Monday, December 10, 2012

Organic Lawn & Turf Day is January 11 in Massachusetts!

Cost: $95 NOFA members and AOLCPs; $105 non-members
The NOFA/Mass Organic Land Care Program is pleased to present this one-day intensive workshop on organic turf management.

The 2012 Organic Lawn and Turf Day begins with an overview of the cultural practices for establishing a successful organic turf system, and then moves into a more in-depth look at technical specifics of fertilization and product inputs. We will close out the day with a discussion of the direction of the organic lawn care market, and a Q&A with a panel of Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals currently offering lawn care services.
Chip Osborne is an AOLCP, the President of Osborne Organics and Chairman of the Marblehead, MA Recreation and Parks Department. Chip is one of the country’s leading experts on organic turf grass management. His current projects include consulting with the National Parks Service to pilot organic turf systems in 9 different parks. He serves on the Advisory Committee for the NOFA Organic Land Care Program and on as a board member for the non-profit organization, Beyond Pesticides.

Mary Owen is the Turf Program Coordinator for the UMASS Lawn and Turf Extension as well as a Turf Extension Specialist. She is a regular lecturer for the Green School, a founding member of the New England Sports Turf Managers Association, and an educational leader in both the Massachusetts Association of Lawn Care Professionals and the New England Regional Turfgrass Foundation.

Fred Newcombe is an AOLCP and the President of PJC Ecological, an organic landscaping company- turned natural fertilizer supplier, where he oversees product research and development as well as providing consulting services and lectures on the topic of ecological land care. He is also a former Vice President of the NOFA/Mass Board of Directors.

Who Should Attend?

Municipal, Campus, and Grounds staff - Parks & Recreation personnel - Public Works staff - Elected officials - Landscaping company owners and employees

CEUs: 4 AOLCP Credits

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bernadette Giblin Looks Forward to the Annual Gathering

A special guest blog entry from Bernadette Giblin, NOFA-AOLCP & Founder, Safeground Landcare one of our Annual Gathering speakers!

I’m looking forward to the NOFA OLC 2012’s Annual Gathering entitled "Success with the Organic Land Care Market"
Rockaway, Queens, after Hurricane Sandy.
Like you, right about now I’m doing a professional year in review. The annual gathering always gives me some much needed inspiration which I’m typically running low on by now. Getting to hear all the gains made in the movement, the latest new strategies as well as reminders on the tried and true best practices is always reinvigorating. Aside from learning what colleagues are up to we all get to share our lessons learned from another growing season here on Planet Earth. Who would have thought there’d be a drought on Earth day and a Super Storm on the eve of Halloween capable of flooding NYC subways and leaving areas looking like a war zone?
In addition to Super Storms, there’s the ever changing nature of the growing season. Weather once typical in Maryland is now occurring in Massachusetts. There’s no better time to be a NOFA AOLCP. There’s no better time to gain the skill, knowledge and understanding to deal with the environmental changes that affect our ability to care for the land with integrity and professionalism.

I had the pleasure of working collaboratively with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) as the grant writer and consultant on The Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) @ UMASS Lowell’s regional grant funded project. Creating Safeground: Transitioning 5 Parks in Western Massachusetts to a 100% Pesticide & Synthetic Free Organic Land Care Strategy

Here is a preview of the presentation on the five organic demonstrations in Western Massachusetts
The new vital stakeholders in your community
Effective outreach & marketing to build capacity
Kicking the synthetics
Create lasting health and safety in your local environment
Fear vs. Fun
Come to connect with old friends and network with new ones.
Get inspired and get ready for a successful 2013 organic land care season! 
Hope to see you December 5th in Sturbridge!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Pesticide Regulations in the News

This week the American Academy of Pediatricians published a report titled "Pesticide Exposure in Children". Which, unsurprisingly for pesticide-reduction advocates, found that pesticide exposure both from fields and lawns and from foods, is unhealthy for children.  Eileen Fitzgerald with the News Times wrote an article on Wednesday November, 28 connecting these findings to the importance of maintaining Connecticut's ban on pesticides in K-8 schools.  The article, titled "Urge state to keep school pesticide ban" outlines the findings of the AAP report and interviews one of Connecticut's forefront pesticide safety advocates, Nancy Alderman president of the organization  Environmental and Human Health, Inc.  based in New Haven.  The article also brings attention to an alarming letter sent to Connecticut's policy lawmakers from the Connecticut School Grounds Management Coalition urging them to weaken the pesticide ban.  

*Side note: One of the greatest proponents of pesticide regulation roll-back, and who is partically responsible for this letter, is a group named the Connecticut Environmental Council, which recently won a place on Toxics Action Committee's list of "The Dirty Dozen".  Read the "Dirty Dozen Report" and this post in the Courant Blog for more information!

Back to the AAP Report. It finds that: "Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity. Acute poisoning risks are clear, and understanding of chronic health implications from both acute and chronic exposure are emerging. Epidemiologic evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems . . . Recognizing and reducing problematic exposures will require attention to current inadequacies in medical training, public health tracking, and regulatory action on pesticides."
The report warns about exposure to pesticides from the landscape, but also states that "diet may be the most influential source [of pesticides], as illustrated by an intervention study that placed children on an organic diet (produced without pesticide) and observed drastic and immediate decrease in urinary excretion or pesticide metabolites." 

This report is also illuminating, because it also explains how to read a pesticide label to prevent dangerous exposure for adults and children.  The very first "signal word" that identifies toxicity is a US Environmental Protection Agency registration number.  There has been a lot of confusion (mostly because of misinformation distributed by the pesticide industry) that EPA registration means a product is safe for the environment and for people, when really, the complete opposite is true.  

The last two lines of the Fitzgerald's article seem to make the choice clear: "With this new powerful report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, it seems that parents would want to make sure the law stays in place as it is.  Perfect lawns and fields would be a poor substitute for healthy children."
Eileen FitzGerald: Urge state to keep school pesticide ban Read the AAP Report: Policy Statement: Pesticide Exposure in Children

If you are worried about these findings, and the ban, write to your state congressman and senator today reinforcing your support for Connecticut's pesticide ban.  If you would like to encourage more regulations in your town's parks and public lands, check out our website's page for towns: 


Monday, November 19, 2012

Registration is Open for the 2013 Accreditation Course

Registration is open for the Accreditation Course in Connecticut and in Pennsylvania!  This year we are having only one course in New England, in Norwich, CT.  Our second course will be in Philadelphia  PA bringing our program to the Mid-Atlantic States!

This year the course is four days long, but jam-packed with information!  We have adjusted the course based on the feedback from the first decade of accredited professionals.  The course is more condensed to save time for our attendees, the course content is focused on practical elements of organic land care, and the last day there will be two tracks of workshops allowing attendees to choose a horticulture or lawn-and-turf concentration.

The course is targeted at municipal, land care, farming, non-profit and environmental professionals who can benefit from a holistic education about the organic principles according to the thirteen year-old NOFA Standards in Organic Land Care incorporated as part of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement's International Family of Standards in 2011.

After taking the course, attendees can take the accreditation exam, which usually takes about an hour to complete.  A score of 70% or higher qualifies one for accreditation.  To learn more about the benefits of accreditation visit the About Accreditation page.  You can prep-pay for the accreditation exam and your accreditation when you register for the course.  There are now two levels of accreditation, the supporter level, mostly for non-profits and educators and the business level which provides marketing materials and collective advertising through out the Northeastern US.

Register for the February 11-14 Course in Connecticut now
Register for the January 14-17 Course in Pennsylvania now

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Successful OLC Business Workshop

On Friday, November 9, 2012, the NOFA Organic Land Care Program hosted its fourth advanced workshop, titled Business Essentials: Pricing and Marketing your Landscaping Services for Success. The half-day workshop was held at the Connecticut Forest and Park Association in Rockfall, CT. Frank Crandall of Frank Crandall Horticultural Solutions in Wakefield, Rhode Island began the first presentation about pricing and estimating organic versus conventional lawn care services.

Frank started out by reviewing the fundamentals of profitable estimates, and then went on to compare the pricing of organic, transitional, and conventional lawn care programs over a three year period. Frank was able to show from the three year comparison that:
a transition program can convert to fully organic after the second year
an organic program can approach traditional lawn care in cost in the third year and
all phases of the organic plan can be profitable with comprehensive estimating

One of the biggest concerns many land care professionals and clients have about organic land care is the idea that it more costly and less profitable than traditional land care. Frank's presentation argued that this isn't always the case, as long as land care professionals provide accurate estimating, and make sure to sell organic as a comprehensive program rather than the organic version of a 4-step program. Frank emphasized discussing expectations with clients before signing an agreement, to ensure that clients understand the differences in methodology between organic and conventional management. He also noted that it's easier to finalize contracts with clients that request organic services rather than trying to convert traditional customers.
Read the rest of the article on our website

If you are interested in organic marketing and messaging for your business or organization, check out the 2012 Annual Gathering, "Success with the Organic Market"

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The 2012 Annual Gathering is going to be Great!

Eric T. Fleisher

The 2012 Organic Land Care Annual Gathering on December 5, 2012 in Sturbridge, MA is a full day program with presentations by leaders in the sustainable landscaping movement about new practices in organic land care.  The Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Organic Land Care Program hosts the event to provide education and networking opportunities for the northeast’s sustainable landscapers and is open to the public.

The 2012 Annual Gathering is titled “Success with the Organic Land Care Market” and the keynote speaker will be Eric T. Fleisher, the Director of Horticulture at Battery Park City Parks Conservancy in lower Manhattan.  Fleisher is a national leader in the field of sustainable horticulture, and has transitioned 37-acres of parkland on the Hudson River to be maintained organically.  Fleisher will discuss the results-driven approach to organic land care in order to build credibility for yourself and your business. 

Bernadette Giblin will share her experience educating citizens, municipalities and institutions about organic land care, drawing on her work transitioning four municipal parks departments in western Massachusetts from conventional management to organic.  Dave Alba, the Program Manager of Oregon Tilth’s Organic Land Care Program will offer a unified approach for professionals to maintain consistent practices and messaging across North America.

Dave Alba from Oregon Tilth
Chip Osborne of Osborne Organics will present his studies about compost and compost tea application in response new regulations about nitrogen and phosphorus applications.  Lee Corte-Real, the Director of the Division of Crop and Pest Services at the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, will discuss new laws that affect land care professionals and the requirements for using organic pesticides in Massachusetts.

Cheryl Smith, an educator with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, will teach about organic management and treatment of plant disease.  Cynthia Rabinowitz, a professional soil scientist and certified permaculture design consultant, will outline permaculture principles and their application to organic land care.

The Annual Gathering is on December 5 from 9:00am to 5:30pm at the Sturbridge Host Hotel in Sturbridge, MA.  During break periods and lunch, attendees are welcome to visit with exhibitors and to visit with the NOFA Organic Land Care staff to learn about accreditation.  Registration for the general public is $115 ($100 for NOFA Members or Accredited Professionals).  For more information or to register, please visit or call the NOFA Organic Land Care office at 203-888-5146.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Storm Water Management

Thinking about stormwater management at home? Well, a great thing to consider is a rain collection system. Rain can be collected from rooftops and stored in barrels and reused to water your garden. An average amount of rainfall for one day can produce hundreds of gallons of water that just wash down your roof and out eventually to make into the local waterways.

Not only are rain barrels a good idea because they save you money on your water bill, but the environment benefits from their use. This is because water that washes off our roofs pick up pollutants like oil, and litter, and animal waste before reaching the local water way. By collecting the water we can prevent all those contaminates from entering the water ways.

Here is a guide for building your own rain water collection system:

Step 1: Cut a bucket to create the top of your rainwater tank

Step 2: Use your permanent marker and the top of the five gallon bucket and trace around the top of the 55 gallon / 210 liter drum.


Step 3: Spout it out 

Step 4: Add a gutter extension.

Step 5: Measure and mark where you need to cut the fitting so that the end will run into the top of your rainwater collection barrel. 


Step 6: Ensure a proper fit.

Step 7: Strain the drain


Step 8: Place a gutter strain in the gutter on your roof. 

For more detailed information on building this rain collection system visit,

For more information on rain collection systems in general visit,

Blog Post by NOFA OLC's Fall Intern, Julia Rossi.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Learn Business Planning and Marketing from the Experts!

Join Horticultural Business Consultant, Frank Crandall and Advertising Design Consultant, Anne DiFrancesco for “Business Essentials: Pricing and Marketing Your Landscaping Services for Success” on Friday, November 9 from 9:00am to 1:00pm at 16 Meriden Road, in Middlefield, CT.  This workshop, hosted by the Organic Land Care Program of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, is for and land care business professionals seeking further guidance on business management and marketing. 

Frank Crandall owns Horticultural Solutions based in Wakefield, RI and has 38 years of experience running an award winning landscape design, construction and maintenance firm.    Crandall offers Growth, Effectiveness, Management (GEM) Seminars for professionals in the horticultural field each year and authored “The Essential Horticultural Business Handbook”.  Crandall will be teaching about business pricing, estimates and planning with a focus on pricing organic services.

Anne DiFrancesco is founder, owner and creative director of A&M Studios Inc., an advertising design studio in Westport, CT that serve clients with small and large businesses including Lipton Foods, Hoffman Landscapes and Pitney Bowes. DiFrancesco will instruct on the topics of branding, appearance in the marketplace, defining a target audience and design of print advertising, web design and tracking these marketing avenues.

The workshop will conclude with a panel including Crandall, DiFrancesco and Laurence Coronis, owner of Coronis Consulting in Wilton, New Hampshire, a horticultural consulting firm.  The panel will answer questions from audience members with business and marketing advice.  Attendees will also receive a packet of templates and forms to be personalized for use at each attendee’s business.   

The workshop will be held at 16 Meriden Road in Rockfall, CT at the Connecticut Forest and Park Association’s classroom.  The workshop cost is $80 for NOFA Accredited Organic Professionals and NOFA Members and $90 for the public.  For more information or to register visit /education/advanced-workshops or call the NOFA Organic Land Care Office at 203-888-5146.  The Organic Land Care Program hosts workshops, conferences and courses to educate organic landscapers  and homeowners in the northeast. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Recap from Organic Land Care Program's Advanced Workshop "It's All About the Water"

Last week was NOFA Organic Land Care's Advanced Workshop  It's All About the Water: Managing Stormwater with Rain Gardens, Permeable Surfaces and Tree Boxes at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, CT.
The first presenter was Donald Watson, an Architect with Earthrise LLC and presented about a streamside buffer demonstration project he designed in Trumbull and about his work on the Beardsley Zoo's 319 Grant to put in biofiltration features in the parking lot.
Heather Crawford, a former Extension Educator with UConn Sea Grant gave a detailed overview of different kinds of non-point pollution that affect water courses and how low impact development (which combines design features that slow water runoff and filter out pollutants) can benefit water quality.  She also presented on the particular vulnerability of the Pequonnock River and the vital role that river's quality plays in the Long Island Sound's water quality.

Michael Dietz, the Program Director of CT NEMO taught the class about how to calculate runoff volume and amounts of pollution coming from an area.  Then Michael and Jeanne Yuckienuz, a Senior Keeper at the Zoo and Accredited Professional, brought the group outside to see the site of the proposed project.  The area around the flagpole will be excavated and a rain garden will be established that absorbs water as it flows from the parking lot.

After lunch Lisa and Kyle Turoczi from Earth Tones taught about choosing trees, shrubs, ground cover and flowers for rain gardens of all sizes and locations.  Afte rtheir presentation the group went outside and identified the plants grown in the Beardsley Zoo's existing three rain gardens surrounding the Hansen Education Center.

This third raingarden was planted with inkberry, cinammon fern, royal fern, low bush blueberry, and azalea.

Tom Barry, from Read Custom Soils presented on Engineered Soils for Low Impact Development.  Tom discussed the mixtures of soils required for rain gardens that will allow for water infiltration and percolation, sequester pollutants and support plant growth.  Soil underneath permeable pavement should be structural planting soil that can support a greater weight without compacting (which would reduce the amount of water that could infiltrate and the rate).  Tom also discussed the soils used on green roofs, which have to be very light while still allowing water to percolate and supporting plant life.  
The next presentation was from Brendan Tyson from unilock who presented on all the different kinds of pavements that can be used to provide a hard surface that still allows nearly natural rates of infiltration.  
The final presentation from Paul Iorio of Storm Tree and was about tree filters which are generally used in small parking lots in much the same way a storm drain is.  Except many tree boxes (except those receiving large volumes of run off) do not connect to an underground pipe, but filter through soil and the tree's roots.  

For the full report, visit the Organic Land Care Program's website.  You'll also be able to see some of the presentations and Low Impact Development resources.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

NOFA OLC receives grant to create an Organic Lawn Care Certificate Program!

The OLC Program Director, Jenna Messier and CT NOFA Executive Director, Bill Duesing, point to the NOFA OLC project on the map of the LISFF funded programs!

We at NOFA Organic Land Care are so excited for our new Organic Lawn Certificate Course, check out the grant announcement below, and stay tuned.  Also check our Lawn Certificate Course page for updates.

More Than $1.6 Million Awarded for Community-Based Projects to Improve Health of Long Island Sound

Old Field, NY - Top federal and state environmental officials today announced 35 grants totaling $1.6 million to state and local government and community groups in New York and Connecticut to improve the health of Long Island Sound.  The projects, which are funded through the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, will open up 50 river miles for passage of fish, and restore 390 acres of critical fish and wildlife habitat including lakes, underwater grasses, woodlands, meadows, wetlands, beaches and rivers and parks along the waterfront.  Twenty grants totaling $757,922 will be awarded to groups in Connecticut leveraged by $1.4 million from the grantees themselves.   

This public-private grant program pools funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Wells Fargo.

"Protecting and restoring Long Island Sound have long been priorities for EPA," said EPA Regional Administrator for New England Curt Spalding. "These grants will support vital and diverse projects throughout the region to improve water quality and remove pollution from the Long Island Sound watershed, and involve the public in the protection of one of the nation's most important natural treasures."

“One of the greatest environmental challenges facing our communities is the protection and restoration of estuaries,” said David O’Neill, Director, Eastern Partnership Office, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. “The funding awarded today represents the Foundation’s continuing commitment, as well as the commitment of our federal and state partners, to further restoration efforts aimed at improving the overall health of the Long Island Sound.”

The Long Island Sound Study initiated the Long Island Sound Futures Fund in 2005 through the EPA’s Long Island Sound Office and NFWF. To date, the program has invested $10.5 million in 261 projects in communities surrounding the Sound.  With grantee match of $23 million, the Long Island Sound Futures Fund has generated a total of almost $33.5 million for projects in both states.  

"I am pleased to see funding go to projects that engage local communities in the protection and restoration of local fish and wildlife habitats,” said Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Equally exciting are the partnerships with public and private landowners that will increase our ability to work effectively on the ground in the Long Island Sound area. These grants go directly to protecting our shared natural resources—from opening rivers for native fish and restoring habitat for songbirds and shorebirds, to educating children who are the future stewards of the Sound.”
Jay Mar, Connecticut State Conservationist, NRCS, added, "This year's funding of projects to engage farmers and land managers throughout communities in the watershed will help accomplish important wildlife goals through the New England Cottontail Initiative, and manure management advances to improve ecological and economic health of the Sound.”
“Connecticut DEEP is pleased to work with our partners in the Long Island Sound Study to preserve and protect Long Island Sound – one of the region’s most valuable natural resources,” said Brian Thompson, Director of Long Island Sound Programs. “This year $757,922 in Long Island Sound Futures Funds grants are being awarded to 20 important Connecticut programs. The grant funding covers a wide range of projects including restoration of fish habitat, removal of invasive plants, restoring New England Cottontail Rabbit population, preparation of significant management plans, and implementation of educational programs that will protect Long Island Sound for future generations.”

Long Island Sound is an estuary that provides economic and recreational benefits to millions of people, while also providing habitat for more than 1,200 invertebrates, 170 species of fish, and dozens of species of migratory birds. The Long Island Sound Study, developed under the EPA’s National Estuary Program, is a cooperative effort between the EPA and the states of Connecticut and New York to protect and restore the Sound and its ecosystem. To learn more about the LISS, visit For full descriptions of the Long Island Sound Futures Fund Grants, visit

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, established by Congress in 1984, is an international leader in developing public and private funding to protect wildlife and natural resources. In 26 years, NFWF has funded 4,000 organizations and leveraged $576 million in federal funds into $2 billion for conservation. The achievement of clear, measurable results is central to its work. The foundation brings together diverse stakeholders—from industry to Congress to local leaders—to accomplish positive outcomes.  NFWF currently works with 14 federal partners and more than 50 corporate and foundation partners. To learn more about NFWF, visit