Meanwhile, on Facebook
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Meanwhile, on Facebook

An industry legend wanted a place where people seeking agronomy questions could get answers. So, he started a social media group. That group now has more than 17,000 followers from 112 countries.

July 3, 2022

Gary Grigg grew up on a potato farm. He received a job offer in the potato industry while completing a master’s degree in agronomy at Michigan State. The job offer was rescinded before Grigg completed his studies, leaving him scrambling for post-graduate work in the late 1960s.

Grigg’s father prodded him to meet a group of investors building a golf course with noted Michigan architects Bruce Matthews Sr. and Jerry Matthews. Grigg needed work, but he knew little about the profession. “I told them I didn’t know anything about turfgrass, and the reply was, ‘It can’t be harder than growing potatoes,’” Grigg says. “I found out it was maybe not harder from the agriculture standpoint, but it was harder from not knowing the industry.”

A past president of the GCSAA who achieved legendary status for helping build and maintain golf courses, Grigg wanted a comfortable interaction setting for people with questions similar to the ones he asked when transitioning from potatoes to putting greens. He started a professional Facebook group for a dozen industry friends in 2010. He then opened the group to agronomists, superintendents, greenkeepers, technicians, assistants, students, interns and well-intentioned industry professionals. The private Golf Course Maintenance group has swelled to more than 17,300 followers representing 112 countries.

“It goes back to when I became a superintendent in 1968 with a master’s degree in agronomy, no experience and nobody to ask questions to,” Grigg says. “I figured there were enough people out there who had experience and they’d be willing to share it in the Facebook group.”

The group operates under rigid rules:

  • Vendors can join the group. But commercial posts are prohibited.  
  • The group is solely for turf employees, although Grigg approves general managers who double as superintendents.    
  • Conversations must be work-related. Fishing, college football and weekends plans are discussed elsewhere.
  • Bad language, memes and GIFs aren’t permitted.

“I never thought it would grow like it did,” Grigg says. “I’m not sure that Facebook is the right place for it, because Facebook doesn’t understand professional groups. They send things to the people who are already members, saying, ‘Add your friends to this group.’ I have to sort all those people out.”

Follower growth has tapered in recent years. But the conversation remains robust. During one weekend last month, questions about effective earbuds for working on the course, dollar spot outbreaks and equipment malfunctions were posted — and answered. 

“It’s very rewarding,” Grigg says. “I get a lot of comments and personal messages thanking for me the group. If somebody asks a question and somebody jumps on them about it being a dumb question, I’m quick to say, ‘Hey, you can ask any question you want in this group. Don’t worry about it.’ Early in my career, a professional group to me was to call my neighbor golf courses. I made a lot of mistakes.”

Guy Cipriano is Golf Course Industry’s editor-in-chief.

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