John Addink: A Golden State Legend and Turfgrass Industry Icon

John Addink was named Turfgrass Producers International’s 2022 Honorary Member. Below is the article that ran in TPI Turf News May/June publication about his life and impressive career:

TPI presented its 2022 Honorary Member award to John Addink, owner of A-G Sod Farms, Inc., Riverside, California, in recognition of the significant contributions he has made towards the improvement and advancement of TPI and the turfgrass industry.

The presentation announcement was introduced with the following comments drawn from the nominations of John for this award. John grew up on a farm in Northern Iowa as one of nine kids. With his father immigrating from Holland and his mother also of Dutch ancestry, he used to say “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much!”

John Addink

John always had an entrepreneurial and impulsive spirit. He had three small business failures by the time he was 14. One was raising rabbits. He realized it was not going to pencil out when he had bought enough feed to have four-pound rabbits, but when he weighed them, they were only two pounds.

John claims that he wasn’t a very good student, and he actually dropped out of high school for a period of time to work on the family’s row crop farm. After a year, John did go back and finished three years of high school in two years.

After graduating from high school, John attended Calvin College where he met his wife Betty on a blind date. They moved near South Dakota State where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering. From there, John attended Michigan State University, where he earned a master’s degree in Agricultural Engineering. Last, but certainly not least, John attended Colorado State University where he attained his doctorate in Irrigation Engineering.

It was while he was in Fort Collins, Colorado, that he got interested in the sod farm business. He had started a center pivot manufacturing business and sold some to a sod farm. He brought up the idea of starting a sod farm business to his future partner, Al Gardner. Together they teamed with a local farmer to start with three acres in 1969.

John and his family soon moved to Nebraska where he was part of the Agricultural Extension Department. During that time, Al and John grew the sod farm business as a team, plowing profits back into expansion. He and Al realized they were doing well when a banker friend told them they could start taking a salary!

Al and John continued to start sod farms together. They split amicably in 1990, soon after John and Betty moved to California. John continued to start several other sod farms on his own and says he has been a part of starting 17 sod farms! Whether it was wise to start so many, he says is up for debate! Currently he and Betty still own six farms in California, Colorado, and Washington.

John loves people and loves to laugh. One of his contributions to the turfgrass sod industry is his desire to talk with fellow sod growers about how to be more efficient and profitable. Many growers have shared a meal and great conversation with John and Betty over the years as they traveled the U.S. John likes to challenge people, is a good listener, and gleans wisdom any way he can.

Another of his many contributions to the turfgrass sod industry is his willingness to be an early adopter of technology. Over the years, John used his educational background to adopt the most cost-efficient irrigation technologies available for each farm. He also was quick to adopt new mowing and harvesting technologies such as big roll and automatic harvesting.

John’s current passion is giving financially and of his time to share his Christian faith and help the poor, with a focus on the country of India. He has authored a book called How I Lost $1,500,000 in Missions: (And What I Learned from My Mistakes). The synopsis begins with this statement, “Consider Getting the Greatest Return on Your Investment in Missions… this book may turn your missions’ dollars into saving thousands instead of just reaching hundreds for Christ!” The book is available from multiple sources, including Amazon.

John and Betty have three children and eight grandchildren who are spread around the U.S. from Maine to Alaska. Consistent with being open to new things, John started golfing at the age of 83. He continues to walk three miles a day whenever possible.

View the article as it originally ran in TPI Turf News here.

For more information on A-G Sod, click here.

*Note that the 17 sod farms he helped start were full farm operations, sometimes consisting of multiple locations. The farms operated in eight states and each had its own farm and office manager. Ten are still operating today. 

John and Betty Addink
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