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.