Pacheco Brothers Gardening Inc.
According to George Pacheco, president of Pacheco Brothers Gardening Inc., nothing is as dangerous to athletes as sliding over a sunflower seed stuck in synthetic turf. Not only does it cut “like glass,” but it can cause infections.
Sunflower seeds aren’t the only thing hiding in the plastic turf.
“On a regular soccer or football field you get about 25 to 50 gallons of debris,” Pacheco says, which includes players hair, skin, saliva, and in some cases blood. If not cleaned properly, this “biowaste” can create a harmful bacterium called MRSA, one of the most resilient strains of staph, which can turn even a small cut deadly.
Pacheco Brothers is one of the few companies in California with the equipment and know-how to properly clean and disinfect synthetic fields.
The company uses an anti-microbial spray that washes away and kills the bacteria that sits on top of the field. The company also uses the Verti-Air turf cleaning system which is attached to the PTO of the tractor and uses a rotary brush and compressed air to lift any debris out of the turf.
For Pacheco Brothers, synthetic turf cleaning is the newest in a long line of services.
The company provides landscape maintenance for municipal properties such as city parks, schools and universities. This work includes renovating baseball, soccer and football fields, and hydroseeding, a wet planting process that sprays seeds over prepared ground, as well as tree and tractor work. Today, Pacheco Brothers maintains over 27 different schools and park districts in California.
Though it makes up less of the company’s business, Pacheco Brothers also offers maintenance and construction services for commercial and residential properties.
Its headquarters is in Hayward, California, and the company also has offices in Livermore and Antioch, California.
Business based on diversity
Pacheco and his brother, Gary, started Pacheco Brothers in 1979.
In the beginning, their company worked on residential properties, mowing lawns and providing general upkeep such as tree work and landscape design. The company didn’t get into government projects until the mid ‘80s, when it was hired by Danville, California, to maintain the town’s various parks. This included landscape construction, mowing and aerating the lawns.
Pacheco says he and his brother enjoyed working for towns and cities more than residential work, so they started expanding their services to have this focus.
“We wanted to capture as much of the business that was out there,” Pacheco says. “Because maybe you start doing one thing for a city, like mowing grass for a park, but eventually they want to be able to use you for other things like irrigation repairs or fertilization.”
Pacheco Brothers spent the next 20 years diversifying, not only adding more municipal work to their specialty, but eventually doing field renovations for high schools and universities in Northern California.
Pacheco Brothers even started sponsoring the North Coast Sports Section of the California Interscholastic Federation, which organizes and governs the state playoffs for over 200 public and private high school sports in California.
“We spend $30,000 to $50,000 in sponsorship, but we then get it back tenfold because the school districts will usually use us to maintain their fields,” Pacheco says.
For a time, this meant services like seeding and mowing green grass fields and mixing the right cinder-clay for baseball fields. But Pacheco and his brother began to notice that more high schools, universities and professional fields were switching to synthetic turf.
They saw another opportunity to continue expanding their services.
Landscapers turned educators
Synthetic turf fields started being used in Europe in the 1970s, and were gaining more popularity in the U.S. because they didn’t require seeding and were more durable when wet. “When athletes play when it’s raining they tear up the whole field, but you can play rain or shine on a synthetic,” Pacheco says.
To clean turf, Pacheco Brothers’ Verti-Air machine works like a high-powered vacuum that sucks up everything underneath it.
But even with these advantages, high schools and universities were running into questions of how to properly clean the synthetic turf because manufactures of synthetic turf would usually only sell these schools a broom to brush off the turf.
“They really need a machine like ours because all they are doing is addressing the surface not the stuff that gets embedded in the crumb rubber,” Pacheco says.
Crumb rubber is made of ground-up tires and lies underneath and between the turf fibers to help absorb the impact of falling players. It is necessary to pass an inspection called g-max testing, which measures synthetic fields for shock absorption.
To clean turf, Pacheco Brothers’ Verti-Air machine works like a high-powered vacuum that sucks up everything underneath it, including the crumb rubber, and separates out any organic or foreign matter, such as hair, skin or cleats. The machine then deposits the clean crumb rubber back on, and in, the turf.
Pacheco says this process also helps with g-max testing because it loosens the crumb rubber and makes it “a little more spongy.”
For the past ten years, Pacheco Brothers has been educating schools and universities about the importance of keeping this material clean.
Pacheco says that more and more state governments are taking notice of the connection between unsanitary turf and infection, and are trying to pass laws that mandate how often synthetic turf must be cleaned.
“In regular professional football and the NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association], they spray almost every day with an anti-microbial spray to stop the spread of harmful bacteria,” Pacheco says.
However, many high schools, and even some universities, often don’t have the same funds to afford this kind of upkeep and are only spraying once or twice a year. Synthetic fields also have to be replaced every seven to 10 years and installing brand new turf can cost millions of dollars.
Pacheco Brothers still meets with principals and athletic directors of the North Coast Section at least once a year to deliver presentations about why their service is so important for the safety of young athletes.
At the same time, Pacheco says the company plans to grow in other ways, and turf is just one part of his business.
“Because we mostly do municipalities and schools and fields, we’re really known as the one stop shop for any field renovations, whether they are green or synthetic,” he says.
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