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zog139

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This was posted on the NAR Sections list, thought I would try it here!


Following up to Jim Duffy's recent post, NARHAMS would like to know if any
Sections are flying from sod farms. When I flew with CMAR in the early 90's, we
had access to a sod farm that was just about ideal (so of course it became a
housing development). NARHAMS' current field is acceptable for LPR and MPR, but
we'd like to find something a little larger, a little flatter, and a little
further from rocket-eating trees. If you're flying from a sod farm, do you and
the landowner have a written Memorandum of Agreement or similar document? Did
you have a hard time convincing the landowner to give you permission to use the
field? Did you put together a presentation for the landowner (and would you be
willing to share it with NARHAMS?)? If you had a presentation, did you deliver
it in person at first contact, or did you just put out feelers initially and
give a presentation later?


Now that you have permission to use the land, does the landowner charge a fee,
and is it affordable? Is the landowner content with reasonable (as you define
"reasonable") fire protection measures, or did you have to splurge on lots of
new equipment? Do you share the site with other groups (R/C, free-flyers,
Scouts, etc.) and if so, does everybody coexist peacefully? Do you have major
problems with obstacles such as irrigation equipment, ditches, or fences? Do
you have any special restrictions on the use of the field (for example, rain on
Friday cancels a Saturday launch)? Lots of questions, I know, but we want to be
as prepared as possible before we make a proposal to a sod farm owner. Feel free
to respond directly or via the group. Thanks!

Mark Wise
Section Advisor, NARHAMS
 

mswiggins

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SEARS 572 flies from a sod farm in South East Alabama.
www.sears572.com

We have a very good relationship with the owner and intend to keep that way.

One of our founding members approached the owner. When he heard that we work with schools and scouts, he happily agreed.

We do not pay a fee, but we have given him "gifts" in the past.
We also furnish a port-o-potty that is serviced once a month.
I think we are the only group that uses the field, besides dove hunters.

We follow ordinary rules...
no parking on the sod.
staying off of new sod.
We stay away from the sprinklers.
We put down fire blankets for sparky motors...(we learned this the hard way).

The site drains well, so rain is not too much of an issue.

PM me for any other information.
 

MarkII

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Go ahead, rub it in! Fly from a sod farm? In the Adirondacks? I wish!!!

ASTRE flies from a small to medium-sized hay field/occasional cow pasture. It is rolling, with a general downward slope. It is situated on the side of a ridge above the Mohawk River, and gets a good, steady breeze from up the valley.

The farmer/landowner has known the Section for over 20 years and he charges no fees. The field can only be used for launches that have been scheduled in advance (that's just common courtesy, anyway) and as long as certain rules are followed. These rules mostly involve where to drive, how fast to drive, and where to park, and insuring that gates that are opened to gain access to the field are closed back up again as soon as they are passed. Again, we would be following these practices anyway as a matter of courtesy and common sense.

I have never encountered any farm equipment or other obstacles out on the range on launch day. The entire farm can be viewed from where we usually set up the range head. The only obstacle is an electrified fence surrounding the cow pen and another that is across the entrance to the field. Procedures for opening and closing the electrified gate are well-known to CDs and LCOs. There is one large drainage ditch that runs across one end of the field, in a direction that is perpendicular to the prevailing wind. (IOW, rockets that severely weathercock will likely cross it and may land on the other side. On rare occasions, others may land in the cow pen that adjoins the hay field. Ask me how I know about both events. :eek: )

No other flying group uses the field. A small local airport is nearby, though, and so we have to be watchful for (very) occasional traffic in the airspace.

The only business-related restrictions that I can remember involved being unable to fly during weeks when the hay had not recently been mowed and was so high that it was impractical to hold a launch. Because of the steady wind, ASTRE's field can only handle up to a G motor, but in reality, it rarely sees anything larger than a D motor. (I have only witnessed one F motor flown there, and one G. Both of these were flown by me, and I lost the F!) Small LPR models and competition models (ASTRE's main interest) are easily lost and essentially unrecoverable if the field has more than 3 feet of hay in it. Although the field has excellent drainage, the ground tends to hold A LOT of water when the hay is that thick, which makes recovery of models rather unpleasant, both for the flier and for the model. Also, it is rare to have satisfactory field conditions before late April, because the field is either still full of snow or the ground has just thawed and is a boggy, boot-sucking mess. It is also rare to have launches there after late September, due to rapidly decreasing daylight.

ASTRE has conventional fire extinguishers on hand at launches. I have never seen a sparky motor (or practically any composite propellant motor, for that matter) or a cluster lit at one of our launches, nor have I ever seen anything even remotely resembling dry conditions at our field, but the club has basic equipment on hand to suppress fires, just in case. The landowner does not impose any requirements about fire-suppression equipment, as far as I know. We simply use common sense when deciding whether or not a scheduled launch is a "Go," and the LD/CD notifies all of the membership via email and notices on the Section's website about the status of a scheduled launch up until the evening prior to the launch. One of our Section officers lives on land adjoining the field, and he is able to walk over and personally inspect the field and advise us of its condition.

I am sure that one of the reasons that we have such an easy-going relationship with the landowner is because crowd control is never an issue at our launches. A large turn-out for one of our launches occurs when more than a dozen people attend over the course of the day. The field is a bit difficult to find and it is situated a good distance outside of the region where most of our membership resides (at least an hour away on the NYS Thruway from the Albany area, and about 2-1/2 hours away on mountain roads from where I live in the northern Adirondacks.) This "helps" to keep the attendance low. :rolleyes:

Mark \\.
 
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cjl

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Nope - we fly from a National Grassland. The only obstacles are fences, and they are far enough apart (1 mile or larger intervals) so as to not be too annoying. Of course, the fire danger is somewhat high, but we have plenty of fire supression.
 

jadebox

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One of the clubs I fly with, NEFAR, launches on a sod farm. I'm just "one of the flyers" so I'll refer you to NEFAR's "contact list" at:

http://www.nefar.net/contact.html

Greg Lukach will probably be willing and able to answer your questions about our relationship with the sod farm and its owners.

-- Roger
 

FatBoy

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MASA (Minnesota Amateur Spacemodeler Association) flies on a sod farm just north of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. An agreement was made with the land owner to use the field before I joined the club in 2005. We respect that it is private property, and we always do our best to leave no trace that we were there at the end of a launch. We clean up all of our trash and scour the grass near the pads looking for igniters and plugs. To make sure we don't wear out our welcome, we don't allow dogs, and we only launch one day a month. If there is new grass seed in a certain area we use a different part of the field. At the end of the year we thank the landowner with a Christmas card signed by the club members and a gift as a token of our appreciation.

We are extrememly grateful to the landowners for letting us use their property.
 

luke strawwalker

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I provide our farm for Challenger 498 to use as a flying field. It's an 87 acre former cotton farm converted over to grass and cows. Being a BAR after having launched solo all the time during my teens, this is my first 'club' experience, and I think it's a good one! Everyone seems real nice and glad to have a nice fairly short grass field to fly off of.

The club sets up a good size fire extinguisher beside the launcher, and I have a tractor with a 150 gallon water spray tank on front, but haven't had the need to fill and bring it to the field. We've been holding launches out here for about a year now, including a contest. We're mostly low and MPR, though we're confident we could handle "I" motors on site. Probably the biggest drawback is that the farm is 1/2 mile by 1/4 mile, roughly, aligned SE/NW with the prevailing winds out of the south in summer and north in winter, that can put a few flights over the fence, which at times is a row crop field with either grain sorghum (itchy) or cotton. It can be a hassle getting over/under/through the barbwire perimeter fence, but the neighbor's have been real nice about recovering rockets that drift over there. Before the crops get big and after the harvest, it's usually not a problem. One big plus is no trees within 150 yards or so of the launch site.

As a landowner, the main thing I'm concerned about is safety. The club is pretty good about self-regulating and we haven't had any problems. I'm glad the fire extinguisher is there, even though we haven't needed it. The club is responsible for insurance, and no fees are charged. We haven't had any sparky motors, but if we did it wouldn't be a problem, just prefer either a firewatcher or launch from a tarp. Cows keep the place pretty well clipped anyway. That brings up one other small negative-- dodging cowpies, but it hasn't been a problem so far, and of course in wet weather the cows tend to make the fields rough from their hooves sinking in and leaving holes behind, so I warn everyone to be careful of twisting ankles, falling, etc. I'm usually down there launching too, and usually have the golf cart available for long distance recovery.

One thing you might want to think through on sod farms is working around THEIR schedule-- if they need to irrigate the field or be out doing harvesting, you want to make sure you aren't underfoot for that... be sure to discuss that with your landowner-- it'll go a long way to assuaging his concerns, showing that you're concerned about his operations and not wanting to impede them in any way possible. It might be possible to launch from the other end of the place or something if operations are scheduled on the 'prime' flying spot. Demonstrated responsibility and concern for the landowner's needs will go a long way to developing the rapport needed for non-rocketeer landowners. Be sure to show your safety aspects, such as launch/recovery procedures, fire extinguishers, etc. because as a landowner one big concern nowdays is with liability, so be sure you have something to present to him/her about the insurance, and waivers, etc. on the regulatory front.

THe rest is, as others have said, a matter of being a good neighbor and keeping the place clean, picking up ignitor wire/plugs, using dog barf and other biodegradable or reusable recovery equipment (like nomex blankets) or picking up stray wadding if you see it, and not allowing the use of fiberglass wadding or stuff like that which is a contamination hazard. There's an old rule down on the farm-- if you found the gate/door closed, close it behind you when you go through--if it's open leave it open behind you. Park on the road or designated area, and be careful not to do any damage (tire ruts, etc.) especially on sodgrass farms.

Good luck and I hope this helps! OL JR :)
 

RoyAtl

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SoAR started back in 1997 on a sod farm. We have flown on three different sod farms, not including the GAMMA field that we use twice a year for our high power launches, and the famous old Perry, GA site. On January 31, we will have the inaugural launch from a fourth sod farm.

The two major challenges you will have dealing with sod farms are flyer discipline and owner/manager communications. Both must be maintained, but flyer discipline is most important.

What do I mean by flyer discipline? Treat the site better than your front lawn. In fact treat it as your boss' front lawn. Know where parking is permitted and control it. NO off site recoveries without a LOT of permission footwork (i.e. Don't get the neighbors mad at you). NO out-of-band flying (i.e. sneaking onto the property to fly a rocket or two). If you can't maintain flyer discipline, you can throw owner/manager cooperation out the window.

Make sure the owner/manager is comfortable with the condition of the field *before* you get there. I.e. if there's been constant rain for two or three days before your launch, even though the forecast for the day is sunny, be sure the owner is comfortable. That is their livelihood out there. Be extra cautious with fire protection, and be very judicious with sparkys (As a rule we don't allow em, but you never know... depending on the time of year and condition of the field, some owners might not object to a little burning off as long as they know you can control it!).
 
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MarkII

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I don't think that I ever actually seen a sod farm. It sounds like paradise for a flying field! I also didn't realize that they were all that common.

Mark \\.
 

RoyAtl

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I don't think that I ever actually seen a sod farm. It sounds like paradise for a flying field! I also didn't realize that they were all that common.

Mark \\.
Yep, go to www.nsl2008.org and look at the google satellite pictures of the Orangeburg site, and at the pictures/video of NSL 2008.
Or go to the SoAR site (link below) and go to the directions page, and the photos page. You'll see many photos, particularly from the early years where we were flying primarily on sod farms. And recent launches labeled "Lilly", or "Freedom launch"
 

MarkII

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Let me correct my earlier post - I have never visited an actual sod farm. It must be like standing out in the middle of someone's lawn, except that the "lawn" is tens of acres across in every direction. Pretty amazing.

I never noticed it until I resumed flying rockets a few years ago, but in my area we just don't have such large open fields, let alone ones that are flat and covered with a lawn. Don't laugh; sometimes I actually dream of what it must be like to fly rockets from such a site. To those Sections and clubs that have access to those sites: please realize that what you have is becoming exceedingly rare these days, and that you have many fellow fliers in this country that will never get to launch from places like that. Never take what you have for granted.

Mark \\.
 

Rocketjunkie

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Let me correct my earlier post - I have never visited an actual sod farm. It must be like standing out in the middle of someone's lawn, except that the "lawn" is tens of acres across in every direction. Pretty amazing.
Orangeburg has about 600 acres of sod, down from over 800 acres due to converting some of the field to potted trees and shrubs. They can make more money per acre with the potted plants. When we started flying at the site in 1995, the industrial park to the east was crop fields, another 500 acres of recovery area.
 

Jamski

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I have had the privilege of flying several times with the great people of MC2 and HARA, who are themselves privileged to share a very sweet launch field on a sod farm outside of Manchester, Tennessee. It is the home of Southern Thunder, which is a terrific event. I plan on being a volunteer this year.
 

dave carver

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Guess I really don't belong in this thread, we fly off of BLM land where there not a tree in sight. Nothing for miles but some sage brush and cheat grass.

Gotta love them high plains deserts ;)

Jamski, nice sprint car!!!!
 

MarkII

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Orangeburg has about 600 acres of sod, down from over 800 acres due to converting some of the field to potted trees and shrubs. They can make more money per acre with the potted plants. When we started flying at the site in 1995, the industrial park to the east was crop fields, another 500 acres of recovery area.
Where is that (Orangeburg), exactly?

Mark \\.
 

MarkII

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Guess I really don't belong in this thread, we fly off of BLM land where there not a tree in sight. Nothing for miles but some sage brush and cheat grass.

Gotta love them high plains deserts ;)

Jamski, nice sprint car!!!!
So, where are you, too?

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

After this, I don't think that we want to get any further off topic. We really should get back to answering Jim Filler's request.

Mark \\.
 
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MarkII

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On the interstate between Columbia and Charleston, SC.

Or, go to the NSL2008 web site, go to the launch site page. you should be able to zoom and scroll around on the google map.
Oh, you mean THAT Orangeburg! All righty, then. ;)

Mark \\.
 

powderburner

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My side yard (which is my closest launch area) qualifies as more of a rock farm. What's sod?

I have additional qstns for you guys who have free access to large areas:
1) If the landowner lets you (or your club) use if for free, how do they feel if you (or your club) charge anyone for launch or contest fees?
2) If your normal turnout for a launch is 10-15-20 folks at a time, how does your landowner feel if you want to hold an event where 100 or 200 people will show up (with cars to park)?

It's great if a local school will let me use their property for just me, or for a small class (from their school), but it kind of s**ks that they won't give permission for an outside 'group' to hold a contest. I can see their side of it (littering, parking, insurance questns, etc) but it sure makes it tougher to find decent (mowed, flat, no trees) fields.
 

MarkII

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My side yard (which is my closest launch area) qualifies as more of a rock farm. What's sod?

I have additional qstns for you guys who have free access to large areas:
1) If the landowner lets you (or your club) use if for free, how do they feel if you (or your club) charge anyone for launch or contest fees?
We don't. Never have, AFAIK. What costs would we be defraying if we charged fees? We get to use the land for free, after all.

2) If your normal turnout for a launch is 10-15-20 folks at a time, how does your landowner feel if you want to hold an event where 100 or 200 people will show up (with cars to park)?
A turnout of 50, spread out over the course of the day (with people periodically arriving and leaving) would probably set a record for us. It would be HUGE! A turnout of 100 to 200? By all indications, there aren't that many rocket fliers in our entire region. :rolleyes:

It's great if a local school will let me use their property for just me, or for a small class (from their school), but it kind of s**ks that they won't give permission for an outside 'group' to hold a contest. I can see their side of it (littering, parking, insurance questns, etc) but it sure makes it tougher to find decent (mowed, flat, no trees) fields.
Don't you pay school taxes? Are you a resident of the state where the school is located? If so, do you pay state taxes? And doesn't your state partially subsidize the school with tax revenue? I have never heard of a school district denying such an event. Was your event open to NAR members only? Was it limited to club members only? If it was not open to the general public, then that might have been a factor in the denial of permission. None of the school districts in my area would deny such a request (assuming that they had land available that was suitable to fly on), especially if the organizer could demonstrate that the event had some educational value. Do rocket events have educational value?

I doubt that the concerns that you think the SD had were actual factors in their decision. Littering? Have you ever seen how much litter is generated during an average HS football game? Parking? How does your school handle parking for any other event? Insurance? Doesn't NAR have insurance to cover such events?

If the school in question was in the SD where your Section is based, then you are not an "outside group." You are local citizens, and members of the community in which the school is located. You were not asking to use the property to engage in some commercial, for-profit event. Your Section is a non-profit club, which has membership available to anyone without discrimination, which engages in educational activities as part of its program, and which is based in and is a member of the local community. Do any of your Section's members have any children enrolled in that school?

Mark \\.
 

dave carver

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So, where are you, too?

Mark \\.


Boise, Idaho. Launch site some 20 miles south of Kuna, Idaho just north of the Snake River canyon rim on BLM land. Haven't been out there for a while, need to do something about that this year :p
 

hilltopper

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MC2 and H.A.R.A. share a sod farm in Manchester TN. about a square mile of grass mmmmmmmmmm cant wait till march!
 

Jamski

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Guess I really don't belong in this thread, we fly off of BLM land where there not a tree in sight. Nothing for miles but some sage brush and cheat grass.

Gotta love them high plains deserts ;)

Jamski, nice sprint car!!!!
Lucky you...bet there's some hard landings though...

By the way, that's Al Unser in the Vel's Parnelli Jones Champ Dirt Car, circa 1970, back when Indy Cars meant running on paved ovals, road courses, dirt ovals, and Pikes Peak!
 

Stymye

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MC2 and H.A.R.A. share a sod farm in Manchester TN. about a square mile of grass mmmmmmmmmm cant wait till march!
yes,and definately the coolest landowner any club could hope for.
 

Mark Wise

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Hey, everybody, thanks for all the input. That's just the sort of information that NARHAMS was looking for.

Now, we just have to find a sod farm within a reasonable driving distance for our members....

Regards,
Mark
 

Peartree

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Skybusters (Cleveland) flies out of a huge cornfield when it is not under crops. they do have launch fees but they are reasonable. As I understand it, fees are used to maintain launch equipment and club stuff (ez-up, trailer, port-o-pots, etc.) but some of it goes to the landowner as well for things like drainage of the launch site, maintenance of the lane we use, gravel, etc. I don't think it amounts to much but the gesture is nice.

[edit] I think there might be a Christmas gift for the landowner as well. It's all about goodwill and being a good neighbor.
 

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