If you love working in the outdoors and the thought of caring for some grass seems like a relaxing way to work, then you might just want to know how to start a sod farm. Turf production is a difficult business to break into if you’re starting from scratch. You’re going to need some property where you can develop the sod. You’ll need to protect your investment from the weather as much as possible. You will also need to have an efficient way to deliver your sod when orders are placed.
It all begins with the amount of capital that you’re going to need to get started. If you don’t have property for sod growing, then you’ll need to purchase or rent some land. You’ll need equipment to care for and harvest the sod. Grass doesn’t grow without water, so drier climates will need access to water rights. Determine what your short-term and long-term profits could reasonably be, put together a comprehensive business plan, and then start pitching your idea to investors or banking institutions so you can get up and running.
1. The quality of your soil is a determining factor.
Sod farms can’t be placed just anywhere. They need to have soil that is rich enough to be able to grow a wide variety of different grasses. You can improve the quality of the soil over time by infusing it with compost and other nutrients, but that is a process that takes time. If you’re starting out with a rough patch of land, then a sod farm might not be the best solution.
2. You must be able to have a central location.
Sod doesn’t live for very long once it has been harvested. You might see sod rolls at the local hardware store every season, but these long-ago harvested sod products have about a 1 in 3 chances of survival. That’s why they’re so cheap. As a sod farm, your reputation will be built upon being able to deliver great sod consistently that is durable, adaptable, and will stay strong. To accomplish this, you’ll need a central location in your community so that all deliveries can be made in a timely manner.
3. Look at securing irrigation options.
Even the wettest of climates needs to have some irrigation at some point during the year. Just ask the folks who live around Seattle. It rains consistently there except for a few weeks between July-September. People who don’t irrigate their sod during the dry spell, even though the climate is thoroughly saturated, will still see it dry up and eventually die off. If that happens to your business, then you’re losing cash with every dead blade of grass. That’s why every sod farm needs some form of backup irrigation.
4. Is there any demand for sod in your area?
You’ll want to do some market research before you just start growing some grass out in a field somewhere. Is there enough new construction available to warrant a sod farm? Are there numerous professional sports stadiums nearby that use natural grass as their turf? Do certain varieties of sod respond better to the natural conditions of your local climate than others? By answering all of these questions, you’ll be able to get the research data you need to see if a sod farm is even a viable business opportunity in your area.
5. Market yourself to a specific niche.
Based on your research findings, choose one of the market opportunities that is available to you and then focus virtually all of your marketing efforts toward it. It’s better to focus on a specific niche than all potential sod customers because it’s a more effective way of being able to show off your sod growing expertise. Many sod farms begin with marketing efforts that are directed to the DIY home owner who might need to replace some bare spots in their lawn. The decision you make here should be based on potential profitability and market size for the niche.
6. Sod can be extremely heavy.
You’ll need some specialized equipment to make sure that you can deliver the sod in a timely fashion. You’ll also need a labor force that can handle rolls of sod that may exceed 100 pounds in weight. Without the equipment and the work force, you’re sod farm will be grounded before it can ever make a delivery. Make sure to shop around for the equipment you need because most areas offer some used equipment options that can be purchased at a discount.
7. Secure the licenses that you need.
Each community may have different requirements for business licensing. You’ll definitely need a permit to conduct business, which means you’ll need to register the name of your sod farm. You’ll also need a retail sales license because you’re selling a tangible product. That also means you’ll need to be collecting sales tax on each sale and then forwarding the tax revenues to your local government authorities. Some communities may even charge an annual fee for the right to conduct business within their borders. These factors must all be considered and resolved before opening your farm up for orders.
8. Plant the best grass seeds for the season.
Many sod farms can clear $6,000 of profit per acre, but only because they’re planting the best seeds for each season. Any grass seeds planted during hot weather will do poorly even if it is high sunshine grass. If you plant late in the season and you’re in a climate that sees freezing temperatures, you could lose your overall investment. Don’t settle for cheap grass seed either because there are usually plenty of weeds and toadstools that come up with the sod.
Above all else, you’ll want to use a grass seeder instead of hand spreading the seeds because you’ll receive more consistent results. Tend to your grass lovingly, allow it to grow naturally over time, and cycle the areas of your sod farm so that you’ll always have inventory. Accomplish this and you’ll know how to start a sod farm.
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