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Out and About with AOLCPs
SCARBOROUGH, ME - It was early on a Friday morning in August when David Melevsky got the call. The athletic fields recently transitioned to organic management were flooded and preparations for the town’s annual summer festival were scheduled to begin. Melevsky worked fast to pump off the water and re-arrange where some of the booths would be.
“Scarborough is a marshy town and it’s tough when we get two- to three-inch rainstorms overnight,” he said.
In June, the town approved Melevsky’s company, Go Green Landscaping Inc., to manage all 37 acres of the town’s athletic fields organically.
“There was a real division where half the people in town wanted chemicals and the other half wanted organics. It was a year-long process to get it through. It started with a grassroots group called ‘Citizens for a Green Scarborough’ proposing organics to the town. The main opposition was price and effectiveness of organics,” said the NOFA Accredited Organic Land Care Professional (AOLCP) since 2010 (Newburyport, MA 5-day course).
Melevsky chooses to use BeeSafe products including liquid kelp and fertilizers distributed through Firebelly Organics. He said he was able to meet the price of the previously used chemical applications to the town athletic fields, and get testimonials to prove their effectiveness.
“A lot of parents were very concerned but had no idea how dangerous some of those chemicals were,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of educating. As a father of two young children I wanted the fields treated organically. The state of Maine has a bill proposed this fall to ban pesticides on all school athletic fields and I hope it passes.”
While he worked as a landscaper growing up in Plymouth, Mass., Melevsky didn’t found his organic land care company until 2004. He studied economics and graduated from the University of Vermont Burlington and then earned his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Massachusetts Boston with finance as his concentration.
For years he worked trading stocks, bonds and commodities for a hedge fund, as a stock analyst for private firms and as a bank analyst for the U.S. Treasury Department. He moved to Maine from Massachusetts in 2004 and started a side business offering organic mosquito and tick control to local residents (beginning with his own backyard) and slowly expanded to being a full service landscaping and organic pest control company including athletic fields and residential lawns. He studied at the University of Maine Compost School and has taken all of Chip Osborne’s educational trainings on organic lawn and turf care.
Melevsky chose to be 100 percent organic from the beginning, he said.
“The most difficult part [of the career transition] was starting a business that was 100 percent organic and not really knowing how people would react to it, and also of course making the jump from a salaried job to not having that cushion anymore,” he said. “But it worked out great, through lots of hard work, and I love it. Providing organics differentiates us from our competition and gives us credibility with our customer.”
Melevsky employs six people and manages three daily crews. One crew designs, installs and maintains perennial gardens; another manages maintenance - mowing, plowing, clean-ups; and the third manages fertilizer and mosquito/tick control applications. Melevsky arrives to work at 6:45 a.m. and works at least 12 hours a day. In spring, it’s not uncommon for him to pull 15 hour days. With about 200 clients, custom-made commercial applicators and topdressers, residential and commercial properties to maintain, he spends evenings doing paperwork and planning for the next morning.
Yet, he wouldn’t change a thing.
“When you have success with a customer who is not convinced that organics work and you can show them success on their own lawn or garden without the use of chemicals, it is rewarding. Sharing knowledge with customers and employees who see the value in what NOFA and we are trying to achieve is the most rewarding part,” he said.
Melevsky’s children - his son is 2 and his daughter, 4 - love playing in the large vegetable garden in their backyard, where six-foot-high tomato plants flourished in mid-August. He enjoys downhill skiing and classic cars when he’s not running his business.
Melevsky plans to further expand into municipal and school properties, especially athletic fields.
“I think Maine is becoming a great market for organics. There are a lot of people here who appreciate the outdoors and living healthy. A lot of people choose to live here to raise a family in an environment like this. People are becoming more educated as to what has been used and what’s available now for effectiveness with organics too. I feel encouraged at this point, as more and more people are making the transition to organics.”
For more information, contact Melevsky at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (207) 510-1550.