The mission of the Florida Master Naturalist Program (FMNP) is to promote awareness, understanding, and respect of Florida’s natural world among Florida’s citizens and visitors. We’re highlighting graduates of the Florida Master Naturalist Program (FMNP) as part of a series. This blog features my interview with Florida Master Naturalist Craig Weyandt, Superintendent -The Moorings at Hawks Nest Golf Course. Learn more about FMNP, check out the program website HERE.
Ken: You are the superintendent of a golf course in Vero Beach. Please tell readers about the golf course and your job there.
Craig: I manage The Moorings at Hawks Nest golf course, which sets on 200 acres on the north side of Vero Beach. There are no homes on the property, just a clubhouse in the middle. With a staff of 20 we maintain the golf course and grounds with wildlife and environmental quality in mind.
Ken: What motivated you to become a Florida Master Naturalist?
Craig: Becoming Florida Master Naturalist was not a goal in the beginning, I just enjoyed the courses. I still enjoy learning about Florida’s flora and fauna daily. Curious by nature I just want to know more about what I see.
Ken: How have you used your Florida Master Naturalist knowledge on-the-job?
Craig: They say asking a Master Naturalist a question is like trying to get a drink out of a fire hydrant and that couldn’t be more true with me. I love sharing Nature with the members I work for and anyone else that will listen. Monthly during the season, I provide wildlife tours and I have a Twitter account @grsfarmer that is linked to the club’s website where I share maintenance topics and wildlife facts.
Ken: What specific things did you do on the golf course to help the native plants and animals there?
Craig: My staff and I consider nature before making pesticide or fertilizer applications. If a pesticide is needed, it is only used where, when, and at the lowest rate possible. Soil tests are used to determine if amendments (fertilizers) are needed. Custom blends are made tailored to the needs of the property. We also remove exotic plants and replace them with native plants. And my favorite, a prescribed burn was performed in 2018 on the 40 acres of undeveloped property and I can’t wait to do it again.
Ken: Can you describe one or two of the most memorable things you’ve done through the Florida Master Naturalist Program?
Craig: My two favorite memories in the master naturalist program were hiking in the Kissimmee State Preserve and walking in the swamp of the St. Sebastian State Park. When you are up to your waste in water in the swamp you feel more part of nature rather than studying it.
Ken: Where in Florida is your favorite place to go hiking that is also publicly accessible? Why is it your favorite place?
Craig: It’s not hiking but I like to go biking in the stick marsh. I have ridden with my wife 20 miles down gravel roads in the marsh and the only sights and sounds I hear are that of nature. Seeing a flock of 1000 white pelicans doesn’t hurt either.
Ken: After participating in the Florida Master Naturalist Program, can you estimate how many people you’ve been able to teach about Florida’s environment?
Craig: With the hiking tours, eco boat cruises I would say in the hundreds of people. Through Twitter I have reached in the thousands.
Ken: Do you think you’ve made an impact as a Florida Master Naturalist?
Craig: I think I have made an impact with the people I work for, the people that work with me. I used to be taken back by being called the Nature Nerd, but I embrace it now. I love Florida, nature, wildlife and just want to share my passion with others.
Ken: Last year for the Florida Master Naturalist Program 20 Year Anniversary we co-hosted the “Birding on Bicycles” adventure at the T.M. Goodwin Wildlife Management Area in Fellsmere. Did you have as much fun as I did?
Craig: Didn’t see this question coming but above I refer to this area as the “stick marsh”. This area is remote but accessible and if you want to get lost in nature you can do it there. Yes, truly enjoyed it and can’t wait to do it again… with tacos after the ride please.
Ken: Thanks for the great interview, Craig. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Craig: Neale Donald Walsch – American author, speaker, screenwriter, and actor said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” This quote is a reminder that whatever you’re searching for is just outside your comfort zone, peeking over the new horizon.
Ken: Craig Weyandt completed the Florida Master Naturalist core modules in 2012.
Coastal Systems, 2012 — Indian River County — Central East Region
Freshwater Systems, 2011 — Indian River County — Central East Region
Wildlife Monitoring, 2014 — St. Lucie County — Central East Region
Upland Systems, 2011 — Indian River County — Central East Region
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