Out & About with AOLCPs
Feature on Mike McCleese
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.