As part of the SEBS Administrative Staff Community Initiative, which offers staff the opportunity to expand their knowledge of the school community and campus and get to know other staff members through a variety of activities during lunch hour sessions, an intro to Organic Land Care (OLC) was offered on October 21. Environmental and Resource Management Agent for Essex and Passaic Counties Amy Rowe (GSNB 2006) conducted the session, based on an extensive course that she and fellow Rutgers Cooperative Extension agricultural and environmental resource management agents Michele Bakacs, Jan Zientek, Bill Hlubik and extension specialists Joe Heckman and Jim Murphy have developed for professional landscapers as well as workshops for homeowners.
Rowe went over the key concepts of OLC as well as the differences between organic and traditional landscaping practices, the latter which focuses on growing the plant, rather than promoting soil health. As the staff attendees were concerned about proliferation of weeds, Rowe assured that practicing steps like the law of return, i.e. leaving grass clippings to feed the soil rather than removing them, will result in a lawn that will out-competes weeds as it gets healthier. Weeds also like compacted soil, so aerating turf to a depth of 2- 3 inches, improves soil tilth. From handling mulches to mosquitoes, Rowe provided tips on using non-synthetic materials to enhance the landscape without harming the environment. In addition to preserving family and pet health, a yard undergoing OLC best management practices protects local waterways from chemical runoff of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers when it rains.
While the concept of Organic Land Care has been increasing in popularity over the years, very few states have developed educational or training programs. Connecticut and Massachusetts have led the way, with other states like Oregon, Washington and New Jersey as well as Canada following suit. There are no federal or state standards for OLC, only standards for organic food, so “best management practices” are recommended.
Rowe was recently awarded the Rutgers Cooperative Extension diversity award at the 2014 annual conference on October 20.
To view or sign up for SEBS staff activities, SEBS staff can log in with NetID at https://uhrapps.Rutgers.edu/profdev/script/login.asp and go to “SEBS Staff Only” link. For more information on Organic Land Care, the website is available at http://njaes.rutgers.edu/organiclandcare.