By John Lauritsen

NORTH BRANCH, Minn. (WCCO) — Last summer’s drought impacted farmers across the state, including sod farms.

There are about 100 of them in Minnesota.

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Many spent thousands of dollars to keep their sod alive during the drought.

Duke Halley farms 1,500 acres of sod near North Branch. His grass grows on flat ground which used to be part of a river.

“We’ve been blessed with some of the lightest mineral soil in the Midwest and probably in the country,” said Halley of Central Turf Farms.

But when the worst drought in more than 30 years hit last summer, water restrictions kept landscapers from using his sod.

“Our customers were impacted which in turn, impacts us,” Halley said. “If they’re not sodding, we’re not sodding.”

This year, Halley is hoping to make up for lost ground. But a cold and wet April has made it tough to catch up.

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Right now many sod farms are a couple weeks behind. Like corn and soybean farmers, they need a good run of warm weather.

“We are usually cutting by the 15th every year, and we figure it’s going to be almost May 1st before we start harvesting sod,” said Kevin Mann of KLM Farms.

Athletic sod at KLM Farms will likely end up at a golf course or sports field. Last summer, Mann worked overtime to keep his grass alive.

“We were watering pretty much around the clock for a long time last summer. It was dry,” Mann said.

As a result, his farm and Duke’s farm could be busier as new construction and golf courses look to replace the grass they lost. Their new challenge this year could be rising costs across the board.

“Fertilizer is up a couple hundred percent. Seed has doubled. Everything is going up,” said Mann.

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Sod farmers say they are looking forward to warmer weather this weekend to help get their grass ready for the season.

John Lauritsen