Thursday, October 20, 2016

NOFA Annual Gathering 2016 Event Posting

NOFA Annual Gathering 2016

Biodiversity in the Landscape 

Friday, December 9, 2016

8:00am - 3:30pm
Aqua Turf Club, Southington, CT

Register today for our 11th Annual Gathering for Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals (AOLCPs) and anyone who loves natural and sustainable land care practices!  Get informed on the latest news and practices from our guest speakers, network with other professionals, and immerse yourself in this year's theme, Biodiversity in the Landscape, to discover how we can create and nurture diverse landscapes that support our pollinators and wildlife.
Early bird ends Nov 9th!
Register Online HERE or Call 203-308-2584
AOLCPs and NOFA members: $110/ Non-members $120
After Nov 9, $135 member/ $145 non-member
Register 3 or more: $100 each ticket

Meet Our Keynote Speaker

Catherine Zimmerman, AOLCP
Keynote address: Creating Habitat Heroes Across the Nation

Certified horticulturist, landscape designer, author, award-winning director of photography and producer of the documentary film Hometown Habitat, Stories of Bringing Nature Home


Catherine Zimmerman, an award-winning director of photography, celebrates her 41st year as a documentary filmmaker, working primarily on education and environmental issues. Catherine's latest film release, Hometown Habitat, Stories of Bringing Nature Home, is a collaboration with Dr. Douglas Tallamy.  The documentary explores how and why native plants are critical to the survival and vitality of local eco-systems,and tells inspiring stories of habitat heroes across the country who are working to bring back nature in their hometowns. Go to Catherine's new website to see the movie trailer!
In 2010 Catherine published Urban & Suburban Meadows, Bringing Meadowscaping to Big and Small Spaces. The book is a stunning and enticing introduction to meadowscaping that encourages readers do away with pesticides, reduce lawn and return their land to a beautiful, natural habitat for native plants and wildlife. The companion video was produced in 2012.

Catherine hopes her projects will help fire up the movement toward making natural landscapes the new landscaping norm. She is looking forward to addressing an audience of change-makers at the 11th Annual Gathering, a group who can continue to spread her messages to homeowners and land managers.

Meet Our Guest Speakers

Linda Walczak
Julie Snell

Linda Walczak and
Julie Snell 

TEND Landscape, Inc., Philadelphia, PA

"Biodiversity in Urban Gardens-Opportunities and Challenges"

Diane St. John

Diane St. John
Natureworks Organic Garden Center
Northford, CT

"Nurturing Monarchs-One Butterfly at a Time"

Karen Bussolini

 Karen Bussolini
Garden Writer & Photographer, Kent, CT

"The Year-Round Pollinator Garden"

John Campanelli

John Campanelli
UCONN, Storrs, CT

"Native Plant Mixes for Borders and Roadways"

Kim Stoner
 Dr. Kim Stoner, Entomologist
 Connecticut Ag. Experiment Station
 New Haven, CT
"Increasing Pollinators by Increasing Plant Diversity"

Conference Venue: Aqua Turf Club in Southington, CT

556 Mulberry St, Southington, CT 06479

Click here for directions

Sponsorship, Exhibitor, Advertising, and Raffle Opportunities - We have room for you!

We are sold out of Gold Sponsorships and only have few Silver Sponsorships left. We still have exhibitor tables for $300, which include one ticket. To learn more about becoming a Silver Sponsor or exhibitor, please call 203-308-2584 or email

We are accepting raffle donations, which are a great way to expose your business to potential customers! Act now if you'd like your business to participate by contacting

Thank you to our Premium OLC Sponsors for supporting us Year-Round!

Thank you to our Annual Gathering Sponsors, for supporting this important event!
Gold Sponsors- Organic Plant Magic, Compostwerks and Osborne Organics!


Silver Sponsors - Frank Crandall Horticultural Solutions and Green Earth Ag& Turf            

Friday, October 7, 2016

Long Island Course to Train Land Care Pros to Provide Toxin-Free Landscaping

 Cornell Cooperative Extension to Host NOFA OLC Training and Accreditation Course

Land care professionals interested in meeting growing demand for toxin-free lawns and yards are invited to attend the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s (NOFA) Accreditation Course in Organic Land Care held at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County in Riverhead on November 7, 8, 14, and 15, 2016

This 30-hour, 4-day course provides a well-rounded curriculum covering organic land care principles, practices, design and maintenance based on NOFA’s  Standards   for Land  Care:  Practices for Design and Maintenance of Ecological Landscapes. First   published   in   2001 and now offered in the fifth edition,  these  Standards extend  the  vision  and  practices  of  organic  agriculture  to  the care of landscapes where we live our daily lives.

CT NOFA is pleased to partner with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and Perfect Earth Project (PRFCT), a three-year old, East Hampton, Long Island-based non-profit educational organization promoting toxin-free landscape management for the benefit of human and environmental health. Demand for organic land care is increasing rapidly on Long Island due in great part to PRFCT’s community education and outreach underscoring the dangers of synthetic lawn and landscape chemicals. Professional landscapers and designers, along with homeowners, learn about non-toxic practices in PRFCT’s low-cost seminars. “We’re here to help people, to provide resources for them to create their own awareness and share it with others” said PRFCT founder Edwina Von Gal. “We encourage homeowners not to fire the people they’re working with, but to convert them.”
"Landscaping professionals in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states increasingly consider NOFA’s Accreditation Course in Organic Land Care a savvy investment in distinguishing themselves as highly trained experts in the growing market for non-toxic and organic landscaping services."  - Jenna Messier, OLC Program Director
Since 2002, The NOFA Accreditation Course in Organic Land Care has been the definitive professional training course for landscapers, lawn care specialists, municipal groundskeepers, landscape architects and environmental educators to learn and adopt best practices for caring for the land without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Attendees who pass the accreditation exam on November 15 become Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals (AOLCPs), joining over 500 NOFA AOLCPs in 20 states, including 45 in New York.

The roster of course instructors includes Paul Wagner, Director of Soil FoodWeb New York, Inc., a commercial soil microbiology testing laboratory located in Center Moriches, and the owner of Greener Pastures Organics, a Southampton –based landscaping company on “a mission to ‘green-up’ our piece of the world one landscape at a time.”  Wagner has over 20 years’ experience in the green industry and 15 years’ experience in science-based organic tree, shrub and lawn care. His work with soil microbiology provides the scientific basis for successful organic soil management practices and applications. 

CT NOFA enjoys support from partner and co-sponsors Perfect Earth Project and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County along with event sponsors PJC Organics of Massachusetts, Tech Terra Environmental of New Jersey, and Soil FoodWeb NY of Southampton.

The $695 course fee includes course materials, lunches, exam, and supporter level accreditation until January 1, 2018. Early bird registration of $650 ends October 10, 2016. Group discounts of $600 per person for 3 or more employees are available along with payment plans. For more details including a course curriculum, and to register, contact the Northeast Organic Farming Association (CT NOFA) office at 203-308-2584 or visit

Friday, September 30, 2016

63 attendees at the Organic Turf and Athletic Fields Workshop on September 22nd!

Full room at Cheshire Park and Rec!
Written by Jenna Messier, NOFA OLC Program Director

We had a great turnout last week at our first NOFA Advanced Workshop on Organic Turf and Athletic Fields, held in Cheshire, CT at the Parks and Recreation Department.  Over half of the attendees were municipal employees who actively manage town parks, properties and athletic fields, and the others were Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals who are looking to learn more about new developments in organic fertility and lawn care.

Chuck Sherwood
Chuck Sherwood, owner of Sherwood Sportsturf and contractor with Cheshire Park and Rec. Department, started out the day by explaining his approach and practices which he has been delivering on Cheshire's many sports fields.  Chuck has been utilizing soil tests and focusing on improving the Calcium to Magnesium ratio in order for nutrients to be available for the turfgrass. Chuck has worked for many towns in Connecticut and he shared with the audience the necessity for working within a town's budget to create each individual field's management plan.  Thankfully, Cheshire has irrigation and enough fields to allow some fields to be rested, in order to renovate the turf with aeration and seed.  The fields which we visited for the on-site demonstration were not being played on until late Spring or early Summer, which is why we chose the site for added inputs.

Chip Osborne
Chip Osborne from Osborne Organics, a national consulting service, spoke about his practices of reviewing chemical soil tests and additionally soil bioassays, in order to survey the state of the soil prior to making any land care decisions.  Chip consults for the National Parks Department and has also volunteered for many years in his hometown of Marblehead, Massachusetts as the advisor for all town parks and sports fields which have been organic for over 10 years.

Chip reviewed both of the soil tests from the Far Fields at Bartram Park, and he noted that the pH was lower than desired and the soil was fungal-dominated; which is not the best scenario for turf which prefers bacterial-dominated soils for optimum nutrient cycling.  The soil bioassay was provided by Soil FoodWeb NY, and was very helpful when Compostwerks planned their brewing of compost tea for the afternoon application.

After the soil test review, Chip discussed some of the parameters for a municipality to plan for organic turf management.  He also stressed the reality of working within town budgets and taking a longer-term approach to improving soil health, such as selecting priority fields to put resources into, and choosing to re-seed one year, perhaps fertilize the next year, and select aeration in year three, as examples of spreading practices over time. Chip shared his view of what turf management has evolved to, including the following innovations:
  1. Creating programs which address short and long term needs of the turf, while addressing soil health
  2. The combination of liquid and granular applications as a strategy
  3. The improvement of liquid fertilizers now available on the market in powder and liquid forms
  4. The very strong emphasis on providing food and resources to foster healthy microbial life within a turf program.
Frank Crandall
Next, we were joined by Frank Crandall from Frank Crandall Horticultural Solutions, a Rhode Island-based company which provides business consulting and workshops. He first reviewed some accounting practices for assessing the cost of equipment. Then he moved on to incorporate methods for pricing particular organic practices which were suggested by Chip, such as pricing for granular and liquid applications, over-seeding, and providing microbial foods such as humates or molasses.  Frank gave us his spreadsheets electronically, which can be found at the bottom of the webpage for the workshop at

Jenna and Jeff
Before lunch break, CT NOFA's Executive Director, Jeff Cordulack, thanked all of our presenters with his signature token of thanks - a jar of honey - symbolic of the importance of caring for pollinators with sound land care practices.  Jeff also surprised me, the author Jenna Messier, with an acknowledgement of my 5 years of work at CT NOFA, reading a letter from our Board of Directors and giving me a bonus in the form of a check.  Very nice, yet I couldn't stop blushing. It was truly an honor.

Bad lighting, but glad to have a picture of so many intelligent land care professionals together!
Tom Corradino
After lunch we headed out to the Far Fields at Bartram Park, where field hockey will be played next year.  We started with the aeration demonstration, in which Tom Corradino, from Schmidts and Serafines, a hardware store and power equipment shop located in Waterbury, gave us some information about the equipment while co-owner Lee Schmidt did the aerating by riding up and down the field. You can either rent a machine or purchase depending upon your expected usage. The process of core aeration involves soil cores being removed from the turf so that oxygen can enter into the root zone and relieving compaction.

Soil cores will disintegrate in time

Left to right, Peter, Lee and B.G.

Peter Schmidt and Gregg Twehues

Next, Peter Schmidt from Compostwerks, talked about the process of brewing compost tea, which is utilized as a fertilizer and a source of microbial biological life forms that are critical for nutrient cycling in the soil.  Very early in the morning, the tea needed to be brewed prior to the workshop, due to its short life span of 6 hours.

The tea is kept in a tank with aeration in order to keep the biology alive and oxygenated until the application. They have 3 tanks on their truck which allows for different blends to be brought to a property.  Some plants require a fungal-dominated biology and some require more bacteria to thrive, so each brewing is a unique and calculated blend. Additional amendments were displayed, such as molasses, which they added to the tea right before applying to provide food for the biology to thrive. Gregg Twehues, co-owner of Compostwerks, demonstrated the application process as he walked back and forth across the fields with the wand and hose, spraying the compost tea evenly.

Gregg is applying the compost tea, which smelled very sweet due to the molasses
The afternoon was planned to allow distributors of organic fertility products to explain to the audience specifically how their products work. NOFA OLC does not recommend one particular product or company over another, however, we see this as part of our mission. The NOFA Standards for Organic Land Care do not allow for synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Thus, land care professionals have a critical need to learn about how organic fertilizers are different from the traditional fertilizers, where to find the products, and to know there is a big selection for different budgets and situations.

Fred Newcombe from PJC
After the outdoor demo, we returned to the classroom to discuss organic fertility products with some of the most knowledgeable folks in the business!  Fred Newcombe from PJC Organics talked about their granular fertilizers, namely the Renaissance brand, which his company manufactures. They specialize in serving the municipal market with wholesale pricing and by offering expert advice to their clients.
Joe Magazzi, Green Earth Ag&Turf

Next, we had Joe Magazzi from Green Earth Ag & Turf speak about
how organic fertility products have come a long way in their development, how the price points have come down, and he described how they work differently than synthetic fertilizers. He distributes a product called Quantum Growth which is very popular these days, being used on professional sports fields around the country.  His company also offers organic and biological pest control products as well.
Peter Schmidt

Peter Schmidt discussed the process of brewing compost tea in greater depth than in the outdoor demonstration. In addition, he shared with the group when to select compost or compost tea as the application of choice. Compost is great for adding organic matter, but you should not apply more than a 1/4 inch topdress per application, with concern over adding too much phosphorus in the soil and getting into our waterways.  However, compost tea adds the biology alone and there is not a concern for adding too much.

Our speaker from Hart's Seeds was not feeling well, and unfortunately we missed his presentation. However, we should mention that Hart's Seeds is a Connecticut based seed company which offers many blends of grass seed in bulk shipments. We hope to have Paul back another time!

Chip Osborne and Frank Crandall provided a wrap-up for the day, reminding students that an organic program can be achieved at a variety of prices, and is in direct relation to the level of expectations which the land manager is being held to. A high level of expectation will require a high level of inputs, cultural practices, and over-seeding and will thus require a higher level of spending. This is a conversation which must be had between a municipal employee or a contractor and the decision makers involved.  Frank then told the group to provide the best budgets and estimates possible in order to communicate in financial numbers to town managers all costs involved.

It was a great day, thanks to all for coming!