Feature Interview with Chip Osborne: Part Two
This is part two of a three part interview with Chip Osborne about the concepts and philosophy behind the launch of the Organic Landscape Association.
What has been the challenge with the wider adoption of organic landscaping practices?
Besides the lack of broad scale organic product availability, the biggest challenge has been the regionality of education.
It is generally accepted nationally that the concept of natural land management took hold most strongly in the northeast part of the country and education has readily been available there since 2000. There have some been attempts to move education to other parts of the country, like in Philadelphia and Oregon for example, but the limitations have come with an inability up until now to scale educational opportunity. It has meant that anyone outside of a few regions of the country has had to travel in person, sometimes extensively, to avail themselves of an educational opportunity.
Will the OLA be offering education and accreditations?
Yes. Although we anticipate offering in person education, the scalable goal for the industry is to bring education online and made accessible to anyone with internet access. It is a widely shared opinion that this will accelerate the pace of change.
“The scalable goal for the industry is to bring education online and made accessible to anyone with internet access.”
The adoption of organic or natural land management practices has unquestionably been limited by the lack of education available nationally. This is why we are currently developing the Organic Landscape Association Academy.
One of our strong focuses will be to develop and distribute high-quality education on a national level in managing landscapes naturally. Through the association in general and the OLA Academy, we have plans for broad-spectrum education on topics like fertilization, invasive management, wetland management, and how we use products in environmentally sensitive areas. We will be going into specifics like turf, trees, woody ornamental, and perennials, how to properly plant and irrigate and how those cultural practices come to the forefront. We are looking to develop comprehensive education modules with a wide range of teachers and educators that represent some of the best professionals in the organic industry.
What does it mean that the OLA will be a member driven association?
Our concept for the Organic Landscape Association is that it is a member oriented association. The ultimate goal is to affect change and to improve business opportunities for our members.
We have also taken steps to include non-industry members and partners because they have the ability to drive market change into the new paradigm shift that is happening. As a membership based organization, we will be able to cycle advocate funds back into the development of all of the educational modules, and it will be the needs of all members that will drive content development.
We are rolling out the OLA with a comprehensive plan but rest assured this will be a work in progress. We want to remain nimble and responsive to our members as we gather data through interviews and surveys. It is our absolute goal to mold this association to address what our members need to succeed.
Why is the OLA also providing memberships to advocates outside of the landscape industry? What are the thoughts behind that?
It is not only the landscape contractor or product supplier that will facilitate change; these professionals will however actively respond to market change. It is the individuals, or groups of individuals, working outside of the organic landscape industry that accelerates the greater move towards natural landscape management in their local community or jurisdiction. This is why we have created an Advocate membership.
“It is the individuals, or groups of individuals, working outside of the organic landscape industry that accelerates the greater move towards natural landscape management in their local community or jurisdiction. This is why we have created an Advocate membership.”
We have seen groups of advocates in support of an effective nonprofit drive legislative change in their city or region. Through the OLA we want to be able to connect advocates across the country to align with the effective nonprofits in their area or to understand how to approach their municipality or other decision makers in their community, supported by other successful advocates around the country.
With advocates, there is strength in numbers and power in experience. Through membership at the OLA, a proven approach developed by an advocate, or advocacy group in one area of the country, can be adopted by another. Since we can be a hub of information sharing, we hope this would allow for less time spent in developing new approaches, and more time in implementing strategies for the adoption of new land management principles.
With our advocate membership, anyone who believes that the promotion, education, and implementation of natural organic landscape management is important can do something about it because you don’t have to be an industry professional to join this community. We are offering a way to be involved and contribute even if an individual is not directly involved in advocacy locally. If they are, we will be providing the resources and connections to support them.
As someone who has worn multiple hats over the past 20 years, including that of an advocate, it has become very important to me that we provide a landing point to unite like-minded people around the country. It is very apparent that it is the advocate working in the community at the grassroots level that ultimately is the driving force behind the organic industry.
My work at the federal and state levels has proven that change can be painfully slow at those levels. Change is most effectively initiated at the local level. So those advocates that are out, opening up the discussion as to why we should continue to address a movement away from synthetics, and engaging decision makers in their communities need to be supported in every way possible.
It is the engagement and collective power of advocates that will ultimately create change on the ground and open more opportunity up and down the entire chain of the organic landscape industry.
How does the OLA plan to formally engage nonprofits, municipalities, & educational institutions?
We knew early on that we wanted the Organic Landscape Association to reach out and include a larger segment of the population. Creating the Advocate membership was an important first step. Our next concept was to create a free Partner Program for nonprofits, municipalities, & educational institutions.
Through Nonprofit Partnerships, for example, we can shine a brighter light on those nonprofits that are working for pesticide reduction, connect them to more advocates, and support their efforts in a number of ways. Municipal Partnerships across the country will allow us to get directly involved with municipalities that are adopting organic practices and looking for the right resources and guidance. Scholastic and Collegiate Partners that are beginning to embrace the concept of greening the campus and are beginning with the landscape can be connected to consultants and practitioners. They will also be able to learn from other educational institutions that are already in the implementation phase and having success.
We believe the OLA Partner Program will break new ground in terms of growing the adoption of organic landscaping. This, of course, will greatly benefit people both inside and outside of the landscape industry.
“We believe the OLA Partner Program will break new ground in terms of growing the adoption of organic landscaping. This, of course, will greatly benefit people both inside and outside of the landscape industry.”
There is an impressive collection of advisors who are standing behind the OLA from day one. What role do the advisors play?
We put a lot of thought into recruiting advisors that represent a broad range of the market. We now have some of the best people in the organic industry advising the OLA.
They will be invaluable resources to help guide the Organic Landscape Association in its growth and development. Each advisor brings a technical specialty and unique perspective to the table. The industry as a whole will benefit from the collective wisdom of our advisors as we develop campaigns and initiatives to support all of the individuals, businesses, and organizations that the Organic Landscape Association will serve.
The OLA is currently offering sponsorship opportunities. What is the benefit of sponsorship?
It is the sponsors of the OLA that will give us a bit of runway out of the gate. As a new association, it is important to have the support of businesses that believe in our goals and have chosen to support those goals through sponsorship. And of course, we want to get these businesses in front of a wider market and help them achieve their goals.
We have developed a list of sponsor benefits on the website and will strive to make sponsoring the OLA a valuable business decision. We are currently offering annual sponsorship, the one time chance to become a founding sponsor, as well as developing promotional sponsorship opportunities.
In Part three of this interview, Chip addresses:
- Positively disrupting the landscape management industry and the resistance to change
- The OLA Practitioners Council
- The future and impact of the Organic Landscape Association