In our quest to grow healthy fields, we are often asked, “Why grass?” As mothers, environmentalists, athletes, and fiscally responsible citizens, we say, “Why not?” Grass is nature – safe, time tested and good for all. The Field Fund is proving that grass fields can support high use with scalable, sustainable, and affordable maintenance programs.

 

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Grass fields are a climate change mitigation tool. A happy byproduct of a well-maintained grass field is that it has excellent soil biology. The healthier the soil is, the better it can serve as a climate mitigation tool, cooling the planet and sequestering carbon. Yale University did an excellent study on how soil works as a carbon sink.

Soil as Carbon Storehouse: New Weapon in Climate Fight? – Yale Environment 360
Can Dirt Save the Earth? – The New York Times Magazine
To Combat Climate Change, Start From the Ground Up (With Dirt) – The New York Times

 
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Grass fields can be regenerative, which means that they not only thrive, but also progressively improve. As the field gets stronger it becomes more resilient, needs less fertilizer and water, and helps to sustain the ecosystem in and around it. This includes better microbial life in the soil, which not only supports the grass plant system, but the entire ecology of the field. Grass, bugs, birds, bees, humans all benefit.

Digging Deeper Into Regenerative Agriculture – Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

 
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Grass fields can not only mitigate atmospheric climate change, but can also support the environment on and in the ground. They can trap dust, reduce pollution, filter stormwater, and do NOT load nitrogen when properly applied. In fact, it is proven that properly applied soil amendments actually help the grass plant become a better vehicle for absorbing runoff.

Building Healthy Soils with Compost to Protect Watersheds – The Institute for Local Self-Reliance

 
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Grass fields contain organic matter, which means they can hold water. Increasing the organic matter of the soil by just 1% enables it to hold 20,000 more gallons of water per acre! This means a field rich in microbial activity does not require as much irrigation.

As Water Pollution Grows, Healthy Soil Comes to the Rescue – Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Organic Matter Can Improve Your Soil's Water Holding Capacity – Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

 
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Grass fields are safer for athletes. Healthy grass fields are the preferred playing surface by professional athletes world-wide because of the lower risk of injury and faster recovery rate. For example, The Field Fund provides both surface and subsurface decompaction to improve drainage and root growth, which also supports the athletes, offering a more shock absorbent surface. Less shock means less wear and tear on the joints and less muscle fatigue. These benefits, as well as grass’ natural cooling and disinfecting qualities (compared to the hard, superheated, bacteria laden plastic surfaces) are also critical for younger athletes with developing bodies.

Incidence of Knee Injuries on Artificial Turf Versus Natural Grass in National Collegiate Athletic Association American Football: 2004-2005 Through 2013-2014 Seasons – The American Journal of Sports Medicine
Babies Know: A Little Dirt Is Good for You – The New York Times

 
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Grass is cool. Thanks to the process of transpiration, grass has a natural cooling effect that lowers the temperature of the surrounding air. Its ability to moderate temperatures and dissipate heat makes grass important for athlete safety as well as an important tool for combating heat islands.

Benefits of Turf Grass – National Park Service
The Role of Turfgrasses in Environmental Protection and Their Benefits to Humans – Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies (ACSESS) Digital Library

 
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Grass fields can take it. The best turf grass varieties available have been developed for heavy play. When they are damaged, they regenerate and get stronger. With proper support – decompaction, proper mowing, irrigation, and fertilization – grass fields can withstand hours of hard play. Note: Not all uses are created equal. The industry standards for field use are arbitrary. Compaction and use patterns for football, soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse are very different. Fields must be maintained for real rather than postulated use.

RPR Regenerating Perennial Ryegrass – Barenbrug

 
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Grass fields can be well maintained at an affordable price. Well-maintained and affordable sounds like an oxymoron, right? In this case, it’s not. The Field Fund, Inc. just rebuilt two grass fields at The Oak Bluffs School for $180,000. This included state of the art irrigation, a new, non-potable well and all local labor (Across the board, Vineyard labor is estimated to be at least 25% higher than on the mainland.). One high school field rebuild on Martha’s Vineyard will cost about $200,000 and the annual maintenance will be about $20,000 a year. The current estimated installation cost of one plastic field on Martha’s Vineyard is $1,400,000 and costs at least $10,000 to maintain annually, at least $62,500 to dispose of (There are no recycling plants for plastic carpets in the United States.), and at least $625,000 to replace the carpet every 7-10 years. So, for twenty years does a community spend $600,000 on a grass field that will continue to grow? Or do they spend $2.9 million for at least two disposal and replacements of a plastic carpet? And on and on.

Estimate of Probable Construction and Long Term Costs – Huntress Associates, Inc.

 
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Above all, healthy grass fields are an undeniable pleasure to play on and be around. Like the woods, the mountains, and the ocean, a beautiful grass field is one of nature’s glories. Grass fields smell good. They feel good on bare feet. You can lie on them. Roll around. Just the sight of a thriving field inspires us to chase a ball, throw a frisbee, fly a kite or play catch. They are where communities gather to run and cheer each other on. What could be better than that?