Growing a business together

A GCSAA member nurtures a different kind of green with his family market garden business.


Rob and Morgan Podleski
Farmington Country Club superintendent Rob Podleski and his wife, Morgan, own Twin Row Farm. They grow produce in their home and have six markets as clients. Photo by Andrew Shurtleff

Rob Podleski delivers.

Whether it happens at Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville, Va., or a local market, Podleski brings it. According to Joe Krenn, it’s more about actions than words when it comes to Podleski, the club’s superintendent and an 11-year GCSAA member. “He’s one of those silent leaders, as I like to say,” says Krenn, CEO/general manager at Farmington CC. “He’s always there, working with the team. Leaders have to have the respect of their team. He has it.”

 You don’t necessarily need to be a member of Farmington CC to encounter Podleski. He’s out and about after work on Friday in his blue Dodge Dakota 4x4, delivering microgreens to markets. Podleski and his wife, Morgan, have their own business, Twin Row Farm. They love to grow things. Their business is growing, too. Recently, they added a sixth market that sells their goods. Podleski grew interested in this endeavor by example. “My grandparents had a farm. They sold veggies and produce. They got through tough times doing it,” Podleski says.

Other flesh and blood in Podleski’s life showcased survival skills. His father, Bob, served in the Vietnam War for the U.S. Marines. His task included demolition assignments near the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone, which was established as the divider between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. “We got shot at every day. They (opposing troops) tried to sneak up behind you and tried to kill you,” Bob Podleski says. He got shot. Twice. He survived and has a Purple Heart. The medal is presented to service members who have been wounded or killed as a result of enemy action while serving in the U.S. military.

“He is resilient. Never quits. Finds a way,” Rob says of his father. The son left home after high school to find his own way. Podleski was a talented golfer from Michigan, playing in American Junior Golf Association events against future standouts such as Trevor Immelman. Podleski moved to Myrtle Beach, S.C., hoping to become a golf club professional. One day he was at Wild Wing Plantation’s Hummingbird Course in Conway, S.C., and met a grounds maintenance worker. Searching for work at age 18, Podleski had a chance encounter with that club employee that led to a crew job — and a future. “I fell in love with it,” says Podleski, who secured an associate degree in turfgrass management at Horry Georgetown Technical College in Conway.

That passion translated into opportunity. Podleski landed an internship at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., which this month hosts the U.S. Open. He spent two seasons there before applying in 2004 for a second-assistant opening at Farmington CC. Podleski’s interview lasted seven hours. Eighteen years later, he’s still there. In January this year, he was promoted from first assistant to superintendent.

“He’s always trying to keep learning, and he’s great at relationships with a lot of members. He’s excellent at getting stuff done,” says Scott Kinnan, CGCS, a 27-year association member and director of greens and grounds at Farmington CC, where he’s been for 19 years after working more than eight years at Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort, including as superintendent on the Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5 courses. “Both of us strive to make it the best every day for our members. I think he gets that we’re part of the bigger picture for the club. We’re always moving forward, reinvesting. The ball’s always moving forward here. We don’t get stagnant.”

Farmington CC
Farmington CC in Charlottesville, Va., opened in 1929 and features 28 holes. The 10-hole East Course and state-of-the-art practice facility were renovated in 2016 by Coore & Crenshaw. Photo courtesy of Farmington CC

Bob Podleski credits Kinnan for guiding his son to new heights. “He (Rob) is doing what he wants to do. I can’t ask for more than that,” Bob says. “He’s expanded his horizons thanks to Scott.” At 28-hole Farmington CC, Rob Podleski has helped lead major projects, including an 18-hole bunker renovation and the conversion and grow-in of 10 putting greens to the newest bentgrass varieties of Tyee and 007. Currently, Farmington is undergoing a five-year master plan renovation of the main 18-hole golf course. Podleski also assisted the leadership team in adjusting the maintenance budget to cut 20% while continuing to deliver the best possible course conditioning during the pandemic. He was instrumental in reorganizing the maintenance facility to improve efficiencies along with enhancing the crew complex area for employees.

In their spare time, Rob and Morgan Podleski are determined to improve people's lives. Their Twin Row Farm operation is much about health and nutrition. The microgreens they grow and sell, such as pea, radish and broccoli, are handled in their home. They turned a 250-square-foot office into a grow room, featuring grow lights and a dehumidifier. “During the pandemic, we thought, ‘How can we get more local food?’ We watched YouTube videos, bought racks and trays for plants. We started to grow things, thinking maybe someone would buy them. We sold $185 worth at our first farmers market and thought this might work,” Rob Podleski says. “We’re trying to grow food for local people. We think people like stuff grown not far from them, things that can stay in the fridge two weeks and doesn’t go bad in two or three days.”

Morgan Podleski, who also works for her family’s electric distributor business, is totally committed to the project — even if she needed at least two or three minutes to get a read on her future husband during their initial date. “He said, ‘I grow grass.’ I said, ‘Can you elaborate?’” she says with a laugh. “This is a passion project for us. I want to create something of my own. Rob does, too. I have the business side of it. Rob has the growing experience and knowledge. It’s something to benefit us, benefit our community.”

The Podleskis harvest and package their goods Thursday night for Friday’s delivery (even Farmington CC’s kitchen uses some of their product). The rest of the time, Rob is dedicated to delivering his very best at Farmington CC, which in 1993 hosted the U.S. Senior Amateur. “We have very loyal golfers. A fantastic membership. We want to make it playable for everyone,” Podleski says. “It’s a very humbling experience for me to be here. There’s only been four superintendents before me in its history. I think of all the hard work, loyalty, that made it possible for me. It means a lot.”

Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor