Organic Land Care Interview with Andy Lewis
By Grace Pernecky
Nature & Nurture Organic Landscaping is launching a new suite of Organic Land Care services for the greater Ann Arbor area! New organic services include:
- Organic Lawn Care
- Natural Mosquito & Tick deterrent
- Organic Weed Control in patios, decks, walks, and garden beds
- Organic Garden Bed Fertilization
- Organic Fruit Tree Care
Q&A with Andy
Grace: Why are you excited to work with Nature & Nurture?
Andy: Nature and Nurture’s unique approach to Organic Land Care will draw upon the knowledge Mike and Erica have accumulated over decades of organic landscaping, organic farming and organic restoration work throughout the Ann Arbor area. I’ll be working with them to develop the Organic Land Care services that we’ll be offering. I’m especially excited about natural cedar oil for ticks and mosquitoes - that’s a favorite around the Chicagoland area!
G: What do you find so attractive about Southeastern Michigan? Why did you decide to move back here?
A: I think that one of the things that’s really unique and compelling about this area is that there’s a handful of people around here that learned Forest Ecology at the University of Michigan and then went on to start businesses related to that. These folks have this vast pool of knowledge and have been really great assets to this community. It’s really invigorating for me to be in this area, where there is so much high-level knowledge and passion about ecosystems and habitat restoration - you don’t find that in too many areas.
G: Why should someone choose organic lawn care over synthetic-based lawn care?
A: Most people aren’t aware of the toxicity of the chemicals that are used in conventional lawn care and landscaping. It’s something that has come more onto the radar with news about glyphosate being confirmed as a carcinogen as well as increased awareness of the loss of bees and pollinators due to pesticides. Pets and children are really susceptible to the common chemicals used in conventional lawn care. I think that the more people know about it, there’s really not much question that we shouldn’t be using these chemicals. It’s similar to food. The benefits of eating organic food have become common knowledge - the more people choose that, the more it becomes available, the more prices come down and it just becomes more of a standard. Why would you want chemicals when you can get high quality foods that are grown organically? Same thing with Organic Land Care - over time, it should become the standard.
G: How/when did chemical-based lawn care become the norm? Why are we doing this to our lawns in the first place?
A: I was the Turf Manager at my previous job. In getting into the turf world, it was very clear that the reason that chemical turf companies are around is because the turf industry was created by chemical companies. Cheap chemicals post-World War II set the standard for what we think of as lawn care now. The research and development at universities is really tied into money that comes from those chemical companies. It’s a lot like the movement for organic foods; the demand is overwhelmingly for safe, healthy lawns, just as the demand is overwhelmingly for safe, healthy foods. Nobody wants their children or pets to get sick.
G: Are the organic products and methods that you work with effective?
A: Over my time working at the Chicago-based organic landscaping company, I found that the organic methods were very effective. The processes and systems we developed over time there I found to be very replicable, and so I was excited to bring it back to the area that I’m from.
G: What’s different about Nature & Nurture? What sets it apart from the other landscaping company you worked for?
A: I like the way that Erica and Mike have grown Nature & Nurture. They’re not your average businesspeople in the sense that they’re not looking for a certain percentage of growth year after year into the future - they’re not forcing growth, they’re working with people and nature in true relationship. It’s not about forcing a round peg into a square hole. It’s about mutually beneficial relationships. So I’m excited to be a part of a company that’s really organically focused in all senses of the word.
G: Why is Organic Land Care important to you?
A: I’ve always wanted to work outside. But I also think that the simplicity of Organic Land Care is really compelling to me, because it’s like nature in a microcosm. When people think about lawns, if they’re really into ecology or restoration, they tend to think of lawns as ecological dead space, or even as a negative impact on the environment. But the more I was on lawns day in and day out, I started to realize that fundamentally, Organic Lawn Care is about soil health. That’s what land ecosystems are based on. I started to realize that all these microbes in the soil create this universe going on right under our feet that goes unseen. Organic methods support this diversity of microorganisms and nutrient cycling and all these really cool things that people don’t think about when they think of lawns.
When I had kids, I started realizing the benefit of having a lawn, in terms of space to engage with nature. The lawn can be kind of like a platform for engaging with trees in your backyard, with plants, animals, and birds. The lawn’s an easy way for your whole family to be outside. Maybe you just have a little postage stamp lawn, but the lawn can be like your way of approaching nature right outside your door. Organic lawn care helps lead to more engagement with these mini-ecosystems.
G: On a more practical level, what are some of the methods that you use in Organic Land Care?
A: Like I said, Organic Land Care is really about soil health. If you hire a conventional lawn care service, they’re going to put down a ton of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and they’re killing off the microbes and the biodiversity. They’re following what synthetic agriculture is, which is just a chemical monocrop.
What Organic Lawn Care is doing is bringing in natural forms of plant nutrients and organic matter . You’re feeding the soil microbes so the soil can feed the grass. Most soil in residential areas is really poor quality because there’s fill dirt brought in when they build houses, and a lot of lawns at some point have had synthetic chemicals put on lawns that destroy the microorganisms that cycle the nutrients and help alleviate soil compaction.
Organic methods help restore soil health, which leads to better nutrient cycling and water retention, and that all leads to healthier turf grass. And, at some point, if you don’t need that lawn anymore, that soil’s gonna be really healthy. It’s going to be perfectly suited for whatever you want to transform that lawn into - whether that’s vegetable and flower gardens, rain gardens, pollinator plantings, or something else entirely.
G: What more can Organic Land Care clients expect from Nature & Nurture?
A: Nature & Nurture places an emphasis on plant-based knowledge and plant health. It links up well with what Organic Land Care is, which again, is not forcing something unnatural; it’s relational and allows for a lot of flexibility. Mike and Erica have so many years of really profound knowledge and experience that you’re not going to find at a lot of other landcare businesses. I am excited to see Nature & Nurture continue to grow it’s role in the community of ecological businesses and help to grow interest from the community so that more and more, the value, uniqueness, and health of the ecosystems in this area can become something that young people and the continuing generations can be surrounded by.