Mike Kitchen: Living the Dream & Solving Environmental Issues at Teton Pines
Mike Kitchen, CGCS is “living his dream.” After graduating with a turfgrass degree from Michigan State, he pursued his goal of managing a golf facility near a world-class ski area. After a few stints as an assistant super in the western USA, he landed his current position as superintendent at Teton Pines Golf & CC in Jackson Hole Wyoming. Now,16 years later, he counts his lucky stars. “I really do love my job and the management team here at Teton Pines.”
A few years back, Mike was approached by a local environmental group called Friends of Fish Creek (FOFC). Fish Creek is a major tributary of the Snake River and runs through the Teton Pines Golf property. The FOFC mission is to enlist local stakeholders to adopt Best Management Practices (BMP) to help protect the Upper Snake River watershed by improving and restoring water quality in Fish Creek. In recent years, there had been several instances of algae blooms and other indicators of excessive nutrient loads in the creek.
“I began to think about things we could do differently here. As part of our initiative to try and reduce our fertilizer applications, I was contacted by Soil Tech’s rep Xavier Dupoux. As a rule, I’m not a snake oil guy, but what I heard from Xavier about Soil Tech’s experience over the past 30+ years, that got my attention,” says Mike. After discussing Soil Tech’s bio-fertilizers, Bio-Min and Bio-Mega, with his assistant, they decided to do a trial in 2014.
“We did a test where we used Bio-Min on selected fairway areas with 30% less fertilizer, and compared it to areas that we fertilized as usual. We followed the recommended Bio-Min program during the season and at the end of the year. We couldn’t determine any difference in turf quality in the test plots.”
As a result, Mike decided to use the Bio-Min program on all his fairway areas in 2015, 2016, and 2017. “We’ve been very impressed with the results. We’re maintaining a quality stand of grass, and we’re using 30% less fertilizer (21-0-24). In addition, we’ve noticed that areas where we had regular disease breakouts at the end of the summer just aren’t as bad as they had been. In 2016 it didn’t seem nearly as prevalent as previous years,” he observed.
“From a budgetary perspective, the savings in fertilizer is just about a break-even with the cost off the Bio-Min program,” Mike says. “But, when you add in the environmental benefits and the suppression of diseases, then the Bio-Min program is a no-brainer for us here at Teton Pines. Being in the shadow of Teton National Park and near the Yellowstone Valley, we are under lots of environmental scrutiny. We are definitely benefitting from the use of Soil Tech’s bio-fertilizers, and we will continue using the programs in the future. It’s the right thing to do.”