History

The OLC program began in 1999 with the writing of the NOFA Standards for Organic Land Care by an ad hoc volunteer committee of scientists, landscapers and activists from the Massachusetts and Connecticut chapters of NOFA. This was followed by the design and in 2002 the deployment of the first comprehensive course in organic land care in both MA and CT. At the same time the committee also initiated the Accreditation program for organic landscapers.  To consolidate efforts, in 2005 the regional OLC Program, including the Accreditation Program, was moved to CT NOFA and a program manager was hired by CT NOFA to help relieve the expanding workload of the volunteer committee. NOFA/Mass continues to partner with the OLC Program through promotion, outreach, coordination and hosting of the Accreditation Course in MA. The OLC Program is a national leader in organic land care, having developed the first:

  • Written standards, the NOFA Standards for Organic Land Care: Practices for Design and Maintenance of Ecological Landscapes, in 2001, based on organic agricultural standards (which won a Green Circle Award from CT Dept. Environmental Protection in 2001)
  • Comprehensive courses in organic land care
  • Accreditation program in the country for organic landscapers.

OLC Committee

The program has been run since the beginning by the Organic Land Care Committee, a group of volunteers from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, and staff from CT NOFA and NOFA/Mass.  The Organic Land Care Committee is the foundation of the Program and is involved in all its facets. The committee’s core responsibilities are to run an effective program; to maintain the Standards for Organic Land Care; to maintain and spread the Accreditation Course that is built upon the Standards; and to maintain and grow the Accreditation Program which serves the community of organic land care professionals and is built upon the Course.

The Committee is also responsible for all aspects of fundraising, marketing, and networking; developing and updating course curriculum; creating new courses; screening potential OLC speakers; and identifying and acting on opportunities for furthering its mission.  Many of the members are key speakers in the Accreditation Course, the cornerstone of our program. The committee communicates via email, meets once a month and participates in a 3-day working retreat each year.

Timeline

2001: The NOFA Standards for Organic Land Care: Practices for Design and Maintenance of Ecological Landscapes, was published.

2002: Introduction of the Accreditation Course, based on our written standards, in MA and CT. This 5-day comprehensive course covers all aspects of organic land care from soil health, site analysis and planting/plant care to composting, lawn alternatives and running a business. (This course is now offered annually in CT, MA, RI and NY and has trained nearly 900 professionals.)

Initiated our Accreditation Program for organic land care professionals. The accreditation exam is given on the last day of the course. Those who pass are eligible to become NOFA Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals (AOLCPs) and pledge to practice according to the NOFA Standards for Organic Land Care for those clients who ask for organic.

Our Accreditation Program provides continuing education courses, referrals, networking, newsletters, publicity, media interviews, and business listing on our website and in our annual homeowner publication, the NOFA Guide to Organic Land Care. (We now have over 500 AOLCPs in 20 states overseen by a part-time accreditation manager.)

2005: Developed the Organic Lawn and Turf Course to supplement the Accreditation Course. (We now offer this course annually in CT, MA and NJ and have trained over 500 students in organic turf management.) Moved the regional OLC Program, including the Accreditation Program into CT NOFA. NOFA/Mass continues to host the Accreditation Course in MA.

2006: Received a grant from the Newman’s Own Foundation to enable us to hire a full-time program manager to oversee the entire regional operations of the NOFA OLC Program.

2007: With the assistance of a generous grant from the Quinnipiac River Fund, we wrote and published the 87-page NOFA Organic Lawn and Turf Handbook, to use as a course text for the Lawn and Turf courses. NOFA Interstate Council votes to "adopt" the OLC as a regional program, run out of CT NOFA.

2008: We opened our third Accreditation Course, in Rhode Island, which trained 55 professionals. We also offered our first Lawn and Turf course in New Jersey which attracted over 50 students.

Hired a part-time accreditation manager to oversee our AOLCPs and enhance the accreditation program itself. The manager runs our highly popular annual “hot topics” continuing education course for AOLCPs, creates our AOLCP newsletter, manages volunteers and speakers, and provides support for the AOLCPs.

2009: Opened our fourth Accreditation Course, in NY. Initiated our Homeowner’s campaign in efforts to educate homeowner’s on Organic Land Care and connect them to our accredited professionals. We have a series of workshops scheduled for this spring and are partnering with environmental organizations to publish a series of articles on organic land care. These efforts are tied in with a complete website redesign to make it easier for homeowners to find on-line help.

Launched an interactive online searchable database of our accredited professionals.  Users can enter their zip code and desired services and get a list of matching results.  AOLCP search gives our Accredited professional the ability to manage their own profile and includes features which allows the account owner to upload pictures to their account.

Launched our first Advanced Workshop series. This series was a phenomenal success and was established in response to the demand for more in-depth and hands-on education from our AOLCPs. The series, held this summer, included: Organic Invasive Removal at Ghiloni Park in Marlborough, MA; Brewing Actively Aerated Compost Tea at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY and a Pruning Workshop at Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, CT. All together the courses saw over 100 attendees.

In the seven years since 2002, the OLC Program has hosted a total of 19 Accreditation Courses and nine Organic Lawn and Turf Courses. The Accreditation Courses have trained a total of 1100 professionals and the Organic Lawn and Turf Courses have taught 520 students. We currently manage over 500 AOLCPs and have seen a total of 900 AOLCPs pass through our program. The OLC is now staffed by 7 people, 6 working out of CT NOFA, and one working out of NOFA/Mass.