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21/08/2023 - 11:45
The 15th edition of the National Grass Day in Belgium will take place on 14 September 2023. The perfect time to take a look back. The National Grass Day originated in 2005 from an idea during a conversation between 3 people from the horticultural industry. Since then, it has become the leading grass demo day for professional landscapers in Belgium.
In early 2005, Didier Ernould (Advanta), Bruno Brasseur (Compo Expert) and Paul Dupas (Scotts, now ICL) asked themselves how they could better convey their knowledge to landscapers. This is how they came up with the idea, following the example of other projects in Belgium (HIK in Geel), the Netherlands, France and Germany, of creating a trial area and invite professional landscapers.
The initial aim of the National Grass Day was mainly to bring together knowledge about grass and fertilisation. The offer extended to pest control and soil improvement and subsequently to machinery for the construction and maintenance of lawns such as tillage, overseeding, aeration, irrigation, mowing...
The target audience also evolved from professional garden contractors to landscapers and public authorities.
The location of the first 10 editions (2007-2016) was an 8000 m² demonstration field in the Covelier street in Hove near Antwerp. This was a piece of private land made available by Paul van Hoof, who had just retired from grass seed supplier Advanta and who was keen to put his years of grass knowledge at the service of the partners.
The first trial field was sown on 21 and 22 September 2005. A first trial day was held on 4 April 2006.
From 2007 onwards, the National Grass Day launched a theme for every edition.
For pest control, they turned to Bayer products, which then became a partner in 2010 with the transition of Bruno Brasseur from Compo Expert to Bayer.
Finally, TerraCottem - who was looking for a platform to market their soil conditioner for grass in 2010 - became the fifth partner.
Many lawn-related topics have been covered over the years:
Advanta has had wildflowers in their range for more than 20 years. In the beginning, this was a basic range that was later greatly expanded. The organisers took the decision in 2010 to sow a few mixtures to introduce the wildflower mixtures to the professional public.
Over the past decade, various tests have been set up:
The interest and demand for wildflowers remains high to this day. This is partly due to the increasing factor of landscape and ecological management.
In terms of visitors, in the early years this was for a limited professional audience. At the pilot edition in 2006, the promoters were happy to have 38 interested people. For the first 3 full-fledged editions (2007-2008-2009), the organising partners were delighted to receive between 50 and 100 professionals on the trial plot. From 2010, there was a steady growth in visitors from 100 to 300.
From 2013 onwards, visitors were asked to pre-register: in 2013-2014 around 350 people did so and in 2015-2016 the number rose to more than 400. Starting 2017, the National Grass Day went "on tour", with a new location every 2 years, and the number of visitors continued to increase. In 2017-2018, there were over 800 attendees. 2019 was the top edition with 1,300 visitors.
* In 2020, unfortunately, only Corona visited.
** At the last edition in 2021, despite the strict COVID measures, attendance was still significant with just under 900 visitors.
Initially, only the organising partners had a stand. Soon machine manufacturers were called in.
In 2013-14, there were 10 of them and in 2015-16 there were 14 machine manufacturers exhibiting.
As the Grass Tour went "on tour", more room was created to allow more machinery manufacturers to partake at the event: there were 20 of them in the 2017 and 2018 edition and 22 in 2019.
In 2021, the National Grass Day had an additional 2 machinery manufacturers and for this year it was decided to put the limit at 25. Because in addition to these 25 machine exhibitors, there are also 5 stands for each organising company and another 5 for the professional associations.
In 2016, co-founder Paul Van Hoof thought it was time, at the age of 75 and after 10 years of hosting the National Grass Day on his private grounds, to pass the torch to the younger generation.
The partners were also keen to continue growing the number of visitors and exhibitors which was impossible to do so at the trial site in Hove.
It was therefore decided to hold the event at a different turf farm every two years, to take the National Grass Day "on tour". 2017 was the first edition at a different location.
It was also the edition for which the partners decided to make it a two-day event.
Meanwhile, 3 turf growers have already hosted the National Grass Day:
The interest and motivation of the organising partners is to unite everything that happens around professional grass in Belgium. Garden designers, landscapers, public green spaces, machine manufacturers, professional associations, turf growers, professional traders, grass advisers, etc.
This in a professional setting where technical know-how is shared and demonstrations are performed. At the end of the day, peers chat about what they have learned over Belgian chips and beer.
The "on tour" concept at different turf farms will continue but it is likely to become a bi-annual event.
This year we are pitching our tents at graszoden van Bael in Meerhout. For the venue of the next editions, the grass day partners are still negotiating with the turf growers.
Following the example of the 2019 National Grass Day, this year’s edition will again organise a school day, so that in addition to the traditional first day for professional landscapers, hands-on knowledge on grass will be imparted to future landscapers.