Thursday, December 19, 2013

Patty Laughlin Integrates Edibles into Every Landscape

Out & About with AOLCPs

Patty Laughlin Integrates Edibles into Every Landscape

 By Kathy Litchfield

EPPING, N.H. – Every landscape Patty Laughlin plants has at least one low-bush blueberry. She considers the blueberry a “gateway fruit” as it is low maintenance, easy to grow and delicious, and seems to quickly lead to a client’s discovery of other wonderful edible plants. 

Even if clients don’t ask for edible landscaping, she finds a way to integrate something low maintenance that will provide food for wildlife as well as the humans inhabiting the land.

“I’ve always focused on edible gardening. My dad was a master gardener when I was growing up and we always had a big vegetable garden and lots of fruit trees and berry bushes. I didn’t know how spoiled I was until I went to college,” she laughed. “Blueberries are native, so easy to grow, and edibles are so engaging for people in a landscape. The level of interaction you create between the humans and animals and landscape itself gets amplified when you bring edibles into the picture.”

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Out & About with AOLCPs

Feature on Mike McCleese

By Kathy Litchfield

For Mike McCleese, finding NOFA was like “fitting into an old shoe.” His Cincinnati-based landscaping company was non-chemical but all of the pieces weren’t coming together until he found himself ensconced in the Rhode Island accreditation course in 2006.

“I can’t tell you how happy I was. In some ways it was like winning the lottery,” he said, admitting his reservations. “I’d been in the business for several years at that point and realized that sometimes there’s a big difference between lofty goals and making a living. But what I found at NOFA was a whole lot of people just like me, trying to make organics work for their businesses. Spending a week with people at an OLC workshop was like slipping into an old pair of comfortable shoes.”

McCleese, a self-described “stressed out social worker” in the 90’s, discovered his passion for plants while working part-time for a woman’s landscaping company. Three days a week, he listened intently and learned about plants as living organisms. Over a few years, he realized his true passion was landscape design and he asked himself a question that changed his life.

“What would make me happiest in life?” he asked himself, and decided, “a dog, a shovel and a truck.” McCleese founded his business, A Guy & His Dog Landscaping, in 1996. After feeling his skin itching from spreading chemical pre-emergents all day he gradually stopped using chemicals and by 2001 was completely chemical-free.  Attending the NOFA OLC course in 2006 was the next big step for McCleese.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

LISFF Grant Award Fuels NOFA OLCs Effort to Drve the Demand for Organic Lawns

Last month I attended the Long Island Sound Future Fund Grant Event hosted by National Fish & Wildlife Service and US EPA at The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT.  I arrived dressed in my Red Sox jacket, optimistic that my team would win the World Series and they did it! OLC Program coordinator Jenna Messier and I were thrilled to be surrounded by all the enthusiasm of fellow grantees that like NOFA OLC had been awarded a LISFF Grant! 

We had the the chance to connect with Ann Marie Lisi who heads up the Water Quality Demonstration Station on site.  We shared more information about organic land care, the NOFA OLC Program and the network of Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals that adhere to stricter OLC Standards than other landscape contractors. 
This week we were invited back to do an in-service training workshop. Fellow AOLCP Tom Barry, Grounds Manager and Field Specialist at Greens Farms Academy in Westport, Connecticut taught grass selection, soil testing and fertilization.  I taught the group about good cultural practices and social marketing the message of organic land care.   There are different kinds of lawn care consumers.  Some folks are really focused on health concerns, while others really care about the bottom line and the return on investment of an organic lawn.  Putting organic lawns in the same league as other sustainability successes like fuel efficient cars, energy saving light bulb and non toxic house cleaners helps organic lawns gain more widespread acceptance.

Just as I was optimistic about the Sox winning the championship, I’m optimistic our team of Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals will win over more homeowners to an organic approach next season!  Thanks to the LISFF Grant, I’m grateful to be working with the NOFA OLC Program to educate homeowners and landscape contractors on organic fertilization and cultural best practices for the protection of Long Island Sound.  Additionally, I’m thrilled to share effective social marketing strategies with AOLCP’s to drive the demand for organic land care for the health of the Long Island Sound and the health of the green, local economy. 

Here's the first peek at the Ten Steps to an Organic Lawn fact sheet to be distributed  TMA in NorwalkCT. The Water Quality Demonstration will be distributing this along with free soil testing information to help visitors on the road to adopting organic lawn care best practices on their yard. We value your feedback!

I really look forward to seeing you at the Annual Gathering on December 11th in Southbury, CT.  Please stop by the NOFA OLC table to receive another new tool we’re rolling out for all AOLCP's: Fertilizer Application Best Practices for the Landscape Contractor Thanks to the LISFF Grant we’re bringing more tools to get your game on to win more homeowners over to an organic approach on their lawn next spring!  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Last week, I met with Tom Tavella, the current ASLA President, to discuss his keynote address at the Annual Gathering on December 11th. We talked about SITES and trends in the industry, which Tom will speak about in detail at the event, so I don't want to spoil the surprise! But, I would like to share some information about how Tom, as a landscape architect, finds jobs to bid on and where you, too could locate work as a sub-contractor.

Tom works in CT, and he goes to the CT Procurement Portal at and he reads the daily notices which are sent automatically after signing up.  He looks under "landscape, marine, maintenance services, professional services" as a category. ( I will admit, I have spent 30 minutes trying to navigate this wonderful website, so you have to learn the system before using it effectively.)

The next step as a sub-contractor, would be to go contact the town purchasing agent and ask who are the bidders on projects which you are interested in sub-contracting. Then contact those larger firms and pitch yourself and your business as the ideal provider of rain gardens, landscape maintenance services, irrigation, etc!

Tom also suggested building your network of contractors, large firms such as Cherry Hill and Turner in CT. Get on their bid list so they will contact you, when a project of your expertise comes up.

Thanks Tom for these great recommendations, and we look forward to hearing more from you at the Annual Gathering on December 11th in Southbury CT!

Jenna Messier, NOFA Organic Land Care Program Director

Monday, November 11, 2013

Green Stormwater Infrastructure Training in partnership with Pennsylvania Horticulture Society

Last year, NOFA Organic Land Care Program updated  its curriculum for the Accreditation Course including having 2 tracks for students to choose from - either 4 hour sessions in organic turf or green infrastructure - at our Mid-Atlantic NOFA Accreditation Course on December 2- 5, 2013 in Philadelphia.

Glen Abrams serves as Director of Sustainable Communities at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) where he leads the development, management and delivery of high-quality programming around urban greening, community stewardship and sustainable practices. This year,Glen is coordinating the NOFA Accreditation Course at Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and he would like to share the updated curriculum and presenters.

Green stormwater infrastructure is an engineered landscape system that intercepts rainfall, infiltrates a portion of it into the ground, evaporates a portion of it into the air, and in some cases releases a portion of it slowly back into the city’s sewer system. The intention is to design an urban landscape to restore natural hydrologic processes to reduce the volume and water quality impacts of the built environment while achieving additional social and economic benefits from the project.

The Mid-Atlantic NOFA Accreditation Course in Organic Land Care will feature a track dedicated specifically to Green Stormwater Infrastructure, organized to discuss the maintenance requirements and implications of design decisions concerning these green stormwater practices. 
  1. Michele Adams, a frequent lecturer and educator on water and sustainability and founder of Meliora Environmental Design, will present an overview of green stormwater infrastructure and highlight case studies of projects from around the country. 
  2. Rachel Ahern and Hasan Malik  are two experts from the Philadelphia Water Department’s (PWD) Office of Watersheds. They will discuss PWD’s programs and projects and discuss lessons learned regarding green stormwater infrastructure design and maintenance.
  3. Mark Highland, Founder and President of Organic Mechanics, a manufacturer and distributor of premier organic potting soils and soil amendments, will discuss soils for infiltration practices.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Come see Frank Crandall speak at 2 Upcoming OLC Events

 We are very pleased to announce that Frank Crandall will be a presenter at both the Mid-Atlantic Accreditation Course Dec-2-5, 2013 and the Annual Gathering on Dec. 11, 2013 where Frank will present on Creating a More Sustainable Business-Financially and Environmentally. 

 Frank Crandall: Former owner of Wood River Evergreens, Inc., an awarding winning landscape design, construction, and maintenance firm in southern RI. Current owner of Frank Crandall, Horticultural Solutions, a landscape design, installation and maintenance firm specializing in sustainable designs, organically maintained landscapes, and specialty pruning. Additionally, Frank conducts his GEM Business Seminar, consults with New England horticultural firms, speaks at various industry venues, chairs the NOFA Educational Committee and has guest lectured at area colleges including URI, The Landscape Institute (Boston Architectural College), and North Shore Community College.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Award winning consultant Bernadette Giblin will be at our Mid Atlantic Accreditation Course!

We are delighted to announce that Bernadette Giblin will be presenting at Mid Atlantic Accreditation course on December 2, 2013!

Bernadette Giblin is the two time recipient of the Toxics Use Reduction Institute's (TURI) Toxics Reduction Champion Award.  She is an organic land care consultant who has worked on the organic transition of several public parks, schools and health care campuses throughout Massachusetts. She is currently launching her blog project Finding Safeground. Additionally, she's collaborating with the NOFA Organic Land Care Program to train landscapers throughout the Long Island Sound region in more effective social marketing campaign strategies. Bernadette's mission is to drive the demand for organic land care to protect the environment & promote a green economy in local communities where we all live, work and play. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Changing the World One Lawn at a Time by Kathy Litchfield

"Out & About with AOLCPs"
Changing the World One Lawn at a Time
By Kathy Litchfield
LEXINGTON, KY - One of Storey Slone's favorite clients is a woman who requested she plant as much clover and as many violets as possible on her lawn, to combat her neighbors' synthetic turf monoculture.
Slone, a 24-year-old organic lawn and turf specialist for the Dave Leonard Tree Specialists, wishes more homeowners would recognize the benefits of an organic approach and embrace this model client's attitude on their own properties.

"People don't realize how their lawn care practices affect their environment, their own homes children or pets, or even a pedestrian walking by," she said.

 Slone is one of the NOFA Organic Land Care Program's youngest AOLCPs. She took the Philadelphia, Pa. accreditation course in 2012 and started her job as the organic lawn and turf specialist in January 2013. Hers is a brand new position for the tree care company, founded in the 1970s by nationally recognized arboriculture authority Dave Leonard (who helped to write the International Society of Arboriculture's original certification test and still meets with tree clients daily.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Announcing Mike Nadeau as a Presenter at the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Accreditation Course!

We are proud to announce that Mike Nadeau ,founder of Wholistic Land Care Consulting, LLC, will be presenting NOFA OLC's Mid-Atlantic Accreditation course December 2-5, 2013 in Philadelphia, PA. Mike Nadeau serves on the advisory, education, standards committee for NOFA OLC and has been essential to the Organic Land Care Programs as a founding member. Mike was kind enough to share with us his history in organic land care and express his gratitude towards OLC programming,

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Accreditation Course Presenter, Todd Harrington, Updates us on his work in Organic Landscaping

Todd Harrington of Harrington’s Organic Land Care, and one of the founders of the NOFA Organic Land Care Program, will be presenting for the first time at this years Mid-Atlantic Accreditation Course December 2-5, 2013 in Philadelphia, PA and returning to the New England Regional Course February 10-13, 2014 at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, CT. Todd was kind enough to share some photos with NOFA OLC of the outstanding landscaping work he has been doing, insightful captions writtten by Todd himself!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Out & About with AOLCPs

"Out & About with AOLCPs" 
Lifelong Wildlife Lover Nash Pradhan Designs with Respect for Nature

By Kathy Litchfield

When Nash Pradhan told his parents he wanted to move to the United States, they thought he was "absolutely crazy." The Nairobi, Kenya  native was just 24 years old and his three brothers and four sisters didn't share his aspirations. His father worked for a canvas sewing production company while his mother raised the family.

 "I was the only wild one that decided one day, after finishing high school and a couple years of agricultural college in Kenya, to go the States," said Pradhan, who had worked as a courier taking tourists to the game parks and interpreting the flora and fauna of East Africa for them. He had always loved the flowers, trees and wildlife of his native country and enjoyed sharing his knowledge and taking photographs. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro three times and also attended the Outward Bound Mountain School.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Out & About with AOLCPs: Longtime AOLCP Sarah Holland Raises the Bar in Vermont

Out & About with AOLCPs: Longtime AOLCP Sarah Holland Raises the Bar in Vermont 

By Kathy Litchfield

VERMONT -- Driving by the Red Hen Baking Co. along rural Route 2 in Middlesex, one might notice something unusual towering above the cars filling the parking lot – nine-foot tall broom corn (Sorghum spp) growing alongside amaranth, quinoa, millet, wheat, oats, sunflowers and barley. Toss in a little parsley and basil and one has the ingredients necessary for a wonderful loaf of freshly baked herb bread.

Showcasing these grains, carefully and organically grown in handmade hemlock raised beds adjacent to the popular eatery, is the brainchild of Sarah Holland of Moretown, one of the NOFA Organic Land Care Program’s original accredited professionals and one of just a  handful of AOLCPs in the state of Vermont.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Back to the Basics with Leonard Pouder By Kathy Litchfield

Pouder photo July 2013Respecting Mother Nature and working within her parameters is a choice  Leonard Pouder made over 30 years ago. Growing up on a small scale hobby farm in the then-agricultural suburb of Bedford, N.Y. and working for his father in the nursery business, gave him a secondhand knowledge about the benefits of a farm-based lifestyle.
            "Being exposed to the soil, planting, growing and eating what you grow is very normal for me," said Pouder, owner of Lieb's Nursery & Garden Center. "When I was a teenager, I worked on a farm for three to four years picking vegetables. It was an amazing experience."
When he first moved to New Rochelle after college, Pouder yearned to create a semblance of where he grew up so he started raising pigs, sheep, chickens, meat rabbits and goats - a couple of each a year - to feed his family. He butchers and processes the animals and makes his own sausage. He grows a large organic vegetable garden, loves to hunt, fish and loves the simplicity of this lifestyle. "I would way rather eat what I raise or hunt, than buy it in a supermarket, there's no comparison."
"I've always been organic because it just makes sense and it's so easy," said the father of two grown children whose wife is a professional chef.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Is Crabgrass making you crabby

As the temperatures soar, so does the crabgrass population.  But, remember there’s more to it than what meets the eye. Back around the end of June, fellow AOLCP Barry Draycott’s posted this cool new information about heat loving crabgrass on the NOFA AOLCP’s LinkedIn Discussion group.

“Contrary to popular belief, crabgrass does not thrive in lawns, gardens and farm fields by simply crowding out other plants. A new study in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has found that the much-despised weed actually produces its own herbicides that kill nearby plants.

The study shows that crabgrass exudes three specific chemicals from their roots which interfere with soil microbes and have negative effects on plant growth. Information like this helps us appreciate how important soil health is for the properties we manage. Adding organic matter and microbial inoculants may be another tool in combating crabgrass.

Good to know that at the root of the matter, pardon the pun, it’s soil health. Though the hot baking sun coupled with the usual suspects of low pH, low organic matter, lack of fertility and the pains of compaction always play a role.  Lawns with weak soil profiles tend to have plants with weak root zones that don’t stand a chance against the heat loving neighbor and the three chemicals hitting them below ground. 

Luckily AOLCP’s are trained experts in assessing soil health. They also follow a standard of best cultural practices, too. Let’s face it 9 times out of 10 lawns are dealing with the stress of improper mowing right about now.

Case in point the field right by my house. They let it grow tall for weeks due to the high rain and then cut it way too short. 
This resulted in die off associated with taking off too much of the blade in one cut.  The fact that it happened in this cool weather crop's least favorite season of summer, is another part of the scenario. The crabgrass just made the most of the opportunity to flourish.

Yes, we definitely need to be adding more organic matter and microbial inoculants to build up our ailing soils!  And, trained professionals also need to engage in best cultural practice to support the plants and the soil. Mowing at the height of 3 ½” or higher creates a canopy that protects the soil and the plant health during periods of seasonal stress.  Become a wiser lawn and turf professional. You will walk away knowing about new tools to do your job with new confidence this season. Plus, learn how to better convey your mission of caring for their soil’s sustainability. Register today for the July 26th OLC Lawn & Turf Course 

Look forward to seeing you there! 
Bernadette Giblin, NOFA-AOLCP DIY Coach, Organic Land Care Consultant & Founder of Safeground Organic Landcare

Friday, July 12, 2013

"If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes." Mark Twain

Last night I had the opportunity to get together with the NOFA OLC Education Committee.  In addition to enjoying sharing a healthy meal and some funny stories, I love connecting with other who share my passion for the organic land care movement. I get to bounce ideas off them and learn about new developments, while listening a few tips and offering up some nuggets of my own.  In the end we all leave with updated perspective on our marketplace and how to better meet those demands. 

The weather seemed to be a big part of our discussion. We could all agree our region’s climate has definitely changed.  And, today I found myself scrolling through doing some fact checking for this post’s title. I wanted to make sure I had this famous quote correct before using it. It’s always good to do research, because it seems my sweet ole’ mom, whose been saying it to me all my life, has been slightly misquoting Mr. Twain.  See she had the wait time at a minute as opposed to Mr. Twain’s actual wait time of a few minutes. Truth is we’ve all waited long enough for the soggy weather to pass and the normal summer weather we like to arrive.  But no normal is coming.

South of us, Ashville, North Carolinians are racking up there wettest six months ever.  NOAA scientists also reported that the globally averaged temperature for May 2013 was the third warmest since record keeping started in 1880.  And 2012, was the 2nd costliest year with 110 billion in storm disaster damages. Hurricane Sandy racked up $65 billion in the northeast and drought in the West caused damages of $30 million. (

"Extreme climate is the new normal," Todd Harrington said last night. We all agreed.  But, we also agreed as with all adversity there is an equal or greater gift. Consumers are waking up to the urgency to do things different for the Earth. And NOFA OLC is committed to bringing more training and education to more professionals who want to respond responsibly. 

As a trained AOLCP you’ll have a competitive edge with a business mission aligned with the greater good. Come learn the latest techniques from leading experts with records of success. Face this new normal with a set of new skills and supports to better protect water, improve soil and create beautiful lawns and turf.  Plus learn how to whether the economic changes with the new confidence you'll gain on how to effectively market your mission to your community and grow your business. Register today for the July 26th OLC Lawn & Turf Course 

Look forward to seeing you there! 

Bernadette Giblin, NOFA-AOLCP
DIY Coach, Organic Land Care Consultant & Founder of Safeground Organic Landcare

Friday, July 5, 2013

Kristiane's Moving - But She's Already Missing NOFA!

Melissa (on the right) and I at Ag Day at the Capitol in 2012
Hi All!

Today is my last day at NOFA.  And I wanted to write a brief note saying good bye.  I'm headed to the
University of Michigan to pursue a Master of Science in Natural Resources and the Environment.  I'm hoping to focus on societal and political responses and preparation for the affects of climate change.  While I came to NOFA with this interest, it has been cultivated in my time working with farmers who have to alter growing methods for the changing seasons and are some of the most affected by climate change, in our communities in Connecticut.  But the reality is, that whatever challenges affect our farmers, affect food availability and prices, and will affect consumers too.  Additionally, the same holistic, ecological principles at the heart of organic agriculture are central to climate resilience and sustainability on the local, regional and international levels.

CT NOFA's mission is to strengthen the practices of ecologically sound farming and gardening, and to the development of local sustainable agriculture. The organization's efforts give consumers increased access to safe and healthy food. CT NOFA is a growing community of farmers, gardeners, land care professionals, businesses and consumers that encourages a healthy relationship to the natural world.  I can say, from my work at the organization, that our staff and volunteers are truly dedicated to this mission, and it has been a pleasure to work with this team, and with Connecticut's greater sustainability movement.

If you'd like to become involved and be inspired by the work of Connecticut's organizations and our wonderful member farmers and organic land care professionals, I encourage you to join the organization, volunteer, or visit us at one of our summer workshops!  Also, be sure to send a warm welcome to Stephanie Berluti, the new Program and Events Manager.  CT NOFA and NOFA's Organic Land Care programs and events are in good hands with her!

Have a wonderful summer!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Report from the Orchard Health Workshop

Last Tuesday, a diverse group of farmers, land care professionals, homeowners and students came together to learn about Orchard Health from Michael Phillips.  Michael’s overall strategy in a nutshell:
Respect for Biodiversity
Use of Integrated Components
Use of Biennial Variations
This sounds like a healthy, organic framework which can be applied to all of our landscapes, whether for agricultural or ornamental uses.

We began with a discussion about soil health. I noted Michael’s point that by having lawn under the trees, it deprives the fruit tree of essential humus layer nutrients as its roots must grow deeper in competition with the grasses’ roots.  It is preferred to have wood chips under the trees to create a more fungal-dominated soil. Michael also suggests companion plantings below the trees to encourage pollinators and to add nutrients to the soil.  I am still intrigued with the idea of having comphrey plants under your apple trees so their leaves may decay and add calcium to the soil, while rhubarb should be left to flower and attract pollinators, as its roots break up compaction in the soil, also.  When viewing a photo of Michael’s orchard in northern New Hampshire, you can’t help but notice the lack of uniformly mowed rows and the diversity of plant species.  In fact, when we visited Allyn’s Orchard later in the day, Michael suggested mowing only every other row, thus creating opportunities for wildflowers to bloom to attract pollinators.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Rental Home and Garden by Jenna Messier

Just because you rent your home or apartment, doesn’t mean that your yard can’t be fabulous, fruitful and a haven for humans and wildlife! I have been gardening at my apartment in West Haven, CT for two seasons now and with small inputs over time, the property is really shaping up. The lot is .3 acres and half of it is a driveway and a construction equipment lot - with kid’s toys dispersed across the yard. So I have to use my space wisely.  I have spent around $350 this year for inputs; mostly on organic potting soil, seeds and containers.  Here is a photo journal, sharing my plants and experience with homeowners and renters alike.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Karen Bussolini Shares her Voyage of Discovery And Brings Joy Back into People’s Gardens

Growing up in Canton Center, Conn., Karen Bussolini remembers racing with her father to be the first to grab Organic Gardening magazine from the mailbox. Her father, the son of Italian immigrants, was amused that there was a name for the kind of gardening his family had done for generations.

“To him, that was just good gardening,” she said.

Understanding the interconnectedness of the web of life came naturally to both father and daughter, who planted gardens everywhere she lived as a young adult - even tucking beet plants between the foundation shrubs in her apartment complex while studying art at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

Bussolini, accredited since 2010, is a renowned author, photographer, educator and eco-garden coach who considers her lifelong love-turned-career of nature and gardening a “voyage of discovery.”

Thursday, May 30, 2013

NOFA's First Advanced Workshop of the Season is June 25 in New London

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut’s Organic Land Care Program has scheduled an advanced workshop with Michael Phillips, author of The Apple Grower and The Holistic Orchard and owner of Lost Nation Orchard in Groveton, New Hampshire.  The workshop, titled “Practical Orchard Health with Michael Phillips” is for all levels of apple growers: professional producers, land care professionals offering edible landscaping services and advanced gardeners looking to grow apples in their yards.  The workshop is on June 25 from 10:00am to 4:00pm, with the class meeting at Connecticut College for the first portion and moving outdoors to Hidden Brook Gardens in Ledyard, Connecticut for instruction in the field. 

During the classroom portion in 101 New London Hall at 270 Mohegan Avenue in New London, Phillips will teach about building a healthy soil food web to promote soil fertility and healthy roots in an orchard.  Phillips will then discuss organic management of common orchard pests. 

After a catered lunch, the group will carpool to 551 Colonel Ledyard Highway, Ledyard in Hidden Brook Gardens to Lyman Orchards, Connecticut’s only organically certified orchard.  Anita Kopchinski and Bill Sokol, owners of Hidden Brook Gardens will share their experiences taking on management of the orchard and the certification process.  Phillips will then lead the walk through the orchard pointing out clues to the orchard’s health, companion plantings, groundcover options and pollinator habitat.

“Practical Orchard Health” is organized by the NOFA Organic Land Care Program in collaboration with our partners in sustainability and education, Connecticut College, Hidden Brook Gardens and Soil Food Web New York.  The workshop is $125 for NOFA members or Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals and $140 for regular admission.  To reserve a space and receive lunch, please register before June 11, though registration will remain open until filled. For more information and registration please visit  Those with questions are also welcome to call the NOFA Organic Land Care Office at 203-888-5146.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Peter Hinrichs Connects Youths with the Organic Environment OLC Apprentice Program Going Strong in Massachusetts

by Kathy Litchfield as part of our "Out and About with AOLCPs" series.

Transplanting seedlings, selling organic plants to customers and maintaining school grounds organically is all in a day’s work for the 75 students engaged in Peter Hinrichs’ curriculum at The Learning Prep School in West Newton, Mass.

Hinrichs, accredited since 2009 (Newburyport, MA course) works as the horticultural specialist,  reenhouse manager and curriculum developer for the alternative school’s landscape program. To his new position (he started in February 2013) he brings five years experience working with inner-city youths aged 16-22 at YouthBuild Boston. Hinrichs sees parallels amongst these young populations.

“All of these students are highly functional and have an interest in working with the landscape. They all need skills to move forward and earn credentials they can take with them upon high school graduation,” he said. “Basically I’ve found that most of the kids I worked with in an urban environment have the same disadvantages and developmental obstacles as the kids I’m working with here at the Learning Prep School. We offer hands on learning and alternatives to the traditional school model including life skills to help them be independent adults and see education from a different perspective.” Hinrichs’ present students are 16-18 years old and have varied developmental learning disabilities. However, when they’re in the greenhouse, Hinrichs says the learning field is leveled.

“In the horticultural environment, they all come together to do hands-on work that is new to all of them. The work that happens here is something everybody can grasp and understand. Everyone’s learning the same thing and everyone is treated the same way,” he explained.

"Teaching students how to start seeds, grow plants, control pests organically with beneficial insects and organically maintain school grounds are skills the students can use in everyday life as well as for a potential career," he said.

“There are so many teachable moments, in horticulture, organic landscape development, sustainability and customer service,” he said. “We teach them processes here in the greenhouse that they can compare to what happens naturally outside the greenhouse in the natural environment. It’s important to get them to understand things that affect them and help them make connections to the natural environment.”

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dogs Absorb Lawn Chemicals

You might think this is a no brainer, or you might have never even thought about it, but a new study out of Perdue University (and reported on by the Discovery Channel) shows a correlation between lawn pesticides and a higher risk of bladder cancer in dogs. The study also suggests that other pets and children are also at risk of ingesting these chemicals and increasing their risk of cancer as a result, even if it isn't your lawn that's being sprayed, but your neighbor's.

The Discovery article talks a lot about the risks, the science, and industry standards for pesticide application, but it doesn't talk about organic alternatives to spraying directly in the article. Scroll through the captions for the images in the slideshow at the top of the article for some helpful tips for growing a sustainable lawn, but keep in mind that one of the suggestions, corn gluten, is not recommended by the NOFA Standards for Organic Land Care. You can also see a more comprehensive set of tips and guidelines for growing an organic lawn or garden by viewing the pdf of our Introduction to Organic Lawns and Yards booklet here. (You can also purchase hard copies of the booklet here.)

The best way to prevent chemical absorption for lawn pesticides is to stop spraying your lawn with them, and talking to your neighbors about it if they spray their lawns. You can still have a green and beautiful looking lawn without the use of harmful cancer-causing chemicals, and you and your lawn will be healthier in the long run if you do transition to organic.  Need some help getting started?  View a list of our Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals, who are in business to help you care for your property organically, on our searchable database here.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lawn Certificate Course at Audubon Greenwich

Diba Kahn-Bureau discusses how water quality is affected by nutrient
runoff from fertilizers.
Program Director Jenna Messier introduces Chip Osborne
On March 19, Audubon Greenwich hosted our second Lawn Certificate Course funded by the Long Island Sound Futures Fund. It was a tough day to plan a full day course, since the northeast was hit with (another) snow and ice and sleet storm. But our attendees persevered to learn more about how organic lawn care contributes to water quality in rivers, wells and Long Island Sound.

Chip Osborne discusses Turfgrass Fertilization
Judy Preston started the day with "Surf and Turf" an explanation of lawn practices and their impact on Long Island Sound water quality. Diba Kahn-Bureau talked more about soil health and water quality after Judy's presentation

Chip Osborne of Osborne organics taught an introduction to organic lawn care. Chip's segment on turgrass fertility focused on the use of organic inputs to improve soil biology, suppress plant disease, improve soil structure and encourage over all plant health. Frank Crandall of Horticultural Solutions taught about pricing of organic services and making organic profitable to sustain a landscaping business.  Chip Osborne ended the day discussing cultural practices with organic turf like mowing and irrigation, and how to address turf grass pests.

The Audubon Center in Greenwich was a great place to have our course - because they have already hosted a number of courses with Chip and are committed to pesticide reduction to benefit wildlife.  Check out these seven reasons to create organic lawns and gardens from Audubon at Home:
1. 67 million birds are killed every year by pesticides.
(U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Audubon, March-April 2007, p. 88)
(Burg, Robert, ed. “The Long Island Sound Study,” Sound Health 2006. EPA Long Island Sound 
Office, Stamford, CT.: p.12)
2. Fertilizers and pesticides from lawn runoff are highly damaging to the ecology of our streams, ponds, and the Long Island Sound.
(Second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, U.S. Center for Disease 
Control, January 2003)
Audubon Greenwich - Kimberlin Center
Audubon Greenwich
3. 100% of Americans have traces of pesticides in their body tissue.
(Second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, U.S. Center for Disease 
Control, January 2003)
4. Children living in households where pesticides are used have higher rates 
of leukemia and brain cancer.
(Leiss, J. et al. 1995. “Home Pesticide Use and Childhood Cancer: A Case Control Study,” American 
Journal of Public Health 85: 249-252)
5. Three separate studies in 2011 have linked common pesticides to long 
term reduction in cognitive development in children. 
(Bouchard, M.F. et al. 2011. “Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and IQ in 7-year old 
Children,” Environmental Health Perspectives Online, Engel, S.M. et al. 2011. “Prenatal Exposure to 
Organophosphates, Paraxonase 1, and Cognitive Development in Childhood,” Environmental Health 
Perspectives Online, Rauh, V. et al. 2011. “7-Year Neurodevelopmental Scores and Prenatal Exposure to 
Chlorpyrifos, a Common Agricultural Pesticide, Environmental Health Perspectives Online)
6. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (the 2nd fastest growing cancer in the U.S.) 
is linked to common herbicides and fungicides.
(Zahm, S. et al. 1990 “A Case Control Study of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and the Herbicide 2,4-D,” 
Epidemiology 1 (5): 349-356)
7. Dogs whose owners use 2,4-D (common weed killer) on their lawns are 
twice as likely to die of cancer.
(Hayes, H. et al, 1991. “Case Control Study of Canine Malignant Lymphoma: Positive Association with 
Dog Owners’ Use of 2,4-D Acid Herbicides,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 83 (17): 1226)

A big thanks to our friends at Greenwich Audubon, to our presenters, and to our attendees who weathered the storm to learn about organic lawn and turf care!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Call Your Legislator: Current Bills to Expand Restrictions on CT Pesticide Applications

In the world of conventional lawn and land care in Connecticut, the coming of spring heralds the onset of chemical pesticide applications to residential lawns, parks, municipal grounds, and some schools. Municipalities and towns currently have difficulty obtaining the authority to regulate pesticide applications on their public and private grounds, and while CT has a pesticide ban in place right now for K-8 public schools, grade 9-12 schools are not included in the legislation.

Soon, however, all that may change.  This year, several bills were introduced at the capitol that, if passed, would aid in the reduction or elimination of synthetic pesticides on secondary school grounds, municipal parks and recreation areas, and residential areas by town.  Here's the background about each bill:

Raised Bill 914: An Act Concerning the Application of Pesticides at Municipal Parks
If passed, this bill will apply the same restrictions concerning the application of pesticides at day care centers to the application of pesticides at municipal parks. These restrictions will help protect the people who enjoy the municipal parks from needless chemical exposure, and will also prevent the poisoning and resulting population decline of the insect population that many species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals rely on as a food source.  Check out the Connecticut Audubon Society's testimony in support of this bill here.

Raised Bill 981: An Act Concerning Pesticides on School Grounds
If passed, this bill will expand the ban on the use of lawn care pesticides in schools to include schools with students in grades nine to twelve, inclusive.  This extends the current K-8 ban to include all levels of elementary and secondary education, providing Connecticut's children with an uninterrupted pesticide-free education. CT NOFA, which the NOFA Organic Land Care Program is a part of, is a member of the Connecticut Safe Grounds Coalition that supports the K-8 ban.  For the Coalition, and for any parent of education employee, this is big news.

Proposed Bill 5411: An Act Authorizing Certain Municipal Regulations of the Application of Pesticides on Residential Properties
If passed, this bill will enable municipalities to enact pesticide application regulations that are more stringent than the regulations adopted by the state in order to protect aquifers and environmentally sensitive areas from contamination and to protect children and pets from the toxic effects of pesticides. This bill is similar to the following bill (6440) in that it allows municipalities more authority to pass regulations independently of the state.

Raised Bill 6440: An Act Concerning Municipalities and the Application of Lawn Care Pesticides
If passed, this bill will allow municipalities to apply to the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection for the authority to regulate the spraying of lawn care pesticides in such municipality. Currently, even if a town or municipality wanted to adopt pesticide regulations that were more stringent than those enforced by the state, it would be illegal to do so because the state law preempts the local law.  This bill will empower communities to take action against toxic chemicals on their landscapes, even if the state has yet to enact similar measures.

All of these bills are extremely important when thinking about a holistic approach to human health, wildlife conservation, and environmental protection.  If we are to effectively avoid chemical pesticide exposure, both for ourselves and for other species, we ultimately need to regulate the application of such chemicals in all areas and in all industries.  Individual regulations are incredibly important, both in mitigating chemical exposure and in showing us the path we need to head in, but each individual regulation is only part of a much larger, more encompassing, and vital whole.

Please call your legislator today in support of one or more of these bills.  If you're not sure who your legislators are, you can use this online tool to find out. Working together, we can take control of our health and the health of the world around us.

Have a great weekend,

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pesticide Regulation in the News: New Legislation Could Harm Our Waterways

One of the main principles of organic land care is to reduce the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. There are many reasons for this principle, one being to reduce the pollution of our waterways.

As of recently,  U.S. Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Mike Johanns (R-NE) re-introduced legislation that would reduce the review requirements for pesticides that are directly applied to water. The legislation would ensure that Clean Water Act (CWA) permits are not required for the application of pesticides. This is the second attempt for this type of legislation to be passed. The previous Senate version of the bill, Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, never reached the Senate floor due to holds put on the act by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD).

This article from gives a great overview the legislation and why sustaining CWA permits is so important.

       "In 2009, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the case of theNational Cotton Council et al. v. EPAthat pesticides discharged into water are pollutants and required to be permitted under the CWA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). This ruling overturned Bush administration policy that exempted pesticides from regulation under the CWA and applied the less protective standards of theFederal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). CWA uses a health-based standard known as maximum contamination levels (MCLs) to protect waterways and requires permits when chemicals are directly deposited into rivers, lakes and streams, whereas FIFRA uses a highly generalized risk assessment that does not consider the availability of safer alternatives.

The proponents of this legislation claim that requiring a CWA permit creates a double layer of red tape that is costly to the agriculture industry and consumers. However, FIFRA and CWA are complementary laws and the CWA permit process only affects a small number of pesticide applications. The two statutes have fundamentally different standards and methods in determining whether a pesticide will have unreasonable adverse effects on the environment and/or human health. The CWA statute is more stringent than FIFRA. CWA has a “zero discharge” standard, meaning any amount of discharge, no matter how small, without a permit, constitutes a violation of the CWA. Risk assessment, on the other hand, used under FIFRA, is weaker than a “zero” standard. Risk/benefit allows a certain amount of pollution (i.e. risk) in exchange for controversial calculations of benefit and use a threshold of harm that can vary upon EPA discretion. Since the CWA statute is more stringent in its oversight of U.S. waterways, and thus provides increased safeguards for human health and the environment, FIFRA should not be allowed to override the CWA.

Proponents of this legislation also claim that this permit process would restrict public health officials from using pesticides to control mosquitoes and the spread of West Nile virus (WNv). However, as evidenced through scientific studies and experiences from communities around the country, spraying pesticides is not an effective or efficient way to prevent death or illness associated with insect-borne WNv. Moreover, spraying for WNv can be harmful to non-target species, adversely affect wildlife, and contaminate drinking water sources."


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Guest blogger Bernadette Giblin, NOFA AOLCP & Founder, Safeground Organic Landcare Consulting
“The City of Brotherly Love” is filled with many incredible murals. This one adjacent the PHS seemed to capture
 the spirit of NOFA’s OLC accreditation course.
The “CHANGING THE GAME” billboard in the backdrop of the
PECO green roof seemed to signify what NOFA
accreditation is all about. 
I’m back from having a great time participating in the first NOFA Organic Land Care Accreditation Course of 2013!  The January 14th-17th course held in Philadelphia, PA was not only the season opener but, it was also the first time the course was on the road in Pennsylvania. CT NOFA OLC had the pleasure of collaborating with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. And what a great partner they found in PHS.  They’re the organization that’s responsible for the largest indoor flower show in the World! And they did a super job hosting the 50+ enthusiastic participants at PHS on Monday- Thursday for the NOFA OLC Accreditation Course. Many of which, I’m pleased to report, were from Philadelphia Park & Recreation. 
Courtesty of PWD website
 Julie Snell and Nancy O’Donnell, just two of the supportive PHS team members we had the pleasure of getting acquainted with, helped make everyone feel welcome in these great accommodating facilities. 
And it goes without saying that dedicated OLC staffers worked tirelessly delivering the highest quality programming that the course  has become synonymous with.

It’s always fun and rewarding being in the company of AOLCP’s sharing our commitment to protecting the health of the environment through educating traditional landscapers and other green professional in organic management best practices.   I had the distinct pleasure of kicking off the course with the Principles & Procedures section normally taught by founding OLC Board Member Kim Stoner, who was unable to attend.  I loved getting the opportunity to enlighten the 50 or more new professionals in the room about organic land care, the importance of the OLC standards we adhere to and the network of OLCP support they’ve joined.

Site visit to the green roof of the
Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO)
Green professionals receive a foundation when they learn OLC best practices. 
Frank, myself & Chip
NOFA OLC founding Board Member Mike Nadeau of Plantscapes followed me with Site Assessment.  He shared the words of his mentor, “ The greatest pathogen to plants is the landscaper.” Reveared Soil Scientist Dr. Elaine Ingham (a.k.a., the Mother of Compost Tea) was in from the Rodale Institute to impart wisdom on soil fundamentals, biology & health.  She equated nature to a book that we must all learn how to read. “You got a problem, read the book!” She also suggested we OLCP’s,  “sweet talk clients away from turf.” And if we weren’t successful, Mister organic turf himself, Chip Osborne 
followed up to empower us with tools to transition turf to organics.  Chip echoed Dr. Ingham sentiments by stating, “The #1 goal is to improve soil quality.” 
Chip and I thought this
might be an interesting
dining experience
Suzanne Wainwright-Evans (a.k.a. The Bug Lady) shared a wealth of knowledge about our indespensible bretheren of the insect community. I wanted to bale on my mission driven OLC consulting, grant writing and social media marketing practice to be an entomologist!
Glen Abrams from the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) updated us on the city’s 25 year plan, GREEN CITY, CLEAN WATER, is the most progressive in the nation.  It focuses on protecting their watershed by managing stormwater with innovative green infrastructure. PWD’s sustainability initiative to broaden its green mission as well as comply with stricter environmental laws.  Clean water is no longer about putting water it in a pipe and transporting it to a municipal treatment facility.  Clean water is now about using pervious pavements, plants and soils the way Nature intended; to filter pathogens and clean water right where it lands.

There were other fabulous presentations like Frank Crandall who talked about the right plant right place principal, as well as the business side of things.  I know I’m missing so many others in this post so please forgive me.  You were great! Especially Jenna Messier & Kristiane Huber, for their hard work to make 2013 training in Pennsylvania invaluable for all who participated!
Program Director Jenna Messier and
Course Coordinator Kristiane Huber

Best of luck to new and, dare I say, old AOLCP’s in 2013!  Here’s to a game changing year for us all ;-)

NOFA AOLCP & Founder, Safeground Organic Landcare Consulting