Effort launched to publicize benefits of grass landscapes
By MITCH LIES
Oregon's grass seed industry has been watching from the sidelines in recent years as landscape writers tout the benefits of replacing grass lawns with artificial turf, rock gardens and other nongrass landscapes.
Not any more.
Oregon's three turf grass commissions recently decided to enter the game.
The Oregon tall fescue, fine fescue and ryegrass commissions have dedicated $150,000 to a campaign touting the benefits of real grass.
"This project responds to negative things we see in the U.S. regarding fine turf," said Bryan Ostlund, administrator of the three commissions.
"We've all seen the articles about no-mow lawn, turfless lawns," Ostlund said. "But there's been no discussion defending the message we want to move forward."
Campaigns against natural grass even have made their way into politics. A New Jersey lawmaker in a recent session introduced a bill giving a tax credit for taking out grass lawns. Fortunately, Ostlund said, the bill was defeated.
"We've got to try to do what we can to slow this trend," Ostlund said. "We might be coming in a little after the fact, but we better get in and get moving."
The message the grass seed industry hopes to spread is that natural grass provides several environmental and societal benefits.
Grass lawns have a cooling effect, Ostlund said. They are good for soils, help reduce water runoff and sequester carbon.
Grasses also beautify neighborhoods and city parks, Ostlund said.
The campaign doesn't single out Oregon-grown grasses, Ostlund said, even though Oregon is the nation's leading producer of grass seed.
"We're not talking about Oregon," he said. "We're not branding Oregon. We're not saying, 'Buy Oregon.'
"The message is limited to the value of fine turf," he said.
A steering committee of grass seed commissioners and others in the industry chose the public relations firm Lane PR to run the campaign. The firm has offices in Portland and New York.
The campaign will rely on free placement of stories and messages in print and broadcast media, said Angie Galimanis, a vice president of the firm.
The firm is launching the campaign in the Northeast in time to influence spring landscaping decisions.
Commissioners will analyze the campaign after the end of the fiscal year on June 30 and consider whether to go forward.
"I don't see an end to the campaign any time soon," Ostlund said. "We'll analyze it after this first year with the full intention that this is a long-term project."