Looking to the Future: Fairgreen Sod Farm Innovates with Technology

A large farm business in Canada has been able to wade the weary waters of the COVID-19 pandemic by switching to contactless and paperless delivery. Utilizing Turf Logistics, an application for web, iOS and Android that efficiently manages customers, orders, invoicing, trucking and logistics has allowed them to surpass expectations.

Fairgreen Sod Farms, located in Ontario, Canada, has grown from an original 350 acres to over 3,000 acres on over 20 farms in a little over half a century. With over 1,600 acres of sod, Fairgreen supplies to Toronto and the surrounding suburbs of this megacity.

The company, owned by Cam Fairty, remains a family-operated business since his father founded the company when he was just 14 years old. Fairty’s son Jack is in charge of growing and fertilizing crops on the farm, his daughter Whitney manages the office and bookkeeping and his son-in-law, Matt Gauthier works as the Farm Manager.

4th generation farmers of Fairgreen learning how to operate a sod farm.
4th generation farmers of Fairgreen learning how to operate a sod farm.

Gauthier has worked in the sod industry since he was 12 years old. From sports field management to golf and now into his current job, over the past 25 years, he decided that his favorite part about the sod industry is that each day is different. “One day I’m in the office, one day I’m on the tractor and the next day I’m delivering sod. For me it’s something different every single day, it’s not the same job day in and day out.”

As Fairgreen enters its third generation of operations, the family could have never dreamed up the pandemic they’ve persevered through this past year nor anticipated how well they would have done.

“With Covid and the way it was, we’d be lost without Turf Logistics and being able to go paperless with tablets and all of that stuff. We wouldn’t be able to do today how we were doing it five years ago. There’d just be no way,” Gauthier said.

Fairgreen was deemed an essential business during the pandemic so they were able to resume deliveries. Gauither explained they had complaints at first about deliveries but ensured everyone they were able to maintain contactless delivery for their products. Using Turf Logistics, drivers were able to see notes for orders online, drop them off outside and send emails to confirm receipt. Many of their competitors were still using paperwork and were unable to keep up with the volume and contactless options that Fairgreen could.

“We got lucky. We didn’t know COVID was coming, obviously, we’d already started with Turf Logistics. We had the ability to adapt with it. We used to use Turf Logistics with paper but COVID forced us to go paperless and put tablets in the trucks,” he shared.

Truck Deliveries

Fairgreen Sod Farms

Gauither shared that Fairgreen’s trucking operations have grown considerably over the past five years. They run 15 delivery trucks ranging from small and large street trucks to full-size tractor-trailers.

“On any given day we’ll do 400 drops in the spring when we’re busy. Our dispatcher is the one who deals with them, primarily. I look it over every night but she does all the routing,” he said.

Turf Logistics helps Fairgreen manage truck driver routes and deliveries from the Truck Driver App in a very busy and large city. Gauthier said being able to see their routes on a map and track drivers as they navigate with an order is great for them. They’re still working on getting drivers to get 100% involved with the app but for the most part, this is a great addition for them. The app allows drivers to take photos of deliveries in a driveway or by a front door to show when an order is completed.

Gauthier said unfortunately there have been people in the past that have abused contactless delivery by saying they never received anything so the app allows them to reduce theft and incomplete orders by ensuring they were dropped off.

“Overall, it’s been a lifesaver. We wouldn’t be where we are without Turf Logistics,” Gauthier said.

Implementing Turf Logistics

Harvesters cutting lines and stacking pallets of sod.
Harvesters cutting lines and stacking pallets of sod. Sod cut daily and available for delivery.

Gauither met Turf Logistics Software Sales Manager Jacob Long several years ago at a Turf Producers International (TPI) conference and ever since the two have built a good working relationship. After learning about how Turf Logistics could change its business model, Fairgreen implemented Turf Logistics three years ago.

Gauither said that the Turf Logistics team stepped up to help them through some things during the first year and they changed the way they did several things to adapt to the new software.

He explained that being able to go contactless and set up their website for their sod and soil products with streamlined integration from the customer experience, their backend and into the truck routing has made a world of a difference at Fairgreen.

Fairgreen implemented the Buy It Now tool in the spring of 2020. Gauthier said having the opportunity to sell sod online has completely changed their business. “We went from doing $10,000 of sales online to hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars of sales online within two years.”

Retail Operations

Fairgreen grows and supplies both retail and wholesale. Gauither shared that one of their greatest successes as a business is promoting the retail market and that they value the benefits of these sales more than wholesale. “For us it’s been retail, whether it be homeowners direct or smaller landscapers, being able to service them. Yes, there are more jobs in the day and more hassles but at the same time there are more benefits, more profit and more money to be made at the end of the day,” he said.

Rolls of sod at Fairgreen
Rolls of sod at Fairgreen

“We’ve been around for a while. We compete with our competitors on service and quality, not price. We’re not the cheapest guys in town but our service and quality make us stand out,” Gauthier added. He said that Turf Logistics has played a big role in making that possible.

“With COVID in Canada, you weren’t allowed to go out and people didn’t feel comfortable coming into stores so now they can just order online whenever they want around the clock,” he explained. “We’ll get up in the morning and check-in and there will be a bunch of people ordering bags of dirt at like three or four a.m. or whenever works for them.”

Offering sod online without having to develop an entirely new platform was a big perk when it came to selecting Turf Logistics, Gauthier shared. He also liked that they were able to adapt the software to have the flexibility of putting their sod pricing structure and delivery fees for online sales the way they want it.

“Turf Logistics also gives us the ability to work from home. So we can have people that want to work remotely put all the orders in,” he said. “We couldn’t have done what we did during COVID or even grown our company without it.”

Sacks of Soil

One of Fairgreen’s most popular items is its sack of soil or S.O.S. They can also be delivered to a customer with contactless delivery. “We offer a variety of products. You can get a bag of garden soil, a bag of mulch and a bag of river rock all dropped off at the same time. The convenience factor is there and it stays in a resealable bag so if you can’t get to it right away and it rains, it’s not going to get wet like something loose delivered in your driveway,” Gauthier said.

Fairgreen Sod Farms topdress overseed kit For shade.
Fairgreen’s topdress overseed kit for shade.

He explained that getting an entire yard of soil delivered would be fairly expensive if it came loose from a dump truck. Fairgreen is able to utilize its equipment for multiple products. Their trucks, trailers and forklifts can be used for sod, as well as the bags of soil, mulch or rocks.

Additionally, the sacks of soil allow their seasonal employees to return back to work as early as March, where the sod season doesn’t get going until early May. Fairgreen had 54 seasonal employees this year in addition to 10 full-time employees. They also like selling soil because it’s something that’s paid for right away so they can get a cash flow in from these sales to jump start on their season, Gauthier said. Their turfgrass season typically runs from May until nearly the end of the year, depending on winter weather conditions.

To learn more about Fairgreen Sod Farms, click here. To learn more about how Turf Logistics can help sod farms, distributors, and landscapers efficiently manage their operations click here.

This article was written by Cecilia Brown.

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