Thursday, January 16, 2014

2013 Annual Gathering Report

2013 Annual Gathering Report

The Annual Gathering was a success on December 11th in Southbury, CT.  175 people gathered to hear current topics in organic land care and to share their experiences with each other from the 2013 landscaping season.  An organic lunch was served with vegetables from New England farms and exhibitors shared information on organic fertilizers, power equipment, nursery stock and more.

Trevor Smith
Trevor Smith started the day off with Green Infrastructure; clearly demonstrating how a small landscaping business can offer permeable driveways, green roofs, and other rainwater catchment systems. Trevor is also very passionate about urban horticulture and increasing the growing space in small spaces with living walls and other systems such as woolly pockets, which hang on the walls and let you plant small herbs and vegetables - perfect for kids. Trevor is the President of Ecological Landscaping Association (ELA), and he will be giving more workshops on these topics throughout the year at ELA programs.
Dr. Jessica Lubell

Dr. Jessica Lubell followed with her presentation on Native Plants. Jessica is a plant science professor at UCONN and her research focuses on native plants, their uses and studying which native plant species and varieties are suited for Connecticut's nurseries to propagate. Jessica does a lot of research on which natives are best suited for parking lots and commercial areas which offer harsh conditions. She suggests Myrica Gale (sweet gale), Prunus pumila var. depressa (creeping sand cherry), and Diervilla lonicera (northern bush honeysuckle) as plants which can withstand the heat of a parking lot.  For more information on Jessica's research, please go to 

To LIKE Dr. Jessica Lubell on Facebook click here.
Tom Tavella
The keynote speaker was Tom Tavella, immediate past President of ASLA.  Tom discussed the future of SITES initiative and implementing projects with landscape architects. SITES(TM) is an interdisciplinary effort to create voluntary national guidelines and a rating system for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices for landscapes of all types, with or without buildings.  ASLA is one of the partners in this initiative.
As Tom discussed the principles of SITES, many in the audience were surprised how aligned SITES is with the NOFA Standards for Organic Land Care.

Tom also suggested the NOFA OLC work with SITES in the future to develop a network of landscapers who can install and maintain the projects which landscape architects are designing to SITES specifications.  Certainly something for us to follow up on! 

Two other opportunities for collaboration came forth from this presentation. The first is for AOLCPS to network with landscape architects by becoming members of their state ASLA chapter and attending their meetings and events.  Bring your marketing literature and tell landscape architects that you are an AOLCP and your specialty services which you can offer their projects.  In addition, Tom suggested using State government portals, unique to each state, where you can find large public jobs which large companies or landscape architects will bid on. Then you can follow up by attending public meetings, and find out which company obtained the job, and you can offer your services as a sub-contractor.

Lastly, Tom named some trends in the green industry which he has been witnessing. As a landscape architect, he has been traveling to work on projects  more than ever and tele-commuting on projects with other L.A.s all over the world.  This may not translate to our member landscapers travelling more, but you may start to work with landscape architects and designers who are not from your community.

Brandon Fredricks and attendee
In addition, Tom named the top areas of growth for landscape architects as: health care, green infrastructure, complete streets and resilience (in light of changing climates.)

After lunch, we had Brandon Fredricks from Kohler Engines, who spoke about the energy savings which can be derived from having Kohler engines on your power equipment fleet.  I will refer folks to their website where you can find a fuel-savings calculator, if you want to learn more:
Tom Barry
In the afternoon, we had a breakout session where attendees could decide which presentation was more relevant to their work; either Caring for Athletic Fields and School Grounds with Tom Barry or Organic Tree and Shrub Care with Michael Almstead.  Both sessions were well-reviewed, with most attendees wanting more time to be allotted to these subjects. 
Michael Almstead focused on renovating older trees and shrubs. Tom Barry shared his experience working at Greens Farms Academy as their Grounds Supervisor, and how he has to prioritize playing fields which have the highest profile and thus get the greatest amount of inputs and attention. As the Grounds Supervisor, it is his job to remind all the staff and the leadership that CT has the ban on pesticides at K-8th grade schools, thus no EPA registered products can be used on site, only 25b products may be used. Tom discussed using Adios, an herbicide on the 25b list, to spot kill weeds in the fields.  He also uses hand-pulling as a method of weed removal, which is tedious, but gets the job done.

We ended the gathering with a presentation by Frank Crandall, Creating a more Sustainable Business.  Frank started out reminding the group about analyzing your operating costs and profit margins and making sure at the end of the year you met your target goals. But the soul of his presentation was a reminder that you really need to know what your goals are for both your business and your lifestyle - and to make sure the two are aligned in order to be happy.
Next month, we will write about the exhibitors who attended the Annual Gathering because they each have valuable products and messages of interest to AOLCPS.

Thanks to all who attended!

by Jenna Messier