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!