Grass is greener on the Newton side

Written by Kerrie Alexander

The saying goes that blood and business just don’t mix but the Newton family are one hundred percent an exception to that rule.

Many Fraser Coast residents have looked to the right at the white house on the hill while driving along Booral Road, which has been home to Peter and Christine Newton and their business, Bay Turf, since 1995.

However, those who then look to the left could be forgiven for wondering why another turf farmer would be so bold as to set up shop directly across the street.

Let’s just put all those rumours to rest and tell a story about the history behind two generations of farmers coming together to grow the largest turf farm on the Fraser Coast.

Peter and Christine have been in the turf industry since 1988 starting in Brisbane but now servicing the Wide Bay region for over 28 years.

They raised their two daughters, Tamara and Courteney, and their son Michael on the farm and while the girls went off to work in the city, Michael went to the mines.

However, it wasn’t long before the itch of wanting to get back to farming was too strong for Michael so he bought a mango and paw paw farm in Gladstone in 2009 and turned it into a thriving turf farm.

“We’ve got photos of Michael as a three-year-old unloading turf,” Christine said.

“It was only natural for Michael to follow in his father’s footsteps and open his own turf farm.

“Peter has a farming background and has grown numerous crops over the decades, including watermelon, lettuce, potatoes and pumpkins, but we found turf was the most rewarding.”

For a split-second Peter and Christine had thoughts of selling on their mind but Michael’s offer to return to Hervey Bay, buy the land across the road and merge the two businesses into the biggest turf farm on the Fraser Coast was too good to refuse. Retiring was off the cards and in 2021 Turfworks Group/Bay Turf was born.

The family and their team of nine staff have earned a reputation for supplying quality turf and providing first-rate before, during and after-care service that only comes from decades of experience and knowledge in the turf industry. Michael has also got a Diploma in Horticulture and Sports Turf Management to back this up.

The business now boasts 200 acres under turf with six variations of grass that is meticulously cared for.

“It’s a real science behind getting it just right. The boys work all hours of the day and night to make sure their grass is the best,” Christine said.

“Even of an afternoon if they are out taking the kids for a walk, the two of them will be looking out for weeds… they are both very pedantic on quality control.

“The consistent high-quality of turf is advertising too; we have had people live here a long time who are getting their turf from us a second or third time, so you always want to make sure they get the same quality, every time!”

Peter and Michael have attended many national and international seminars and conferences over the years and in 2012, Michael was elected as one of the Future Leaders of the turf industry.

He won a scholarship to study best practice methods of turf production in the United States, and currently serves as a board member of the Queensland Turf Producers Association.

Christine said the team are always looking at the new, best and different grasses to offer customers including the new range of picture-perfect TAHOMA-31.

Turfworks is only one of two turf farms growing and selling the hybrid Bermuda couch in Queensland.

It’s been a hot seller for the past two years because of its high drought resistance, being tolerant of shady corners of the backyard, withstanding the cold, and it greens-up earlier in spring than any other Bermuda variety.

That’s not to say that the Sir Walter Buffalo, Empire Zoysia, Zoysia Matrella, Zoysia Japonica and the wintergreen couch are any less effective in bringing your yard to life.

Christine said growing is a lengthy process, but the result is well worth the effort.

“We regularly rotate the paddocks to maintain a high-quality yield in the turf. This involves ploughing the paddock to alleviate compaction built up over time and put oxygen back into the soil, then we amend the soil profile to create the perfect soil structure for planting.

“ We get a local contractor with a GPS tractor in to laser level the paddock and then it’s ready for planting.

Peter and Michael go over the nursery stock with a fine-tooth comb and handpick which section to cut so that the best quality stock is used for planting,” Christine said.

If there is a big rain event prior to enough plant growth covering the paddock, all the hard work can be undone as strong running water creates gullies and the paddock then becomes unlevel and unable to be harvested. So, the timing of planting is very important.

The expansion of the business has not only seen a growth in acreage, but Michael has also added extra services that have been well received by the Fraser Coast.

The new location at 20 Hebblewhite Road, Nikenbah, across the road from the original farm, boasts a new drive-through shed with an onsite lawn shop and “try before you buy” turf plot displays showing all of the turf varieties.

They offer a measure and quote service to advise of what varieties would best suit the customers yard and will deliver to the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Gympie, Maryborough, Rockhampton, Gladstone, and Yeppoon.

“We can do whatever you want,” Michael said. “You can drive through and pick it up, we can deliver it and lay it for you; there’s heaps of different options.”

Michael also added stolonizing and sports field rejuvenation to the long list of the turf-related services.

He had the mammoth task of constructing and turfing the grounds at the Fraser Coast Sports Precinct but he says that’s all part of the job.

“We lay about ¾ of everything we cut… no one likes to lay their own turf.

“It’s a great variety of work, every day is a different challenge and when that’s your office, I think that’s pretty cool.”

The big question is, how do the family get on working together 24/7?

“We’ve been working together since 2009 and I don’t think we’ve ever had any big arguments just some constructive conversations,” Michael said.

“Peter has been doing it for so long but is very happy for Michael to take over the running of the business,” Christine added.

“He’s so much better at the office and talking to the customers, where Peter likes to work behind the scenes, and I think that’s why it works.”