South Carolina sod farm hit with coronavirus, perseveres with digital operations
In January, COVID-19 completely halted in-person interactions at one of the largest sod farms in South Carolina. Fortunately, all of the Green Acres Turf Farm staff has recovered and the farm was able to continue efficient operations during its closure by utilizing Turf Logistics™.
“Turf Logistics kept us going during the weeks we were not able to go to the office. I look at my office staff as pilots and copilots flying a plane,” said Gary Youmans, owner of Green Acres. “It was remarkable navigating through this not being at our central location. It was as if no one was in the cockpit but we could still control it by working remotely. That’s pretty amazing.”
Turf Logistics is a sod industry software that manages order entry, harvest assignment, logistics and supports e-commerce integration. Green Acres, located in Furman, S.C. was among one of the first sod farms to utilize this software back in 2013. Youmans explained that thanks to this technology division of Sod Solutions, they were able to run farm operations from home when COVID spread among the staff.
Pictured above is a Green Acres harvester utilizing Turf Logistics to manage farm equipment.
Since the pandemic started, Youmans explained Green Acres took an aggressive approach to prevent potential spread inside their office and among outside personnel. They shuffled their indoor office space to create distance between desks, implemented a mask policy and decontaminated all high touch surfaces.
In January, an office employee came into work without knowing they had been previously exposed to COVID-19. Shortly after, 100% of Green Acres staff tested positive for the coronavirus except for one employee who mostly worked outside and had previously been diagnosed with COVID-19 last fall. As they received positive test results and fell ill, Youmans made the decision to close the office for at least two weeks.
Upon closing down, Green Acres staff had to respond quickly and implement changes to keep things running smoothly. Their customer service office phone lines were forwarded to cell phones so they could communicate and respond to calls from home.
Youmans said as they quarantined and worked remotely, they relied on Turf Logistics to get the job done so they didn’t have to travel or put anyone at risk of exposure.
Green Acres also uses the Turf Logistics Driver App to assist in moving sod loads from the producing farm to their final destination.
“Whether the delivery is in a company-owned truck or using an outside fleet, as long as they have a login, they can get into the order and see what is needed, where it needs to go and use the app to navigate to an exact delivery location.”
Historically, truck drivers picking up sod loads would go by the Green Acres office for paperwork, but since no one was there during this time to generate paperwork, they began to heavily rely on the driver application. Youmans explained most drivers were tech-savvy enough to utilize the app and find a way to execute an order without them being there.
Youmans estimates without Turf Logistics, instead of being able to run at 100% capacity they would have dropped to about 30% or may have possibly had to shut down completely for up to two weeks.
During the time their entire staff was quarantined, Green Acres processed and delivered 276 orders with information that flowed remotely due to Turf Logistics’ email and mobile capabilities.
“Turf Logistics is a Cadillac product and they have a great team of people that will walk you through the process if you need help and it’s a wonderful technology,” he added.
He said just like Green Acres adjusted to automated harvesting instead of hand stacking, it’s the same with changing your logistics. At first, he said he was uneasy about planning deliveries without whiteboards and with desk planners, but once he rounded the curve and learned the Turf Logistics software, he said he’ll never turn back.
“We talk about how we don’t know how we did it without Turf Logistics before. With orders, traffic and customer needs or demands, things can change in a drop of a hat,” he said. “It’s just a matter of being able to communicate that between the harvest crew, the delivery team and the customer.”
Youmans explained the information required to successfully run a turf farm is steep. He relies on Turf Logistics to process orders and keep the information flowing between all involved systems in one organized place.
Recovery and moving forward
Everyone is back at Green Acres and has made a healthy recovery.
Youmans explained while their office was closed, they were unable to generate invoices and handle payments via mail, email or fax. Upon returning to the office, he worked with the Turf Logistics team and implemented QuickBooks Sync, which simplifies the invoice process as orders are placed.
Youmans said it’s important to keep an open mind when things don’t go as planned or when it’s time to try something new because it has helped him operate a more efficient sod farm.
In early February, Youmans was able to turn around 44 invoices in 90 seconds using QuickBooks Sync with zero errors. A job that he said would have taken up to three hours to complete manually. He said they had discussed using it for some time now, but after being closed in January due to COVID, he was ready to leverage the Turf Logistics QuickBooks Sync tool.
Youmans said this was a challenging time for Green Acres, as he was concerned about all of his employees and their family’s health. He said everyone had different family and quarantine situations and the exposure extended outside of the office.
“Thankfully we are recovering and returning to normal life. We get a lot of calls, texts, emails, prayers from business associates, clients, competitors and friends in the industry. It was pretty overwhelming the number of people that reached out and checked on us to see if they could do anything or send anyone to help our farm,” he said.
“We are all certainly grateful for their concern. Also, our Green Acres family has discovered certain people had talents we didn’t know they had until they had to step up to the plate to help or adapt to new technology,” he added.
This article was written by Cecilia Brown.