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FAQs

Can I apply without confirming with local officials that they will engage in the training program?

If you are interested in bringing this program to your community, but do not yet have community buy-in, we encourage you to sign up as a Parks Advocate. After signing up, we’ll be in contact with next steps on how to discuss this program with community leaders.

How much will this cost my community?

Although there is often significant discussion over the expense of transitioning to an organic land care program, the cost of implementing an organic systems approach is not likely to be substantially more than current costs, and there is likely to be savings in the long-term. Success is a function of implementation, expenditures, and expectations, and Beyond Pesticides always aims to work within current budgetary outlays. It is important to note that we cannot work miracles -- poorly maintained sites will require significant costs to improve or restore, whether through conventional or organic management. We encourage the pilot sites chosen be high profile/heavily used sites with some level of pre-existing expenditure.

In considering cost, local governments are encouraged to reflect not only on budget expenditures, but also on the externalities associated with pesticide use, including its effect to reduce the risk of exposure to carcinogens, prevent the contamination of groundwater and surface water, and the poisoning of wildlife. These are costs that residents are already paying for, through hospital visits, expensive clean-ups, and the need for species conservation and habitat restoration. An organic land care program is not only generally on par with and in the long run less expensive than a conventional chemical-based program; it also reduces and in many cases eliminates costly externalities borne by the community at large. 

For more information on cost, see Beyond Pesticides Cost Comparison: Organic vs. Chemical Land Management

Will Beyond Pesticides or Osborne Organics be bidding on local contracts?

Neither. Beyond Pesticides nor Osborne Organics will ever bid on landscape contracts. We do not sell or supply fertilizers, pesticides, or landscaping equipment in the mainland United States. We may recommend products or equipment, but can work with the community to ensure these suggestions meet current budgetary outlays and provide alternative approaches if they do not. Instead, Beyond Pesticides is able to underwrite up to 100% of the cost for Osborne Organics to train land care officials in organic practices. This training is intended to provide local officials with the knowledge and skills necessary to move forward with an organic land management policy.

How long after applying will it take to hear back? If accepted, when would the program start?

Beyond Pesticides will aim to provide a response to an application within 10 business days. If accepted into the program, we will hold an introductory meeting within 6 weeks to determine next steps, following the program overview outlined above.

Does Beyond Pesticides or Osborne Organics sell fertilizer or pesticide products?

No. We may recommend or help people source product.

Is this just a program where you switch out glyphosate or other hazardous pesticides for a less toxic product?

Beyond Pesticides and Osborne Organics support ongoing efforts to improve sustainability by providing land managers and local practitioners with the tools necessary to successfully implement natural pest and weed management practices. We encourage and prepare officials to transition towards an organic systems based approach to land care. This includes a reorientation to soil management, the nurturing of beneficial organisms in the soil food web, and limited use of organic compatible products when necessary. This approach is not a simple product replacement program, where, for instance, the herbicide Roundup is swapped for horticultural vinegar or soaps, but a true systems change.

What’s wrong with using glyphosate and other toxic pesticides on turfgrass?

Of the 40 most commonly used lawn and landscape pesticides... 

  • 26 are possible and/or known carcinogens
  • 24 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system
  • 29 are linked to reproductive effects and sexual dysfunction
  • 21 have been linked to birth defects, 24 are neurotoxic
  • 32 can cause kidney or liver damage
  • 33 are sensitizers and/or irritants
  • 21 are detected in groundwater
  • 24 have the ability to leach into drinking water sources
  • 39 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms
  • 33 are toxic to bees
  • 18 are toxic to mammals
  • 28 are toxic to birds

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For information on the hazards of pesticides used in landscape management, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database, fact sheets on the Health, and Environmental Effects of 40 Most Commonly Used Landscape pesticides, and the Non-Toxic Lawns and Landscapes Program page. 

What is an “Organic Systems Approach?”

While conventional, chemical-intensive turf and landscape management programs are generally centered on a synthetic product approach that continually treats the symptoms of turf problems with toxic chemicals, the alternative, systems-based organic approach focuses on the root causes of pest problems, which lie in the soil. These cutting-edge land management techniques reveal that toxic pesticides are not needed for successful turf management. Rather, this approach incorporates preventive steps based on supporting soil biology to improve soil fertility and turf grass health, natural or organic products based on a soil analysis that determines need, and specific cultural practices, including mowing height, aeration, dethatching, and over-seeding. 

Our program focuses on more than the N-P-K and sand, silt, clay content of the soil. Although those factors are important, they are missing a crucial component: life. To that end, the soil test process within the organic land care program tests basic nutrient and soil structure, but also includes a “biological assay” which analyzes soil life. These factors, combined with an understanding of past management practices, and classroom discussion around specific environmental challenges at a given pilot site, help inform an Organic Transition Management Plan that will guide practices and products over the next several seasons.

For more information about the science and philosophy behind this approach to organic land care, see Osborne Organic’s document, Natural Turf Management: An Overview. [NEED LINK]

What’s Different with Organic? Can you provide some examples?

Research finds that proper mowing height alone can reduce weed and diseases pressure by 50 to 80% in certain grasses. In the case of mowing high, the natural system supported by this practice is an increase in the root depth of grass. Deeper roots provide greater capacity for the grass to draw water and nutrients from the soil, and stronger grass plants are better able to crowd out weeds or slough off pest pressure. Thus, the practices incorporated as part of an organic systems approach build resiliency, a term used to describe the ability for an environment to bounce back to its previous state after a disturbance. By fostering healthy soil biology, this approach leads to less need for outside inputs, particularly synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. And when properly maintained, lawns and playing fields cared for in this way meet the same expectations of conventional, chemically managed turf.

Can private landscapers in the region participate in the training?

In the past, we have invited private landscapers/local landscape companies to the classroom training portion of the training program. If the community’s land care is conducted primarily by private contractors, they can be included in the full training program. 

Would the community be obligated to purchase certain products through Beyond Pesticides or Osborne Organics?

No – 100% no. We may recommend product, but neither Beyond Pesticides nor Osborne Organics will ever require purchase, and we have no monetary stake in any purchases you all make. We don’t sell product, and we are not contractors that will ever be bidding on local RFPs, etc. If the products we suggest don’t work for you all, we can work with folks to come up with solutions that do.

Who are Beyond Pesticides and Osborne Organics?

Beyond Pesticides is a national, grassroots membership non-profit organization that works closely with local elected officials and Parks Departments throughout the country to protect public health and the environment by promoting alternative pest management strategies that reduce or eliminate reliance on toxic products. We run this training program with national organic turfgrass expert Chip Osborne of Osborne Organics.

Charles E. (“Chip”) Osborne Jr. is a nationally renowned organic turfgrass expert and a professional horticulturist with 40 years of experience in greenhouse production as the former owner and operator of Osborne Florist & Greenhouse in Marblehead, MA. As Founder and President of Osborne Organics (Marblehead, MA), Chip has over 15 years of experience in creating safe, sustainable and healthy athletic fields and landscapes, and 35 years of experience as a professional horticulturist. As a wholesale and retail nurseryman, he has first-hand experience with the pesticides routinely used in the landscape industry. Personal experience led him to believe there must be a safer way to grow plants. His personal investigation, study of conventional and organic soil science practices, and hands-on experimentation led him to become one of the country's leading experts on growing organic turf. Chip is a Beyond Pesticides board member and chairman of his town’s (Marblehead, MA) Parks and Recreation Board where he oversees park budgets and operations.

Have a question not covered by the FAQ? Send us an email.