Principles of Organic Land Care
The mission of the Organic Land Care Program is to extend the vision and principles of organic
Agriculture to the care of the landscapes where most people carry out their daily lives. We do this by educating land care professionals and the general public about the virtues of organic land care and about practices which maintain soil health, eliminate synthetic pesticide and synthetic fertilizer use increase landscape diversity and improve the health and well-being of the people and web of life in our care.
The Organic Land Care Program, formed in 1999, has developed these standards as part of the process of educating land care professionals about the meaning of the word "organic" and to present our vision of how these principles can be applied to the landscaping profession. Through an education and Accreditation program, we hope to make available to the public landscaping services that will meet or exceed the standards presented here. We also hope to educate the public about the meaning of "organic" and the benefits of this option for care of the land around their own homes, neighborhoods, and communities.
Basic Principles of Organic Land Care
Adapted from the "Principles of Organic Agriculture," International Federation of Organic Agriculture
1. Principle of health. Organic Land Care should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant,
animal, human, and planet as one and indivisible.
2. Principle of ecology. Organic Land Care should be based on living ecological systems andcycles, work with them, emulate them, and help sustain them.
3. Principle of fairness. Organic Land Care should build on relationships that ensure fairness with
regard to the common environment and life opportunities. Fairness is characterized by equity, respect, justice, and stewardship of the shared world, both among people and in their
relationships to other living beings.
4. Principle of care. Organic Land Care should be managed in a precautionary and responsible
manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.
Health is not simply the absence of illness, but the maintenance of physical, mental, social, and
ecological well-being. Our role is to sustain and enhance the health of ecosystems and organisms from
the smallest in the soil to human beings, and with the future of the planet in mind. We seek to maintain and increase the long-term health of soils, and the diversity, resilience and sustainability of ecosystems. We strive to avoid all forms of pollution in the establishment and care of landscapes.
Right Plant, Right Place
Plant health depends on growing the plant in the right place and in healthy soil appropriate to the habitat and needs of the plant. Plants have evolved to occur in certain niches in the landscape. Choosing plants suited to a specific site, rather than modifying a site for the plants, is the embodiment of "Right Plant, Right Place."
We seek to work with natural systems rather than trying to dominate them, and to encourage and enhance biological cycles involving microorganisms, soil flora and fauna, plants, and animals. These cycles are universal, but their operation is site-specific. We work as much as possible within a closed system with regard to organic matter and nutrient elements, and, when inputs are needed, to use renewable resources from local sources. We must protect the diversity of the land and its surroundings, including protection of native plant and wildlife habitats.
Organic Land Care depends upon the principles of ecology and sustainability for long-term health of
plants and soils. Ecology describes the relationships among living things and their surroundings.
Sustainability relates to the ability of living things to survive. When plants are carefully chosen for a site and planted and maintained according to these principles, they will thrive for the long term.
An integral part of organic land care is stewardship of the earth's inhabitants, including humankind. To be an organic land care employer entails a strong belief in this ethic, including fair distribution of assets and benefits, development of business systems that respect the requirements of nature, family needs, personal values and goals, and sustainability. To be considered sustainable, our businesses must be economically sound, socially acceptable, and environmentally benign. Each company should set a required amount of hours to be worked. Any work beyond this should be voluntary, and the employee
paid for the time in accordance with all applicable laws.
We offer this as a philosophical statement, rather than a mandate. Business owners must be free to define honest and ethical social conduct within their own personal beliefs and conditions. In any case, all federal, state, and local laws must be complied with.
Employees involved in organic land care must receive compensation which meets their basic needs and
allows fair return and satisfaction from their work. Included in this compensation is a safe, respectful,
working environment that ensures their basic dignity. Employees are entitled to at least one day of rest out of every seven. Employees are to be informed in a timely and thorough manner of their legal rights and the policies of the company. Employees must be informed of any hazards in the workplace (e.g., toxic materials, dangerous equipment), be properly trained, provided all necessary personal safety equipment and be instructed in its use, and be well protected from such hazards. Employees are to be allowed sufficient and adequate breaks for rest, intake of food and water, and use of sanitary facilities.
Employers are entitled to an honest day's work from their employees, adherence to all agreed-upon
company policies, as well as reasonable care of company property and respect for clients and vendors.
Employers are encouraged to go beyond the minimal employer-employee relationship by increasing
participation and responsibility of employees in the business, with wages and benefits commensurate
with such increased responsibility. Employers are entitled to fair and equitable treatment and pricing
from vendors, as well as acceptable terms of payment, and to be treated with respect and compensated in a timely manner by their clients.
Clients of the company are entitled to honest and ethical business practices, a fair price for materials and services provided, and a job performed to their fair, reasonable satisfaction.
Vendors of the company are entitled to honest and ethical business practices and to compensation within the terms agreed upon with the company.
We must consider the wider social and ecological impacts of the materials and techniques used and the landscapes created.
Do No Harm
Every land use decision we make will have a positive or negative effect on the land in our care. One of
the tenets of organic land care is to protect and enhance the natural elements that exist on a site-to do no harm. Elements that benefit the whole ecosystem--such as indigenous plants and soils, wildlife
corridors and habitat, riparian buffers and watershed drainage, and their interaction with each other and their surroundings--should be carefully considered before any site "improvements" are made. If these natural elements are damaged or nonexistent, then restoration or establishment should be the aim. This can be best done by studying natural areas or remnant woods with similar landforms that are close by and using this ecology as a model for restoration.
Genetically Engineered Organisms
In recent years, the organic community has had to address the use of genetically engineered organisms and their products in light of the principles and goals listed above. The National Organic Standards of the United States Department of Agriculture contain the category "excluded methods" for organic growing, and they describe and define "excluded methods" as: "A variety of methods used to genetically modify organisms or influence their growth and development by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes and are not considered compatible with organic production. Such methods include cell fusion, microencapsulation and macroencapsulation, and recombinant DNA technology (including gene deletion, gene doubling, introducing a foreign gene, and changing the position of genes when achieved by recombinant DNA technology). Such methods do not include the use of traditional breeding, conjugation, fermentation, hybridization, in-vitro fertilization, or tissue culture."