The Tobin legacy of lawn and garden deeply rooted in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Toby Tobin loves his job, and you'd be hard-pressed to find more loyal listeners than his. Sitting inside the National Golf Course, he let us in to his past, present and future of a lawn care legacy that shows no signs of slowing.

Toby Tobin's family has helped Kansas City take care of their lawns for generations but the last two generations of Tobins have taken to the airwaves.

It started in 1963 while Toby's father Jack, before any cable network, was hosting a television show called "Let's Get Growing!" His viewers planted a seed that has been growing for 50 years.

Read Toby's All-Time Tips |

"Dad would always get mail, 'Jack I wish we could have asked you that question on TV!'" laughed Tobin.  So Jack Tobin's call-in radio show was born and instantly skyrocketed.

"That was the most listened-to hour in the Midwest," Toby said. "He had a huge audience, it was amazing."

Toby got his lucrative lawn care and radio experience whether he wanted it or not sometimes from a father who loved to fish. "I would get calls the night before and say 'Guess what?' 'I'm doing the radio show, right?' 'Yeah you are!'" Toby laughed, holding his hand to his ear, remembering fondly the father he feels like he can never top.

"He had a magic personality, a fantastic laugh. For many years, people would say 'I miss your dad's laugh,'" Tobin said, smiling.

Tobin admitted he never had a problem growing things, but it wasn't just a natural green thumb. He had plenty of experience behind the scenes of his dad's television show.

"The camera man would show dad making one pass with the verti-cut machine and dad would stop, and then Toby finished the work!" Tobin laughed.

Despite lawn care being in his blood, it took blood to convince Toby it would become his career. As a student at Rockhurst College, Toby actually wanted to be a surgeon. The day he decided to watch a surgery really changed his mind.

"Blood hit me in the face, and I immediately fainted!" he said. He fainted three more times and the surgeon sat him down when he woke up. "He said 'Toby, I really think probably you need to think about another vocation.' I said 'I've already resigned!'" he said, laughing. "So it was back in the lawn and garden business!"

So more than 30 years later, he is doing what he loves and covering new ground because the listeners, he says, keep it fresh. With detailed garden questions like 'How do I mow my lawn?.'

"There are never any stupid questions," he said. "I don't mind answering questions a million and one times."

Toby's "Best and Brightest" list has become a sort of homeowner's bible that clears store shelves of whatever product Toby says works. Sometimes they have to warn stores in the area that they'll be recommending a product just so they are prepared for the demand. Tobin takes those recommendations very seriously.

"If I recommend it, it has to work because Toby does not like to be wrong -- At all!" he said.

Tobin's favorite spring activity might surprise you. He loves killing his lawn.

"It is really fun killing it, and watching the neighbor's looks!" he said with an ornery smirk.

It is a method he swears by and part of a job he loves. He won't recommend anything he hasn't tried himself.

His radio show is still a family act. His brother Mark occasionally fills in and will eventually take over Toby's show. For now, sibling rivalry lives on a little bit.

"He loves it, and I won't let him do it any more because he is better than I am!" Toby chuckled.

But the 70-year-old says not to plan on Mark planting himself on the radio for a while.

"I'm planning on doing it until I'm 91! Or i might go 95 and then retire," he smiled, before adding a quick "And I'm serious!"

Print this article Back to Top