Who do you trust to protect your health?
Dear Editor - Re: "Pesticide review lacking credibility" (letter, Feb.
The Ontario College of Family Physicians' Pesticide Literature Review
is a landmark document on the human health effects of pesticide
It represents the scientific views of an expert team of medical
doctors working under the auspices of an organization representing
9,000 family physicians.
The review found very troubling associations between pesticide
exposure and an increased risk of cancer, neurological illness and
reproductive problems. Based on its scientific findings it concluded
that Ontarians should "avoid exposure to all pesticides whenever and
To ensure that their work met the most stringent demands of scientific
scholarship, the review's authors submitted their research to the
prestigious journal Canadian Family Physician. After a thorough peer-
review process-- in which third-party medical authorities examined the
authors' findings -- the research was accepted for publication in
Canadian Family Physician's October 2007 issue.
We urge all citizens to read this publication for themselves. If they
do, we believe they will share the scientists' recommendation that
"exposure to all pesticides be reduced."
Those supporting continued use of non-essential pesticides tend to be
connected with the pesticide industry itself.
Those urging a phase-out of cosmetic pesticides include Ontario's
doctors and nurses and the Canadian Cancer Society.
Readers must decide for themselves whom they trust to protect their
-- Gideon Forman, executive director, Canadian Association of
Physicians for the Environment
Wednesday March 4, 2009
Kelowna Daily Courier
Letter: My husband's death could have been prevented
Re: Sue anti-pesticide politicians: Capital News Jan. 30
Some of you may remember my husband Brad Lazar. Brad was a 45 year
old man. He was in top shape, non smoker, Golden gloves boxing
champion. Brad worked for the district of Peachland as lead hand for
Brad held the pesticide applicators certificate for the district.
Which means he took care of 27 acres of greenspace - 27 acres of 2,4-
D. Brad had taken all the courses, he followed the manufactures
labels, wore all the proper protective clothing. Brad got diagnosed
with lung cancer on Valentine's Day.
It quickly spread to his brain and within 3 months he was dead.
So for 3.5 years now i have worked with many health care
professionals ,lawyers, the Canadian Cancer Society, the BC cancer
agency, and many doctors including a pathologist from Kelowna General
I have also worked with Dr. Irwin, a doctor in Quebec , responsible
for their total ban on cosmetic pesticides.
These doctors are familiar with these same pesticides Brad used. It
is their area of expertise, working with cancers connected to
One Scientist in particular, Dr. Meg Sears, put together scientific
studies showing Brad died from exposure to pesticides. One example of
this is Brad had BAD canker sores for 5 solid years.
They were down his throat, on the roof of his mouth, they were
everywhere! He had to carry dental freezing just to be able to eat.
This was a sign of pesticide poisoning.
So this makes my family very sad to know that Brad's death could have
been prevented. If Brad knew then what we know now, he would have used
the many alternatives available.
When there are lawn care companies like Turf Logic, who use 100%
organic products, and many alternatives on the shelves , we really
don’t have a need for these pesticides to be used.
With over 140 municipalities with Bylaws in effect and many more in
the works, it makes me happy to see these cancers being prevented.
Hats off to the District of Peachland, which is working on a no-
pesticide bylaw as we speak.
Also thank you to the Canadian Cancer Society for informing the public
about these most important steps to preventing cancer before it
As my journey continues, my kids and I feel good we can help save
lives from losing Brad. And you can too, knowing you did your part in
Remember, if a pesticide can kill a bug or a weed, it can kill you.
For the full story you need an account with Le Devior
Pesticides: l'Ontario va beaucoup plus loin que le Québec
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Édition du vendredi 06 mars 2009
Mots clés : Interdiction, Pesticides, Environnement, Canada (Pays),
L'Ontario bannira à compter du 22 avril deux fois plus de pesticides
que le Code québécois, prenant le leadership dans ce domaine à
l'échelle du continent, selon les milieux de la médecine et de
March 05, 2009
Maple Ridge News
Your guide to organic pesticides
By Mike Lascelle - Maple Ridge News
There was a time when chemical pesticides such as Malathion, Diazinon
and Cygon 2E were a part of every gardener’s arsenal and, yet, none of
these are currently available as domestic products.
While many of you are still dealing with pest problems and searching
your local garden centre in vain for one of the above products, some
of the newer organic pesticides are just as effective when used
properly. With that in mind, here is an overview of the most common
questions I receive, and the organic products that I recommend.
What is an organic pesticide? Pesticides with an active ingredient(s)
derived from natural sources, such as diatomaceous earth (ground-up
fossils) or pyrethrins (a flower extract).
Why are they safer than chemical pesticides? Unlike synthetic
pesticides – such as organochlorides – they are less toxic and have
much shorter residual effects.
Are there any harmful side effects from these products? Yes, even
organic pesticides can be lethal to beneficial insects or fish – as in
the case of pyethrins.
How can I be sure what is in an organic pesticide? All pesticides
registered for use in Canada must have a guarantee on the label,
indicating the percentage of active ingredient.
Are they more expensive than chemical pesticides? No, most organic
pesticides cost much less than their chemical counterparts.
• Topgun Weed Killer – A fast-acting broad-spectrum (i.e. pigweed,
chickweed) weed killer recommended for use around driveways and gravel
walks. Topgun is water-based with fatty acids (insecticidal soap)
being the active ingredient. Limitations: It is non-selective and
cannot be used in lawns.
• Defender – A liquid fungicide (sulphur) primarily used to control
black spot and powdery mildew on roses. Limitations: It only works as
a preventative on emerging foliage.
• Insectigone Crawling Insect Killer – A powder made of silicon
dioxide – which is essentially finely ground diatom fossils. It works
by scratching the outer surface of insects, causing them to dry out
and die. This product is used both in and outdoors, and is generally
dry-sprayed into crevices where pests frequent. Limitations: You will
need to reapply after rain and be careful not to get this product near
the eye, as it is an irritant.
• Attack Ant Killer – This is a liquid borax-based pesticide mixed
with a sugar bait to attract ants. Place droplets near ant runs or
holes – ants will bring it back to the nest, often destroying it in a
week. Limitations: It must not be applied where food is handled and
should be kept away from children and pets.
• Plantskydd – A blood-based (porcine / bovine) repellent specifically
geared towards deer and rabbits. Available in pre-mixed liquid form or
a soluble powder – it is sprayed onto the new growth of conifers and
broadleaf evergreens or painted onto the dormant stems of fruit trees.
Limitations: Not recommended for direct application onto edible
plants, dogs should be kept away until it is dry and it cannot be
sprayed in bright sunlight.
• BTK – A strain of bacteria that kills cabbage loopers, tomato
hornworm and leafrollers (among others), acting as a stomach poison.
Limitations: Easily washed off by rain or irrigation.
• Tree Tanglefoot Paste – A sticky paste (castor oil, waxes and
resins) used to bar crawling insects (ants, weevils and caterpillars)
from entering trees and shrubs. Limitations: May need to be stirred
occasionally due to debris or bridging insect bodies.
• Scott’s Turf Builder Weed Prevent – A natural pre-emergent selective
herbicide made from 100% corn gluten meal, effective on both crabgrass
and dandelions - releases nitrogen as it breaks down. Limitations: It
needs to be applied in early spring (before weed growth) and only
works on established lawns.
• Safer’s Neem Oil Leaf Shine - While neem oil (extract of the Neem
tree seed) is not registered as a pesticide in Canada, it has proven
to be an effective pest control for chewing or sucking insects –
suffocating soft-bodied pests (aphids) and interfering with hormone
(mating) function. While this product is only sold as a leaf shine, it
should keep most household pests at bay. Limitations: Pregnant women
(or those looking to conceive) should not use this product.
• End-All II & Trounce – The new version of End-All (II) and Trounce
are virtually indentical pesticides – with insecticidal soap and
pyrethrins being the active ingredients. Safe and effective against
most pests, these products can be used on edible plants as long as
they are washed before consumption. Limitations: Must be used as a
contact spray and be kept away from waterways.
• Chemfree Critter Ridder – An animal repellent that works against
dogs, cats, squirrels and raccoons using extracts of both black and
hot peppers that irritate their nasal passages. Limitations: Less
effective after heavy rains.
• Safer’s Slug & Snail Killer – An organic slug bait (using ferric
phosphate) that is non-poisonous to wildlife and domestic pets, and
persists in the rain. Limitations: Slugs do not die immediately after
ingestion, but do stop eating.
To learn more about reducing pesticide use with organic methods, join
me Saturday, March 21 for my Gardening Without Pesticides seminar.
Mike Lascelle is a nursery manager at a local garden centre and
authour of two books on gardening in B.C.
Turf is Dead: The Ideological Monoculture of the Lawn
Jeffrey R. Harrison
Old John with white hair,
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk.
They laugh at our play,
And soon they all say:
"Such, such were the joys
When we all, girls and boys,
In our youth time were seen
On the Echoing Green."
– William Blake
Blake’s poem shows how a lawn exists as much in the mind as in
reality. The old folk laugh at the children’s play and wax sentimental
of their exploits on the turf in their youth. It’s likely the narrator
of this poem, one of the children on the green, may be annoyed at how
the old folk laugh. To do so does not indicate respect or attention
for the youths. In this case, the old folk don’t see the children or
the lawn before their eyes, but the idealized greens of self-centered
Through active misperception, lawns connect modest bungalows to vast
estates and pastoral settings. Like the country club golf course, lawn
functions as a sign of health, wealth, and class distinction. Turf
unites the properties of the majority of rural and suburban landscapes
across the United States into an ideological monoculture.
Lawn is the common denominator in American landscape design and
usually the focal point of home landscapes. Americans expect to see
turf in Maine, Colorado, Nevada, and Florida. If Americans can’t grow
turf where they live, they may even resort to painting stubble with
formulated dyes or rolling out petroleum-based facsimiles (which are
searing hot if they’ve had enough direct summer sun).
Turf of all kinds signify a complex relationship the majority of
Americans have with nature, one which includes continual wonderless
labor in the pursuit of total domination – totalitarianism (Pollan,
11). However, when an individual resolves to increase ecology and
biodiversity in whatever patch of earth they tend, they begin to look
askance at the lawn. While exploring the ecological and logical
problems of mainstream lawn maintenance and alternatives to the lawn –
it is useful to understand and appreciate the origins and assets of
lawns, turf, and grasslands.
Perhaps it’s “savannah syndrome” that makes us ooh and ah over turf –
an inherited human preference for grassy pasture over forest (Pollan,
5). For millennia the Oregon Willamette Valley was characterized by
lowland wetlands and upland prairies with oak savannas in between.
This ecosystem did not emerge on it own, but through yearly practices
of the Kalapuya people, a population that numbered around 15,000 who
had always called the Willamette Valley home. As Kommemma Kalapuya
Elder Esther Stutzman explained, her ancestors managed the land to aid
cultivation of a staple of the Kalapuya diet, Camas Lily – Camassia
quamash. Stutzman stated, “The Kalapuya people burned the valley. We
knew the burning of the fields was something that was very beneficial
for the Camas. That was one of the ways the Kalapuya tended to the
Earth and made sure that the earth was rich and provided food for the
people.” The regular burning of the valley created vast Oregon Oak
(Quercus garryana) savannas and prairie grasslands that were ideal for
hunting deer, elk, and other game (“Oregon Ecoregions” video).
The word “lawn” originally referred to a meadow or grassland in a
forest where deer grazed (Whitefield, 181). Part of the joy of growing
vegetables is watching them grow with anticipation of eating them. The
lawn offers homeowners a similar sense of food security in the sudden
case they need to sustain a few hoofed herbivores. Here emerge two of
many of the cognitive dissonances imbedded in lawn cultural practices.
First, despite appearances, the lawn is not going to be food for
anything with a vertebrae (unless you are keeping ducks). Second, the
lawn is not an ecological legacy in the manner that a pasture, wild
prairie, or grassland can be defined as such. The lawn, generally, is
Still, everyone needs access to ample turf for athletics and
recreation. Fortunately for its residents, Portland, Oregon, USA has
one of the highest number of parks per capita of any city. Each park,
large and small, offers an Echoing Green for exercising dogs, playing
games, having picnics, watching plays, or musical performances. It
often doesn’t matter where you reside in Portland; a park is within
walking distance. With so much expansive turf available for fun, how
much turf does a Portlander really need around the home?
As Permaculturist Patrick Whitefield stated, “Lawns are fun. Fun is a
yield” (181). It’s difficult to quantify the yield of stretching out
in bare feet in the sun dappled back lawn watching the kids play on
the grass. Still, such unquantifiable yields come at definite cost.
The time and labor required to develop and maintain champion lawns
exceeds the interest and energy of many suburban homeowners.
Throughout the Portland area most lawns are sporadically mowed, but
only the elite few are mowed often, fertilized, weeded, aerated,
dethatched, rolled, sprayed, edged, patched, limed, irrigated, or
otherwise loved and adored (see Yi-fu Tuan’s breakthrough work
Dominance and Affection: The Making of Pets). This heavy load of labor
must, of course, be mitigated by the overcompensating power of a fuel-
burning and aggressively polluting armory of lawn care machines. If
it’s a two-stroke engine, it burns a gas/oil mixture, and it probably
pollutes worse than the car that brought it home. Of the many powerful
machines available, you have your tillers for creating new lawns,
graders, gas powered steel blade edgers, string trimmer edgers,
blowers, vacuums, and, the ultimate, the revered gas powered rotary
The sound of spring in my North Portland neighborhood is the daily din
of gas lawnmowers. On a hot Saturday afternoon at the end of May, I
might close my window (with little effect) on the noise of three of my
neighbors pushing around their roaring, monotonously droning lawn
mowing machines. If you never operate a lawnmower, you really notice
when others do. You notice the noise pollution. You notice the clouds
of dust, the blue clouds of exhaust, the gas and oil spills, the mess
of clippings on the walks, the flying projectiles! Despite the
ubiquitous sound of mowers, many lawns remain shaggy in our
alternately moist and sunny springtime Northwest Climate, ideal
habitat for grass cultivation.
The Willamette Valley alone supplies 60% of the world’s cool season
grass seed (oregonstate.edu). Grass seed can be harvested here as
early as May. As a result, many poorly mowed lawns have seed heads
poking up by June. Some homeowners find the grass so hard to keep
trimmed that paying $450 a month for lawn care professionals starts
making sense. A lush green lawn may appear to be an investment in the
property. Yes, a well-manicured lawn is a status symbol that adds
dollar value to the real estate, but this activity comes with many
As a cultural activity, what does it mean to grow a constantly
harvested perennial crop of lush grass clippings only to carefully
collect them, place them in plastic bags, paper bags, or trash bins,
and put them by the curb for pick up? What are the consequences of
participating in this activity?
It is a practice which mimics food-based cultural practices, such as
straw harvesting or even some food crop cultivation, but the yield of
the lawn, the clippings, generally are treated like a waste product.
If the clippings, high in nitrogen when fresh, were added to compost,
used as mulch, or simply allowed to decompose in the turf, they could
become an asset. The clippings probably have any number of weed seeds,
so may only be suitable for application to the lawn anyway. Having a
mower with an additional mulching blade will facilitate the processing
of clippings into organic fertilizer. However, the human powered reel
mower invented in 1827 by Edwin Beard Budding still works great for
small properties (and requires far less maintenance).
The typical cool season lawn requires four feedings of fertilizer
yearly. If clippings were not bagged and allowed to fertilize the
lawn, the amount of nitrogen gained would negate the need for one of
these fertilizer feedings. Limiting chemical fertilizer use has vastly
positive effects on the health of our waterways. Also, bagging
clippings turns an asset into a waste burden on another fossil fuel
based system tasked with the removal, transport, and processing of
this strange harvest. How many trees fall each year to make the paper
bags for these clippings? It’s perverse. Call this behavior what you
will, but it is not conservative or wise. Are these values we want our
children to embody? Besides, is any of this any fun?
Since its commercial introduction, the gas powered rotary lawn mower
has greatly appealed to men as a hybrid toy/tool. From the 1930s on,
advertisers would claim that lawnmowers were so fun to use, the whole
family would relieve Dad of ever having to mow (Jenkins, 110).
However, equating fun and lawn mowing is mostly hype. There is a
sadistic pleasure to instantly turning shaggy lush grass into
uniformly high turf. Still, the lawnmower has other “transcendental”
values beyond mere utility.
Pride and prestige emanate from the lawnmower. Through mere ownership,
as long as it functions, the mower confirms the owner’s masculinity.
The simplicity of the winterizing and upkeep of the mower allowed less
mechanically inclined men with membership in the virile ranks of
mechanics and engineers. Furthermore, this machine could bestow class
distinction. In Virginia Scott Jenkins’ book The Lawn, she cited a
postwar advertisement for the Porter-Cable Yard Master Riding Mower
which stated “Watch the Crowds Gather. You’ll be the envy of the
neighborhood when you drive the Porter-Cable Yard Master across your
land.” (82) Jenkins noted, “This type of advertisement encouraged
conspicuous consumption and rivalry between neighbors. In a
materialistic competitive society, ownership of the correct equipment
would give the homeowner distinction. Money and possessions rather
than birth or occupation would open the social doors to an aspiring
middle class.” (82)
Jenkins concluded that this materialistic rivalry reflected
conservative democratic values of a universal potential for upward
mobility in America. The narrative of the American Dream unfurls as
the finest of lawn machines both represents the banishing of work
through wealth while it signifies hard work to attain such an
expensive toy/tool. The lesson of the narrative is that, with hard
work, anyone can live the good life in America. The good life in this
case is constricted to the toil of mowing grass.
Still, some [male] conservatives may get an ideological thrill when
they mow. Jenkins wrote that “despite appeals to women during World
War II, lawn-care rhetoric reverted in the fifties and sixties to the
traditional assumption that lawn care was man’s work and that the lawn
was the man’s responsibility” (127). While the lawn was culturally
constructed to be a place for the man to labor and exact domination,
the garden was viewed a place of both complexity and whimsy more akin
to feminine wiles. The more dominant the lawn on a landscape compared
to the flower beds, the more right-thinking male dominance there can
be found in the functioning of that household. From early on, the lawn
signified ideology. Moreover, the lawn functioned as a physical,
quantifiably site-specific reflection of the inhabitants’ adherence to
conservativism. To illustrate, the 1870’s co-inventor of the lawn,
Frank L. Scott, subordinated all features of the landscape to the lawn
by saying “Let your lawn be your home’s velvet robe and your flowers
its not too promiscuous decoration” (Pollan, 8). Such a statement
recalls pre-enlightenment suspicion of the forest and gardens as
provinces of Satan, witches, and paganism. Scott even characterized
those that do not strive to obtain a manicured lawn as “unneighborly,”
“undemocratic,” and “unchristian” (Pollan, 9).
Simultaneously, the manicured lawn banishes threatening ideologies.
Through all-pervasive physicality, the lawn signifies active American
power, uncompromisingly dominating nature into submissive uniformity,
devoid of difference and the foreign. Should foreign invaders, weeds,
dare violate the immaculate lawn, American power knows no limits.
The mid-century slogan “Better Living Through Chemistry” from Dow
Chemical defined a hope that humans could technologically transcend
the Earth and the heavens. New chemicals like DDT were suddenly
winning the fight against malaria. Insect infestations could be
thwarted, fungi managed, weeds eradicated. With gases like methyl
bromide, acres of land could be sterilized of all life. This
antagonistic attitude toward nature was reflected in advertising of
the mid-century. As Jenkins stated, “The new chemical weed and insect
killers were offered as weapons against foreign intruders in the home
yard. A magazine article on how to have a weed-free lawn told the
reader, 'It’s time to take up arms against the weeds. From now on,
when man and nature meet on the lawn, it’s dog eat dog. Your best bet
is not these infantry tactics but wholesale slaughter by chemical
warfare, utilizing the impressive arsenal of chemicals now available
to every lawn owner beset by weeds.'” (146)
It appears such hostility toward nature is still commonplace.
2, 4-D is currently the 3rd most popular herbicide in America, and the
most popular worldwide (www.24-D.org). This selective broadleaf
herbicide, first available to the public in November of 1944, quickly
became an enormously profitable chemical to produce (Jenkins, 150).
The product is effective in managing broadleaf weeds in turf like
dandelion, plantain, English daisy, and so on. 2, 4-D is familiar to
many as the herbicide used in Vietnam by the name Agent Orange.
American Soldiers faced unprotected exposure and came home with
cancer, “birth defects [in offspring], reproductive problems,
neurotoxicity, kidney, liver damage,” and chronic hypersensitivity and
irritation (Jenkins, 151). This product is available to any Oregon
homeowner wishing to hire their local State Licensed Pesticide
Applicator. 2, 4-D is discussed with regularity in the Pesticides
class at PCC – Rock Creek as a popular, effective, and useful tool for
home lawn care.
However, many homeowners feel nervous about applying a chemical to
their property which requires a 12-hour reentry interval. If an
individual took time to read the label of any restricted use
pesticide, it would give them many reasons not to use such a product.
Restricted use chemicals can cause sickness, injury, and fatality even
when used as directed. Homes with children or pets tend to be the most
militantly anti-pesticide. Some homeowners find themselves exasperated
by landscape maintenance professionals who claim to be “green” in
their practices, but then use herbicides on the sly. In this respect,
a growing number of homeowners are ahead of the lawn care industry in
their desire to be a steward of their land rather than a dictator.
Many want an alternative, but need a little guidance toward an
appropriate design for their site.
Whitefield offered the somewhat heretical notion that the lawn could
be allowed to mature into meadow. “As the grass grows taller it will
become a richer wildlife habitat” (181). The only maintenance would be
cutting the brown grass canes down in autumn, preferably with a
scythe, since a mower would be too short for the job. A machete or
switch, or even an electric string trimmer could also suffice.
Whitefield added, as a design consideration, that “a close-mown path
curving through the middle of the meadow is useful, for two reasons:
it makes the point that this is an intentional meadow rather than a
case of someone never getting round to mowing the lawn, and it makes
it easier to enjoy the meadow.” (Whitefield, 182)
Jenkins noted that in Potomac, Maryland, 1986, just such a lawn
alternative was set on fire by a disapproving neighbor. One attempts
such radical departures from traditional landscaping at their own
peril. A compromise with complaining neighbors may be to mow the
perimeters of meadows to match neighboring turf .
Perhaps the next step beyond cultivating meadow is to introduce
biodiversity. The purists will sniff at the thought of anything but
monoculture. However, various grass seed mixtures with names like
“Ecograss” are appearing in various catalogs and the seed sections of
some nurseries. One online ad for a product called “Eco-Lawn” claimed,
“Living green can actually save you money, and lots of it! For some
people it may be appealing that with an Eco-Lawn you will spend less
time mowing your lawn once a month rather than
weekly” (www.wildflowerfarm.com). This reflects the new trend of
common sense environmentalism: the willingness to go green if it will
save a buck.
A bag of Ecograss will usually contain a mixture of perennial rye
grass, yarrow, English daisy, and clover. Yarrow is a dynamic
accumulator; clover is the nitrogen fixer (also insectary, like the
daisy). The rye grass does not need to compete so much with its own
species, as it adds fertility to the soil by creating thick fibrous,
deep anchoring root masses.
This mix could be planted and allowed to grow to natural height, or it
can be mowed the height of traditional lawns. Mowing stunts the
fertility of the lawn, as opposed to a meadow which adds to the
fertility of the soil. Mowing can lead to further maintenance issues,
but those are mitigated by avoiding the problems of monoculture.
Theoretically, the Ecograss mixture should be more drought tolerant,
more fertile, more vigorous, more resilient, and more ecologically
active than nearby traditional turf environments.
Many homeowners find they’d rather remove or sheet mulch over their
lawns in favor of “stepable” ground covers or other alternatives.
Still, it’s important to consider pets when eliminating turf.
Immediately after completing turf abatement, plant annual rye grass
where a cat or dog can get it. Grass is a regular supplement to most
pets’ diets. Using straw and soil to create new beds will usually seed
luscious tall blades of grass [as seen on my welcome page] pets will
enjoy far more than an ecologically deserted and brown dead lawn.
Homeowners don’t often think of themselves as designers, but that’s
what they do every time they mow, water, or fertilize. Each alteration
or reiteration marks a determination toward the future of that
property. If, instead of mowing a half hour to four hours a week, one
spent that time sowing vegetables or cover crops, spreading biomass
(paper, leaves, mulch, compost), culling unwanted plant material into
biomass streams, planting bulbs like garlic, sunchoke, or Camas or
shrubs and trees – there would be an observable succession toward
greater and greater biodiversity and productivity. Such work seeks to
harness the forces of nature while the lawn seeks only to oppress.
When the contradictions of lawn ownership pile too high, the question
may arise as to what is an appropriate design for all the existing
turf a home inherited from its previous designer. If observation could
determine where people stand and where kids play, the turf outside
these areas could be replaced with garden beds and paths (Lovejoy,
188). Further, the remaining turf area could become circular to make
mowing more efficient.
For many, the choice as to what sort of lawn they could have never
really occurred to them. Choice is hard to exercise when it’s outside
one’s perception. People often view anything with “eco-” attached to
it as something trendy and pricey, but not for them. However, the lawn
maintenance of a whole turf covered property requires time, gas, and
upkeep of machines. Often in late spring, the lawns here need mowing
every 3 to 5 days. Further investment and resources accumulate with
the installation of PVC or PE irrigation systems to keep every square
foot of turf watered. Certainly, there are alternatives to garden beds
with soaker hoses, some that are more ecological, some that are less.
However, the extent that turf has dominated our home, institutional,
recreational, and corporate landscapes has resulted in an extreme
output of resources for what are suspicious aesthetic goals.
The ecological, the thrifty, and the homegrown – these are values that
drive our culture, all cultures. What county, region, or state does
not treasure the fruits, the berries, and other culinary riches
produced in their local soils? What geographical region does not rank
their wildlands among the most enchanting and inspiring of all?
Meanwhile, Americans love their cars, their home theater systems, and
their lawnmowers, but many feel unsatisfied and downright depressed
despite ever-increasing material opulence. Furthermore, many Americans
are questioning the premise that economic exploitation by a few is a
good that can outweigh what’s being lost by the many, from Evangelical
Christians in the Mountain states, anti-strip mine citizen-activists
in the Appalachian Mountains, and City Repair activists in the
Portland area. Meanwhile, the Willamette Valley continues to loose
more wetlands, oak savannas, and upland prairies to human development
(i.e. homes with lawns). Those who don’t examine their role in the
rapid, continual, and worrying transformation of Cascadia may find
themselves among a daily chorus of roaring, smelly, and dangerous lawn
BLM, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, OSU College of Forestry.
Oregon Ecoregions (Video). North Bend, OR. 2006.
Lovejoy, Anne. Organic Garden Design School. Emmaus, PA.: Rodale.
Jenkins, Virginia Scott. The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession.
Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution press. 1994.
Pollan, Michael. “Why Mow? The Case Against Lawns.” New York Times
Magazine, May 28, 1989.
Tuan, Yi-Fu. Dominance and Affection: The Making of Pets. New Haven:
Yale University Press. 1984.
Whitefield, Patrick. The Earth Care Manual. Hampshire: Permanent
Warning Industry Propaganda Below
March 6, 2009
Cornwall Standard Freeholder
Counties hope to escape provincial pesticide ban
By TREVOR PRITCHARD, STANDARD-FREEHOLDER
United Counties council may have to examine its policy of spraying 2,4-
D along roadsides now that the powerful weed-killer has turned up on a
list of pesticides to be banned for cosmetic use in Ontario, the
county engineer said Thursday.
But D. J. McDonald added he didn't believe the counties' use of the
chemical - sprayed for the past three years on wild parsnip and other
noxious weeds throughout S, D and G - would fall under the
"It's for cosmetic spraying, and we don't believe we're doing cosmetic
spraying," McDonald said.
On Wednesday, the province released a final list of more than 250
pesticides that will not be available for cosmetic use or sale as of
April 22, or Earth Day.
Among the banned pesticides is 2,4-D, which had previously been banned
in Quebec in 2006 after concerns were raised about its safety.
The pesticide ban in Ontario was legislated last year, but the list of
what pesticides fell under that prohibition was only made public this
There were exceptions in the legislation for public health
authorities, farmers, and golf courses, as well as for controlling the
spread of poisonous plants.
Wild parsnip, which can be identified by its tall stems and small
clusters of yellow flowers, is "rampant" throughout the three
counties, said McDonald. People who touch it get a "nasty, nasty
rash," he said.
McDonald vowed council had "done its homework" and was satisfied its
spraying of 2,4-D was not going to harm residents.
"It has no long-term effect. It works on plants, it degrades very
quickly, and it's gone," he said.
Sprayers are also required to follow strict guidelines about where
they can deploy the pesticide, such as maintaining a safe distance
from residents and streams, McDonald said.
But the fact the province would ban 2,4-D for lawns while allowing it
for other purposes like roadside spraying makes little sense, said
David Rawnsley, a Williamstown resident who ran for the Green Party in
the last federal election.
"I can't see how you would make that sort of leap," said Rawnsley.
"The reason that we're not (allowed to use it cosmetically) is that
it's a nasty, poisonous chemical."
The issue is slated to come up at the next United Counties council
meeting, scheduled for March 16, and Rawnsley expects more than a
dozen concerned county residents -including himself - will show up.
He suggested the health concerns over poisonous parsnip are overblown.
"It only is a problem if you break it open and expose the sap. It's
the sap that causes the rash," said Rawnsley.
"I think we can quite easily coexist with it."
March 6, 2009
The Sault Star
Pesticides are necessary
The Canadian Press article carried by the Sault Star on March 3 does
not demonstrate the balance needed to allow the general public to be
well informed about pesticide issues.
The story is very one sided and only gives the opinion of those who
support the ban.
I note that there is a statement suggesting the ban did not go far
enough and should have been expanded to cover products used by
agriculture and forest sectors.
Pesticides and herbicides are necessary tools developed regulated and
approved to assist in the ongoing battle with agricultural pests and
As a farmer and a member of the Canadian governments Pest Management
Advisory Committee, I understand the rigorous risk assessment that is
done before any new product is approved. The high standard of living
we enjoy in Canada is, to a great part, a result of the increases in
agricultural productivity that allows Canadians to pay less for their
food than citizens in many other countries.
Agricultural productivity increases are partially related to our
ability as farmers to use approved crop protection products.
Farmers and the crop protection industry have been working in
partnership to ensure that products are only used when needed and even
then new application procedures and technology is helping to reduce
the volume of products used.
The last statement in the article speaks about studies linking the use
of pesticides to cancer.
The Canadian Cancer Society held a conference last December to look at
the possibility of a link between pesticide use and cancer. I listened
as scientist after scientist presented study results that did not
demonstrate a direct link. In fact, it was suggested that if the cost
of fruits, vegetables and whole grains was to increase because off a
ban on crop protection products, the change in diet could actually
drive up cancer rates.
In my mind, the current ban is more about good politics than good
I would suggest that in the future, when dealing with complex issues,
stick to the science, ensure that balance exists and resist getting
caught up in popular rhetoric.
Ron Bonnett, Bruce Mines
06 March 2009
Winning the turf war
by Gavin McEwan
The independent lawn-care market is having to professionalise to
compete with the big franchises. Gavin McEwan reports.
It may not be the most glamorous or high-profile area of horticulture,
but professional lawn care continues to show recession-defying growth
- so much so that it is tempting practitioners away from other parts
of the green sector. Many have experience of fertiliser and pesticide
application, an understanding of turf and experience of providing a
service to domestic customers. That and relatively low start-up costs
mean it suits sole traders well - though several firms now employ
However, such companies do not have the field to themselves. The
lion's share of the UK market is occupied by GreenThumb and other
franchise companies, with GreenThumb alone believed to have around 50
per cent of the UK market.
To compete in this field, independents need to coordinate and
professionalise their marketing. This was the message to come out of
the fifth UK Lawn Care Network conference last month.
The network has more than 30 members of varying sizes, concentrated in
the South East of England. One is Kent-based Castle Lawns. According
to owner Richard Beal: "Being independent, you can tailor your
programme to what the customer wants, especially when you do a mowing
and treating package as we do. The cultural side is as important as
the chemical side. And franchise companies don't tend to mow as it's
less cost-effective." However, he does not see the franchises as
competition. "They raise the profile of lawn care generally, so we
benefit," he says. "And if the service they provide isn't as good,
their customers will come to people like me."
Network coordinator Richard Salmon reckons the sector holds more
appeal and potential for those already in the horticulture world than
for complete newcomers.
"So far, most entrants are from other areas of horticulture," he says.
"There are a lot of people who have lost their jobs in the City who
are now going into landscaping, but the lawn-care industry is a bit
"A guy working for an independent company will probably have a
background in turf care or agronomy. With a franchise, anyone from any
walk of life can pick up the manual, and they will tend to apply
fertiliser without regard for the requirements of the consumer, the
product or the environment. You need a technical head on you, and the
independents have that."
One such entrant is Martin Ashdown of Kent-based LawnsOne. He says: "I
was a landscaper, but I find with this work it's much easier to manage
your costs. With landscaping, no two jobs are ever the same, and
there's always something unexpected."
Barriers to entry are not especially high, with a pesticide-spraying
qualification the only legal requirement. Salmon, who also runs lawn
care firm Pro LawnCare, favours this. "I don't want to see people
spraying all over the place," he says.
With around 17.5 million gardens in the UK - the overwhelming majority
with lawns - that would suggest considerable growth potential.
"It could be as big as the US," says Salmon. "The American market is
maybe 30 years ahead of us, with over 25 per cent of garden owners
employing a lawn-care company. In the UK it's only five per cent. But
as the market grows, retaining customers and winning over new ones
will become an issue."
All of which means operators need a good head for marketing.
According to UK Lawn Care Network technical director Martin Haverson:
"You need to monitor the source and return rate of your leads." This
involves a systematic approach to customer-record management and
analysis. For the network, this will come partly from its new website
Salmon and Haverson also run Verdant Software Solutions, which
supplies Lawn Assistant, a management and marketing package developed
in the US by Real Green Systems. Founded by current owner Joe Kucik in
1984, Real Green now supplies the package to 1,500 independent lawn-
care companies in the US and Canada.
"There's a need for people to learn how to grow their business cost-
effectively," says Kucik. "The use of the Yellow Pages has fallen off
in the past six or seven years in the US. Meanwhile, 80 per cent of
households are on a 'do not call' list, making the phone more
difficult to use to grow your business. So you have to work smarter."
Kucik's own lawn-care company Lawn Care Services has grown to 8,500
customers in central Michigan purely by using a sophisticated
"The first thing we do is buy marketing data," he says, adding that
his own company has data for 230,000 "probable customers".
"Concentrate your marketing where you have customers already and buy
marketing data for those areas first," he advises. "Neighbours of your
customers are much more interested in your service and you won't have
to drive so far."
There is a high rate of mobility of the US, with around a fifth of US
households moving every year, he says. "We get a regular list of
people new to the neighbourhood, including their lot size. If they're
not on the 'do not call' list, we make a one-step sales call - that
saves you money on time and labour. Otherwise, we send a mailshot that
has pricing and any special offers."
Door-to-door sales calls should not be overlooked either, he says.
"Last year a third of our new sales came that way. It's a cost-
effective way to grow your business and some companies rely on it
The database also helps to sell additional services to existing
customers, he adds.
"Marketing is a year-round job, not just March to May. And the
downturn doesn't mean you cut back on advertising. On the contrary -
you need to spend more. The downturn is an advantage for companies
that understand their market - there's less noise, less clutter to
Haverson agrees the downturn should hold no fear for the sector. "In a
recession, people spend more time at home," he says. "They cut back on
big-ticket items instead. And even if unemployment hits 10 per cent of
people, that's still nine out of 10 who have a job."
According to Salmon, who has 23 years' experience in the industry:
"Lawn care is a luxury, but these are people who like their gardens
and are prepared to pay for their upkeep. Often they are retired
people, and low interest rates will mean they are getting less return
on their savings. But we're still getting enquiries."
The industry also faces challenges from the recently passed EU
restrictions on pesticide use, says Headland Amenity operations
director Mark De Ath.
"We understand that the legislation will include lawns, though it will
be a restriction rather than a prohibition," he says. "But the UK can
meet this more easily than other member states as it already has a lot
of legislation and pesticide use is low."
Salmon adds that the network will also look at how it might use its
collective buying power to offer chemical products to members from
companies such as Headland at reduced rates - another area in which
the franchise companies have hitherto had an advantage.
It may seem a highly seasonal business, but according to Salmon:
"There aren't usually quiet times of the year, although my staff tend
to take holidays in August, when their customers are at home enjoying
Salmon has found it difficult to recruit suitable staff, but not due
to a lack of technical knowledge. "The key thing is, can they deal
with people and build relationships with them?" he says. "They'll be
round there six or seven times a year. It's all about customer care -
that's how you differentiate yourself from your competitors. But you
can't train people to be courteous."
A website launched last week will help UK Lawn Care Network members
compete for business on the web, says Richard Salmon. "It will attract
new business leads and give us national presence."
According to Martin Haverson, who has overseen the site's redesign:
"We have aimed to keep the layout clean and sharp, and to make it easy
for the homeowner to understand. We don't want them to spend long on
it, just long enough to find a local lawn care company."
Such visitors can search by town, county or postcode, which brings up
a list of members operating in the area in random order. For this
reason, member companies can still benefit by having their own
websites, Haverson adds.
It will also feature regular articles on topics such as red thread
written by experts in the lawn-care field, says Haverson. "But to show
up in search engine results, we have to write it in language the
customer would use. We're improving the analytics on the website - you
need to know what people are searching on."
The previous website, which required potential customers to fill in an
online enquiry form, suffered from a "latency", he says. "You have to
deal with leads quickly, otherwise they go cold."
Salmon adds: "At Pro LawnCare, we get enquiries from places like
Scotland. We need to be able to pass referrals to each other."
An 0800 telephone number will be retained and promoted through the
site. "We still get contact that way, and can't break that link," says
Haverson. "But we don't want the calls - we want the calls to go to
- See www.uklawncare.net