Those standing on the pyramid of North Arkansas College have launched two programs that will result in professionally manicured golf courses and manicured recreational fields in the years to come.
I realize that this is not a perfect analogy. But it’s close enough that anyone who enjoys the challenges of golf can understand the potential benefits.
With Bass Pro’s Johnny Morris turning these Ozarks from Springfield via Branson (and now just below Harrison) into a national recreation and golf destination, there is an urgent need for knowledgeable greenskeepers and those who can maintain the expensive equipment necessary.
To accompany its two-year lawn management program, NorthArk initiated a one-year program aimed at maintaining outdoor power equipment.
The idea behind working with industrial partners to meet their essential needs deserves foresight and ingenuity. God knows such needs are pervasive. Harrison has an 18-hole country club, another 18 holes in nearby Diamond City and a nine-hole course in Berryville.
Add to this the numerous golf courses in Branson, about 15 courses in Springfield and more than a dozen in northwest Arkansas. Then you have city parks, baseball diamonds, and sports fields as other potential industrial partners.
By the way, when I add up the regional golf courses, my tiny brain says there are almost 1,000 holes in this area, all with fairways and delicate greens that require knowledge of grasses, pin placements, fertilizers, pre-emergence treatments, herbicides, fungicides, ventilation, Labor-intensive daily mowing, rolling greens and methodical attention to detail.
NorthArks Associate of Applied Science in Turf Management is led by Laura Berry, Ed.D. Twelve students are now enrolled and seven are in training. All students are obliged to complete internships. While the degree has an agricultural base, it includes business and technical courses important to the turf industry.
Turf management, the course description states, is listed as a sought-after occupation based on the 2018-2019 list of prospective job opportunities published by the Governor’s Office and the Department of Workforce Services. The studies cover a wide field, including the science behind lawn grass management, including horticulture, pest control, proper irrigation techniques, and weed management; the business of turfgrass management, including inventory control and communication; and basic maintenance of lawn equipment.
Current enrolled students after graduating in 2022 have career opportunities such as golf course manager, sports field manager, park manager, site manager, professional arborist or industrial salesman.
NorthArk spokesman Micki Somers told me that the relatively new turf program was definitely a hit and how, well, summer grass grows (sorry, I couldn’t resist). In response to industry demand, the college added the one-year certificates for outdoor power equipment courses starting this fall.
“Our industrial partners wanted their employees to be trained to repair the equipment used to maintain parks, resorts, sports fields, etc.,” she said.
Somers said NorthArk’s turf program is unique: “We’re the only college in Arkansas that offers a triad of degrees – an education, a Department of Labor certificate, and an associate degree. Most schools only offer the program with the certificate. Information was sent to us through the Ministry of Labor. “
Berry said the turf management major came in response to an employer’s need when the nearby Big Cedar Lodge needed help with its multiple golf courses.
“Our Associate of Credit degree provides a well-paid golf course superintendent for those seeking progress on the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America’s aptitude scale.”
She emphasized that the lawn program is not only intended for prospective golf course employees. “We can prepare graduates for careers in the turf management industry in sports, community or residential settings, or offer established employees opportunities for advancement.
“This program is unique in the country and the region as it combines flexible associate studies with part-time training from the Department of Labor,” she continued.
“We currently have students apprentices in the Hollister, Rogers, Benton and Mountain Home areas, but we are certainly not limited to that. We work closely with employers on content and scheduling, and we can deliver course content to apprentices remotely outside the Harrison area. “
Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly how you would like them to treat you.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, editor of three Arkansas newspapers, and ran the Masters in Journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at email@example.com.