Hammonton’s Tuckahoe Turf Farms started delivering 11.5 acres of locally grown sod to Washington, D.C. this week, where it is being installed in Phase III of the first major renovation of the National Mall in about 50 years.
It will cover the ground on what is called “America’s Front Yard” from the Capitol to 14th Street, near the Washington Monument, said farm Manager Allen D. Carter Jr.
“Only a few farms in the country could do this,” said Carter of the magnitude of the work.
The sod is being removed from the Hammonton farm in the middle of the night and trucked to D.C. by 7 a.m. for installation, he said.
The rainy weather this week has been perfect for the project, which is being installed by crews from the national ValleyCrest Landscape Companies, he said.
Forbes.com ranks ValleyCrest at No. 434 of America’s largest private companies.
The National Park Service said the job is a $40 million project. It is working with the Trust for the National Mall on it.
About 29 million visitors go to the Mall each year – more than Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone combined, according to the Trust. And there are also more than 3,000 rallies, concerts, festivals and other events held there.
All that activity, and all those feet, have been pretty damaging to the grass there, so the Trust and the NPS decided to remove about five feet of soil in Phase II of the project, which started in October 2014, according to the Trust.
Then Clark Construction of Bethesda, Md., installed a new drainage and irrigation system, including a 250,000-gallon cistern to collect rain water for reuse in irrigation. Phase II also included installation of “compaction-resistant engineered soil,” according to The Trust.
Tuckahoe Turf created a special fescue and bluegrass mix that is “aggressive and wear tolerant,” Carter said. “They came to us with the varieties they wanted, and we custom grew it for them.”
He said the special turf has been growing in Hammonton for about a year.
Carter said the farm will transport about 100,000 square feet of sod each week by truck to the Mall through May.
About four years ago Tuckahoe Turf provided some sod for the area around the Washington Monument in Phase I of the work, Carter said.
The farm is best known for providing turf to major league baseball, football and soccer stadiums.
In 2014, Tuckahoe Turf Farms sent 30 loads of sod to the University of Michigan to temporarily convert its artificial football field to natural grass for a soccer match between Manchester United and Real Madrid, two of the best teams in the world of professional soccer.
“It’s the biggest soccer match on U.S. soil,” farm co-owner James Betts said at the time.
The farm’s sod is installed in major league sports stadiums around the United States, including Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and Fenway Park in Boston.
According to the New Jersey Farm Bureau, New Jersey sod producers sell $18.9 million worth of sod each year, growing it on 6,139 acres at 35 sod-producing farms.