The grass is greener at Bryant Career Technical Center (BCTC) in Irvington, where students learn turf management on the school’s new driving range and putting green.
In the 2014-2015 academic year, the school administration challenged agriscience teacher Bill Meredith to take a new approach with a turf management program.
“I wondered what we could do because, if it was sod, that’s just growing grass. We needed something interesting every year for when we get a new batch of students,” said Meredith, a second-year teacher at BCTC.
Meredith’s friend and professional golfer, Jimmy Green, designed a golf practice area, and BCTC students transformed an old pasture into a well-manicured driving range. Five FFA students helped by leveling the ground and installing sprinkler system pipe.
Students planted Bermuda grass seed and sprigged the practice green. Meredith’s class maintains the area by mowing, fertilizing, spraying and taking soil samples. The program’s main goal is to prepare students for a career, whether it’s at a golf course or in general landscaping.
“I had four seniors last year, and all four are employed in turf or landscape management,” Meredith said. “People want perfect yards, and high schools want perfect football, baseball and soccer fields.”
Theodore High School (THS) senior Zachary Pounds has attended BCTC for two years. He said he’s confident he will use skills from turf management in his future career.
“Before this, I didn’t know how to drive a tractor or change a blade on a tiller or bush hog; it’s unbelievable what I’ve learned,” said Pounds, who is his class FFA president. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life when I started my senior year, but coming out here I realized agriculture is just great.”
Pounds now plans to earn an associate degree in horticulture at Faulkner State Community College.
The golf practice area also has increased collaboration among BCTC, local businesses and other schools. Several farmers and small business owners contributed supplies and advice for the project. Driskell Turf Farm delivered 12 pallets of donated sod that students laid.
BCTC annually hosts students from other area schools to introduce the program, and THS and Alma Bryant High School golf teams practice driving, pitching, chipping and putting there. While a nearby practice facility is nice, Meredith said his students prefer caring for the field to swinging clubs.
“These are good kids who enjoy the outdoors and want to learn,” he said. “In this industry, there are people who just weed eat, and then there’s the ones who can tell you the exact name of a weed and what it takes to control it. The spectrum of jobs in this field is wide open. This program introduces students to all their options with turf management.”