March 15, 2009
A new 148 page report on the Ontario turfgrass industry reveals some impressive numbers for the lawncare sector.

Those attending the annual Ontario Turfgrass Symposium on Feb. 18, at the University of Guelph, heard principal researcher Dr. Glenn Fox announce the completion of the Economic Profile of the Ontario Turfgrass Industry. He explained the ins and outs of compiling the report to the nearly 300 people in attendance.

The Ontario turfgrass industry consists of golf courses, municipal parks, sod farms, lawncare companies and sports fields. Prior to this project, the most recent economic profile of the Ontario turfgrass industry was conducted for 1982. The Ontario Turfgrass Research Foundation commissioned the latest study, by the research team, consisting of Professors Glenn Fox, Katerina Jordan, and Eric Lyons and Research Associate Kate Tsiplova,

Turfgrass is a $2.61 billion industry

The Ontario turfgrass industry’s total gross revenue was $2.61 billion in 2007. Of that total, lawncare companies in Ontario earned $1.26 billion in 2007 from providing turfgrass maintenance services, making this sector the largest. About 70.9 per cent of lawn care companies’ revenue was attributed to services provided to Ontario households, approximately $891 million. “In comparison, the total Ontario farm value of grains and oilseeds was $2.34 billion in 2007,” said Fox. The calculated gross sales of turfgrass services and productions was $392 million in 1982.

According to the survey, the total revenue from sod farms was $108 million, while the gross revenue of Ontario golf courses in 2007 was $1.25 billion.

“We estimated that sod farms, golf courses, households, municipalities, universities and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation maintained 390,000 acres of turfgrass in 2007. Ontario households had the largest share of the total area by maintaining 122,000 acres in 2007. Ontario golf courses had the second largest share with 98,600 acres and Ontario municipalities maintained 93,200 acres of turfgrass,” said Fox.  

Lawncare largest employer

Employment numbers also reveal the lawncare sector’s dominance.  The entire Ontario turfgrass industry employed nearly 33,000 year round full-time equivalent employees in 2007, with lawncare companies having the most employees in the turfgrass industry with just less than 21,000 year round full-time equivalent employees. The most common type of employees was seasonal full-time. The industry also employed a significant number of students.  

The Ontario turfgrass industry spent $360 million on equipment. In comparison, in 1982 the Ontario turfgrass industry spent $497 million on turfgrass maintenance, including equipment purchases. In 2006, an average Ontario household spent $10.40 and $36.61 on pesticides and fertilizer/soils/soil conditioners, respectively. Province-wide, Ontario households spent $49.3 and $173 million on pesticides and fertilizer/soils/soil conditioners, respectively.

The survey shows that all industry segments had a positive outlook on the future of their turfgrass operations. Respondents indicated that they expect the size of their turfgrass operation to either increase somewhat or remain stable over the next five to ten years. A member of the audience later observed that the figures could be quite different if the survey was conducted this year.

“The Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act impacts the turfgrass industry considerably, with lawncare companies being affected the most. We found that lawn care respondents identified pesticide use policies and public perception of the turfgrass industry as having a negative effect on the future growth of their turfgrass operations,” states the report.  

 Only lawncare professionals indicated that they view pesticide policies as having a negative effect on the expansion of their turfgrass operation. “The Act affects all residential, industrial, commercial and institution properties including parks, school yards, cemeteries and rights-of-way. Considering that 70.9 per cent of an average lawn company’s customers are residential properties that use pesticides for cosmetic purposes, lawncare companies are likely to be affected most by this ban. Only some lawn care companies mentioned that there are future business opportunities in the form of alternative pest control measures and other turf maintenance solutions that could capitalize on the sustainability trend.

Fox stated, “The purpose of this study was to develop an economic profile of the Ontario turfgrass industry and to identify strategic policy and research issues that face the industry. The lack of recent studies on the economic profile of the Ontario turfgrass industry was the motivation behind this research. We developed and distributed surveys to such industry segments, as golf courses, sod farms, parks and recreation facilities, and lawncare companies. We used Statistics Canada data and other secondary data sources for households, sod farms, provincial roads and highways and seed companies.  

“Contraction factors for the Ontario turfgrass industry included pesticide regulations, water use policies, cost of inputs, and availability of qualified labour. Opportunities for expansion included population growth and urbanization, retirement trends, and new turfgrass species and varieties,” said Fox.

The entire 148 page report may be viewed on the Landscape Ontario website at Click on the News menu, and the turfgrass report is listed there.