by George Looby
An intensive four-day organic land care course was held Feb. 22 – 25 at the Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, CT. This 30-hour course was designed for landscape architects, landscaping professionals and environmental educators to inform them of the latest information in their field to better prepare them for the season ahead and to refresh them on some basics that have changed recently. The program was presented by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut and sponsored by PJC Ecological Land Care.
The organic land care section of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of CT (NOFA) lists six reasons why a homeowner might choose professional organic lawn care. Organic lawn care is healthier and safer for both humans and pets. Organic practices restore soil food webs so the resident organisms can better provide nutrients to the plants. Synthetic lawn fertilizers and pesticides can run off lawns and harm streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and oceans. In addition, there is concern over the use of weed killers containing glysophate.
The Course prepared attendees for accreditation in Organic Land Care. Successfully passing the qualifying exam given after completion of the last lecture accomplished this. Once accredited, an individual can promote the business they are affiliated with as adhering to organic principles. If it is determined that an accredited individual fails to adhere to the standards of care set down by Organic Land Care, that individuals’ accreditation may be terminated.
The principals an accredited individual agrees to follow are:
- Provide organic services in accordance with the NOFA Organic Land Care Standards to clients who request organic land care services.
- Abide by good business practices and ethics.
- Use only the NOFA Organic Land Care logo in connection with organic land care as prescribed in the Standards.
- Stop using the NOFA logo and advertising materials if accreditation is not maintained.
Jenna Messier serves as the Director of the NOFA Organic Land Care Program and served as the coordinator of the overall program. Jenna led off by welcoming the attendees and giving an overview of Organic Land Care (OLC).
Mike Nadeau was one of the founding members of the OLC program in 1999 and he presented a broad look at many of the interrelating factors of the decision making process when deciding on the best possible use of a parcel of land. Probably the best advice received were things to avoid when making land use decisions. Mother Nature, left undisturbed, has a pretty good eye when it comes patterns of plant growth.
Water resources are critical in all areas of human activity and Heather Crawford reviewed many of the water management issues that are under continual review with some success stories and others still presenting problems to those in charge of management and control.
Heather noted that polluted storm water runoff is the number one control problem in the U.S.
A pioneer in organic lawn care, Todd Harrinton has operated an organic lawn care service in a suburb of Hartford, CT since 1987. Todd presented some basic information regarding soil function and a whole host of factors that may influence the way it can function. Todd also covered composting — including the different materials used and how to best manage it. Compost tea was an additional topic that Todd discussed including its use, composition and quality control.
Presenters covered a wide range of topics, which provided those in attendance with a solid background in organic lawn care.
Michael Nadeau covered mulches, lawn alternatives and invasive plants. Dr. Kirby C. Stafford III, Chief Entomologist and Head of the Dept. of Entomology at the CT. Agricultural Experiment Station and State Entomologist spoke about tick control.
Joan Allen serves as an Assistant Extension Educator and runs the UConn Plant Diagnostic Laboratory at UConn. Her topic was disease control and management. The owner of Natureworks Horticultural Services in Northford, CT, Nancy DuBrule-Clemente discussed planting and plant care. Dan Dalton is an arborist with the Almstead Tree and Shrub Care Co. and an Adjunct Professor in the Horticultural Program at the Naugatuck Valley Community College. Dan made three presentations the first dealing with pest management, the next with organic tree care and finally pest management for shrubs and trees. Chip Osborne is a seasoned professional whose Osborne Organics, a consulting firm, specializes in educational training and support to industry professionals as well as municipalities, school districts and facilities managers. Chip’s first presentation was entitled, “Intro to Turf” followed by Pest Management for Turf.
Chip also talked about soil testing and how to interpret the results. The owner of CT Edible Ecosystems Sven Pihl gave the group a look at permaculture: what it is, where it began and where it is going and how to incorporate it into a garden design.
Trevor Smith is a man of many affiliations — all relating to green technology and organic concepts. He spoke about Green Stormwater Infrastructure and how organic landscapers might incorporate its principles into their businesses.
The course wound up with Frank Crandall III, who operates Frank Crandall Horticultural Solutions. Frank gave the audience a bit of the nitty-gritty about the realities of running an organic company including how to make the transition from conventional to organic, preparing estimates, budgeting and marketing.
Those who enrolled in this intensive four-day program came away more than prepared for the examination that marked the end of the program and hopefully the start of a new career.