Gardening on the Planet, Lawn Reform, Ministry of Controversy

An Appalling Waste of Horticultural And Scientific Talent? You Betcha

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Turf without management

I hate to be shockable at 50–it's unseemly–but I was doing some research yesterday and was shocked to learn that Colorado State University has an entire degree program devoted to "turf management."

This program is taught by actual Ph.D.s.  It leads to glorious management careers, the site informs me, even in this brutal job market.

The thriving turf management industry offers management opportunities ranging from sod production to the establishment and maintenance of private and public grounds. Turfgrass managers are supervisors for golf courses, ski resorts, sports fields, and for park departments. Excellent employment opportunities are available in the areas of lawn care and landscape management.

A similar program is in place at Penn State, which has a full Center for Turfgrass Science, as does Rutgers. Turfgrass management students at Rutgers are eligible for scholarships funded by pesticide makers Bayer and Syngenta.

Seriously? 

The world is running out of arable land.  We've had food riots in developing countries in recent years.  Global warming appears to be unstoppable.  The American Southwest threatens to turn into a dust bowl.  Pesticides are implicated in a host of diseases.

And you want to spend four or more years learning how to pour water, artificial nitrogen manufactured from fossil fuels, and soil-deadening pesticides onto turfgrass mowed with giant gasoline guzzling machines?  In order to make 75 year-old golfers who don't care about the future happy? 

Wouldn't it be more socially productive to get a degree in Croupier Sciences?  Sex Worker Management? Pyramid Schemes?

Posted by on January 6, 2011 at 4:41 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet, Lawn Reform, Ministry of Controversy.
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50 Responses to “An Appalling Waste of Horticultural And Scientific Talent? You Betcha”

  1. Michelle, most major colleges with Ag sciences have Turfgrass Management programs. I recently sat through a talk during a nursery certification class on turfgrass by a professor at UCONN. I was not looking forward to hearing about irrigation and chemicals etc, but was pleasantly surprised to learn they are preaching low water usage, drought tolerant species and are actively studying organic practices. So, while they are still teaching the chemical process, the times are changing in our favor. Lawns will never go away, we just need better education, and once the University system is on board we will win over the mow and blow guys also. Someday demand will out way the big chemical companies efforts to sell their product and we will see a dramatic shift in the industry, much like that in the tobacco industry.

  2. tai haku says:

    I know that scientists specialising in lawn/turf development in the uk have produced strains of grass and methods of growing turf which require fewer pesticides, less irrigation and so on.

    On the basis that lawn isn’t suddenly going to disappear, people aren’t suddenly going to play golf, soccer, cricket and baseball exclusively on xeroscaped landscapes and public parks won’t do away with lawn entirely maybe having people who know the latest and best ways to maintain these things isn’t such a bad thing and may result in less waste? Especially if that’s what they choose to do with their lives.

  3. greg draiss says:

    Why not champion the idea of low water use lawns instead of assuming such a course is all old school. Instead of promotong the tearing up great lawns at universities advances in turf care would allow lawns to do what they do best…….filtration and recreation.

    Unless of course you install artificial turf “after many hours of analysis and consideration of the specific site”

    The TROLL

  4. Justin says:

    Golf Course Superintendents (of which I was one for ten years) are some of the most conservative users of water out there. You have to be when it is 50% of your budget. There is also a push in the golf course community to become Audubon certified for environmental practices. Yes, there are abusers, but the Turf Management programs are there to teach people a better way to manage turf, not the easy way. Imagine how bad it would be if there were no education at all.

    http://www.eifg.org/sustainability/
    http://www.auduboninternational.org/ge.html

  5. commonweeder says:

    I was right with you on this post, Michele, so it is good to know the news is not all as bleak as I feared.

  6. Lisa, Ontario says:

    Sorry, I thought it was funny that this took you off guard. As others have said, the grass isn’t going to go away, there will always be golfers, and soccer players, and big lawns somewhere. So I am glad that there are classes that they take, and they aren’t learning from some person that thinks throwing chemicals at it will help. At least they learn how much, and since it is about the bottom line, they need to know exactly how much so they aren’t throwing out money. Some actually teach “alternative” methods, since some of the laws are changing in regards to turf.

  7. Sarkany says:

    “… maybe having people who know the latest and best ways to maintain these things isn’t such a bad thing and may result in less waste?”

    Yeah, maybe not. Latest and best translates to “whatever BigHort tells you to sell”. I dismiss with prejudice. There is perfectly sustainable turf managment that does not require a degree subsidized by soil rapists.

  8. Same goes for trying to tell the customers at Home Depot to not use so much fertilizer and pesticides. And, certainly don’t use them at the wrong times – wasting your money and hurting the environment while destoying whole ecosystems. They are like robots with ‘Scotts Turfbuilder Commercials’ implanted in their hollow heads.

  9. John says:

    But but but – it is even worse than that! The funding for research is proportional to the wealth of the industry it is tied to – so out there at those universities there are instructors that should NEVER be in front of a classroom getting tenured and promoted simply because their turf program brings in significant dollars from the golf course industry. It is similar to the ickyness of college athletics and their funding streams. It all boils down to money. No one funds home gardening research. Those big chemical companies and golf courses provide far more money for research than any food crop industry. Growing food at home may be important to you and me but until we somehow pool our resources and support research that affects home gardening we will be stuck in a system that favors the other guys.

  10. Ben says:

    Yep I agree, the stupid thing is there is a degree in turf. They would learn so much more by studying plants in general. To think it is one of the greatest weed species in the world and has replaced native forests with pasture is a crime

  11. Aunt Ida says:

    Turf is the one of the largest crops grown in the US. My guess is that it’s the largest crop grown by non-farmers (ie, homeowners). A degree in turf management is no more shocking than a degree in enigmatology (the self-designed degree of puzzler Will Shortz).

  12. Livia says:

    Ben,
    I was a horticulture major in college about ten years ago. There was a turf management track which I was not in but it is worth noting that turf management students were required to study plants in general, plant identification, botany, plant physiology, etc. Of course, I was also required to take a turf management course. It was not as bad as I thought it would be. I learned about turfgrass alternatives, environmentally friendly turf management practices and more. It was a much more interesting class than I expected. Keep in mind that this was TEN years ago. I’m sure turfgrass management programs at universities are even more focused on environmental friendliness now.

  13. Many universities play a role in training people to earn a living. It should not be that shocking.
    Because one can earn a living wage as a turf manager, universities will offer courses in that field.
    To those of your readers that are dismayed about universities earning money for training people to earn a living, I would reply that institutions need to operate in fiscal security. If an education in turf management brings in revenue, that is a very good thing.

  14. Let’s look at it from another way. I had a landscape designer client who insisted on a large lawn for his 3 young children. We are watering the whole lawn (and it’s huge) with a passive rainwater harvesting system that wicks moisture from the roots. So while I do encourage smaller and fewer lawns, it also depends on where the water is coming from too. BTW, this project is in northern CA, so we have the technology.

  15. Kate Higdon says:

    I studied landscape architecture at Texas A&M and had to take a turf management class. It taught both sides…as all classes should. What’s sad is that certain people (especially those who wish to control the masses) are scared to death of other people being able to get all the information out there, weigh it for themselves, and make their own decision. While I am a proponent of organic practices, I still don’t agree with senorship.

    What’s more appalling is GMO – a lot of that “research” is done at universities. I know my alma mater has a ton invested in GMO studies. To me that is much more frightening that misused blades of grass.

  16. Jeff Gillman says:

    Here at the University of Minnesota our Turf Program is contained within our larger Horticulture degree — and is a very popular major. That said, I couldn’t disagree with you more. The whole idea behind any horticultural degree is to train the student to balance the needs of production with the expense of inputs in terms of both the pocketbook and the environment. Our students learn to use lower input grasses and they learn to use less water, less fertilizer, and fewer pesticides. Our two faculty members who deal with turf research publish on these very things — and they certainly teach them. When it comes right down to it, your post could actually be considered slightly offensive to many sections of the horticulture industry — After all, the courses that I teach cover the same things, just with different crops — which is to say, you could attack greenhouse and nursery crop production as easily as you could attack turf production — after all, they use the same inputs. We can find common ground in believing that there should be less turf and more veggies and trees in the world, but, as long is turf is out there, I feel comforted in knowing that we have good programs training the people who will care for this turf.

  17. Michele Owens says:

    Okay, disagreeing with Jeff Gillman is never a winning proposition–too smart, too reasonable, too good a writer–but I have to disagree.

    Greenhouse and nursery crop production are very, very different from turf management. The world needs to eat.

    The world does not need a more balanced approach to golf course management. It’s a recreational activity! There is no excuse for doing anything unsustainable whatsoever in order to support it.

    The only justifiable golf courses, in my opinion, would require nothing more than clover and rainfall.

    I say this even though I find golf courses very pretty! And if I lived in a different world where carbon emissions, pesticide runoffs, water waste, and dead soil didn’t matter…I might be a turf management major myself.

  18. Michele,
    So by your reasoning is all ornamental horticulture as morally suspect as turf? What about art museums and theaters? They aren’t exactly carbon neutral either.
    Sure, it is easy to pick on turf (And turf majors… they are the perennial but of jokes in my circle) but I think beauty and art and yes, sports, ARE important things that don’t need to be cut because they aren’t absolutely environmentally perfect. Does a field of turf make sense in front of every house in suburbia? No, of course not. But that doesn’t mean that a well managed, lovely golf course or playing field isn’t a good thing and an asset to a community.

  19. Jeff Gillman says:

    Flattery? No Fair….

    So….you’re saying that greenhouse and nursery production is primarily associated with food production? Maples and oaks, marigolds and orchids? Nope — that argument doesn’t fly.

    It also sounds like you’re telling those who like golf courses that your idea of recreation is better than theirs (by the way, I should note that I can’t stand golf). It also looks like you have a narrow view of turf — Turf education at Universities almost always includes sports and home turf as well as golf course management (by sports I mean baseball, soccer, football, etc.). In fact, Penn State is known for their sports turf program.

    Golf is, in my opinion, a silly sport — but people play it, and as long as people play it there will be a demand for people who can run these courses well with low inputs (again, because of money and environmental concerns) — which is what Universities provide. If we didn’t have these educational centers concentrating on turf education what would those who run golf courses be like?

    I simply don’t understand why you’re opposed to educational centers teaching about something that isn’t going away and that can, obviously, be made better with education…..Shoot, you’re not opposed to political science and we all know what a crock politics is. (OK…maybe that’s not the best example…)

  20. tai haku says:

    “It’s a recreational activity! There is no excuse for doing anything unsustainable whatsoever in order to support it”

    By this logic, since the servers that contain garden rant will know doubt involve some sort of fossil fuel use somewhere, we should do away with garden rant.

  21. tai haku says:

    or even “no doubt”, I should totally not post whilst doing 3 other things….

  22. Kaveh says:

    I had to take a class on turf management (just a class not an entire course) and the only thing that got me through it was the teacher was hilarious and knew full well that no one really wanted to be there. At one point she was trying to make a point about some grasses looking like hair plugs and accidentally said “butt plugs”. That sure woke me up.

  23. John’s right. IT’S THE MONEY. And ultimately, that’s what drives “design.” My strange thinking–design should and could also be about values and protecting our environment. Unfortunately, from the comments, this argument seems to be a Mama Bear thing.

    Yes, we need to have areas for sports, but here’s the deal in Colorado. I wrote about this for The Denver Post a couple of years ago. Turf is a MULTI-BILLION dollar industry here. It is Colorado’s NUMBER ONE CASH CROP. That’s what drives the universities. No matter about toxic runoff that is hurting us all, endless upkeep which requires ridiculous amounts of energy, watering. Other plants make more sense in most of the U.S. It is our idea of beauty that needs to evolve–now. Other plants provide food for other life above ground. Even if it’s not food for humans it can be for bees, other insects, birds. I don’t get the love affair with the blades of grass (unless it is feeding cattle or something else we can eat). It’s time to wake up.

  24. Michelle D says:

    Michele, you know I enjoy your rants but this one says to me that you have your head in the sand.
    If you don’t educate those who are going into the field of turf management then the future of the industry will be stuck using the same old methods that disturb your morals.

    As long as there are chubby little kiddies being asked to go play outside and active adults and teens enjoying sports there will be parks, fields, community centers and front and back yards with turf. It is a part of the fabric of our society.
    Better to have educated people looking after these spaces than someone without proper knowledge.

  25. Yeah, Michele, please leave the thinking to others who know so much better than you do!

    Turf is so complex, you just can’t worry your pretty little head about it.

    I want to puke.

  26. Liz says:

    People study turf-grass so that they don’t have to poor gallons of water and chemicals on it and still end up with nice green lawn. And lawn is not necessarily environmentally unfriendly. It can actually be a really productive carbon sink.

  27. Deirdre says:

    Michelle, if your purpose was to provoke discussion, you succeeded. Way to go!

    Discussion is a good thing.

  28. Gene says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice if all this turf technology, management and even (dare say) GMO all pushed towards edible turf? Not just for cows, goats and rabbits, but humans too? Make it taste like candy if needed, kids could roll down a hill and get some greens at the same time. This could also help mitigate any chemical use (sort of), since we’d be eating it (i know – wishful thinking, just ate a waxy apple that felt “doused”…).
    I agree with both sides: turf management is necessary, but lawns are still too prevalent and yawnerrific.

  29. anne says:

    I thank Michele for posting this rant, and questioning the current state of lawn and turf management practices in so doing. Without questioning practices (in any field), there would be little or no progress or change in how things are done. Gotta keep those large lawn industry folks on their toes, right? And we are learning new things all the time about what’s good for the land and the planet. There’s nothing wrong with putting these programs in a larger, more global perspective, which is what I feel Michele was doing in her rant.

    And, I also think universities are good places for people to question, and do research and learn about best practices. Those who have been working in an industry for many years aren’t apt to stick their heads up, look around at the world, and ask questions or change their ways; new graduates bring new ideas with them.

    It’ll sure be interesting to see what these programs are like 20 years from now…

  30. I got this very strong feeling today that one of Michele’s children is going to get a degree in Turf Management, move to California and plant grass in the median strips of parking lots right next to the scenic shoreline.

  31. Michele, innovations in the plant industry often come from Universities and their labs. Many today teach alternative high-maintenance lawn options in turf management programs, as others here have said.
    would you do away with all turf management programs? I think not.

    loosen up a bit.

  32. Michele Owens says:

    Thanks for the laugh, Christopher C. Fortunately, my husband is a Californian and the ultimate counterbalance.

  33. greg draiss says:

    “As long as there are chubby little kiddies being asked to go play outside and active adults and teens enjoying sports there will be parks, fields, community centers and front and back yards with turf. It is a part of the fabric of our society.

    Even artificial turf installed after many hors of analysis of the site and the client

  34. David says:

    I find it hard to believe the venom and illogical thinking being expressed in some of these comments here. It also smacks of “holier than thou” attitudes, that no amount of logic or evidence will change any one’s mind, and is exactly parallel with the idiocy of the red state/blue state divide in our country. I don’t know how one can even make the initial statements of the post without realizing that it is indicative of a closed mind and narrow viewpoint, and I am not a fan or golf or lawns in general, either. It seems exactly the same sort of statement that we accuse media outlets such as Fox News and their “fair and balanced”, or the NY Times, if you can’t stand liberals, of making. In fact, reading someone like Noam Chomsky’s “Failed States’ book, makes me realize how biased any American news outlet is, regardless of their politics. We are all deluded sheep in service to our American ideals that we don’t actually practice towards other countries.

    Get real people, the facts are that ornamental horticulture is also a luxury product that contributes to use of energy, transport, chemicals, etc, etc to a degree that can’t be denied, and how does that equate to calling someone’s anti-lawn under any circumstances attitude as being a “mama bear” sort of issue? I would hope that people posting here realize that to change someone’s attitudes it helps to present a logical argument that actually addresses the opposing viewpoint’s facts with your own supported facts, and doesn’t spew venom or simply gloss over issues that would appear to be emotional rather than logical.

    We get it; many of you don’t like golf, hate lawns, and resent that ANY money is dedicated towards making lawn care more sustainable. I haven’t seen a single response from the anti-lawn crowd about how useful lawns can be for sports fields in general, (remember that kids actually do play sports and need fields, would you rather they all play on artificial grass?

    And the Troll, of course always the Troll, with a comment intended to be a barb, how amusing it is to see these sorts of things on a regular basis. I will admit it got me curious about seeing the Troll’s own website to see what he chooses to blog about. I can’t say that I was impressed from the few posts I read, but no doubt it reflects the region the Troll is practicing in, and helps sell the services. But getting back to this latest comment, could it also be that perhaps the designer making the comment about measured analysis of pros/cons of real lawn versus artificial lawn actually makes a good point, and is satisfying a “real world” client in a professional manner that IS the best solution for the design problem? Oh no, it is much more entertaining to be ironic, or should I say what I mean, and say “mor–ic”?

    I would find these comments much more useful if they actually responded to the opposing view points and argued the issue with logic, rather than the attitude of; “I’m right because of how I feel about it, and damn any facts or useful responses to the contrary that actually make sense…”

    Sorry for the long post, but I had to get this off my chest…

  35. susan harris says:

    Well, no one with the Lawn Reform Coalition has weighed in yet, so I will. I’m pretty sure we all support research and education in turf management. And we’re happy to see that it’s getting better and better.

    And if I’m shocked by anything, it’s that that needs to be said.

  36. Theresa says:

    I have a turfgrass science degree. I make a lot of money. I am a useful citizen of the United States of America. As a Sports Turf Manager I kept fields safe for children and provided green space for families, I was also a groundskeeper in the minor leagues where I maintained professional conditions for baseball players who entertained hundreds and thousands of fans all of which contributed mightily to the economy as well as the local recreational leagues.
    The average homeowner doesn’t have a CLUE about growing grass effectively and efficiently without polluting the land and the watershed around her/him. I have taken classes in soil physics, organic chemistry, soil and plant water relations and a myriad other subjects that you cannot even begin to imagine exist but which greately affect every aspect of the environment around us. Indeed, my turfgrass degree fell within the Crops and Soils Environmental Sciences degree program at Virginia Tech so I can guarantee that I know more about how my action affect the world around me than you or any other horticulturalist or master gardener. Nevermind the 4 certificates I hold in pesticide management and application.

    In addition I have acheived a Masters Degree in Plant Science and PhD in Plant Physiology – I am now an Agronomist and work for farmers but am still regularly called upon to help out sports turf facilities. If they are recreational league facilities I do them pro bono (that means for free and as an act of charity) because if I’ve learned nothing else (and believe me, I’ve learned a lot) it’s that the one way to ruin the life of a potential athelete (even one that will only ever play in high school) is to give her a field that causes her injury. So, yeah, nice blog post ;)

  37. Curmudgeon Geographer says:

    We all need to appreciate playing soccer and baseball on drought-tollerant unmowed native prairie grasses if we are going to save this world for future generations.

  38. I agree that it’s essential to educate those who will be caring for the inevitable golf courses in best practises. Nevertheless, in Ontario, we have a pretty stringent ban on pesticides… and yet golf courses are “conditionally excepted” from it.

  39. anne says:

    “I have a turfgrass science degree. I make a lot of money. I am a useful citizen of the United States of America.”
    So Theresa, I don’t have a degree, I grow food commercially for people to eat, I don’t make much money at all (especially when there is a crop loss year), and yet I too am a useful citizen of the United States of America. How do you address Michele’s concerns about arable land, habitat, chemical over-usage on lawns and the environment? I am not trying to be antagonistic; I get that lawns and sports fields have a place in our society. I would not want to jeopardize my food crop for lack of available, judiciously-applied chemicals; but I will do everything in my power to avoid that. Who calls the shots for those kind of decisions in the turfgrass maintenance world?

  40. eric schroder says:

    Michele doesn’t know what she’s writing about; rants are fine but when there’s no facts included the rant does nothing but make the writer feel better. The fact is these PhD’s are teaching sustainability of the planet; the fact is that turfgrass benefits the environment– it cools the air, produces oxygen, filters air & reduces pollution, captures and suppresses dust,
    recharges & filters groundwater supply, reduces stormwater runoff, controls soil erosion, retains and sequesters carbon and so on.
    Clean the dirt out of your fingernails and learn before you rant

  41. Michele Owens says:

    All reasonable defenses of what is at heart an unreasonable endeavor.

    If it takes four years of science classes to learn how to grow grass properly, maybe grass shouldn’t be so widely grown. Maybe the energy could be better expended elsewhere.

    Maybe the kids could play soccer on a lawn that resembles mine–a no-input mix of weeds, grass, and clover.

  42. It is amazing to read how, with several, the American lawn seems inextricably & strangely connected to one’s manhood. (Not really a love of turf grass, but love of the money they make in the industry & pride over the education they paid for on the way.)

    While I am sure there are some things that are useful in a turf education, let’s not be fooled; these programs are created and funded by the very multi-national corporations who, guess what, sell the lawn products we’re poisoning this beautiful country with.

    I find the listing of degrees and certificates from these institutions incredibly condescending, as if that’s the only way to be educated. Why not instead compare hours actually spent with sleeves rolled up, growing plants ourselves? Or time spent feeding our infants and children (and trying to educate ourselves on the food we are putting into these growing bodies?) Or compare lists of many dozens of books an educated gardener reads that are NOT part of the turf curriculum at the university bookstore (which are textbooks, no doubt, given the stamp of approval, if not written by, those very same multi-national chemical corporations)?

  43. Dan Eskelson says:

    Michele,

    You make very valid points regarding turf management. And there still are turf managers who abuse modern practices of environmental responsibility.

    But how are we to eliminate the world’s large turf areas? Golf courses, parks, etc. are not going away in the near future.

    Though I used to be branded an “organic fanatic”, I somehow found myself as a golf course superintendent in the late 80′s and early 90′s. My goal in the position was to bring environmental responsibility to turf management. It worked to a large degree. And it will work for many others who take the time and effort to learn.

    You can read more about these experiments at the URL below.

    The biggest challenge to change in the management of large turf areas is changing the public’s perception of quality. Turf does not have to be an over-watered monoculture…a few weeds and a few seasonal dry spots must be tolerated (see European golf courses).

    This article details how I transformed a toxic golf course to a much more natural state:

    http://archive.lib.msu.edu/tic/gcman/article/1992feb68.pdf

  44. David says:

    To Julie Orr,
    I am curious about what a stored rainwater irrigation system does for the 5/6 months of the year that it doesn’t rain in northern California? It would seem to me intuitively that the cost to create a water storage system sufficient to irrigate a large lawn would use up all the stored water in the first two months of the dry season, and what then? Storing rainwater for summer irrigation just doesn’t seem all that cost effective in a Mediterranean climate, versus year round supply of gray water for the garden. Your thoughts? Or more information on costs to store water versus length of season of potential irrigation from stored water? I’ve an open mind about this idea, but it just doesn’t seem very pragmatic cost wise in climates where you don’t have year round rain to tap/store.

    I’ve tended to go the route of lawn replacement with alternative plants that do get by with just once a month irrigation in summer, such as Carex divulsa or Carex pansa, or Dymmondia margaratae if one doesn’t need it to look like lawn. Otherwise, eliminate lawn altogether and plant a garden of medit/succulents/drought tolerant things, and use hardscaped gravel or pavement for the active use areas in the landscape…

  45. SJ says:

    Looking at this from the perspective of landscaper laborer, Turfgrass Management is one of the few venues in the horticulture industry which constitutes decent pay and some job stability in what is normally a pretty seasonable and unstable industry.

    I personally dislike golf but if all we had to do is maintain golf courses, parks, sports fields and other public gathering spaces like college greens with a properly trained and knowledgeable staff it wouldn’t be so bad. They at least have a function – even if recreational and they give folks jobs and are used by more then one person. It’s all the private space that is wasted like corporate parks and folks with large backyards dedicated to lawn that really bites at me. And it’s the mow and go guys that upper middle class people like to hire who oftentimes have little or no horticultural training and homeowners themselves that are dumping most of these chemicals and water irresponsibly – so let’s not pick on the turf grass management programs of the universities.

    This is very undemocratic but maybe we need to concentrate on zoning restrictions for new housing, commercial business by limiting how much land a new structure can be built on hence eliminating some of the lawn. Also repurposing existing areas too for additional use. I keep thinking of my childhood in the suburbs and all those large
    grassy areas of corporate parks that no one ever played ball on.
    I can’t help but look at Michelle’s picture – the vegetable garden is great but she still has quite a bit of lawn to mow and unless she’s got a goat or sheep out there doing the work she’s still using gasoline or electricity to mow. Here’s a socialist thought – you could try leasing some of your lawn out to folks that have little or no space to grow additional vegetables.

  46. aubs says:

    Well, just for something completely different, I’d like to thank you ever so much for equating casino dealers to pimps! I’ll have to tell my husband, a table games dealer for 5+ years, that he really ought to invest in some flashier suits, possibly a gold tooth or two.

  47. David says:

    Does Michelle walk the walk or just talk the talk? Who mows that lawn outside the vegetable garden, and I also bet a manual push mower isn’t being used…

  48. Michele Owens says:

    David, that lawn is mowed by big guys on big riding mowers who show up and do the job in 15 brutal minutes.

    Someday, those mowers will be powered by something other than fossil fuels.

    Otherwise, it gets no other inputs and is perfectly adequate for tag and rolling downhill.

    Aubs, my husband used to be a Croupier Scientist, too. Love him, just don’t like casinos.

  49. aubs says:

    What about bars? Or pastry shops that sell irresistible treats? At some point, personal accountability has to become a factor. And (in our state anyway), anyone who wishes to can place their name on a Disassociated Persons list, and block themselves from ever being allowed to step on a casino floor again. Can’t say the same for booze or cigarettes.

    Just seems a bit strange to lump a casino dealer in with pimps (where their sex-worker victims are presumably under some type of duress) and pyramid-scheme pushers (whose victims are presumably unaware). Nobody is forced to patronize a casino, and anybody that doesn’t understand the concept of ‘gambling’ is probably going to run into a myriad of problems in life.

    I’ll do you a favor and skip mentioning how many millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs casinos provide for our state. :)

    Just thought you might be tired of taking the heat on the main focus of your rant, and I’d give you a little change of pace. ;)

  50. Stacey says:

    So many good points have been made already, but here’s my two cents as a professional horticulturist and sister to a guy with a degree in turf management (cue scary-music sound bite):

    There will always be a place for grass in the world. Grasses can play a vital role in soil conservation (many are excellent at preventing erosion), carbon sequestration (because of their huge root systems), and fire mitigation. However, the best species and cultivars (does it shock you further to know there are actual cultivars of turfgrasses?) cannot be discovered or fully researched without our university departments.

    In fact, without universities, you know who would be the only organizations researching and developing grasses for home lawns, sports fields, pasture and grazing? Big ag, that’s who – and would you trust their research and products?

    I am no fan of the average suburban lawn, but let’s face it, there are thousands (probably millions) of acres that are best planted with turfgrass for any number of reasons. And I, for one, would rather have university scientists researching which species and varieties require the least mowing and minimal inputs. I’d rather have them seeking turfgrasses that tolerate the varied climates in this country. I’d rather they do the work of selecting pest and disease resistant varieties, so that when I, or the highway supervisor, or the park manager, or my next door neighbor has to plant grass, we can all get seed that is better for our land and the environment.

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