Panel Tells Writers ‘Organic Industry is Thriving”
Appearing on a national panel of experts formed by the SafeLawns Foundation, the president of America’s largest co-operative of independent garden centers told an audience of more than 200 gardening journalists “organics is growing at a stunning rate.”
“We were absolutely amazed two years ago when we launched a line of organic products in our 750 stores,” said Bill Jameson president and CEO of Master Nurseries. “The organic fertilizers outsold the established line of chemical fertilizers by a three-to-one margin. Overall, organics is still just about 15 percent of the overall market in lawn and garden, but its percentage growth is what really gets your attention.”
Jameson was among four panelists assembled at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dallas, Texas, for the annual convention of the Garden Writers of America for “SafeLawns Organic Night presented by EcoSmart.” I moderated the group that also included Steven Bessette, the founder of EcoSmart’s line of natural weed and insect controls, Peter Wild, the founder of Boston-based ArborJet, as well as Howard Garrett, the wildly popular local Dallas radio host and organic pioneer.
Product safety, especially for children, was a recurring theme among the founders of the 11 companies — from 11 different states — who financially supported the event.
“We haven’t seen any pushback from customers when it comes to paying a premium price for a safer product,” said John Harrison, the marketing director of The Espoma Company of Millville, N.J. At 81 years, Espoma is one of the oldest companies in the lawn and garden industry and its newly launched line of organic pesticides has been a tremendous success.
Likewise, Bessette said his EcoSmart products, which are made from food-grade ingredients, are gaining shelf space at a wide array of retail stores including Wal-Mart, Home Depot and many grocery chains. He told the audience that the inspiration for the company came from his wife, who insisted that he stop using pesticides around his home after his twins were born.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” he said. “What I found out is that we were using natural controls (for insects) in this country long before the chemicals came along. We’ve been able to work with our scientific advisory panel to create products that work as well as the chemicals without the toxic side effects.”
Amidst a series of questions that focused on the perceived extra cost of organic products, Garrett explained that transitioning from reliance on synthetic pesticides to organic solutions was not a product-for-product swap.
“People who go to the garden center looking to replace their malathion with a similar organic product will probably fail,” said Garrett, who has been touting and developing organic products for 25 years. “People need to understand that organics represents an entirely different approach to gardening that is based on healthy soil, not just applying products. By getting the soil healthy, you will find you save a lot of money because you’re not applying as many products.”
Here is a brief overview of the sponsors of the event, that featured food, beverages and thousands of dollars in door prizes:
EcoSmart Technologies, Georgia
The Story: Here’s a brand that is taking the marketplace by storm because it’s made with EPA eco-exempt FOOD-GRADE INGREDIENTS. The fastest growing pesticide brand in U.S. history.
The Story: Some exotic invasive pests just can’t be controlled with organic means. ArborJet has found the most environmentally friendly way to target emerald ash borer, wooly adelgid and others.
Master Nursery Garden Centers, California
The Story: This national co-op of 750 garden centers offers numerous proprietary organic products, most of which are outselling the synthetic chemical counterparts. Garden Elements is among the stores’ exciting new brands.
The Espoma Company, New Jersey
The Story: Recently launching into Earth-tone pesticides, Espoma offers effective and safe answers to the gardener’s toughest challenges from weeds and moss to fungus, slugs, snails, or insects. Great packaging.
The Story: Mississippi has more ponds for catfish harvesting than any other state in the union and used to mean a lot of waste. Today, the result is one of the best lines of liquid organic fertilizer in the world for lawns and gardens.
BioSafe Systems, Connecticut
The Story: Farmers and the golf course industry have known about this gem of a company’s environmentally safe products for years. In 2011, BioSafe will launch a retail line of lawn and garden fungicides that are far safer than the alternatives.
Wet & Forget, Illinois
The Story: The breakthrough product was the namesake algae killer, Wet & Forget, but the company will make major waves in 2011 with the introduction of Triffid and Vaccinate, two products to complement the organic gardening boom.
The Story: Ever since Bart Stephens tinkered with his family’s first digital camera in 2004, he began revolutionizing the way we can enjoy our birds and blooms. You gotta try the BirdCam and PlantCam for yourself.
Natural Industries, Texas
The Story: With a motto since 1992 that states, “For every plant problem, there’s a microorganism that can solve it,” this company has continually churned out cutting-edge organic micro-biotic solutions like Actinovate and Thatch Control.
The Story: Originally founded as a tree nursery, NatureHills.com has evolved to be a one-stop on-line national shopping source for organic gardeners looking for the most innovative products and solutions.
High Country Gardens, New Mexico
The Story: This still family-run mail-order plant operation has developed a national reputation for producing tough plants that will thrive in the most difficult conditions. Xeriscaping is a specialty.