I've spent my entire adult life in the chemical lawn care industry and without a doubt it's been great to me. I was able to build a successful business and spent many years with hard working dedicated colleagues and associates. As a young man I was able to learn a trade and continue on into my thirties making a decent living doing something that I enjoyed. All in all it was a pretty rewarding time of my life. However during that period there were times when I questioned some of the practices involved with the chemical lawn care business. Some of the old stories that often came up were disconcerting too. In recent years there were some changes in our practices that showed some positive signs of reform but after about fifteen years of applying chemical fertilizers and pesticides I began to experience some guilt. I needed to make a change AND a difference.
I first questioned things back in the mid nineties when as a lawn technician for one of the nations largest corporate lawn care providers I was asked to give a blood sample twice per year. This was to measure "cholinesterase" which is an enzyme that humans need for the proper function of the central nervous system. Some of the products that we used on a daily base were considered "cholinesterase inhibitors" and were designed to kill insects by damaging their central nervous system. Every year several employees would have to come off the road and work in the office until their blood levels were back to normal. If that wasn't a red flag I'm not sure what was but being young and wanting to be a dedicated employee I kept my concerns to myself.
Just like in any industry or business there were stories that went around and were often told by members of management and upper management. Often I heard them tell old tales about birds and fish being killed because of products being applied to large open areas or too close to water and the means they went through to cover them up. There was always a story about gold fish in customer's back yard ponds being killed by off target applications and flower or vegetable gardens being damaged by careless applicators. As these old "war stories" were being told, I always laughed and joined in with the fun but it really wasn't fun or funny at all. It was offensive to me that a high ranking boss in the company was amused by the reaction he got when he told the story about dozens of birds being found dead in the middle of a little league field the morning after a lawn treatment was applied. I heard him tell that story dozens of times over the years and it sickens me now thinking that I didn't stand up for what was right. I was just as guilty as anybody else in the room and this went on for years and years. It started to wear on my conscience.
In recent years as the industry has evolved and the EPA has banned many of the chemicals we were using at the time it looked like things were going to get better. However, some of the newer insecticides that were deemed safer are being blamed on decreases in populations of bees and bats. More and more states and localities have passed legislation that put more stringent policies on the use of chemicals around schools. This is because science has determined that exposure to pesticides, even the newer ones, can have extreme negative effects on children and with exposure to only very small quantities. Mounting evidence that chemical fertilizers were responsible for water pollution and that autism and parkinsons disease may be linked to pesticides were the last things I needed to hear about until I made a conscious decision to make a change.
It was actually a strange coincidence that got me thinking about the methods used in organic lawn care. As oil costs soared a few years ago we sought out alternative means to fertilize our customers lawns. (Chemical fertilizers are a petroleum product.) One of our suppliers recommended that we replace some of our customary chemical fertilizers with something called bio-solids. Bio-solids are essentially fertilizers that are composed of recycled human waste. In other words, processed sewer sludge. We made the switch and most of the time within one or two treatments of the product our lawns became completely void of any disease activity. This was a result of the biological activity in the soil that was started from the organic matter in the sewer sludge. Now, before I get too carried away here I want you to know that using human sewage on your lawn is something that most people get pretty upset about and Firebelly ABSOLUTELY will not EVER use any products associated with bio solids. (Bio-solids are known to be high in heavy metals that are considered carcinogenic.) The lesson that I learned was that if you stimulate the biological activity in the soil you can begin to transition your lawn from a stale chemically treated wasteland to an environment full of biological life and microorganisms. A true food-web of nutrients to be used by your lawn, a plot of soil rich in minerals, humates and earthworms. With that in mind I sought out experts to put together an easy to use and easy to understand program that would accomplish the same thing but do it ethically and with the environment and the health our children as the number one priority. I really think that we've managed to do just that and if you would give it a try I think you will be thrilled with the results.