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Contribution of the turfgrass industry to Florida's economy, 1991-92: A value-added approach

A.W. Hodges, J.J. Haydu, P.J. van Blokland, and A.P. Bell
University of Florida
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Food & Resource Economics Department
Published as Economics Reoprt ER 94-1, Copyright © 1994


The authors wish to thank the Board of Directors of the Florida Turfgrass Association, Inc., and the Florida Turfgrass Research Foundation, Inc. for their vision in initiating the partnership with the University of Florida to conduct this comprehensive study of Florida's turfgrass industry. Further, the authors thank the Florida Turfgrass Research Foundation and the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station for the funding and resources provided for this research.

Table of Contents


The contribution of the turfgrass industry to Florida's economy in the 1991-92 fiscal year was evaluated by means of a comprehensive statewide survey undertaken during 1993 and 1994. The survey was designed to separately estimate the impacts of eight different sectors of the industry: sod producers, turf-product manufacturers, wholesale/retail distributors, service vendors, commercial institutional turf product users, non-profit institutional users, golf courses and homeowners. Completed mailed questionnaires were received from 916 respondents in the first seven sectors, and 629 households were interviewed by telephone.

The total turfgrass area used and maintained in Florida in 1991-92 was about 4.4 million acres, with 75 percent of this area in the residential (household) sector. Turfgrass industry employment was 185 thousand full-time and part-time workers, or 130 thousand full-time equivalents. Water used for turfgrass irrigation in the commercial sectors was about 1.8 billion gallons per day, with 58 percent from groundwater sources. Consumers spent $5 billion on turfgrass maintenance, or about $1,200 per acre. Sales of turfgrass products and services by producers and commercial distributors totaled $6.5 billion, with $2.1 billion in cash expenses for purchased items. Turf-related assets in equipment, irrigation installations and buildings, but not land, had a book value of $8.6 billion, including non-land assets purchased during 1991-92 totaling $3.0 billion. Value-added to Florida's economy in 1991-92 by all sectors of the turfgrass industry totaled $7.3 billion, with golf courses contributing 35 percent and service vendors and households contributing 21 percent each.

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The Economic Organization of the Florida Turfgrass Industry

Cultivated turfgrass is a pervasive feature of the urban landscape in Florida and many other developed regions of the world. It is preferred as a vegetative groundcover to reduce erosion, absorb pollutants, dampen noise, and to provide a comfortable, durable, and aesthetically pleasing surface for outdoor activities. In Florida, a very large industry has rapidly evolved to produce and deliver turfgrass products and services. This industry contributes to Florida's economy in terms of employment, cash spent on inputs, sales and the value-added created by its economic activities.

Economic activity in the turfgrass industry may be broadly grouped into three categories: 1) supply of turfgrass products and related services, and 2) consumption of turf products and services. The supply of turfgrass products includes not only grass sod itself but also the many goods necessary for production and maintenance of turfgrass, such as chemicals, fertilizer and mowing equipment. Turfgrass service activities include installation and ongoing maintenance of turfgrass areas. Consumption of turfgrass products and services may be subdivided as (a) commercial turf-based activities, such as golf courses or athletic fields, and (b) non-commercial uses, such as home lawns.

Figure 1 illustrates the structure of the turfgrass industry and the flow of goods and services among the various sectors of the industry.

At the heart of the industry are the sod growers, who create the product which is directly or indirectly utilized by the rest of the industry. Manufacturers of turf equipment, fertilizers and chemicals hold a similar economic role as primary producers. Wholesalers, retailers, and service vendors purchase and resell sod and other turfgrass products together with their services to consumers. These market intermediaries provide services to customers including transportation, packaging, installation, and product use information. In addition, lawn maintenance service vendors, provide complete lawn care services, such as mowing, irrigation and fertilizing. Each of these service activities adds value to turfgrass products for final consumers.

The turfgrass industry is primarily a locally based industry: most goods and services are produced and consumed within the state, and very little is exported to other regions. Consequently, the vast majority of value-added services provided by turfgrass-based economic activities occurs within the state, and benefits the local workers. This stands in contrast with many other industries which ship raw materials or relatively unrefined products to other regions for further value-added processing. In this case, the exporting region loses a large share of value-added and the jobs that this activity supports.

Objectives and Organization of the Florida Turfgrass Survey

The basic objective of this project was to evaluate the annual economic contribution of the turfgrass industry to Florida's economy, in order to show its importance in the state to industry leaders, policy-makers and the general public. To accomplish this objective, survey information was obtained on the turfgrass area maintained, maintenance expenses, product and service sales, turfgrass-related non-land assets, and resources used for irrigation and fertilization. A second objective of this study was to more generally characterize the nature of Florida's turfgrass industry for use by industry professionals, in terms of varieties of turfgrass used, itemized product expenses and sales, market distribution channels, maintenance practices, and problems experienced by turf users.

The survey was organized around the concept of value-added, i.e. the increase in value of products due to addition of labor and other services as they move from producers to consumers through market intermediaries.

Based upon the value-added concept and previous studies in Florida and other states, eight major sectors of the turfgrass industry were identified for surveying. Table 1 lists these major sectors and their constituent sub-sectors along with their economic roles industry. Sod farms (sector 1) and manufacturers of turf-related goods (sector 2) were considered primary producers. Manufacturers consisted of sporting goods makers, lawn, garden and farm equipment producers, and fertilizer and chemical manufacturers. Turf product wholesalers and retailers (sector 3) are market intermediaries, consisting of sporting goods stores, retail nurseries, farm supply businesses, and garden stores. Turf service vendors (sector 4), including landscape and lawn maintenance firms, are both service producers and market intermediaries of turf-related products. Commercial businesses (sector 5), non-profit institutions (sector 6), golf courses (sector 7), and households (sector 8) are all consumers of turf products and services. Commercial institutions include apartments/condominiums, cemeteries, airports, hotels and motels, trailer parks and campgrounds, museums, gardens, and zoos, hospitals and nursing homes, sports clubs, race tracks and amusement parks. Non-profit institutions include schools, prisons, parks, and government buildings and grounds. Highway roadsides maintained by government were sometimes reported as a separate category to emphasize their importance. Public and private golf courses were classified as a separate category of consumer because of their prominent role in the industry as a provider of high-valued turf-based services.

Table 1. Organization of the Florida turfgrass industry, survey sectors and economic roles.
Industry Sector Functional Economic Role
1 Sod farms primary producer
2 Turf product manufacturers: fertilizers/chemicals, lawn & garden equipment primary producer
3 Turf product wholesalers and retailers: farm supply vendors, garden centers, retail nurseries, sporting goods shops market intermediary
4 Turf service vendors: landscapers, lawn service firms, building maintenance firms, specialty construction contractors service producer and market intermediary
5 Commercial institutions: hotels/motels, cemeteries, apartments/condominiums, hospitals, airports, race tracks/stadiums, medical facilities, botanical/zoological gardens, museums/galleries consumer
6 Non-profit institutions: religious organizations, schools & colleges, correctional facilities, government building complexes, highway roadsides consumer
7 Golf courses: private, public consumer and producer of commercial turf-based activity
8 Households: single family dwellings consumer

Other Turfgrass Industry Surveys

Florida's turfgrass industry was previously surveyed by the Florida Department of Agriculture in 1974 (FDACS, 1974). The sod production industry in Florida was examined by Smith and Brewster (1968) and Haydu and Cisar (1992). Comprehensive statewide turfgrass industry surveys have been published for Oklahoma (OSU, 1979), Maryland (Strickland et al, 1981), Pennsylvania (Penn. Dept. Agric., 1989), New Jersey (Indyk et al, 1983), Ohio (Sporleder et al, 1989), Tennessee (Brooker et al, 1992), and North Carolina (Griffith and Olson, 1987). Additionally, an economic impact analysis was done for the golf industry in Arizona (Barkley and Simmons, 1989).

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Overall Survey Results

Survey Respondents and Sample Rates

There were 906 usable mail survey responses received from firms and institutions in the first seven industry sectors, and 629 Florida households were surveyed by telephone interview (Table 2). Economic impacts for each sector were estimated by multiplying summed values for survey respondents by an expansion factor. This factor represented the ratio of the population to the number of households or firms sampled in each sector, for each variable.

Surveyed sector population numbers were obtained from Dun & Bradstreet Information Services, unless otherwise noted. The percentage of the population surveyed varied depending upon the size of the population and the rate of responses to presurvey mailings. Sample rates ranged from less than 0.1 percent in the case of households, to nearly 30 percent for prisons, and over 20 percent for cemeteries, sod farms, and private golf courses (Table 2).

Table 2. Population, sample numbers, and sample rates, by sector, Florida turfgrass industry survey, 1991-92.
Sector Population Respondents Sampled Sample Rate (%)
1 Sod Farms 751 16 21.3
2 Manufacturers 104 14 13.5
Fertilizer & Chemical Manufacturing 81 12 14.8
Turf & Grounds Equipment Manufacturing 23 2 8.7
3 Wholesale/Retail 1836 87 4.7
Lawn/Garden Machinery/Equipment Wholesale Trade 332 16 4.8
Fertilizers & Agricultural Chemicals Wholesale Trade 167 17 10.2
Lawn & Garden Equipment Retail 852 42 4.9
Retail Sporting Goods Shops 485 12 2.5
4 Service Vendors 3368 54 1.6
Landscape Services 447 5 1.1
Lawn and Garden Services 2193 44 2.0
Athletic & Recreational Facilities Construction 66 3 4.5
Building Maintenance Services 662 2 0.3
5 Commercial Institutions 11,424 399 3.5
Airports & Services 149 14 9.4
Nonresidential Building Operators 2760 24 0.9
Apartment Building Operators 2959 55 1.9
Cemetery Subdividers & Developers 112 24 21.4
Hotels, Motels, Inns, Vacation Lodges 3717 37 1.0
Trailer Parks & Campsites 421 58 13.8
Race Tracks & Stadiums 53 10 18.9
Golf Services & Professionals 96 13 13.5
Medical Facilities 934 156 16.7
Botanical & Zoological Gardens, Museums & Galleries 223 8 3.6
6 Non-Profit Institutions 5815 179 3.1
Elementary/Secondary Schools 3081 53 1.7
Colleges & Universities 212 9 4.2
Churches, Temples, & Shrines 2174 69 3.2
Local governments 257 21 8.2
Correctional Institutions 91 27 29.7
7 Golf Courses 1050 157 15.0
Public golf courses 662 55 8.3
Private golf courses 3882 103 26.6
8 Residential (single family households) 3,032,7693 629 <0.0
Total 1,535

1 Sod farm population from previous industry surveys by authors.

2 Private golf course population from Florida Golf Guide and Nat. Golf Foundation

3 Single family household population from Florida Statistical Abstract.

Turfgrass Acreage

The total area of turfgrass maintained in Florida during 1991-92 was estimated at 4.4 million acres (Table 3). Single family homes comprised the largest share of maintained turf with 3.3 million acres, or 75 percent of the total (Figure 2). Non-profit institutions were the largest user group with 336 thousand acres (8%), including 167 thousand acres for local governments, and 113 thousand acres for elementary and secondary schools. Highways represented the second largest user group with 329 thousand acres of maintained turf in the state. Commercial institutions had a total of 203 thousand acres, representing 5 percent of the total area. This group embodied a wide array of institutions, but only airports had more than 1 percent of the total acreage within this group. Golf courses accounted for 131 thousand acres of turfgrass, or 3 percent, and sod farms produced and maintained 46 thousand acres. Service vendors cared for 1.1 million acres of turfgrass, or 24 percent of the total industry acreage. Lawn and garden service vendors cared for about 1 million acres of turfgrass, which was reported under consumer sectors.

Table 3. Turfgrass area used and maintained in Florida, 1991-92.
Sector Thousands Acres Percent of Total
Sod Farms 46.1 1.0
Service Vendors 1,065.4 24.3
Landscape Services 27.9 <1
Lawn and Garden Services 989.2 22.5
Athletic & Recreational Facilities Construction 26.6 <1
Building Maintenance Services 21.6 <1
Golf Courses 131.3 3.0
Public golf courses 75.0 1.7
Private golf courses 56.3 1.3
Commercial Institutions 202.5 4.6
Airports & Services 63.0 1.4
Nonresidential Building Operators 20.6 <1
Apartment Building Operators 24.9 <1
Cemetery Subdividers & Developers 4.6 <1
Hotels, Motels, Inns, Vacation Lodges 37.8 <1
Trailer Parks & Campsites 19.4 <1
Race Tracks & Stadiums 4.2 <1
Golf Services & Professionals 4.5 <1
Medical Facilities 14.0 <1
Botanical & Zoological Gardens, Museums & Galleries 9.5 <1
Non-Profit Institutions 336.2 7.7
Elementary/Secondary Schools 112.6 2.6
Colleges & Universities 33.6 <1
Churches, Temples, & Shrines 12.9 <1
Local governments 166.9 3.8
Correctional Institutions 10.1 <1
Highways 329.1 7.5
Residential 3,306.6 75.3
Total 4,391.0* 100%

* Total does not include area managed by landscapers and lawn and garden services for final consumers.

Turfgrass Varieties Used

Five turfgrass varieties were used by survey respondents. St. Augustinegrass and bahiagrass were the dominant varieties reported (Figure 3). Some 1.5 million acres of St. Augustine was maintained in 1991-92, representing 36 percent of total acreage. As a warm season grass, St. Augustine is well-adapted to all parts of Florida, and is favored for high-quality turf. Bahiagrass accounted for 19 percent of total turfgrass area, or 751 thousand acres, and is favored for its pest and drought resistance. Mixed grasses accounted for 543 thousand acres or 14 percent of total area. Bermudagrass was maintained on 382 thousand acres (10%), Centipedegrass occurred on 280 thousand acres (7%), and Zoysiagrass 59 thousand acres (1%). Two final categories, "other" and "unknown" accounted for the remaining 13 percent of turfgrass acreage in Florida.

Employment in Florida's Turfgrass Industry

Employment is a vital indicator of an industry's contribution to a local, regional or national economy. Wages stimulate an economy when they are spent locally in the purchase of other goods and services. In 1991-92, Florida's turfgrass industry employed a total of 186 thousand workers, including 135 thousand full-time and 51 thousand part-time workers (Table 4).

Full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) is a standardized measure of employment, with one FTE representing 2080 hours, or 52 weeks worked annually based on a 40 hour week. Using this definition and the reported total employee weeks worked, Florida's commercial turfgrass industry employed 130 thousand FTEs in 1991-92. Put in perspective, turfgrass industry employment was about two thirds of the employment in construction and nearly three times the number of workers employed in agriculture in the state (Fl. Stat. Abstract, 1993).

Turfgrass industry employment was dominated by service vendors, commercial institutions and non-profit institutions. Commercial institutions employed 43 thousand FTE workers for turfgrass maintenance, representing 33 percent of the industry total. Within this group, apartments/condominiums, hotels/motels, and nonresidential buildings accounted for a substantial share of total employment. Service vendors had 39 thousand FTE employees, representing nearly one-third (30%) of all workers employed in the industry, with lawn care firms alone accounting for 20 percent. Non-profit institutions employed over 18 thousand FTE workers, a 14 percent share of total employment, with schools and colleges/universities representing over half of the turf care personnel in this group.

Golf courses employed 17 thousand full-time and part-time workers, or 13.3 thousand FTEs, representing 10 percent of employment in Florida's turfgrass industry. Because golf courses require high maintenance, this group had a very high number of employees per acre.

Employment in the remaining intermediate demand sectors of sod farms, manufacturers, and wholesale/retail establishments accounted for 16.9 thousand FTEs, or about 13 percent of the total. Wholesale and retail establishments employed 13 thousand FTE workers for their turfgrass market business. Sod farms employed 2.9 thousand FTEs, or 2 percent of the industry total. Manufacturers accounted for less than one percent of industry employment with a total of 1200 FTEs.

Table 4. Employment in Florida's turfgrass industry, 1991-92.
Sector Number of Employees FTEs Annually
Full-time Part-time All Number Percent of Total
Sod Farms 2,795 334 3,130 2,894 2.2
Manufacturers 1,236 41 1,277 1,208 0.9
Wholesale/Retail 15,119 1,860 16,979 12,769 9.8
Service Vendors 39,803 9,581 49,383 38,928 29.9
Golf Courses 14,663 1,820 16,484 13,409 10.3
Commercial Institutions 43,352 25,973 69,324 42,707 32.8
Non-Profit Institutions 17,853 10,916 28,769 18,362 14.1
Total 134,822 50,524 185,345 130,275 100%

Water Used for Turfgrass Irrigation

Florida has one of the nation's fastest growing populations with a net inflow of nearly 1,000 people a day (Fla. Stat. Abs., 1993). As urban populations swell, pressures on limited supplies of clean water increase. Water use is currently, and will remain, a defining issue for the state. Water will partly determine growth rates of urban centers as well as the types and sizes of both agricultural and non-agricultural enterprises. Allocation of water resources (i.e., who gains and who loses) will in part be determined by the economic contribution of each competing industry. Turfgrass is a significant consumer of water in Florida but the turfgrass industry is also a major economic contributor.

Water consumed for turfgrass irrigation by Florida's sod farms, golf courses, commercial and non-profit institutions was estimated from the irrigated acreage, depth of irrigation, and irrigation frequency (see Methods section). The total water used by these sectors was estimated at 1.75 billion gallons per day (Table 5). Non-profit institutions dominated water consumption for turfgrass irrigation with 58 percent of the total. Golf courses and commercial institutions each consumed about 20 percent and sod farms consumed about 2 percent of total water used. Golf courses and non-profit institutions were the most intensive users of water, with 2.6 and 3.0 million gallons per day per 1000 acres of turfgrass (Table 5).

Service vendors and wholesale/retail establishments were not included in this assessment because they were not final consumers of water for turfgrass irrigation. Survey information on water use was not available for households.

Table 5. Water consumption for irrigation in Florida's turfgrass industry, 1991-92
Sector Water Used

(Million Gallons Per Day)

Percent of Total MGD Per 1000 Acres
Sod Farms 37 2 0.8
Golf Courses 345 20 2.6
Commercial Institutions 356 20 1.8
Non-Profit Institutions 1,016 58 3.0
Total 1,754 100%

Irrigation Water Sources

Four sources of water were used for turfgrass irrigation in Florida: groundwater wells, surface water bodies (lakes, rivers), municipal potable water supplies, and recycled municipal wastewater. Over half (58%) of all the water used came from groundwater wells (Figure 5). Recycled and surface water were the second most important sources at 15 and 17 percent, respectively. Municipal water represented 10 percent of total consumption. An unknown share of municipally-supplied water was also withdrawn from groundwater wells.

Cash Expenses for Turfgrass Products and Services

Cash expenses for turfgrass products and services by sector and by major expense category are presented in Table 6, and summarized in Figure 6. In 1991-92, an estimated $7.25 billion was spent for production, distribution and use of turfgrass products and services in Florida. Some $5.1 billion (65%) of the total cash expenses, was accounted for by final users (sectors 5-8) and $2.2 billion (35%) by the commercial intermediary sectors (sectors 1-4).

These cash expenses were made up of materials, equipment, labor, services and other direct costs. Expenses for materials including sod, seed, chemicals, and fertilizers were $1.5 billion or 21 percent of total expenses. Equipment accounted for $1.6 billion or 22 percent of total expenses. Employee labor was $1.4 billion (19%) and professional services, principally for lawncare, totaled $2.0 billion (28%). Other direct costs which could not be itemized accounted for $974 million (10%). These cash expenses do not include taxes, debt service, or depreciation.

To put these figures in perspective, the total cash expenses by sectors five through eight ($5.1 billion) is equivalent to every working person in Florida (5.3 million) spending $955 annually, or each person in the state (13 million) spending $390.

Residential households (single family homes) were the dominant group, spending $3.9 billion on turfgrass maintenance, representing 78 percent of the total $5.1 billion cash expenses by final users in Florida. Commercial institutions spent $448 million, or 9 percent of this total. A large share of expenses for this group came from hotels and motels ($155 million) and nonresidential buildings ($110 million). Golf courses accounted for $470 million or 9 percent of the total. Non-profit institutions had expenses of $309 million, mainly from schools and local governments.

For intermediate demand (sectors 1-4), wholesale/retail establishments had cash expenses amounting to $1.12 billion. Within this group, the "lawn/garden equipment" classification represented $908 million. Service vendors had total cash expenses of $855 million, with the largest share from "Lawn and Garden Services" ($595 million). Sod producers spent $94 million, or $2,000 per acre of sod produced. Finally, manufacturers spent $7 million for production of goods sold to the turfgrass market, with nearly all in chemicals and fertilizers.

Cash expenses per acre are an indicator of turfgrass maintenance intensity (Table 6). Across all user groups, lawn care expenses averaged about $1,600 per acre in 1991-92. Homeowners spent an average of $1,189 per acre on their lawns while golf courses spent $3,600 per acre. Costs per acre were also very high for landscape services ($5,300), nonresidential buildings ($5,300), and hotels ($4,100). Maintenance expenses per acre were lowest for highway roadside maintenance ($27), airports ($401), and trailer parks/campsites ($386).

Expenses for lawn maintenance are probably higher in Florida than in other states because of the sub-tropical climate, especially in southern Florida where about two-thirds of the state's population resides. In most parts of Florida, turfgrass must be maintained throughout the year, rather than only part of the year as in northern states.

Table 6. Cash expenses in Florida's turfgrass industry, 1991-92, by industry sector and by expense category
Sector Total

(mill. $)

Per Acre


Expenses by Major Category

(million $)

Materials1 Equipment Labor Services Other
1 Sod Farms 93.6 2,031 14.3 13.9 38.1 6.2 21.1
2 Manufacturers 7.3 NA 3.7 0.0 0.1 1.0 2.5
3 Wholesale/Retail 1,124.2 NA 75.7 881.8 92.8 6.8 67.2
4 Service Vendors 854.5 802 91.6 101.3 503.4 33.1 125.1
5 Commercial Institutions 447.7 2,211 46.6 31.7 264.3 97.3 7.9
6 Non-Profit Institutions 308.9 919 26.2 25.7 234.7 20.7 1.6
6a Highways 8.8 27 1.1 3.2 4.5 0.0 0.0
7 Golf Courses 469.7 3,577 94.0 57.9 271.3 17.6 28.9
8 Residential
(single family HH)
3,932.6 1,189 1,134.6 479.8 0.0 1,820.5 497.6
Total (avg) 7,247 1,647 1,488 1,595 1,409 2,003 752

1 Materials includes sod/seed, fertilizer, soil amendments, and chemicals.

Itemized Cash Expenses for Turfgrass Products and Services

Cash expense items for turfgrass products and services by final consumers (sectors 5-8) and by market intermediaries (sectors 1-4) are detailed in Table 7. In economic terms, the final consumer sectors represent final demand for turfgrass products, while the intermediary sectors represent intermediate demand for the same products. Turfgrass plugs, sprigs, or seed was the largest material item at $1.0 billion, with $938 million of it spent by final consumers. Fertilizers also represented a substantial share of expenses on materials at $230 million. Chemical products, including pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and growth retardants together comprised expenses of $240 million, approximately evenly split between final and intermediate demand. Compost and soil amendments were rather small items at about $4 million.

Equipment expenses by final consumers were comprised of fuel, repairs, and rentals (Table 7). The other equipment items were considered capital investments by final consumers, and so were reported under "Assets" (see following section). For the intermediate demand sectors, purchases of mowers ($407 million) and irrigation equipment ($333 million), were the largest equipment expense items. Fuel and repairs were also significant equipment operating expense items ($285 and $379 million, respectively) for turf growers and service vendors.

The $1.41 billion spent on labor was broken-down into employees' wages ($1.06 billion), and salaries for supervisors ($275 million), and clerical/sales employees ($71 million).

Expenses for professional services, defined as work performed by agents other than employees of the company or household itself, totaled $2.0 billion, which was the largest single category. Lawn care services consisted of chemical and fertilizer applications, irrigation installation, contract labor, and transportation. Contract labor accounted for $1.54 billion, or three-quarters of total service costs. All but $9 million of this sum was paid by final consumers. Installing irrigation systems was the second most expensive service ($303 million) followed by chemical fertilizer application ($154 million).

Table 7. Itemized cash expenses for Florida's turfgrass industry, 1991-92.
Expense Category/Item Final User Expense Intermediary Sector Expense Total All Sectors
Millions Dollars
Materials 1,151.0 336.6 1,487.6
Plugs/Sprigs/Seed 937.8 74.8 1,012.6
Herbicides 38.8 51.2 90.0
Fungicides 21.1 21.8 42.9
Other Pesticides 52.6 50.4 103.0
Growth Retardants 2.8 1.4 4.2
Fertilizer 95.9 134.7 230.6
Compost/Soil Amendments 1.9 2.3 4.2
Equipment 602.8 992.5 1,595.4
Fuel 239.7 45.4 285.1
Repairs 331.8 47.2 379.0
Rentals 31.3 9.2 40.5
Tractors* NA 48.4 48.4
Mowers* NA 406.5 406.5
Irrigation Equipment* NA 333.0 333.0
Sports Equipment* NA 12.8 12.8
Other Equipment* NA 90.2 90.2
Labor 798.5 610.8 1,409.2
Wages 611.0 452.5 1,063.5
Supervisor salaries 164.9 109.8 274.6
Clerical/Sales salaries 22.6 48.5 71.1
Services 1,960.5 42.7 2,003.3
Chemical/Fertilizer Application 131.6 22.4 154.0
Irrigation Installation 294.1 9.1 303.2
Contract Labor 1,534.8 9.7 1,544.5
Transportation* NA 1.6 1.6
Other 548.2 203.7 751.9
Total All Items 5,061.0 2,186.4 7,247.4

* item applicable only to expenses for commercial intermediate demand sectors

Sales of Turfgrass Products and Services

Sales of turf products and services were estimated for the five turfgrass industry sectors which actually sell turf products and services: sod farms, manufacturers, wholesalers/retailers, service vendors, and golf courses. Total sales for these sectors in the 1991-92 fiscal year amounted to $6.8 billion (Table 8). In comparison, during this same time period, Florida farm cash receipts were around $6.3 billion, including citrus which generated $1.7 billion. Another comparison giving some idea of the size of the whole turfgrass industry is that net sales taxes paid in Florida in 1991 were $8.2 billion, and Florida's department stores sold $7.5 billion of merchandise in 1991 (Fl. Stat. Abstract, 1993).

The biggest contributor to sales was the golf industry, with $3.0 billion (Figure 7). Service vendors were the next largest group, with sales of $1.86 billion, largely for "lawn and garden services". The wholesale/retail sector had sales totaling $1.65 billion, mainly for lawn/garden and sporting equipment wholesalers. Sod farms and manufacturers had relatively small sales by comparison, amounting to $161 million and $83 million, respectively.

Table 8. Sales of products and services in Florida's turfgrass industry, 1991-92
Sector Sales

(Millions Dollars)

Percent of Total
1 Sod Farms 161 2
2 Manufacturers 83 1
Fertilizer & Chemical Manufacturing 46 1
Turf & Grounds Equipment Manufacturing 37 1
3 Wholesale/Retail 1,647 24
Lawn/Garden Machinery/Equipment Wholesale Trade 1,175 17
Fertilizers & Agricultural Chemicals Wholesale Trade 145 2
Lawn & Garden Equipment Retail 187 3
Retail Sporting Goods Shops 141 2
4 Service Vendors 1,856 28
Landscape Services 148 2
Lawn and Garden Services 1,574 23
Athletic & Recreational Facilities Construction 73 1
Building Maintenance Services 60 1
7 Golf Courses 3,006 45
Public golf courses 1,745 26
Private golf courses 1,261 19
Total 6,753 100%

Itemized Sales of Turfgrass Products and Services

Sales of itemized turfgrass-related products and services are shown in Figure 8. "Other products and services", which mainly represent complete lawn maintenance services, was the largest single sales item at $2.9 billion. Golf play was the second largest, with $2.03 billion, or 30 percent of total sales. Irrigation equipment was a major item with $1.2 billion in sales, emphasizing the importance of water to this industry. Mowers had total sales of $1.0 billion. Other notable sales items were sod ($338 million), fertilizer ($243 million), and "other equipment" ($486 million), which together made up 16 percent of total sales. Herbicides, fungicides, and other pesticides together comprised $84 million, representing only 1 percent of total sales.

Turfgrass-Related Non-Land Assets

The assets used for turfgrass maintenance or turf market business activities were reported by survey respondents as depreciated ("book") values for the year ending in 1991-92, and the market value (cost) of assets purchased during this year. Total assets for all industry sectors amounted to $8.56 billion, including $3.2 billion (38%) in equipment, $2.5 billion (29%) in irrigation installations, and $2.9 billion (34%) in buildings used for turf maintenance (Table 9). The residential household sector had assets valued at $3.0 billion, representing 35 percent of the industry total. Wholesale/retail establishments had assets valued at $2.0 billion or 24 percent. Golf courses, service vendors, and commercial institutions each had assets of $800 million to $1 billion, representing about 10 percent of total turfgrass-related assets. Assets were not divided into categories for the household, manufacturer, or wholesale/retail sectors.

Golf courses had the highest level of assets invested per unit area: over $8,000 per acre for all courses, and over $11,000 per acre for private courses (Table 9). Sod farms and many commercial institutional sectors also had turfgrass-related investments amounting to several thousand per acre.

Table 9. Non-land assets in Florida's turfgrass industry, year end 1991-92.
Sector Total Assets


Assets Per Acre


Assets by Category

(millions $)

Assets Purchased 1991-92


Equipment Irrigation Buildings
1 Sod Farms 87 1,889 53 21 13 5
2 Manufacturers 110 NA NA NA NA 6
3 Wholesale/Retail 2,045 NA NA NA NA 1,243
4 Service Vendors 885 831 477.6 90.7 316.6 92
5 Commercial Institutions 922 4,556 257.7 345.3 319.4 199
6 Non-Profit Institutions 426 1,267 155.2 176.8 94.1 40
7 Golf Courses 1,068 8,130 356.7 305.1 405.8 110
8 Residential

(single family HH)

3,013 911 NA NA NA 1,266
Total (avg) 8,555 $1,944 3,223 2,450 2,883 2,962

Operating Profit Margins

Any industry must be profitable in order to survive and grow by attracting new capital investment. Profits were not measured in this survey but it is possible to estimate an approximate profit margin for each sector. This margin is the sum available to meet principal and interest payments on real and non real estate debt, to pay taxes, land rent and to satisfy a return on equity capital and any unpaid labor and management. The results shown in Table 10 suggest that there was about $1.7 billion in profits generated by the turf industry in 1991-92. The negative margin for the wholesale/retail sector was largely due to the very high level of new assets purchased in 1991/92.

Given the uses for this margin it is probable that most of this money was spent inside the state. Possibly the largest proportion goes to debt service, followed by taxes, including income, property, sales and other taxes. This is essentially a local industry that exports very little of its receipts and spends very little of its cash outside the state.

Table 10. Sales, cash costs, assets purchased, depreciation and profit margin for Florida's turfgrass industry, 1991-92

(millions $)

Sod Farms Manufacturers Wholesale/Retail Service Vendors Golf Courses Total
Sales 161.3 83.8 1647.1 1855.6 3006.5 6753
Cash Costs 93.6 7.3 1124.2 854.5 469.7 2549
Assets purchased 5.2 5.9 1243.1 92.1 110.0 1456
Depreciation 12.1 11.0 819.1 86.0 126.6 1055
Margin 50.4 59.6 -1539.3 823.0 2300.2 1693

Note: For manufacturing and wholesale/retail sectors it was assumed most of the assets purchased were fertilizer and chemicals for sale and that asset turnover was 12 times per year for fertilizer and 6 times for chemicals.

Value-Added by the Florida Turfgrass Industry

A value-added methodology was used as a summary measure of the economic impact of Florida's diverse turfgrass industry. The value-added in each successive stage of marketing turfgrass products and services is broadly calculated as the difference between the value of sales and the cost of inputs from suppliers. The total value-added for the industry is simply the sum of value-added for all sectors.

Value-added was calculated differently for the commercial business and final consumer sectors of the turfgrass industry. For commercial businesses (sod farms, manufacturers, wholesale/retail establishments, turfgrass service vendors and golf courses), value-added was calculated as total sales plus depreciation minus cash expenses for material goods and outside services. Expenses for employees were not deducted because labor is an essential part of value-added. For the consumer sectors (institutions and households), value-added was calculated as labor expense plus depreciation. In the case of the residential sector, unpaid household labor was valued at two-thirds the average expense for professional services. Annual depreciation was calculated as a percentage of current asset values. See the "Methods" section of this report for further details on the value-added methodology used.

Value-added to Florida's economy by the turfgrass industry during the 1991-92 is summarized in Figure 10.

The total value-added by the turfgrass industry was estimated at $7.4 billion (Table 11). Golf courses accounted for $2.6 billion (36%) of total value-added. Service vendors and single family residences each accounted for $1.5 billion (20%) in value-added. The wholesale/retail sector also contributed significantly, with $819 million in value-added (11%). Commercial and non-profit institutions contributed 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively. Sod farms and manufacturer sectors contributed about 3 percent to total value-added by the industry.

On a per acre basis, golf courses contributed an average of over $20,000 in value-added. Sod farms, service vendors, and commercial institutions also had a high value-added per acre (over $1000) while residential households, non-profit institutions and highways had relatively low values (Table 11). Landscape service vendors, a sub-sector of service vendors averaged nearly $5000 per acre in value-added.

Table 11. Value-added by Florida's turfgrass industry, 1991-92
Sector Value-Added
(Millions Dollars)
Percent of Total
Value-Added Per Acre
1 Sod Farms 118.0 1.6 2,561
2 Manufacturers 86.6 1.2 NA
3 Wholesale/Retail 819.1 11.1 NA
4 Service Vendors 1,521.9 20.6 1,429
5 Commercial Institutions 382.6 5.2 1,890
6 Non-Profit Institutions 297.0 4.0 883
6a Highways 4.5 0.1 14
7 Golf Courses 2,915.2 35.8 20,126
8 Residential

(single family households)

1,502.8 20.4 454
Total (avg) 7,375.1 100% 1,676

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Survey Methods

Turfgrass Industry Population and Survey Sampling

The populations of the eight sectors in the turf industry were obtained from a variety of sources. A listing of approximately 26,000 companies in specified Standard Industrial Categories was purchased from Dun and Bradstreet Information Services, Inc. (Parsippany, NJ) for the following survey sectors: manufacturers, wholesalers/retailers, service vendors, commercial institutions, non-profit institutions, and public golf courses. These 1992 listings included information on employment and company sales as well as addresses and phone numbers which were used to contact targeted survey respondents. The comprehensiveness of these listings was verified by comparison with numbers of firms reported by independent sources.

A list of private golf courses was obtained from the Florida Golf Guide. Populations of single and multi-family households in Florida were obtained from the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, the official state government agency responsible for monitoring population trends. Populations of business firms or households in each industry sector surveyed were previously shown in Table 2. The sub-sectors listed in Table 2 correspond to a 2-digit or 4-digit Standard Industrial Category (SIC).

Sample rates are an indicator of a survey's representativeness. Sample rates were calculated for each survey sector as the fraction of the population from which usable responses were obtained, as previously shown in Table 2.

The numbers of firms or households contacted in each survey sector, shown in Table 12, were designed to achieve a precision of plus or minus ten percent in estimating the average value of continuous variables, such as turf area maintained (acres or square feet). The formula used for calculating these numbers was:

where ni is the number to sample in the ith sector, Ni is the population of the ith sector, CVi is the coefficient of variation of a representative continuous variable for the ith sector, p equals 0.1 to give plus or minus 10 percent desired precision of the estimates, Z equals 1.96 for the Z distribution value representing for 90 percent level of confidence in the estimate, and ri is the expected response rate adjustment factor for the ith sector, based upon the response rate obtained in the presurvey.

The firms or households to be contacted were randomly selected from the population. A total of over 11,000 firms were contacted for the survey (Table 12).

Response Rates

Response rates for the survey were calculated as the ratio of usable questionnaires received to the number of firms or households contacted. The response rates ranged from 6 percent to 35 percent, and are shown in Table 12.

Table 12. Mail survey populations and response rates for Florida turfgrass industry.
Survey Sector Firms Contacted Questions Sent Complete Responses Response

Rate (%)

Sod Producers 72 241 16 33
Sporting Equip. Manufacturers (golf, polo, croquet) 33 126 2 16
Lawn & Garden Equipment Manufacturing 53 67 2 19
Fertilizer Manufacturers 147 266 12 21
Service Vendors
Lawn and Garden Services 816 2,029 53 10
Building Maintenance Services 934 1,915 7 7
Athletic & Recreational Facilities Construction 63 221 3 23
Athletic & Recreational Facilities Construction--Special Trades 564 2,013 1 14
Wholesalers & Retailers
Retail Sporting Goods Shops 889 1,789 12 6
Lawn & Garden Supplies Retail 708 1,129 40 11
Fertilizers & Agricultural Chemicals Wholesale Trade 216 504 17 14
Lawn & Garden, Sporting Equipment Wholesale Trade 427 639 17 10
Commercial Institutions
Apartment and Nonresidential Building Operators, Cemeteries 1542 4,496 111 12
Airports & Services 346 669 15 11
Hotels & Motels, Inns, Vacation Lodges, Trailer Parks & Campsites 939 2,910 98 14
Botanical & Zoological Gardens 204 215 8 13
Race Tracks, Golf services 202 515 25 18
Hospitals 809 2,457 160 24
Non-Profit Institutions
Correctional Institutions 146 264 26 24
Executive Offices 134 138 20 18
Churches, Temples, & Shrines 924 1,688 70 11
Elementary/Secondary Schools, Colleges & Universities 730 1,064 62 13
Golf Courses 435 1,176 139 35
Total 11,333 26,531 916

Survey Instruments and Implementation

Questionnaires were developed for each major industry sector, in order to collect the information pertinent to its particular economic role. Information was collected from producer and market intermediaries and golf courses (sectors 1-4, and 7) on sales, market channels, employment, and cash expenses, for turf products and services . Information was collected from consumer sectors and sod farms (sectors 1 and 5-8) on turfgrass area maintained, turfgrass maintenance practices, water resources used for turf irrigation, labor used for non-turf maintenance, and annual expenses for turf maintenance activities. Specific information collected from each sector is summarized in Table 13. The actual questionnaires are shown in Appendix A.

The survey was implemented using both mailed questionnaires and telephone interviews. Mail surveys were primarily used for all sectors except households, which were surveyed by telephone. A follow-up telephone survey of a sample of businesses which did not respond to the mail survey was conducted to verify the representativeness of mail survey respondents.

The questionnaires were pretested with target respondent groups and revised before the general survey was conducted. Mailed survey questionnaires were pretested with industry professionals on the FTGA Board of Directors, and 200 business firms. The telephone survey questionnaire was pretested with approximately 30 randomly selected households.

Survey mailings were conducted four times at approximately four month intervals: March, July, and November, 1993, and March, 1994. For each mailing, the list of targeted firms was drawn from the pool of sample contacts, with previously responding firms removed from the pool. Questionnaire packages were sent by first class mail and addressed to the company's chief executive, by name where available. Mailed packages included a cover letter from the investigators, a survey form and a return-addressed, postage-paid reply envelope. Over 26 thousand questionnaires were mailed for the survey (Table 12).

Telephone interviews of households were conducted in two blocks, in February 1993, and October 1993, under sub-contract with the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, Telephone Market Survey Program. The households contacted for telephone interviews were randomly selected from a directory of all residential telephone numbers in Florida, with the sampling in each of the state's 67 counties approximately proportional to its population. Persons contacted by telephone were qualified as respondents for the survey based upon affirmative answers to the following two questions:

  1. "Does this household have a lawn which is maintained?"
  2. "Are you the person responsible for maintenance of the lawn or are you knowledgeable about the maintenance of the lawn?"

At least four attempts were made to contact selected households before replacement with an alternate target household. Spanish-speaking telephone interviewers were provided for survey respondents who identified a preference for Spanish. Telephone interviews were managed by an automated computer-based system which dialed randomly selected phone numbers, generated questions to be asked by the operator, and logged respondents' answers entered by the operator.

The follow-up telephone survey of non-respondents to the mail survey was conducted in June 1994.

Table 13. Florida turfgrass survey information collected, by survey sector. Asterisks indicate that the information was obtained from the survey.
Question Category


or Units
Sod Growers Manufac-
turers & Wholesale/
Service Vendors

Golf Courses Commercial and Non-Profit Institutions House-
Turf-Related Assets
Book value of turf maintenance or production assets at year-end 1991-92: equipment, irrigation installations, buildings $ itemized * * * * *
Turf Products or Services purchased in 1991-92
Supplies purchased: sod, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, growth retardants, fertilizer, soil amendments, grass seed, mulch, other (specify), total COGS $ itemized * * * * * *
Equipment purchased: mowers, irrigation equipment, vehicles, tractors, other equipment $ itemized * * * * * *
Services purchased: mowing, sod installation, land prep., chemical/fertilizer application, turf renovation/aeration, turf repair, irrigation installation, irrigation mgmt, contract labor, complete lawn care service, other (specify) $ itemized * * * * * *
Regional Inputs/Outputs
Purchases from vendors in-state, product/Service sales out-of-state percent of total purchases, sales * * * * *
Turf Product or Service Sales in 1991-92
Total turf market sales actual amount ($) or specified range * D&B1 D&B * D&B
Supplies sold: sod, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, growth retardants, fertilizer, soil amendments, grass seed, mulch, other (specify) percent of total turf market sales * * *
Equipment sold: mowers, irrigation equipment, vehicles, tractors, other equipment (specify) percent of total turf market sales *
Services sold: mowing, sod installation, land prep., chemical/fertilizer application, turf renovation/repair, irrigation installation, irrigation mgmt, contract labor, complete lawn care service, golf play, concessions, other (specify) percent of total turf market sales * * *

1Information was provided by Dun and Bradstreet Information Services.

Table 13 (continued). Florida turfgrass survey information collected, by survey sector.
Question Category


Response or Units Sod Growers Manufac-
turers & Wholesale/
Service Vendors Golf Courses Commercial and Non-Profit Institutions House-
Turf Area
Turf area managed (mowed at least yearly) acres or sq.ft. * * * * *
Turf area irrigated acres or sq.ft. * * * *
Varieties of Turfgrass Used/Purchased/Sold: St. Augustine, Bermuda, Bahia, Centipede, Zoysia, Mixed, Other (specified), Unknown percent of turf area for each variety * * * *
Turf Care Agent and Labor
Person(s) responsible for turf care: lawn service, employees, volunteers, gardeners, family percent of total work by each * * * *
Permanent full-time and part-time turf-related employees number of employees and weeks worked * * * * *
Turf Maint. Practices or Services Provided
Types of Practices: mowing, sod installation, irrigation, fertilization, insect control, clipping/leaf removal, dethatching/power raking, weed control, lawn replacement, soil testing, disease control, aeration/coring, other (specify) yes or no (checked) * * * * *
Mowing frequency interval between mowings (days) in summer and winter season * * * * *
Chemical and fertilizer application frequency number treatments per year * * * * *
Fertilization rate: N, P, K lbs per acre * *
Grass Clipping Management: removed every mowing, removed for heavy growth, removed never or rarely, disposed with trash, composted yes or no (checked) * * * *
Mower type used: riding, push, self-propelled yes or no (checked) * * *
Irrigation Practices
System type used: hoses & sprinklers, sprinklers with manual control, sprinklers with automatic control, other (specify) yes or no (checked) * * * * *
Water source: municipal, surface water (ponds, rivers, canals), wells, recycled percent of total supply from each source * * * *
Irrigation frequency interval between waterings (days)--summer, winter * * * * *
Duration of Irrigation hours-summer, winter * *
Irrigation depth inches depth *

Analysis and Compilation of Data

The data from returned mailed questionnaires were entered into Lotus 1-2-3 worksheets (Lotus Dev. Corp, Cambridge, MA) for compilation, editing, and analysis. Data were summarized by sector and sub-sector Standard Industrial Category (SIC). The results were expressed on a per-acre basis for expenses, non-land assets, value-added, and water use, wherever applicable. For many diversified firms, turfgrass-related business activities were estimated as a share of the company's overall business.

Expansion factors were developed for each sector, in order to convert the survey data into estimates for the entire population. The expansion factors were derived by dividing the population by the number of firms or households providing complete responses for each major group of variables: turfgrass area, expenses, sales, non-land assets, and employment. The summed values for each variable were multiplied by the expansion factor to estimate the population value.

Water use for turfgrass irrigation was calculated according to the following general relationship:

  • U = R x T x F x A

where U is water use, R is application rate (in/hr), T is irrigation duration (hours), F is irrigation frequency (number/yr), and A is irrigated turf area (acres). This calculation was expressed in units of million gallons per day (MGD) for each survey sector. An application rate of 0.5 to 1 inch per hour was assumed, depending upon the types of irrigation systems typically used. Irrigation duration was estimated at the midpoint of the reported time class: less than 1 hr, 1 to 2 hrs, or greater than 2 hrs. Irrigation frequency was calculated based upon the reported interval between waterings (days) for summer and winter seasons, and the distribution of intervals between rainfall events recorded in 1991 for the Gainesville, Florida station of the National Weather Service.

The Value-Added Methodology

A value-added methodology was used as the general framework for designing and interpreting the survey. Value-added is probably the best way to evaluate the statewide economic impacts of a largely local service-based industry, such as the turfgrass industry. Value-added is a measure of wealth creation which counts payments received by all factors of production for internally-produced goods and services, such as labor, management, capital, and government. The value-added concept applies to an individual firm as well as an entire industry or nation. For example, gross domestic product represents a nation's total value-added. Additionally, some companies have begun to report value-added in their annual corporate financial statements (Morley, 1978). Recently, value-added was applied to U.S. agriculture to assess the economic contributions of various crop and livestock sectors (Stanton et al).

Typically, value-added is calculated by deducting purchased goods and services from total output. Purchased goods and services are deducted because they represent value-added by other economic sectors. Labor and capital expenses are not deducted because these are always included as part of value-added. For example, suppose the total revenue of a firm is valued at $100, the purchased goods used to produce this output are valued at $50, and purchased outside services are $20. Value-added by this firm is then $30 ($100 minus $50 minus $20). This amount represents the profit made by the firm, plus the wages and salaries paid to its own employees, plus depreciation of its capital investment. Expressed another way, the firm used its labor and capital resources plus $50 or purchased goods and $30 of outside services to produce $100 of output.

In the turfgrass industry, value-added also includes the labor and capital provided by final consumers for turf use. The rationale for this is that turfgrass requires continued maintenance to realize its economic, aesthetic, environmental, and functional benefits. This assertion is supported by the fact that most municipalities in the United States have mandated that turfgrasses be maintained.

Survey information was gathered on outputs and purchased inputs for each sector of the turfgrass industry in order to calculate value-added. For the producers, market intermediaries, and golf courses (sectors 1-4, 7), value-added was calculated as total sales, plus depreciation on turf-related assets, minus cash expenses for purchased goods and outside services. For consumers (sectors 5, 6, 8), value added was calculated as labor expense plus depreciation. In the residential sector, unpaid household labor was imputed a value of two-thirds (66%) the average household expenses for professional services. The rationale for this valuation was that 84 percent of households reported that family members were the primary caretakers and that household labor was not as skilled as professional labor, and therefore not as highly valued.

The annual depreciation on turf-related assets was estimated for the purpose of calculating value-added based upon the following typical economic lifetimes and depreciation rates for three classes of non-land assets:

Asset Type Expected Life
Annual Depreciation Rate
equipment 7 14%
irrigation installations 5 20%
buildings used for turf maintenance/production 15 7%

The value-added process for the turfgrass industry is illustrated in Figure 11. Value-added inputs of employee labor, management, capital depreciation and profit occur at three stages: turf product manufacturing, turf product distribution and service, and final demand, which includes turf-based commercial activities.

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Sector 1: Sod Farms


The sod production sector is the starting point for the turfgrass industry. Since its inception more than 40 years ago, Florida's sod production industry has passed through three distinct economic stages-- (1) establishment as a recognized commercial sector in agriculture (1950-1960); (2) a period of rapid firm growth and industry expansion (1961-1987), and; (3) eventual industry maturation as supply began to exceed demand with attendant problems of rising competition and falling product prices (1988-present) (Haydu & Cisar, 1992).

In some ways the sod industry has evolved similarly to traditional food and fiber crops. Like elsewhere in agriculture, average farm size has continued to increase. Between 1963 and 1987, the average sod farm size doubled. This striking growth is illustrated by the fact that in 1987 two of the largest producers alone sold more sod in a week than did the entire industry in 1963 (Haydu & Cisar, 1990).

Economic forces have also resulted in Florida's sod industry developing some characteristics different from other commodities in three key areas--the number of farms, marketing practices, and the capital/labor ratio. Firstly, because the sod industry is aligned closely with Florida's housing sector, and because Florida was experienced unprecedented growth in its population during this period, the number of sod farms more than doubled. This happened during the time when farm numbers in general were declining throughout the United States. Secondly, while many of the largest farm operators in traditional agriculture were increasingly circumventing market intermediaries (due to the cost-savings associated with avoiding a value-added step in the distribution process), Florida's largest sod producers found it more economical to actually increase their use of middlemen. Thirdly, trends in labor use have differed from most agriculture commodities. In the past 50 years there has been a pronounced substitution of capital for labor throughout the farm sector. Yet despite the development of more efficient machinery, the use of both permanent and hired labor on sod farms has actually increased in the last two decades (Cisar & Haydu, 1991). This development is attributed to Florida's unique labor market where, because of abundant supplies of cost-effective labor, many farm operators find manual labor a more flexible and less risky management strategy.

Florida's sod industry must continue to adjust to economic change if it wishes to remain viable. At the same time, current and potential regulatory actions are increasingly problematic. With continued rapid urbanization, sod farms near large urban centers are feeling heightened pressures, particularly on the issues of land and water use.

Acreage, Grass Type, and Cultural Practices

This study estimated that 46,000 acres of turfgrass were produced and maintained on Florida sod farms during 1991. This figure corresponds closely to the estimate of 47,000 acres made in a separate study in 1990 (Haydu & Cisar, 1993). Acreage in production by grass type, is shown in Table 1.1:

Table 1.1. Sod farm acreage by grass variety, 1991-92.
Turfgrass Variety Acreage Percent of Total
St. Augustinegrass 33,173 72
Bahiagrass 9,215 20
Bermudagrass 1,843 4
Centipedegrass 1,843 4
Total 46,073 100

Thus, St. Augustinegrass and Bahiagrass were the two dominant varieties grown in Florida during this period. Further evidence of the widespread use of St. Augustinegrass in particular is indicated by the sales information shown in Table 1.5.

Cultural practices examined in the survey include irrigation, mowing, and fertilization. The average sod producer in this study had 655 acres under production and irrigated 490 of those acres, or 75 percent of the total. Typically turfgrass was watered 18 times annually, with varying intervals depending on the time of year. Because evapo-transpiration rates are much greater during the summer, sod was irrigated every 10 days during this period, in contrast to a reduced winter rate of once every 22 days.

Mowing frequencies also varied depending on the time of year. Mowing intervals averaged 19 days during the winter and 6 days during the warmer summer months.

In 1991-92, Florida's sod industry applied 4,149 tons active ingredient (a.i.) of nitrogen, 1,298 tons a.i. of phosphorous, and 3,536 tons a.i. of potassium. This means that the average sod farmer used 197 lbs. a.i. nitrogen/acre, 95 lbs. a.i. phosphorous/acre, and 176 lbs. a.i. potassium/acre. Total fertilizer use per farm was 55 tons a.i. of nitrogen, 17 tons a.i. of phosphorous, and 47 tons a.i. of potassium.


Although sod producers represented less than 2 percent of total employment for the state's turfgrass industry, on a per farm basis, few agricultural commodities generate as much employment income. In 1991-92, the industry employed 2,050 full-time workers and 245 part-time workers. These combined figures represent a total of 2,122 full time equivalents (Table 1.2). An average sod enterprise utilized 29 full-time and 8 part-time employees. Stated differently, there were 2.25 employee weeks worked per acre of sod produced and maintained during the year. Finally, converting employee statistics to business expenses, the average employer paid out $634 thousand in hourly wages, $85 thousand in supervisor salaries, and $80 thousand in clerical/sales salaries.

Table 1.2. Employment in Florida's sod production industry, 1991-92.
Labor Statistics Number Full-Time Number Part-Time Full Time Equivalents
Total Industry Employment 2,795 334 2,894
Average Employment Per Farm 29 8 NA

Water Use

Florida's sod producers were estimated to consume almost 500 thousand acre-inches of water, or 37 million gallons per day in 1991-92 (Table 1.3). Sod growers irrigated 34 thousand acres of turfgrass, at an average depth of 24 inches per year. On a per farm basis, the average grower used nearly 9,000 acre-inches of water for the year to irrigate 490 acres. (One acre inch is roughly equivalent to 27,000 gallons of water.) Producers indicated they irrigated to a depth of one inch each time water was applied.

From the data below it is evident that the distribution of water use by source was apportioned fairly equally. However, given that the very largest farms produce over 60 percent of the industry's total output, and that most of these are located in the Everglades Agricultural Area, these estimates may be misleading. The authors believe that if more large South Florida growers had responded to the survey, a greater proportion of irrigated water would have come from surface sources for seepage irrigation or water table management.

Table 1.3. Water consumption for sod producers, average per farm and industry totals, by source, 1991-92.
Water Source Average Consumption Per Farm

(Acre Inches)

Industry Total Consumption

(Acre Inches)

Recycled Water 2,769 217,219
Well Water 3,190 225,769
Surface Water 2,847 52,500
Total 8,806 495,487

Cash Expenses

Sod growers spent $94 million on agricultural inputs in 1991-92 to produce turfgrass (Table 1.4). Major expenses were materials, equipment, labor, and purchased services. By far the largest expense was for labor, accounting for $38 million, or 41 percent of total expenses. Expenses for materials, including turfgrass seed, sprigs or sod, chemicals, and fertilizer were $14 million. Fertilizer expenses were $5 million, and plugs/sprigs/seeds were $2 million. Nearly three-quarters of the $7.1 million spent on chemicals was used to purchase herbicides. Operating costs for equipment were $14 million, including fuel ($4.6 million), repairs ($7.5 million), and rentals ($1.5 million). Contracting for services accounted for $6 million or 8.5 percent of the total expenses. A rather large "other direct costs" category amounted to $21 million, or 22.5 percent. This is possibly because many respondents included administrative costs in this category.

Table 1.4. Cash expenses for sod production, 1991-92.
Production Expense Item Expense
Percent of Total
Plugs/Sprigs/Seeds 2,208 2
Chemical Subtotal


Other Pesticides


Growth Retardants











Fertilizer 4,986 5
Equipment Subtotal












Labor Subtotal

Hourly Wages

Supervisor Salaries

Clerical/Sales Salaries

Other Wages











Services Purchased Subtotal

Chem/Fert Application

Irrigation Installation

Contract Labor


Other Services













Other Direct Costs Subtotal 21,048 23
Total Cash Costs 93,575 100

Product Sales, Prices, and Exchange Arrangements

A total of $161 million worth of turfgrass products and services were sold by sod producers in 1991-92. Sod alone accounted for $118 million in sales as shown in Table 1.5. An additional $43 million in sales represented services offered by some producers, such as transportation, landscaping, and laying of sod. Nearly all (95%) sod sold in 1991-92 was St. Augustinegrass (Table 1.5). The remaining 5 percent was shared by bermudagrass (3%), bahiagrass (1%), and centipedegrass (1%). This contrasts with a 1990 study (Haydu and Cisar) which found a lower share of sod sales for St. Augustinegrass (80%) and higher share for Bahiagrass (15%). These differences may be due to population sampling errors.

Farm gate prices received for sod are shown in Table 1.5. Prices varied from a low of 6 cents/square foot for bahiagrass to a high of 9 cents/square foot for centipedegrass and bermudagrass.

Table 1.5. Sod industry revenues: total sales, sales by grass variety, and prices received, 1991-92.
Turfgrass Value of Sales
(thousands $)
Percent of Total Price
(cents/Ft Sq)
St. Augustinegrass




















Table 1.6 shows the many types of sales arrangements used by Florida sod producers. For a "typical" grower, by far the most prevalent (70%) practice was simply to produce and harvest the sod. Buyers arrange for pickup, delivery, and installation, depending on their type of business. For example, a landscaper might install the sod, but a broker would not. Contract growing (arranging for a buyer prior to major production commitments) was the second most likely sales practice (14%). This arrangement involves planting and managing the grass, but not necessarily harvesting and delivering. Delivery services were offered by 12 percent of the producers, delivery and installation by 3 percent, and finally, pure speculation by less than 1 percent.

Table 1.6. Exchange arrangements by Florida sod producers, 1991-92.
Type of Sales Arrangement Total Area
Percent of Total
Speculative 369 <1
Contract 6,542 14
Plant/Manage/Harvest 32,159 70
Plant/Manage/Harvest/Deliver 5,436 12
Plant/Manage/Harvest/Deliver/Install 1,520 3
Total 46,073 100

Non-Land Assets Owned and Purchased

Production-related non-land assets owned by Florida sod producers in 1991-92 totaled $87 million (Table 1.7). Equipment comprised the largest share (61%) of assets, followed by irrigation installations (25%) and buildings (15%). The industry purchased $5 million worth of non-land assets in 1991-92. Most of this amount (81%) was used to purchase equipment for sod production and maintenance. The sod industry invested $1,889 in turf-related assets per acre.

An average producer in this study owned nearly $500 thousand in sod-related equipment, invested $233 thousand in the installation of irrigation systems, and possessed $120 thousand in buildings (Table 1.7).

Table 1.7. Non-land assets of Florida sod producers, 1991-92.
Asset Item Firm

($ thousands)


($ million)

Purchased Last Yeara


Irrigation Installation


















aAssets purchased last year are not included in the total.


Value-added by sod producers was calculated by deducting purchased goods and outside services from sales revenues, then adding back the capital depreciation on non-land assets. The sod industry spent $55 million on purchased inputs (cash costs less labor), generated $161 million in sales revenues, and realized $12 million in depreciation. Therefore, sod producers contributed $118 million in value-added goods and services to the Florida's economy in 1991-92.

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Sector 2: Turf Product Manufacturers

Turf product manufacturers were the second producer sector surveyed in the turfgrass industry. Responses were received from two manufacturing subsectors: chemicals and fertilizers (12), and turf and grounds-related equipment (2). In 1991-92, the population of Florida manufacturers in these sub-sectors was 81 and 23, respectively. In order to estimate the economic impacts of this sector, information was gathered on employment, cash expenses, sales of turfgrass products, and non-land assets. In many cases, these figures were estimated as a specified share of the company's overall business for the turf market. Information on turfgrass area and maintenance practices was not collected from this sector, because their actual turf area was not considered significant.


Table 2.1 presents survey results on employment in the turf-related manufacturing sector in 1991-92. A total of 1,277 full-time and part-time employees were involved in this sector, representing 1,208 full-time equivalents. Nearly three-quarters of this employment was accounted for by fertilizer and chemical manufacturers, and one-fourth each by turfgrass-related equipment manufacturers.

Table 2.1. Employment in Florida's turf-related manufacturing sector, 1991-92.
Sub-Sector Full-time Employees Part-time Employees All Employees Full-time Equivalents Percent of Total (%)
Fertilizer & Chemical Manufacturing 891 41 932 863 71
Lawn, Garden, & Farm Equipment Manufacturing 345 0 345 345 29
Manufacturers Total 1,236 41 1,237 1,208 100

Cash Expenses

Table 2.2 presents cash expenses for turfgrass products sold by manufacturers in Florida in 1991-92. The total expenses amounted to $7.3 million, with the vast majority of expenses (95%) for fertilizer and chemical manufacturers, and nearly half of this was for material inputs. Unlike most other sectors of the turfgrass industry, a substantial share of inputs purchased by manufacturers were from outside the state of Florida ($4.1 million or 56%).

Table 2.2. Cash expenses for turfgrass-related products by Florida manufacturers, 1991-92.
Sector Total Cash Costs

(mill. $)

Expenses by Major Category (million $)
Materials Labor Services Other
Fertilizer & Chemical Manufacturing 7.0 3.3 0.1 1.0 2.5
Turf & Grounds Equipment Manufacturing 0.3 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Manufacturers Total 7.3 3.7 0.1 1.0 2.5

Turf Product Sales

Sales of turfgrass products by Florida manufacturers are presented in Table 2.3. Total sales were $83 million, with fertilizers and chemicals accounting for 56 percent and lawn and garden equipment 44 percent. There were no sales to customers located outside of Florida reported by the sampled firms.

Table 2.3. Sales of turfgrass products by Florida manufacturing sectors, 1991-92.
Sector Amount (Millions Dollars) Percent of Total
Lawn, Garden, & Farm Equipment $36.8 44
Fertilizers & Chemicals $46.0 56
Total $82.8 100

Non-Land Assets Owned and Purchased

Assets owned by the manufacturing sector in Florida related to their turfgrass products, as of year-end 1991-92, are shown in Table 2.4. The figures are stated as depreciated values. These assets amounted to $110 million, with fertilizer and chemical manufacturers owning three-quarters or $83 million, and equipment manufacturers the remainder ($28 million). New assets purchased by the manufacturing sector during the 1991-92 year totaled $5.9 million (Table 2.4).

Table 2.4. Non-land assets owned and purchased for turfgrass product manufacturing, 1991-92.
Sector Total Non-Land Assets at Book Value

(millions $)

Assets Purchased 1991-92

(millions $)

Lawn, Garden, & Farm Equipment $27.6 $0.7
Fertilizers & Chemicals $82.7 $5.2
Total $110.3 $5.9


The value-added to Florida's economy by manufacturers of turfgrass-related products was estimated by deducting purchased material inputs ($7.2 million) from total turf product sales ($73 million), and adding capital depreciation ($11 million). Total value-added was $87 million, with 55 percent from fertilizers and chemicals, and the remaining 45 percent from equipment manufacturers (Table 2.5).

Table 2.5. Value-added to Florida's turfgrass industry by manufacturing sector, 1991-92.
Sector Amount (Millions Dollars) Percent of Total
Lawn, Garden, & Farm Equipment $39.2 45
Fertilizers & Chemicals $47.4 55
Total $86.6 100

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Sector 3: Wholesale and Retail Distributors of Turfgrass Products

Wholesale and retail distributors of turfgrass-related products are a vital link in the marketing chain for Florida's turfgrass industry. Survey responses were received from wholesalers and retailers in four sub-sectors: fertilizer and agricultural chemical wholesalers (16), lawn and garden equipment wholesalers (17), lawn and garden equipment retailers (42), and turf-related sporting goods retailers (12). Florida's population of firms in these sectors in 1991-92 was 332, 167, 852, and 485, respectively. Information was gathered from wholesalers and retailers on employment, cash expenses, sales of turfgrass products, and non-land assets. In many cases, these figures were estimated as a share of the company's overall business for the turf market. Information on turfgrass area and maintenance practices was not collected from this sector, because their actual turf area was not considered significant.


Total turf-related employment in the wholesale/retail sector of the industry was nearly 17 thousand persons, including 15 thousand full time and 1,900 part-time, or 13 thousand full-time equivalents (Table 3.1). Lawn and garden equipment wholesalers and retail golf, tennis, and ski shops accounted for the bulk of employment (39% and 31%, respectively) in this sector.

Table 3.1. Employment related to turf product business in Wholesale/Retail Sector of Florida, 1991-92.
Sector Number of Employees Full-time Equivalent Employees
Full-time Part-time All Number Percent of Total
Lawn/Garden Machinery and Equipment Wholesale Trade 5,261 153 5,414 5,023 39
Fertilizers & Agricultural Chemicals Wholesale Trade 699 125 825 808 6
Lawn & Garden Equipment Retailers 3,137 813 3,950 2,961 23
Sporting Goods Retailers 6,022 768 6,790 3,977 31
Wholesale/Retail Total 15,119 1,860 16,979 12,769 100

Cash Expenses

Cash expenses for the turfgrass-related products sold by wholesalers and retailers in Florida in 1991-92 are shown in Table 3.2. Total expenses amounted to $1.12 billion, including $76 million on materials, $882 million on equipment, $93 million on labor, $7 million on professional services, and $67 million on other unspecified expenses. Lawn and garden equipment wholesalers were by far the largest group, with total expenses of $907 million, and equipment purchased by lawn equipment wholesalers was the largest single expense item ($794 million). Equipment also represented the largest cost for lawn and garden retailers. Materials purchased by fertilizer and chemical wholesalers amounted to $52 million.

Table 3.2. Cash expenses for turfgrass-related items by wholesalers and retailers in Florida, 1991-92 (millions $).
Sector Total Cash Costs Expenses by Major Category
Materials Equipment Labor Services Other
Lawn/Garden Machinery/Equipment Wholesale Trade 907.8 1.3 793.8 59.7 5.9 47.3
Fertilizers & Agricultural Chemicals Wholesale Trade 54.4 52.2 0.1 1.2 0.6 0.3
Lawn & Garden Equipment Retail 118.5 21.4 62.9 20.4 0.3 13.5
Sporting Goods Retailers 43.4 0.0 26.1 11.4 0.0 6.0
Wholesale/Retail Total 1,124.2 75.7 881.8 92.8 6.8 67.2

Sales of Turf-Related Products

Turf-related product sales by wholesale and retail distributors in Florida amounted to $1.65 billion, with $1.17 billion (71%) by lawn and garden equipment wholesalers, and ranged from $141 to $187 million for the other subsectors (Table 3.3).

Table 3.3. Sales of turfgrass-related products by wholesalers and retailers in Florida, 1991-92.
Sector Amount

(Millions $)


of Total

Lawn/Garden Machinery/Equipment Wholesale Trade 1,175 71
Fertilizers & Agricultural Chemicals Wholesale Trade 145 8
Lawn & Garden Equipment Retail 187 11
Sporting Goods Retailers 141 9
Wholesale/Retail Trade Total 1,647 100

Turf-related equipment items dominated sales by wholesalers/retailers. The leading equipment sales items were irrigation equipment (39%), mowers (30%), and other equipment (14%) (Table 3.5). Material supplies for sod culture, including soil amendments, fertilizer, and pesticides collectively represented less than 12 percent of total sales.

Table 3.5. Itemized Turf-related product sales by wholesalers and retailers in Florida, 1991-92.
Item Amount
(Millions $)
Percent of Total
Irrigation Equipment 827.8 39
Mowers 642.2 30
Other Equipment 306.2 14
Fertilizer 179.1 8
Other products and services 78.1 4
Soil Amendments 17.7 1
Herbicides 12.2 1
Other Pesticides 31.8 1
Tractors 19.5 1
Sporting goods 15.1 1
Fungicides 9.8 <1
Total 1,647 100

Non-Land Assets Owned and Purchased

Non-land assets related to turfgrass products business owned by the wholesale/retail sector in Florida, as of year-end 1991-92, are shown in Table 3.6. These figures reflect depreciated or "book" values. Total assets were $2.0 billion, with equipment wholesalers accounting for $1.3 billion, or about 65 percent these assets. Retail sports equipment shops had assets of nearly $600 million. Non-land assets purchased by this sector during the 1991-92 year totaled $1.2 billion, mostly by equipment wholesalers (Table 3.6).

Table 3.6. Turf-related assets owned by wholesalers and retailers in Florida, and assets purchased in 1991-92.
Sector Total Assets
(millions $)
Percent of Total Assets Purchased 1991-92

(Millions $)

Lawn/Garden Machinery/Equipment Wholesale Trade 1,321 65 1,167.3
Fertilizers & Agricultural Chemicals Wholesale Trade 13 <1 3.8
Lawn & Garden Equipment Retail 114 6 27.5
Sporting Goods Retailers 597 29 44.6
Wholesale/Retail Total 2,045 100 1,243.1


Value-added to Florida's economy by the wholesale/retail sector of the turfgrass industry in 1991-92 was estimated at $819 million, with over half of this $458 million) from equipment wholesalers. An additional $169 million came from sporting goods retailers, and $90 to $100 million each for fertilizer/chemical wholesalers and lawn/garden equipment retailers, respectively (Table 3.7).

Table 3.7. Value-added by wholesale and retail sector of Florida's turfgrass industry, 1991-92.
Sector Amount

(millions $)

Percent of Total
Lawn/Garden Machinery/Equipment Wholesale Trade 457.8 55
Fertilizers & Agricultural Chemicals Wholesale Trade 92.7 11
Lawn & Garden Equipment Retail 99.9 12
Sporting Goods Retailers 168.7 21
Wholesale/Retail Total 819.1 100

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Sector 4: Turfgrass Service Vendors

Service vendors are a highly visible part of Florida's turfgrass industry, providing services for installing and maintaining turfgrass. Regular maintenance of turfgrass by mowing, fertilizing, and irrigating is essential to realize the aesthetic benefits of turfgrass.

Survey responses were received from 54 service vendors in four sub-sectors: landscape services (5), lawn and garden services (44), athletic and recreational facilities construction (3), and building maintenance services (2). The total population of this sector was 1836 firms.

Information was gathered from service vendors on the turfgrass area managed, employment, cash expenses, sales of turfgrass products and non-land assets. Information was also obtained on maintenance practices, including mowing and irrigation scheduling, clipping disposal and some turfgrass management problems. In many cases, figures were estimated by respondents as a share of the company's overall business for the turf market.

Turfgrass Area Managed

Turfgrass area managed by service vendors in Florida in 1991-92 was slightly over 1 million acres, or 1642 square miles. Lawn and garden services accounted for the vast majority of turfgrass area managed with 989 thousand acres, or 93 percent of the total area (Table 4.1).

Table 4.1. Turfgrass area managed by service vendors in Florida, 1991-92.
Sector Area

(Thousands Acres)

Percent of Total
Lawn and Garden Services 989.2 93
Landscape Services 27.9 3
Athletic & Recreational Facilities Construction 26.6 2
Building Maintenance Services 21.6 2
Service Vendors Total 1,065.4 100


Turfgrass service sector employed nearly 40 thousand full-time and 10 thousand part-time employees in 1991-92, or 39 thousand full-time equivalents (Table 4.2). Lawn and garden services accounted for 25 thousand FTEs, or 65 percent of this sector's employment, while landscape services accounted for 25 percent, and the remaining sub-sectors 5 percent each.

Table 4.2. Employment by turfgrass service vendors in Florida, 1991-92.
Sector Full-time Employees Part-time Employees All Employees Full-time Equivalents
Number Percent of Total
Lawn and Garden Services 27,180 4,187 31,367 25,424 65
Landscape Services 9,946 3,576 13,522 9,563 25
Athletic & Recreational Facilities Construction 1,353 825 2,178 2,031 5
Building Maintenance Services 1,324 993 2,317 1,910 5
Service Vendors Total 39,803 9,581 49,383 38,928 100

Cash Expenses

Turfgrass service vendors in Florida spent an estimated $855 million on cash expenses for their operations in 1991-92 (Table 4.3). The largest share of these expenses were for labor, $503 million. Lawn and garden services had expenses totaling $595 million, or an average of $601 per acre managed. Landscape services had total expenses of $148 million, averaging $5,285 per acre. This expense per acre was among the highest of any group, reflecting the higher cost of installation work generally performed by these service specialists.

Table 4.3. Cash expenses for Florida's turfgrass service vendors, 1991-92.
Sector Total Cash Costs


Total Cash Costs

Per Acre ($)

Expenses by Major Category

(million $)

Materials Equipment Labor Services Other
Lawn and Garden Services 594.9 601 63.4 81.8 357.4 29.2 63.1
Landscape Services 147.7 5,285 13.6 10.8 118.4 4.4 0.4
Athletic & Recreational Facilities Construction 73.9 2,775 4.2 4.6 8.7 0.0 56.3
Building Maintenance Services 38.1 1,762 10.3 6.3 20.2 0.7 0.7
Service Vendors Total 854.5 802 91.6 101.3 503.4 33.1 125.1

Sales of Services

Turf service vendors in Florida sold nearly $2 billion in products and services in 1991-92 (Table 4.4). Lawn and garden services led the group with sales of $1.6 billion, or 75 percent of the group total.

Table 4.4. Sales by turfgrass service vendors in Florida, 1991-92.
Sector Sales

(Millions Dollars)

Percent of Total
Lawn and Garden Services 1,574 84
Landscape Services 148 8
Athletic & Recreational Facilities Construction 73 4
Building Maintenance Services 60 3
Service Vendors Total 1,856 100

Non-Land Assets Owned and Purchased

Turfgrass-related non-land assets reported by Florida's service vendors were valued at $886 million. About $478 million was in equipment, $91 million in irrigation, and $317 million in buildings (Table 4.5). Lawn and garden services had about $493 million invested, or $498 per acre managed. Landscape services had $203 million in assets, which represented a higher investment per acre of $7,269.

Table 4.5. Assets owned by turfgrass service vendors in Florida, 1991-92.
Sector Total Assets


Percent of Total Assets Per Acre


Assets by Category


Purchased 1991-92


Equip. Irrigation Buildings
Lawn and Garden Services 493 56 498 381.5 5.6 106.0 59.0
Landscape Services 203 23 7,269 48.4 0.7 153.9 27.1
Athletic & Recreational Facilities Construction 166 19 6,254 72.9 68.5 25.1 5.9
Building Maintenance Services 22 2 1,027 15.6 0.0 6.6 0.0
Service Vendors Total 885 100 831 477.6 90.7 316.6 92.1


The contribution of service vendors to Florida's turfgrass economy in 1991-92 in terms of value-added was estimated at $1.5 billion, or $1,429 per acre managed (Table 4.6). Lawn and garden services accounted for $1.3 billion in value-added, or 86 percent of the total. Landscape services contributed $137 million in value-added, or nearly $4,900 per acre landscaped.

Table 4.6. Value-added to Florida's economy by turfgrass service vendors, 1991-92.
Sector Value-Added

(Millions $)

Percent of Total Value-Added Per Acre


Lawn and Garden Services 1,306.9 86 1,321
Landscape Services 136.8 9 4,897
Building Maintenance Services 45.1 3 2,087
Athletic & Recreational Facilities Construction 33.1 2 1,242
Service Vendors Total 1,521.9 100 1,429

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Sector 5: Commercial Institutions

Commercial institutions are a major part of the Florida turfgrass industry. This sector includes businesses such as hotels, motels, trailer parks and campgrounds, cemeteries, apartments and condominiums, museums, galleries, zoos, gardens, amusement parks, sports clubs, tracks, hospitals and airports. Florida is the most popular retirement state in the nation, and the state's tourism industry also creates a strong demand for these institutions, often in fierce competition with each other. Amenities such as landscaping often makes the difference in customers' selection of which establishments to patronize.

The commercial institution sector of Florida's turfgrass industry spent nearly $450 million on turfgrass maintenance during the survey year. Their turf related non-land assets were valued at $922 million and they purchased nearly $200 million of new assets over the year. They also paid for nearly 43 thousand fulltime equivalents of labor.

Turfgrass Acreage

Commercial institutions collectively maintained about 200 thousand acres of turf in 1991-92, with 31 percent in airports, 19 percent in hotels and motels, and 12 percent in apartment buildings (Table 5.1).

Table 5.1. Turfgrass area for commercial institutions in Florida, 1991-92.
Sector Acres


Percent of Total
Airports & Services 63.0 31
Nonresidential Building Operators 20.6 10
Apartment Building Operators 24.9 12
Cemetery Subdividers & Developers 4.6 2
Hotels, Motels, Inns, Vacation Lodges 37.8 19
Trailer Parks & Campsites 19.4 9
Race Tracks & Stadiums 4.2 2
Golf Services & Professionals

(not golf courses)

4.5 2
Medical Facilities 14.0 7
Botanical & Zoological Gardens, Museums & Galleries 9.5 5
Commercial Institutions Total 202.5 100

Only 225 thousand acres, or 27 percent of the total acreage, was irrigated. Commercial institutions used about the same amount of water as the non-profit institutions, and both sectors used more water than any other sector. Commercial institutions apply the equivalent of 1.1 billion gallons per day, or 40 percent of the industry's total use. This sector received 33 percent of its water from recycled sources, 40 percent from wells and the remaining 27 percent from municipal sources (18%) and surface water (9%).

Centipede was the most popular turfgrass variety used in the commercial sector, accounting for 32 percent of the total, followed by St. Augustine with 12 percent and Bermuda with 5 percent. The largest component was "mixed" grasses with 44 percent of the total.


Commercial institutions were the largest employers in Florida's turfgrass industry, with nearly 70 thousand full-time and part-time employees, or 43 thousand full-time equivalents in 1991-92. This represented approximately one-third of the total industry employment. The hotel/motel subsector accounted for 30 percent of employment, apartment building operators 22 percent, and non-residential buildings 20 percent.

Table 5.2. Employment for turf maintenance by commercial institutions in Florida, 1991-92.
Sector Full-time Employees Part-time Employees All Employees Full-time Equivalent Employees
Number Percent of Total
Airports & Services 1,703 319 2,022 1,684 4
Nonresidential Building Operators 7,245 7,590 14,835 8,519 20
Apartment Building Operators 9,018 6,763 15,781 9,341 22
Cemetery Subdividers & Developers 1,254 2,733 3,987 1,204 3
Hotels, Motels, Inns, Vacation Lodges 12,080 4,275 16,355 12,641 30
Trailer Parks & Campsites 1,000 914 1,914 1,005 2
Race Tracks & Stadiums 363 167 530 190 <1
Golf Services & Professionals 552 192 744 642 2
Medical Facilities 7,405 2,183 9,588 4,534 11
Botanical & Zoological Gardens, Museums & Galleries 2,732 836 3,568 2,945 7
Commercial Institutions Total 43,352 25,973 69,324 42,707 100

Turfgrass Maintenance Expenses

Total cash expenses for turfgrass maintenance by commercial institutions in 1991-92 were nearly $450 million, with a majority for hotels/motels (35%), and nonresidential buildings (24%) (Table 5.3). Labor accounted for almost 60 percent of expenses in this sector. The total labor bill was nearly $264 million annually, with 75 percent of this amount for employee wages and 20 percent for supervision. Expenses for services totaled $97 million, mostly for contract labor. So the commercial sector's expenditure on employee and contract labor was estimated at $332 million. Material expenses totaled $47 million, mostly for fertilizer (40%). Pesticides and herbicides together represented an additional 45 percent of material expenses. Equipment expenses totaled $32 million, primarily for repairs and fuel.

Table 5.3. Turfgrass expenses for commercial institutions in Florida, 1991-92.
Sector Total Cash Costs

(mill. $)

Total Expenses Per Acre


Expenses by Major Category (million $)
Materials Equipment Labor Services Other
Airports & Services 25.3 401 1.5 1.4 16.7 5.7 0.0
Nonresidential Building Operators 109.3 5,314 11.6 4.0 53.0 40.1 0.5
Apartment Building Operators 53.7 2,152 4.3 3.5 16.9 27.2 1.8
Cemetery Subdividers & Developers 15.6 3,418 0.9 0.8 12.8 0.8 0.3
Hotels, Motels, Inns, Vacation Lodges 155.0 4,103 23.1 16.7 101.2 9.2 4.8
Trailer Parks & Campsites 7.5 386 0.5 1.0 5.4 0.6 0.0
Race Tracks & Stadiums 5.4 1,306 0.5 0.3 3.5 1.2 0.0
Golf Services & Professionals 15.1 3,335 2.9 2.9 9.1 0.2 0.0
Medical Facilities 25.7 1,830 1.6 1.4 15.1 7.1 0.6
Botanical & Zoological Gardens, Museums & Galleries 35.2 3,715 0.4 0.3 34.3 0.1 0.0
Commercial Institutions Total 447.7 2,211 46.6 31.7 264.3 97.3 7.9

Non-Land Assets Owned and Purchased

Turfgrass-related non-land assets owned by commercial institutions in Florida in 1991-92 totaled $922 million, with 35 percent in hotels/motels, 27 percent in apartment buildings (Table 5.4). Total assets per acre averaged $4,556, and ranged as high as $11 thousand per acre. Investments in equipment were valued at $258 million. Irrigation installations were valued at $345 million. The $319 million in buildings applies only to those facilities directly associated with turf maintenance and management, such as storage/maintenance sheds for turf equipment. During 1991-92, this sector purchased nearly $200 million in new assets, representing about 22 percent of the existing capital assets for turf care.

Table 5.4. Turf-related assets for commercial institutions in Florida, 1991-92.
Sector Total Assets

(Millions $)

Percent of Total Assets Per Acre


Assets by Category

(millions $)

Assets Purchased 1991-92

(Millions $)

Equipment Irrigation Buildings
Airports & Services 46 5 727 19.9 21.3 4.6 6.0
Nonresidential Building Operators 75 8 3,654 21.7 44.9 8.5 22.1
Apartment Building Operators 249 27 9,974 18.1 42.1 188.6 30.8
Cemetery Subdividers & Developers 24 3 5,313 8.5 8.3 7.6 3.4
Hotels, Motels, Inns, Vacation Lodges 327 35 8,667 131.3 166.2 29.8 126.0
Trailer Parks & Campsites 9 1 477 5.6 1.6 2.0 1.6
Race Tracks & Stadiums 6 <1 1,394 3.8 0.5 1.5 0.5
Golf Services & Professionals 48 5 10,694 26.6 12.2 9.6 3.3
Medical Facilities 72 8 5,135 19.2 42.9 9.9 4.8
Botanical & Zoological Gardens, Museums & Galleries 66 7 6,921 4.7 4.8 56.1 0.4
Commercial Institutions Total 922 100 4,556 257.7 345.3 319.4 198.9


The value-added by the commercial sector of Florida's turfgrass industry was $383 million, or an average of $1,890 per acre, during 1991-92 (Table 5.5). This value-added per acre was more than twice that of non-profit institutions and more than four times greater than residences, reflecting the intensive management and high value of turf for many commercial institutions.

Table 5.5. Value-added to Florida's economy by turfgrass activity at commercial institutions, 1991-92.
Sector Value-Added

(Mill. $)

Percent of Total Avg. Value-Added Per Acre ($)

Airports & Services 23.3 6 370
Nonresidential Building Operators 65.4 14 3,182
Apartment Building Operators 43.7 12 1,753
Cemetery Subdividers & Developers 16.2 4 3,531
Hotels, Motels, Inns, Vacation Lodges 143.2 37 3,792
Trailer Parks & Campsites 6.2 2 318
Race Tracks & Stadiums 4.1 1 993
Golf Services & Professionals 15.2 4 3,367
Medical Facilities 25.4 7 1,810
Botanical & Zoological Gardens, Museums & Galleries 39.9 10 4,207
Commercial Institutions Total 382.6 100 1,890

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Sector 6: Non-Profit Institutions

The non-profit institutional sector is a major component of the state's turf industry. This sector is made up of nearly 6000 institutions. Completed survey responses were received from 69 religious organizations, 62 schools and colleges, 27 corrections facilities and 21 local governments.

Turfgrass Acreage

The non-profit sector in Florida managed about 336 thousand acres of turf in 1991-92 (Table 6.1). Local governments had half of this area, and schools and colleges together accounted for 44 percent. Grass types used by this sector differed somewhat from the rest of the industry, with mixed grasses accounting for the largest share of acreage (54%), followed by bahiagrass (25%) and St. Augustinegrass (8%). Only 30 percent of the turf acreage was irrigated. This sector used approximately 14 million acre inches of water for irrigation, largely from underground well sources (66%), and the remainder evenly divided among municipal, surface water and recycled sources.

Table 6.1. Turfgrass area for non-profit institutions in Florida, 1991-92.
Sector Acres (thousands) Percent of Total
Elementary/Secondary Schools 112.6 34
Colleges & Universities 33.6 10
Churches, Temples, & Shrines 12.9 4
Local governments 166.9 50
Correctional Institutions 10.1 3
Non-Profit Institutions Total 336.2 100


The non-profit institutions employed nearly 29 thousand full-time and part-time workers for turfgrass care, or 18 thousand FTEs (Table 6.2). Schools employed the largest share of the sector's total FTEs (37%), followed by local government (22%) and colleges/universities (20%). This sector had a higher ratio of part-time to full-time jobs than any other sector.

Table 6.2. Employment for turf maintenance by non-profit institutions in Florida, 1991-92.
Sector Full-time Part-time All Fulltime Equivalent Employees
Number Percent of Total
Elementary/Secondary Schools 6,791 2,719 9,510 6,895 37
Colleges & Universities 3,472 636 4,108 3,584 20
Churches, Temples, & Shrines 1,279 6,415 7,694 1,830 10
Local governments 4,301 812 5,113 4,047 22
Correctional Institutions 2,011 334 2,344 2,006 11
Non-Profit Institutions Total 17,853 10,916 28,769 18,362 100

Turfgrass Maintenance Expenses

This sector spent nearly $309 million on materials, equipment, labor, services, and other direct cash expenses during the survey year (Table 6.3). Schools and local governments were the leading subsectors, with over $100 million each in total cash expenses.

The distribution of expenses for non-profit institutions was similar to the commercial institutions. The vast majority of cash expenses were for labor, with over 70 percent of labor cash expenses for employee wages, and about 26 percent for supervisors' salaries. Expenses for services included a large share for contract labor and irrigation installation, smaller amounts for fertilizer and chemical application. Around 60 percent of the equipment expenditures were for repairs, 35 percent for fuel, and 5 percent for equipment rental. Among material expenses, chemicals represented about half, fertilizers were 35 percent, and sod/seed/sprigs were 13 percent.

Table 6.3. Turf maintenance expenses for non-profit institutions in Florida, 1991-92.
Sector Total Cash Costs


Total Costs Per Acre


Expenses by Major Category

(million $)

Materials Equipment Labor Services Other
Elementary/Secondary Schools 107.4 953 13.5 6.2 80.8 6.7 0.2
Colleges & Universities 66.5 1,977 2.9 3.9 56.2 3.1 0.3
Churches, Temples, & Shrines 15.4 1,193 1.2 1.4 8.2 3.7 0.9
Local governments 116.5 698 8.4 14.0 86.9 7.0 0.2
Correctional Institutions 3.1 308 0.3 0.2 2.4 0.2 0.0
Non-Profit Institutions Total 308.9 919 26.2 25.7 234.7 20.7 1.6

Non-Land Assets Owned and Purchased

This sector had around $426 million in turf related non-land assets, with 50 percent of the total for schools, 37 percent for local governments, and less than 10 percent for colleges/universities, churches, temples, and shrines, and correctional facilities (Table 6.4). Assets owned per acre of turfgrass averaged $1,267, and ranged from a low of $153 for prisons to a high of $1,863 for schools. Investments in equipment, irrigation installations, and buildings for turf care represented 36 percent, 42 percent, and 22 percent of total assets, respectively. Investments in new assets during the 1991-92 year totaled $40 million.

Table 6.4. Turf-related assets owned by non-profit institutions in Florida, 1991-92.
Sector Total Assets

(Millions $)

Percent of Total Assets

Per Acre ($)

Assets by Category

(million $)

Equipment Irrigation Buildings Purchased1991-92
Elementary/Secondary Schools 210 50% 1,863 56.5 109.2 44.1 16.6
Colleges & Universities 34 8% 999 16.5 12.2 4.9 3.7
Churches, Temples, & Shrines 22 5% 1,731 7.6 7.1 7.6 3.3
Local governments 159 37% 951 73.2 48.2 37.4 16.4
Correctional Institutions 2 <1% 153 1.2 0.1 0.3 0.4
Non-Profit Institutions Total 426 100% 1,267 155.2 176.8 94.1 40.4


The non-profit institutions' value-added contribution to the Florida economy in 1991-92 was $297 million, with 59 percent from schools, colleges and universities, 37 percent from local governments, and lesser amounts from religious organizations and prisons (Table 6.5). Its value-added per acre averaged $883 and ranged from $255 for prisons to $1,823 for colleges and universities.

Table 6.5. Value-Added to Florida's economy by turfgrass activity at non-profit institutions, 1991-92.
Sector Millions Dollars Percent of Total
Per Acre
Elementary/Secondary Schools 112.9 38 1,002
Colleges & Universities 61.3 21 1,823
Churches, Temples, & Shrines 10.8 4 838
Local governments 109.4 37 655
Correctional Institutions 2.6 1 255
Non-Profit Institutions Total 297.0 100% 883

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Sector 7: Golf Courses

Golf courses are an important part of Florida's turfgrass industry because of their high income generated and their association with the state's large tourism industry.

Florida Golf Course Characteristics

Ownership of Florida golf courses is generally categorized by the following types: private, semi-private, public, resort, municipal, and military. The 154 survey respondents indicated the ownership distribution shown in Table 7.1: private courses represented 60 percent, semi-private facilities accounted for 17 percent, public golf facilities 12 percent, municipal courses 6 percent, military installations 1 percent, and the "other" category accounted for 1 percent. These results differ from those reported by the Florida Golf Guide: 37 percent private, 30 percent semi-private, 21 percent public, 7 percent resort, 4 percent municipal, and 1 percent military.

Table 7.1. Ownership of Florida golf courses, 1991-92
Ownership Type Percentage of Survey Sampled Courses
Private 60
Semi-private 17
Public 12
Resort 6
Municipal 3
Military 1
Other 1
Total 100

The number of golf holes and par varied with course type. Seventy eight percent of the surveyed courses were 18 hole courses, 17 percent had 18+ hole courses, and 5 percent were 9 hole facilities. The average course had 20 holes and a par of 66 strokes. Construction and renovation of greens areas and golf holes are common golf course turf management practices which sometimes require holes to be removed from play. Average number of holes removed from play from Florida golf courses during 1991-92 was 4 holes. Average number of months the holes were removed from play was 2 months.

Golf Play

Number of golf rounds played in 1991-92 totaled 46.3 million, and averaged 44,600 rounds played per course (Table 7.2). This represented an increase of 1.8 million rounds played from 1990. Nine hole rounds played averaged 12,000 rounds per course, 18 hole rounds played averaged 45,000 rounds per course, and 18+ hole rounds played averaged 39,000 rounds per golf facility. Total golf rounds played by course members was 23.5 million rounds, accounting for 51 percent of the total rounds played on Florida golf courses in 1991-92 and averaging 22,000 rounds per course played by course members (Table 7.2).

Table 7.2. Rounds played on Florida golf courses in 1991-92
Description Total Rounds


Percent of Total Play Public Course Rounds


Private Course Rounds


9 hole rounds 5.1 11 4.1 1.0
18 hole rounds 37.0 80 26.3 10.7
18+ hole rounds 4.2 9 1.7 2.5
Total 46.3 100 32.1 14.2

Rounds played on public golf facilities accounted for 69 percent of total rounds played on Florida golf courses in 1991-92. Eighteen hole rounds were the most popular, accounting for 80 percent of total golf play (Table 7.2).

Golf play sales to tourists in 1991-92 totaled $475 million, averaging $452,000 per golf facility, and accounting for a 16 percent share of total golf course revenues. Eighty-two percent of survey respondents indicated golf sales to tourist as a revenue source.

Golf play was strongly seasonal, with 35 percent of play occurring during the cooler winter months, while only 15 percent of the year's total play occurred during the summer. The proportion of annual play during the spring was 30 percent, and in the fall, 20 percent. In 1991-92, 65 percent of total golf play on Florida courses occurred between December and May.

Acreage and Grass Types

Total acreage devoted to Florida's golf facilities in 1991-92 was estimated at 131,300 acres, averaging 125 acres per golf course. Public course acreage totaled 75 thousand acres, and private courses had 56 thousand acres (Table 7.3).

Table 7.3. Acreage by turfgrass variety for Florida golf courses, 1991-92
Turfgrass Variety Total Acres Percent of Total
Public Courses Private Courses
Bahia 9,716 7.3 5,732 3,984
Bermudagrass 112,920 86.0 64,254 48,666
Centipede 148 <1.0 90 58
St. Augustine 5,252 4.0 2,994 2,258
Zoysiagrass 186 <1.0 108 78
Mixed Grasses 2,757 2.2 1,599 1,158
Unknown Grasses 252 <1.0 244 8
Other Grasses 71 <1.0 29 42
Total 131,302 100% 75,050 56,252

Bermudagrass was the predominant turfgrass type used on Florida golf courses, accounting for 112,920 acres or 86 percent of total golf course turf acreage (Table 7.3). Public courses acreage of bermudagrass was 64,254 acres, while private courses had 48,666 acres. Bahiagrass was the next widely used variety with 7 percent, followed by St. Augustinegrass comprising 4 percent of total golf course turf acreage. Mixed grasses made up 2.2 percent and zoysiagrass, other grasses, and unknown grass types each accounted for less than 1 percent of the total acreage.

Total turf-related non-land assets averaged $8,100 per acre, employee weeks worked averaged 5.3 per acre, and cash costs averaged $3,600 per acre (Table 7.4). In each category, per acre averages were higher for private golf facilities, most notably in non-land assets per acre.

Table 7.4. Average cash costs, non-land assets and employee weeks worked per acre for Florida golf courses, 1991-92
Category Average Per Acre Public Courses Private Courses
Cash Costs $3,557 $3,370 $3,854
Non-land Assets $8,130 $5,691 $11,384
Employee Weeks Worked 5.3 4.3 6.5

Cultural Practices

Mowing, fertilization, and irrigation were the primary cultural practices performed by Florida golf courses for maintenance of their turfgrass. Golf course greens are the most intensively cultivated and maintained, rough areas and hazards, the least. Table 7.5 shows total mowed acres, calculated by total golf course acreage times mowing frequency.

Table 7.5. Mowed acres by Florida golf courses in 1991-92
Course Type Total
(million acres)
Average Yearly Mowings
Public 7.2 96
Private 5.7 101
Total 12.9 98

Florida golf course turfgrasses require ample nutrient inputs for optimal growth and turf quality in order to maintain satisfactory playing surfaces for golfers. Natural constraints to optimal production and maintenance levels include Florida's predominantly sandy soils and high average annual rainfall. Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium (N-P-K) are the most widely applied fertilizers to golf course turfgrasses. Use of these macronutrients by Florida golf courses is important in overcoming natural soil deficiencies in these elements.

Total annual application of fertilizers to Florida golf course turfgrasses in 1991-92 totaled 36,000 tons, with 15,500 tons of nitrogen, 5,400 tons of phosphorous, and 15,100 tons of potassium (Table 7.6). Fertilizer application rates averaged 548 pounds per acre. Private golf courses applied fertilizers at 4 times the rate of public courses, indicating that private golf course turfgrasses are more intensively maintained than public golf facilities.

Table 7.6. Fertilizer application by Florida golf courses in 1991-92.
Fertilizer Element Total Applied
(thousand tons)
Average Application Rate
Average Application Rate
Public Courses Private Courses
Nitrogen 15.5 236 109 402
Phosphorous 5.4 82 32 153
Potassium 15.1 230 99 405
Total 36.0 548 240 960

One of the most appealing aspects about playing golf is the beauty of the course, and in general minimizing weeds, insects, nematodes, and diseases in order to maintain a course in satisfactory playing condition requires year-round intensive maintenance of course turfgrasses. Turfgrass cultural practices influence water use rates, rates of chemical applications, and labor efficiency.

Turfgrasses are susceptible to a variety of diseases and vulnerable to attack by numerous pests. Weeds are a nuisance and interfere with turfgrass absorption of necessary nutrients and available water. Control of weeds, pests and diseases are common cultural practices which were reported by all surveyed golf courses.

Soil testing is one means for preventing nutrient deficiencies, enabling turf managers to determine appropriate and effective maintenance levels of phosphorous and potassium. Ninety percent of surveyed golf facilities conducted soil tests on maintained turfgrass areas.

Renovation of turf areas is conducive to maintenance of the "tournament-like" course conditions frequently demanded by golf enthusiasts. Eighty-eight percent of responding golf courses reported renovation of turfgrass areas as a cultural practice conducted by their maintenance crews. Installation of new sod was reported by 92 percent of Florida golf courses in 1991-92.

Management of grass clippings is an essential task for golf course maintenance crews. Ninety-four percent of survey respondents report that their grass clippings are left on the course and rarely removed. Clippings are collected and composted by 3.2 percent, 2.6 percent reported clippings disposed with trash, 2.6 percent report that grass clippings are bagged and removed for heavy growth only, and no courses reported clippings always bagged and removed from the course. However, most courses (85%) reported that leaves and other debris were regularly picked-up in order to maintain smooth, unscarred playing surfaces.

Turfgrass Management Problems

The most common turf management problem among Florida golf facilities in 1991-92 was insects (Table 7.7). Chlordane, an insecticide particularly useful in mole cricket control and EDB (ethylene dibromide), a soil-injected nematicide effective in combating nematodes, two highly effective and relatively inexpensive pesticides were banned from the turf market in the early 1980's. Since the discontinuance of these chemical products, mole crickets and nematodes have become the most serious individual turfgrass pests in Florida.

Weed control, soil compaction, and poor soil were among the most frequently reported turf management problems for Florida golf courses in 1991-92 (Table 7.7). Problems resulting from shade, nematodes, and labor were reported by approximately one-fourth of responding courses. Thatch, equipment, and costs difficulties were experienced to a lesser degree, about 14 percent of responding courses. Lack of business law enforcement and erosion were the least reported turfgrass management problems experienced by 3 percent of surveyed golf facilities. In the other category, 14 percent of responding courses indicated specific turf management problems encountered at their individual facilities (Table 7.7).

Table 7.7. Turfgrass management problems of Florida golf courses in 1991-92
Turf Problem Percentage of Courses Reporting
Insects 64
Weeds 50
Soil compaction 49
Poor soil 44
Shade 29
Nematodes 26
Labor 18
Thatch 16
Equipment 14
Costs 11
Erosion 3
Law enforcement 3
Other 1


Florida's golf facilities provide employment opportunities for individuals in golf course maintenance and supervision, golf instruction, pro shop sales, equipment maintenance, clubhouse administration, hotel operations, and restaurant management and service. An efficient labor force is essential for good golf course operation and maintenance, and labor costs accounted for the largest share of cash expenses for turfgrass maintenance (58%).

Total employment was over 14,800 full-time employees, averaging 14 full-time workers per course, and 2,000 part-time employees, averaging 2 part-time employees, providing jobs for about 17,000 people (Table 7.8). This number represents one fourth of the number of workers employed in agriculture (64,090) in the state. Total full time equivalents (FTE) representing 52 weeks worked annually and based upon total reported weeks worked were 13,300. This figure represented 10 percent of employment in Florida's turfgrass industry in 1991-92.

Table 7.8. Employment by Florida golf courses, 1991-92
Course Type Full-time Employees Part-time Employees All Employees FTE Employees
Percent of Total
Public 7,450 1,324 8,774 6,233 46.9
Private 7,433 743 8,176 7,057 53.1
Total 14,883 2,067 16,950 13,290 100

Water Use

Water for irrigation is vital for maintenance of high-quality turfgrasses on golf courses. Although consumption of water for turfgrass is relatively small compared to agricultural and industrial use, golf courses are highly visible users as recreational facilities. As the need for water is increasingly crucial, surface water, including lakes, ponds, streams, and drainage canals, are generally incorporated into the overall design and irrigation scheme of Florida golf courses. Groundwater is also a common irrigation source, and use of recycled or effluent water has been increasing in recent years.

Total area irrigated by Florida golf facilities was 103,700 acres in 1991-92, indicating an average of 99 acres irrigated per golf course, and accounting for 79 percent of total golf course acreage. Irrigation frequency averaged 138 times per year.

Total water consumption was 345 million gallons per day (MGD, or 45 inches depth of water applied per year. Golf course irrigation represented 20 percent of the total water used for irrigation by the turfgrass industry in 1991-92.

Among water sources for irrigation, surface water was the largest source, representing 45 percent of total irrigation water consumption (Table 7.9). Irrigation from well water was the next most consumptive source, with 41 percent of total irrigation water consumption by golf facilities. Use of recycled water as an irrigation source accounted for 14 percent, and municipal water consumption was negligible, with less than 1 percent of total water use.

Consumption of irrigation water by private golf courses was significantly higher than public course usage and accounted for 65 percent of total water consumption during the 1991-92 period. Table 7.9 presents water consumption by source.

Table 7.9. Water used for turfgrass irrigation on Florida golf courses, by source, 1991-92.
Water Source Total Water Consumed
(thous. acre-inches)
Percent of Total Water Use Rate
(inches depth)
Private Courses Public Courses
(thousand acre-inches)
Surface 2,087 45 20.1 1,177 910
Well 1,880 41 18.1 1,300 580
Recycled 665 14 6.4 509 156
Municipal 8 <1 <.1 8 0
Total 4,640 100 44.7 2,994 1,646

Cash Expenses

The Florida golf course industry spent over $465 million dollars on materials, equipment, labor, services and other expenses, averaging $447,000 per golf facility. Total costs of turfgrass maintenance by expense category for Florida golf courses in 1991-92 included materials (sprigs, plugs, and seed, chemicals, fertilizer and soil amendments), equipment operation, wages and salaries (excluding payroll taxes and management), services purchased, and other direct expenses (Table 7.10.

Table 7.10. Cash expenses for turfgrass maintenance by Florida golf courses, 1991-92
Expense Category Total Cash Costs
(Million $)
Percent of Total Costs
Cash Costs Per Acre
Public Courses
(million $)
Private Courses
(million $)
Materials 93.7 20 713 46.8 46.9
Equipment 57.9 12 441 31.9 26.0
Labor 271.4 58 2,067 147.2 124.2
Services 17.8 4 136 11.7 6.1
Other 28.9 6 220 15.3 13.6
Total 469.7 100% 3,577 252.9 216.8

Table 7.10 also shows cash costs for turfgrass maintenance for both public and private golf courses. Private golf courses had higher cash expenses per acre ($3,854) than public courses ($3,370).

Itemized Cash Expenses

Materials purchased by Florida golf firms totaled $93.7 million, representing 20 percent of total cash expenses for turfgrass maintenance in 1991-92 (Table 7.11). Expenses by public facilities totaled $46.8 million, those of private facilities totaled $46.9 million.

Table 7.11. Itemized expenses for materials by Florida golf courses, 1991-92
Expense Item Total Costs
(Million $)
Average Cost Per Course
Percent of Total
Fertilizers 38.4 36,700 41 19.6 18.8
Sprigs/Plugs/Seed 15.9 15,000 17 8.2 7.7
Insecticides 18.7 17,600 20 9.0 9.7
Herbicides 11.2 10,700 12 6.0 5.2
Fungicides 7.5 7,100 8 3.5 4.0
Growth Retardants 1.0 950 1 0.4 0.6
Soil Amendments 1.0 950 1 0.1 0.9
Total 93.7 89,000 100 46.8 46.9

Sprigs, plugs, and seed purchases totaled $15.9 million, averaging $15,000 per golf firm and accounted for 17 percent of total cash expenditures for materials in 1991-92 (Table 7.11). Public facilities spent $8.2 million, private facilities, $7.7 million.

Chemicals applied to golf course turfgrass areas are necessary in order to minimize weeds, insects, nematodes, diseases, and for maintaining aesthetically pleasing courses with acceptable playing conditions for golf patrons. Purchase of insecticides represented the largest chemical expenditure, totaling $18.7 million, averaging $17,600 per golf firm and accounting for 20 percent of total materials expenses for turfgrass maintenance by Florida golf courses in 1991-92 (Table 7.11). Herbicide expenses were $11.2 million, averaging $10,700 per course, and accounting for 12 percent of the total. Cash costs for fungicides totaled $7.5 million, averaging $7,100 per course. Expenditures for growth retardants, the smallest chemical expense category, were $1.0 million, averaging $950 per course.

Fertilizer and Soil Amendments are crucial requirements for all Florida turfgrass systems, providing the necessary nutrients for optimum growth and appearance in terms of color, density, and vigor. They are also essential in enabling golf course turfgrasses to resist diseases, insects, and weeds, reduce stress, and help maintain satisfactory course playability. Cash outlays for fertilizers were by far the greatest material expense for Florida golf courses, totaling $38.4 million and accounting for 41 percent of total expenses in this category (Table 7.11). Average costs per course were $36,700. Expenditures by public facilities totaled $19.6 million, private facility expenses totaled $18.8 million. Soil amendments costs were relatively small, totaling $1.0 million and averaging $950 per golf course.

Equipment Operation expenditures by Florida golf courses in 1991-92 were $57.9 million, averaging $55,000 per course, and accounting for 12 percent of total cash costs for turfgrass maintenance (Table 7.12). Cash costs for repairs and maintenance were greatest, totaling $32.4 million and averaging $31,000 per golf course (Table 7.6). Expenditures for fuel, lube, and electricity averaged $21,000 per course, and equipment rental averaged $3,000 per course (Table 7.12). Repair and maintenance expenses accounted for 56 percent of the total cash outlays for equipment operation. This was followed by fuel, lube, and electricity costs accounting for 38 percent, and equipment rental costs comprising 6 percent of total expenditures for equipment operation (Table 7.12).

Table 7.12. Expenditures for equipment operation by Florida golf courses, 1991-92
Expense Item Total Costs
(million $)
Average Per Course
Percent of Total
(mill. $)
(mill. $)
Fuel/Lube/Electricity 22.0 21,000 38 12.5 9.5
Repairs/Maintenance 32.4 31,000 56 17.5 14.9
Equipment Rental 3.5 3,000 6 1.9 1.6
Total 57.9 55,000 100 31.9 26.0

Labor Costs accounted for 58 percent of total costs for turfgrass maintenance by Florida golf courses, and was the most significant expense category. Labor costs included only wages and salaries accruing to maintenance labor; payroll taxes and management salaries were not included. Total cash expenditures for labor by Florida golf courses in 1991-92 were $271 million, averaging $258,000 per course (Table 7.13). Labor expenses for public facilities were $147 million and $124 million for private courses. Sub-category expenditures for production wages and salaries averaged $184,000 per course, supervisory wages and salaries averaged $64,000 per course, and clerical and sales wages and salaries averaged $10,000 per course. Cash costs were greatest for production wages and salaries, accounting for 71 percent of total labor costs for turfgrass maintenance. Supervisory wages and salaries made up 25 percent of total labor costs, while clerical and sales wages and salaries were 4 percent (Table 7.13).

Table 7.13. Expenditures for labor by Florida golf courses, 1991-92
Wages & Salaries Total Costs
(million $)
Average Per Course
Percent of Total
Production 192.7 184,000 71 101.3 91.4
Supervisory 67.8 64,000 25 38.6 29.2
Clerical & Sales 10.9 10,000 4 7.3 3.6
Total 271.4 258,000 100% 147.2 124.2

Services purchased for turfgrass maintenance by Florida golf courses in 1991-92 totaled $18 million, averaging $17,000 per golf course and accounting for 4 percent of total cash outlays for turfgrass maintenance. Service expenses for public facilities were $12 million, while private facility expenses totaled $6 million (Table 7.14). Sub-categories included chemical and fertilizer application averaging $2,900 per facility, irrigation installation averaging $10,200, and contract labor averaging $3,900. Expenditures for irrigation installation accounted for 60 percent of total services purchased, followed by contract labor at 23 percent, and chemical and fertilizer application at 17 percent of the total (Table 7.14).

Table 7.14. Expenditures for services by Florida golf courses in 1991-92
Expense Item Total Costs
(million $)
Average Per Course
Percent of Total


3.0 2,900 17 1.1 1.9


10.7 10,200 60 8.2 2.5
Contract Labor 4.1 3,900 23 2.4 1.7
Total 17.8 17,000 100 11.7 6.1

Other direct expenses, a category tabulating non-specific expenses, were $28.9 million in 1991-92, averaging $27,500 per facility. Expenditures by public courses were $15.3 million, and private courses totaled $13.6. Commonly reported expense items in this category were sand, irrigation maintenance, utilities, operating supplies, and uniforms. Expenditures reported as other direct expenses accounted for 6 percent of total cash costs for turfgrass maintenance.


Revenues from Florida's golf facilities are primarily generated by greens fees, membership dues, and other golf related products and services. Golf products sold in pro shops include equipment (clubs, balls, tees, golf bags), clothing (shoes, hats, gloves), and other golf-related items needed to play the game. Golf services include golf lessons, pro shop sales, driving range fees, golf cart and equipment rental fees, locker rental fees, tournament entry fees, and sales accruing from the clubhouse or restaurant business. Additional income is generated from other on-site recreational facilities including tennis courts and swimming pools.

Total sales generated by Florida's estimated 1,050 golf courses in 1991-92 were $3.0 billion, indicating average golf course revenues of $2.9 million for all types of golf facilities. Sales of turf products and services were $1.7 billion for public courses and $1.3 billion for private courses. Survey participants indicated that 67 percent of revenues were generated from golf play, 17 percent from food and beverage services, 10 percent from retail sales, 1 percent from lodging, 3 percent from other products and services, and 2 percent from other recreation and services (Table 7.15).

Table 7.15. Revenues from selected Florida golf course business activities, 1991-92
Type of Business Activity Total Sales
(million $)
Percent of Total
Golf Play 2,014.4 67 1248.9 765.5
Food and Beverage 511.1 17 250.4 260.7
Retail Sales 300.6 10 210.2 90.4
Lodging 30.1 1 1.2 28.9
Other Products and Services 90.2 3 15.8 74.4
Other Recreational Services 60.1 2 18.6 41.5
Total 3,006.5 100% 1,745.1 1,261.4

Table 7.15 indicates that similar revenues accrued to public and private courses in the first three categories. However private courses received far more sales revenue from lodging, other products and services, and other recreational services. This result is not surprising as public courses generally do not have lodging accommodations or other recreational facilities.

Table 7.16 shows the distribution of revenues received by Florida golf courses in 1991-92. Annual sales of less than $1 million were reported by 31 percent of responding firms. Thirty six percent reported sales between $1 and $2 million, 18 percent had sales between $2 and $5 million, 7 percent indicated sales between $5 and $10 million, 4 percent realized sales between $10 and $15 million, less than 1 percent had sales between $20 and $25 million, and 3 percent reported annual sales of over $25 million (Table 7.16).

Table 7.16. Gross revenues for Florida golf courses, 1991-92
Revenue Range Percent of surveyed firms reporting
Less than $1,000,000 31
$1,000,000 to $1,999,999 36
$2,000,000 to $4,999,999 18
$5,000,000 to $9,999,999 7
$10,000,000 to $14,999,999 4
$15,000,000 to $19,999,999 0
$20,000,000 to $24,999,999 1
$25,000,000 or greater 3
Total 100%

Non-Land Assets

Total non-land assets for Florida golf facilities were $1.1 billion, averaging $1.0 million per golf firm in 1991-92. Assets consisted of turf related equipment, buildings, and installations, excluding land, at book value as of December 1991-92. Golf courses have a large value per acre in non-land assets with approximately $8,100 per acre invested. Costs of new turf related assets purchased in 1991-92 were $110 million, averaging $105,000 per firm. Current book value (original cost less accumulated depreciation) of all turf maintenance assets averaged $336,000 for tractors, vehicles, mowers, and other equipment, $274,000 for irrigation systems, and $407,000 for buildings and installations. Of total company assets, vehicles and equipment accounted for 33 percent, irrigation systems 27 percent, and buildings 40 percent (Table 7.17). Buildings and installations were the largest component of these assets.

Table 7.17. Total non-land assets owned by Florida golf courses, 1991-92
Asset Total Value (Million $) Percent of Total Value per Acre ($)
Tractors, Vehicles and Equipment 352.3 33 2,683
Irrigation Systems 288.2 27 2,195
Buildings and Installations 427.0 40 3,252
Total 1,067.5 100 8,130

Non-land assets of private golf courses totaled $640 million, accounting for 60 percent of total assets held by Florida golf courses in 1991. Assets of public golf facilities totaled $427 million, representing 40 percent. There was a large difference in investment per acre between private and public golf facilities. Average per acre investment by private golf courses was $11,400, twice as much as the investment made by public courses, which averaged $5,700 per acre. New turf related assets purchased by private golf courses in 1991 totaled $66 million, while public facility purchases totaled $44 million. Table 7.18 presents the non-land assets held by private and public Florida golf facilities in 1991-92.

Table 7.18. Non-land assets of private and public Florida golf courses, year end 1991-92
Asset Private Courses Public Courses
Value (million $) Value per Acre ($) Value (million $) Value per Acre ($)
Tractors, Vehicles and Equipment 217.4 3,875 134.9 1,801
Irrigation Systems 150.8 2,702 137.4 1,825
Buildings and Installations 272.2 4,807 154.8 2,065
Total 640.4 11,384 427.1 5,691

Table 7.18 indicates that total investment in turf related assets in each category was considerably greater for private golf courses. Investment in buildings and installations were the most significant, over twice the amount held by public golf facilities.


Value-added to Florida's economy in 1991-92 by the state's golf courses was estimated at $2.92 billion, the largest value of all industry sectors. This amount represented over $22,000 per acre of golf courses. This value was calculated by subtracting total cash expenses for purchased inputs of $218 million from total revenues of $3.0 billion, then adding $127 million in capital depreciation. The value-added by golf courses included $271 million in cash expenses for labor. Private golf courses contributed value-added of $1.68 billion, while public courses contributed $1.24 billion.

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Sector 8: Residential Households

Florida's 3.0 million single-family residential households represent the largest group of final consumers of turfgrass products and services.

Acreage and Grass Types

Florida's single family homeowners maintained a total of 3.3 million acres of lawn in 1991-92, or an average of 1.09 acres per residential household. Homeowner lawns were comprised of five turf varieties, St. Augustinegrass, bermudagrass, bahiagrass, centipedegrass and zoysiagrass (Table 8.1). The majority of homes (1.2 million or 39%) were primarily planted in St. Augustinegrass, with 33 percent of total lawn area in this variety. Bahiagrass represented the second largest category with 26 percent of total acreage. A significant share (14%) of households had lawns with several grass varieties. This inter-mixing could occur through turf renovation, particularly if the owner was not careful or concerned about maintaining pure strains of grass. Bermudagrass (10% of homes) and centipede grass (9% of homes) accounted for the fourth and fifth most popular varieties, respectively. Finally, 11 percent of all residents claimed they did not know which varieties were planted. It is likely that a majority of this group purchased homes with previously existing lawns.

Table 8.1. Turfgrass acreage for single-family residences in Florida, by turfgrass variety, 1991-92.

Grass Variety Thousand Acres Percent of Total (%)
St. Augustinegrass 1,100 33
Bermudagrass 300 9
Bahiagrass 850 26
Centipedegrass 266 8
Zoysiagrass 38 1
Mixed lawns 410 12
Other 149 5
Unknown 194 6
Total 3,307 100

Cultural Practices

Many types of lawn cultural practices were employed by Florida homeowners. Almost four-fifths (79%) of all homeowners mowed their lawns, 61 percent fertilized their lawns, and 60 percent watered regularly (Table 8.1). Nearly half (48%) of all homeowners indicated that they weeded their lawns and 45 per cent said that they renovated their turfgrass. Less common but still notable practices included removal of clippings (42%) and applying pesticides (36%). Very few homeowners (9%) stated that they conducted soil tests on their lawns.

Table 8.2. Turfgrass Cultural Practices Employed by Florida Residential Homeowners and Most Difficult Problems Encountered, 1991-92.

Type of Lawn Care Practice Used Percent Most Difficult Problem Percent
Mowing 79 Poor Soil 5
Remove Clippings 42 Shade 5
Fertilize 61 Weeds 22
Weeding 48 Disease 2
Applying Pesticides 36 Insects 15
Irrigate 60 Labor 12
Soil Test 9 Equipment 1
Renovate Turf 45 Cost 1
Other Practice 8 Other 13
Don't Know 17

Many types of problems affect the lawns of Florida home owners, however, the survey results suggest that problems are generally infrequent (Table 8.2). By far the most common problems were weeds and insect control, which were reported by 22 and 15 percent of households, respectively. Roughly one-in-ten homeowners complained about the labor requirements of lawn maintenance. Concerns about equipment reliability and the cost of maintenance were cited by only 1 percent of respondents. Sixteen percent of homeowners indicated they were unaware of any problems with their lawns.

Labor Requirements

Homeowners may do their own lawn maintenance or hire a service vendor. Survey respondents indicated that family members did at least part of the lawn care in 84 percent of households. Professional lawn services handled some turf maintenance for 16 percent of households, gardeners for 3 percent and employees 2 percent. Some share of the 84 percent of households which used primarily family labor considered mowing and raking the primary lawncare activities, but contracted out for pest and disease control and other "secondary" operations.

Often, family members who do lawn maintenance work are not paid, but there is still a value associated with this labor, that is, the "opportunity cost" of a person's time. In other words, if an individual were not caring for the lawn, he could conceivably be using that time to earn additional income, or could use it in leisure activities, which generally have a value per hour as high as a person's earned income.

This study attempted to capture some of the value of unpaid household labor used in lawn maintenance by imputing a value equal to two-thirds (66%) the average expense for professional services. Using this assessment, the average household used $398 worth of unpaid labor for lawncare activities in 1991-92. The cumulative value of household labor on a state-wide basis was calculated to be $1.2 billion, which was included in the estimate of value-added.

Turfgrass Maintenance Expenses

Estimates of turfgrass cash expenses by Florida households in 1991-92 are shown in Table 8.3. Homeowners spent an average of $1,317 per year on their lawns. Collectively, Florida homeowners spent a total of $3.9 billion on turfgrass maintenance. Professional lawn care services, including mowing, fertilizing, and chemical application, were by far the largest expense item, averaging $600 per home or $1.8 billion for the state as a whole, and representing 46 percent of total cash expenses. The remaining expense categories ranged from 12 percent of the maintenance budget for equipment and "other", to 7 percent for fertilizer (Table 8.3).

Table 8.3. Household expenditures for lawn care maintenance in Florida, 1991-92.
Expense Category Average Expense per Household ($) Total Cash Expenses (million $) Percent of Total (%)
Chemicals 130 393 10
Fertilizer 95 287 7
Sod/Sprigs 150 454 12
Equipment 158 480 12
Services 600 1,820 46
Other 184 497 13
Total 1,317 3,932 100

Non-Land Assets Owned and Purchased

Non-land assets for turf maintenance owned by residential households totaled $3.0 billion, which represented an average of $911 per acre or $992 per household. The residential sector purchased $1.3 billion worth of new assets in 1991-92.


Value-added contributed to Florida's economy by the residential sector of the turfgrass industry in 1991-92 was estimated at $1.5 billion. This figure included $1.2 billion in imputed value for unpaid household labor, and $300 million for depreciation on capital assets. Value-added by households averaged $1,738 per acre.

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Literature Cited

Barkley, David W. and L. Simmons. 1989. Contribution of the Golf Industry to the Arizona Economy. Technical Bulletin 263, Dept. of Agr. Econ., University of Arizona, Tucson.

Cisar, J.L. and J.J. Haydu. 1991. Adjustments in Market Channels and Labor in the Florida Sod Industry. Journal of Agribusiness, Fall 1991, 33-40.

Evans, W.C., Gregory P. Truckor, and David P. Knopf. 1990. Pennsylvania Turfgrass Survey, 1989. Pennsylvania Agricultural Statistics Service, Penn. Dept. of Agric., Harrisburg.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. 1976. Florida Turfgrass Survey, 1974. Division of Marketing, Crop and Livestock Reporting Service, Orlando, Fl.

Haydu, John J. and J.L. Cisar. 1992. An Economic and Agronomic Profile of Florida's Turfgrass Sod Industry. Economics Report ER92-1, Food & Resource Economics Department, Florida Ag. Expt. Sta., University of Florida.

Haydu, John J. and J.L. Cisar. 1990. Structural Changes in Florida's Cut Sod Industry. Journal of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, 54(2): 56-61.

Haydu, John J. and J.L. Cisar. 1993. Sod Production in Florida in 1990. Journal of International Turfgrass Research, 7(1):857-863.

Indyk, H., D. Rossi and P. Dhillon. 1983. Economic Value of the New Jersey Turfgrass Industry--Summary Report. New Jersey Cooperative Extension System, Rutgers University, New Jersey.

Oklahoma State University. 1979. 1978 Oklahoma Turfgrass Survey. Agric. Exp. Station Bulletin MP-105.

Morley, Michael F. 1978. The Value-Added Statement: A Review of its use in Corporate Reports. Gee & Co., London.

Smith, C.N. and R.H. Brewster. 1968. An Economic Study of the Florida Cut Sod Industry. Economics Report EC 69-3, Department of Agricultural Economics, Agr. Expt. Sta., University of Florida, Gainesville.

Sporleder, T.L., D.L. Snyder, W.E. Distad. 1990. The 1989 Ohio Turfgrass Survey. Department of Agricultural Economics, Ohio State University.

Stanton, B.F., J. Jinkins, M. Ahearn, and G. Hanson. 1992. Perspectives on Farm Size and Structure Provided by Value-Added Measures. Unpublished manuscript. USDA, Washington.

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