When I first was exposed to the seeding industry, we never talked with our competitors. I recall driving slowly by a competitor’s job, but never stopped. It was like a golden rule; do not talk to the competition. This seemed so wrong and over the years it got better as the Minnesota Erosion Control Association started to have a meeting for a day and has over time turned into an annual conference.
But I always felt that those involved directly with seeding needed to share their concerns, and exchange ideas. If nothing else, just to get to know each other. As the years progressed, I started to take this project on. Our first meeting was in 1993. As the years progressed, we had meetings where we had speakers join us on related topics such as seed, native seed, fertilizers, and the “new” products out such as blankets and hydro-mulches, Yes, that dates me… I can remember when wood fiber blanket was new on the market and at that time, the only blanket.
So why the need for the Minnesota Seeding Contractors Association? As most contractors are aware, there are many new products on the market and the specifications from the Minnesota Highway Department and all states are always changing. It is difficult for those who have been in the industry for years to keep up to date. And with new turf and erosion contractors coming into the industry, we feel it is important for them to have a resource to go to.
Will we ever get everyone in the State of Minnesota that does turf and erosion control to join? Probably not, but we keep working at it. We do have 3 categories of members; the contractors, the vendors/suppliers, and the professional/students. We have a rate of $200.00 for contractors, $100.00 for the vendors and suppliers, and for the professional/students, there is no charge. The reason for not charging this group is to continue to grow this membership so that the engineers and inspectors will also learn as it comes to specifying and inspecting a product.
The industry has gotten quite large when it comes to knowing and understanding all the prodcuts that are available. When we have our annual meeting, the vendors/suppliers are invited to display their products at no charge. Depending on the products we are focussed on, they will also be given an opportunity to speak about their product.
We also incorporate topics that will encourage safety, payroll information, bonding, insurance, and other topics that relate to running a business. We have also been involved in the Department of Labor concerning payscale. They have talked to the group about payroll surveys and how the pay rates are established.
The biggest asset to our membership is having the Minnesota Department of Transportation Environmental Service Office involved. As I stated earlier, the specifications are always changing and as an association, we have input into this. MnDOT is there to hear the contractors’ side of the story. We have been instrumental in adding a bid item for Seedbed Prep, which is an item that has been needed for years. Seed bed prep is one area that is needed and the problem is that many do not do an adequate job so with a pay item, we feel this problem will go away.
The annual meeting is also a great way for MnDOT to tel the contractors and suppliers the problems they are seeing, And at times, the discussion can get a little heated, but that is a good thing. For all of those years without this association, change did not happen.
The Minnesota Seeders also sponsor certification classes for the hydromulchers that are doing work on MnDOT projects with the high-end mulches. This is a joint project with MnDOT, suppliers, and equipment dealers. This certification is held every 3 years.
There are many organizations that people/businesses can be involved in. the Minnesota Seeders Association is designed to assist all of those involved in the turf industry.