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.