Starting a Sod Farm

There’s a lot of home construction in my area, and a high demand for sod so the new owners can have an instant lawn. Owning a sod farm might be a profitable way to get in on a housing boom.

Nick Christians is a turf grass management professor at Iowa State University. He says turf production is tough to get into when you’re starting from scratch. If you jump right in and buy the land plus all the specialized equipment, it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, you don’t have to start at that level.

"A lot of times it’s people that are in farming already, they have land, they’re in an area where there’s a market for sod. And that’s important, by the way. You’ve got to have a good market for the sod and be able to move it. But if you have that combination, you can start growing some sod, and then develop a relationship with other sod companies or landscape people who can come out and harvest it," says Christians. "I’ve seen that be quite successful to get started."

He says the grass you grow depends on your location. Sod farms usually produce Kentucky Bluegrass in northern regions, Bermuda grass in the south, and there are specialty markets for things such as tall fescue.

Of course the soil has to be healthy and rich enough to sustain the crop. But Christians says the one thing you do not want in the soil is rocks.

"You’re going to be harvesting the equipment with a machine that has a blade that slides back and forth under the soil very fast to cut the sod and if you’re hitting rocks with it, you’re going to break it," says Christians. "So, rock is a deal-breaker when it comes to sod. It’s got to be uniform soil, pretty much rock-free."

If all goes well and an irrigation system is set up, Christians says a sod farm can make the first harvest in one-year. It usually takes two-years without irrigation.

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