Feature Interview with Chip Osborne: Part One
This is part one of a three part interview with Chip Osborne about the concepts and philosophy behind the launch of the Organic Landscape Association.
As Founder and Advisor to the Organic Landscape Association, can you tell us more about the mission of the OLA?
The mission of the Organic Landscape Association is to connect and grow all aspects of the organic industry as well as promote the strategies of organic landscaping.
What we are looking to do from the perspective of a trade association is to bring together product suppliers and product developers with the practitioners and contractors that ultimately use those products through a centralized organization based on the highest principles of organic integrity.
From a wider market perspective, we will be bringing the concept of organic integrity into the landscape marketplace by connecting market forces from all ends of the spectrum. From industry professionals to advocates, we want to make it easier to understand, source, and secure the best of what is available in organic product, services, practices, and education.
“We want to make it easier to understand, source, and secure the best of what is available in organic product, services, practices, and education.”
We are also structured to engage with and support the larger community of advocates, nonprofits, and institutions influencing the movement towards the natural management of the landscape.
When did it become evident that a national association like this was needed?
The idea of organic landscaping began to take shape about twenty years ago. As we were in those early years, there was a group of people working independently trying to educate, perfect and implement strategies over a wider variety of landscapes. About five years ago it became evident that organic industry was extremely fragmented.
Unlike the conventional industry, there was no central resource or go to company for practitioners and contractors to secure a wide range of organic product. There was also no widespread educational resource to train the industry, share scientific research, and learn from the best practices developed through real life application. At the time, the idea of a member based trade association began to take shape as a way to unite and solidify the organic landscape industry.
Why is now the right time for the OLA? Why are the industry and the market ready?
We are at the point in 2017 where the unification and the greater creation of the organic landscape industry are needed and must no longer be delayed. The market is calling for it.
There is no doubt that organic practices in managing landscapes are on the rise. There are a number of reasons for this. At the grassroots level, people are beginning to request and in some cases demand, nontoxic alternatives to current management practices. The growing increase in awareness of the impact of using synthetic products is thereby growing demand for new practices.
“At the grassroots level, people are beginning to request and in some cases demand, nontoxic alternatives to current management practices.”
The launch of the Organic Landscape Association is timely, and I firmly believe the market is ready to support it. What we see regarding change is a more mainstream view of natural, organic practices. Not that long ago this discussion was considered to be on the fringe. There is no argument at this point that it is no longer on the fringe. With demand from individuals, corporations, institutions, the federal government, and local jurisdictions, the request to adopt these practices over large acreages of land is very pressing.
What is an example of a problem that the existence of the Organic Landscape Association will help solve?
One of the biggest problems the OLA is going to solve from a product perspective is to facilitate bringing legitimate organic products for landscapes to the market place.
Anytime there is money to be made there is no shortage of companies that want to jump on that bandwagon. Now that the organic industry is positioning to be able to move products in greater numbers, there are materials coming to market that may not be the best available. A problem that the Organic Landscape Association is going to solve is to help identify those companies that have and are developing legitimate product and bring them to the forefront of a more cohesive industry. The other problem it is going to solve is it will be able to introduce and acquaint practitioners with products of organic integrity directly.
Having educated in the organic industry for the past 15 years, it has become very clear that we can teach the principles, practices, and protocols of natural land management, but one of the most difficult things has been to connect those that we teach with a quality product. The OLA fundamentally will solve this by bringing practitioners and product together in the same association with shared membership.
What does this mean for the industry and the wider consumer market in general?
For the industry, it will promote growth at a rate that most involved want to see. It will be this unification of the industry that will allow growth to happen efficiently and at an accelerated pace.
Companies will more easily be able to bring organic product to the practitioners, who in the industry are wholesale consumers, but it will also spur the development of retail products with true organic integrity for do-it-yourself homeowners. That is an area that is severely lacking at present
There has never been a very well thought out, and viable alternative to a conventional typical 4-step program and natural land management doesn’t fall into the 4-step program. There is a real need for legitimate organic product for the do-it-yourself homeowner. Many of the same companies that will be providing material for the trade will also have an opportunity to impact the homeowner market over time.
What will these market changes mean for industry professionals providing services to the market?
One thing it will mean for companies providing services to the market, whether they are providing consulting services, hands on property management, or product application, will be a more clearly defined and wider range of products available to manage these systems as the market matures.
I’ve taught practitioners about fertilizers and soils amendments and the difference, but they are not always sure how or where to buy the right products or able to easily find product access. For that segment of the industry, this association will directly connect them with the companies that can answer questions and provide material.
Why are organic landscaping principles and protocols now being recognized as the new best practice in landscape management?
Organic landscaping has certainly moved into the realm of best practices for landscape management. Since World War II we’ve introducing a variety of synthetics into the landscape, whether they are synthetic salt-based, water-soluble fertilizers or synthetic pesticides. As most know, many of these have now been associated with environmental and human health issues.
There is a logical push away from that unfortunate reality into a new best practice scenario using natural, organic material for fertility and soil building and then a range of organically approved pesticides, pesticides that either fall into the US-EPA 25 B minimum risk category or those that are Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) Certified for organic agriculture.
The movement towards organic landscaping is in response to requests from all levels of society to move away from the chemical cloud that we are under and a desire to embrace natural management. That being said, the moving away from synthetics while adopting these new best practices does not mean that we will settle or be satisfied with lower expectations.
We will still maintain those same high expectations that we have always had in the way we manage landscapes and the results we produce for our clients. Now practitioners and contractors will be meeting expectations in a natural way with the right knowledge and products.
“We will still maintain those same high expectations that we have always had in the way we manage landscapes and the results we produce for our clients.”
In Part two of this interview, Chip addresses:
- What the challenge has been with the wider adoption of organic landscape principles and protocols
- If the Organic Landscape Association will be offering accreditations
- How the OLA will be engaging with the advocate, nonprofit, and institutions through membership and the OLA Partner Program