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Three generations work hard at Horizon Grass Farms.GrassGrass

 

Over the past 43 years, Horizon Grass Farms has grown from a 20-acre homestead into a successful turfgrass operation spread over 12 farms in Texas. Reputed for its grass quality and quantity, Horizon now supplies sod to roughly 20 nurseries throughout the state, keeping three generations of the Gavranovic family hard at work.

Horizon Grass Farms currently grows Celebration®, Bermudagrass, and Palmetto® St. Augustine. Soon, they’ll be putting in plant stock material for Texas A&M’s newly released Cobalt™ Hybrid St. Augustinegrass.

Grass

Celebration being grown.

Celebration has been a good grass for the Turfgrass Producers of Texas (TPT), says Horizon Grass Farms Owner William Gavranovic. He likes its nice green, dense appearance. “Our customers like it and continue to keep demanding it. We have several customers who demand Palmetto St. Augustine over Raleigh and we continue to push that one. I like it. It is a good grass that blocks really well.”

William thinks end-users are going to be just as excited about Cobalt as they are. “Growers tend to grow the best grass, as we work with it every day. We see it firsthand, and I think the end-users are going to be very satisfied,” he explains. “There are so many more benefits to Cobalt, such as its disease resistance, cold tolerance and just a lot of good features.”

All In The Family

When it comes to turfgrass, William knows what he’s talking about. It’s in his blood. His father, Willie, is the founder of Horizon Grass Farms. Willie and his late-wife, Gladys, started the business together in 1978. Today, their children—William, Irene, and Rachel—all play a role in the company. “We’ve been in the business a long time, actually,” comments William.

“It’s just a lot of determination, willpower, and we treat every day as an important day. Time is of the essence, and we’re only here for a little bit, so we’ve got to put as much time as we can put forth,” he says. “We invest a lot of time in our turf fields, farms, and people. We’re very dedicated.”

Today, William and his father are each other’s right-hand person. Willie was born in Burr, TX, and hasn’t moved outside of a 15-mile radius since. Growing up in agriculture, Willie was in his late 20s when he decided to add a small amount of St. Augustine into his mix of row crops.

Willie, center, surrounded by family.

 

William, now 50, has also spent his whole life farming and has been sod farming since he was in junior high school, when his parents started Horizon Grass Farms. His sister Irene manages All Seasons Turf Grass, a retail business run on a turf farm in Brookshire, TX. She supplies mostly sand-based sod for golf courses and sports fields. William’s wife, Jenny, helps him with daily farm and office tasks. William’s sister, Rachel, is also involved, and her husband, Ryan, helps with production on the sod farms. (Horizon Farms, another entity of their operation, produces cotton, corn, soybeans, and milo.)

As Horizon Grass Farms moves into its third generation, William says their biggest accomplishment would be yet more expansion. “We’ve been blessed. We’ve had my dad, sisters, Rachel and Irene, and now our children coming on board. It’s nice to have a family business that’s turned into a sizable business,” he said. “We all run it together and get along…. We’ve always had the mentality of working together, and if there’s a rough patch, we smooth it out.”

Willie is happy there are family members willing to carry the torch to keep Horizon Grass Farms in operation. Of his eight grandchildren, several already work on the farm, and he anticipates more will follow suit. “Naturally, my children started in the turfgrass industry in their earlier stages. William, my son, has pretty much always been in that industry from day one, row cropping and then working his way into turfgrass. And both my daughters are involved in the business and working in this area too,” says Willie. “It’s great to see my children and grandchildren be involved.”

Employee Dedication

Today, Horizon’s production facilities are in Wharton, Lane City, Burr, Clay, Cameron, Brookshire, Monaville, and Sealy. William credits the excellent foremen and managers at their farm locations with Horizon’s ability to produce large quantities of turfgrass with high-quality standards. “It’s a united team effort among all the employees to maintain the quality. It’s a combination of the good cultural techniques and competition between farms that helps employees want to produce quality sod.”

His dad agrees, and says he never dreamed the business would grow into what it is today. He’s proud of the properties they acquired over time to diversify their production areas. “It’s not a one-man-band. It takes everyone to have good quality. One man can’t do it if you’ve got six farms in different locations,” Willie said. “If they like you and the team, they’ll put in the effort to do it the way you think it should be done. It’s all about what you put into your employees and how you treat them. If you treat them good and treat them right, then they’ll take care of you.”

With nearly 40 employees on the turf side of the business, the Gavranovic family helps the local economy by not only supplying a quality product, but by offering jobs. “We’re supportive of our employees, and if there’s ever a problem, we work with them and treat them like we’d want to be treated. We treat everyone like family.”

When it comes to goals for Horizon Grass Farms, Willie said they’ve naturally exceeded many of them. “My goals for the future are for the family to keep running our operation and always try to be a little better where we can, if we can. Also, to… work with the turfgrass industry so it’s as good as it is, or even better. We can always be better, and I think that’s a good thing for the family. I think they’ll take the ball and keep it rolling.”

Industry Changes

William, Willie, and Tobey in 1998 on Palmetto St. Augustine.

Willie says two major changes he’s seen in the turfgrass industry over the years include: the automation of equipment; and the development of new products and/or varieties that have expanded the industry into something quite dynamic.

When he started, Willie says they did everything by hand—and they would only plant a few seasons of the year. “Now we have automatic equipment and turf is planted year-round in Texas. It’s almost a 365-day business, operated day in and day out for 6 to 7 days a week. It’s expanded in production time,” he comments.

Willie said since their business started, the innovation of products has been a testament to their success as well. With extensive production throughout the state, Horizon Grass Farms recently started using Turf Logistics, a management software for sod farms, distributors, and installers. “It’s been very beneficial,” says William, who uses it for everything from logistics to ordering. “I think every farm will have this as time goes on. Turf Logistics streamlines everything and helps with efficiencies in all departments,” William adds.

Willie said his company is like most others: they’re here to produce products and have good service. “We think we’re going to be in it for the long haul. We’re not in it for just a little now and then. It’s a long-term objective to stay in the business and do the best we can through the good and bad. We should be here to take care of the industry’s needs.”

For more information about Horizon Grass Farms, visit their website here.

Sod Solutions has helped successfully develop and release to the market over 20 different turfgrass varieties over the past 27 years including Palmetto and CitraBlue St. Augustine, EMPIRE and Innovation™ Zoysia and Celebration, Latitude 36 and NorthBridge Bermudagrass. The company is based in the Charleston, SC area.