We’re marking a milestone anniversary, here at NG Turf. Thirty-five years ago, our founder and CEO Aaron McWhorter planted the first seeds that would become not only a thriving sod business, but also a trusted source of information for homeowners and turfgrass pros.
Beginning with a small tract of Bermuda grass, NG Turf has grown to become a leading sod producer in the Southeast by focusing on premium product and stellar service.
The Early Days
McWhorter got his start growing up on his family’s dairy farm. He earned degrees in education, but after a few years working as a high school teacher and coach, he returned to work on the farm.
One fateful day, a landscaper who was purchasing some wheat straw suggested McWhorter might consider growing sod.
Recognizing the uniqueness of the farm’s location, along the Chattahoochee River with proximity to Atlanta, and the fact that an irrigation system was already in place, McWhorter decided to invest in the idea.
“In 1985 we managed to buy enough equipment to get started and enough material to put in 20 acres,” he remembered. “By the late summer of 1986, we began to harvest a few pallets of Bermuda grass. It was quite a challenge, during that time of tremendous agricultural recession.”
Within just five years, McWhorter shut down the dairy to focus solely on sod. “There have been very few years, maybe one or two in the last 35 years, that we have not expanded production.”
Service and Premium Product
McWhorter credits NG Turf’s longevity in the industry to a loyal customer base. “I guess if there’s one thing I’m proudest of, it’s our positive reputation — that customers and potential customers have a positive image of us,” he said.
Throughout the past 35 years, the NG Turf team has maintained a culture of doing it right and making it right. “Since the very beginning, 100% satisfaction has been the goal,” McWhorter says. “And if we mess up, we rarely encounter a situation where we can’t make it right.”
Of course, customer service only goes so far. Offering high quality product is also important. NG Turf concentrates on growing premium varieties of Bermuda, Zoysia, Fescue and Centipede turfgrasses, and much of it is Georgia Crop Improvement Association (GCIA) “blue tag” certified.
“There is no such thing as a standard sod,” McWhorter says. “Although the term leads everybody to think that sod is all the same, there are so many variables and different qualities of sod.”
In order to offer customers GCIA certified product, NG Turf adheres to strict standards and submits to at least three inspections each year. “It’s the only real quality control in the industry,” he explains.
NG Turf is not only family owned but also family run. McWhorter’s son, Mark, and daughter, Merett, grew up working on the NG Turf farm and currently serve as president and VP of golf course sales, respectively. A son-in-law, Jutt Howard serves as VP of business operations and daughter, Natalie Howard, works as logistics coordinator.
Today the extended farm family has grown to include more than 100 dedicated employees. They help grow a wide range of premium turfgrasses on hundreds of acres across four farms, selling to discerning homeowners, landscapers, golf course superintendents and facility managers and throughout the Southeast.
“When you sit back and think about it, the years merge together, and 35 years almost seems like 35 days in some respects,” McWhorter reflected. “I’m pleasantly surprised that we’ve gotten this far and feel fortunate that we get to continue doing what we do best.”