled mower, and travel to demonstrate the product to prospects over 6-week periods at a time, gaining input along the way. He had to reassemble the mower at each stop.

For sons George and Scott Kinkead life on the road was made easier as they could pack Turfco equipment for demonstration on a 20-foot trailer, greatly improving their on-the-road productivity.

Both George and Scott were rooted in the turf industry from their early youth, working summers at the manufacturing plant or at a golf course and learning the business almost by osmosis. As they picked up on various aspects of the business, they were surprised to find out that the “UTVs” they raced around with at the family’s rustic cabin were nothing more than souped-up National Mower mowing machines in disguise.

The family perseverance and inventiveness set the tone for how the company would work with industry professionals it sought to serve, to move the industry forward. “We are a company that runs on great customer service, and we get our best ideas for new products from listening to what turf professionals tell us are their most pressing challenges, and from observing how they actually tackle their turf maintenance programs,” says Scott Kinkead.

Both brothers are committed to spending a significant portion of their time watching and learning from their customers who perform the day-to-day work of maintenance. “We do spend a lot of time in the field, working with end users and performing product demonstrations,” Scott says.

“Working side-by-side, we often see problems and how they could be solved,” Scott says. They’re pragmatic solutions that seem obvious – in hindsight. But the company’s 100-year heritage of turf-care know-how really pays off in the new product development area. “As the leader in this focus area, we challenge ourselves constantly to develop new product ideas that offer our customers tools to do their jobs better,” says Scott.

Turfco has always employed people who represent a diverse workforce. One long-time employee, Steve Lazar, stands out not just for the backstory as to how he landed at Turfco, but also for his stalwart longevity as an employee of almost legendary endurance. Hungarian by birth, Lazar came of age in mid-1950s Budapest just in time to participate in his country’s struggle against the Soviet invasion of 1956. Lazar joined in the Hungarian uprising as a freedom fighter, battling to eject the Soviets from his native land. Resistance proved futile against the massive Soviet military assault, however. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Lazar decided to chuck it all in and immigrate to the US in search of a better life. His decision to move crystallized on a day when, while leaning against a Budapest light post during a lull in the fighting, an unseen machine gunner blasted the pole in half with a barrage of gunnery fire. Lazar navigated his way through the US immigration system and eventually signed on as a machine assembler with Turfco. Impressed with the young man’s dedication and desire to achieve the American dream, Turfco supported his taking classes at a local university, which led to Lazar landing a high-level white collar position for the regional electric company, even while still working for Turfco! He continued working at Turfco well past retirement because he wanted to contribute to the company he loved.

Recent innovations stem from working closely with customers.

Turfco calls its focus on continuous innovation the Turfco Edge. The company’s latest advance in topdressers, the new CR-15 Material Handler and Fairway Topdresser, arrives with a new hydraulic design and patented top spinner that brings better quality spreads and more precise control over the spreads. Another feature is the digital smart controller that calculates rates, allowing users to pre-set applications for the wide section of the fairway and switch to a narrower stretch “on the fly,” using the same rate of material and without stopping for mechanical adjustments. Spreading material edge-to-edge also reduces the number of labor-consuming passes and reduces waste. The ability to calculate spread rates makes it easier to plan and budget for the right amount of material.

Turfco makes in-season reseeding a cinch with its newest overseeder, the TriWave 45. Designed for maximum seed germination, the TriWave 45, while being fast and easy to operate, deploys the company’s patented WaveBlade technology giving users optimal seed-to-soil contact, with minimal turf disruption.

The mundane, but critical, chore of clearing away the debris that nature distributes so freely is now an easier job, more quickly performed, thanks to the Turfco Torrent2 Debris Blower. The Torrent2 with patented MagnaPoint Technology allows superintendents to pre-set the optimal nozzle angle in the shop, ensuring that the staff is as productive as possible all day long. The instant idle down and resume button was an idea that came direct from the customers who asked, “Can this be done?” Turfco did that, helping to limit noise and reduce fuel consumption.

“We’re dedicated to making products that help superintendents better manage the ongoing tasks of turf maintenance, care and repair,” agrees Scott Kinkead. “We strive to make sure every feature of our machines is focused on how to make them more productive.

“I grew up in the golf boom in the 90s when labor was plentiful and creating beautiful golf courses and great playing surfaces could be accomplished by throwing more people and money at it. When the recession hit, we saw the challenge facing superintendents who needed to make their staffs more productive, without the same resources of labor and money, and still deliver a quality product. The more time we can save superintendents in performing the routine of turf maintenance, the more time they have to spend developing and perfecting their golf courses, which is what they’re best at,” says George.

“We feel blessed to be working in the golf industry,” says Scott. “It’s such a pleasure to work in an industry where people love what they do, and love going to work every day.”