Cleaning parks, protecting prairie and saving a seed company

September 11, 2011

The Poo Free Parks® empire expands in Chicagoland

This might be the most important statistic you learn today:

The American Pet association estimates that this country’s seventy-one million pet dogs produce over 4.4 billion pounds of waste per year. That’s enough to cover 900 football fields with 12 inches of dog waste!

See? I wasn’t kidding. Here’s another one:

Plastic pollution causes more than 1 million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals, and uncounted numbers of fish to die in the North Pacific alone, every year.

I tell you about those unhappy statistics as a kind of reintroduction to entrepreneur Bill Airy, who was on the show in April to talk about his business Poo Free Parks®. This company wants to rid our parks of animal waste, while reducing the amount of plastic that is released into our environment. Poo Free Parks is a public-private partnership that installs, supplies and maintains pet waste bag dispensers made from 100 percent recyclable aluminum, filled with 100 percent biodegradable bags designed to naturally deteriorate within 18 months.

Not only that , the dog waste dispensers are maintained weekly by crews driving hybrid vehicles. The service is completely subsidized by the contributions from sponsors, who are recognized for their support on signage attached to each station.

When I talked to Bill in April, he had just contracted with the Elmhurst Park District, where the stations now appear in 22 parks. I see that he has invaded the City of Chicago at Tails On Taylor, and has just signed with the Oakbrook Terrace Park District. In fact, the program is now under contract with over 120 parks in Colorado and the Chicago suburbs and, over the past nine months, more than 50,000 pounds or 25 tons of pet waste has been collected by dog owners using Poo Free Parks facitlies. Woof!

Autumn on the Prairie comes to Nachusa Grasslands

Well, technically, next week’s event will take place on the last Saturday of summer, September 17, but I’m not going to bust the Friends of Nachusa Grasslands for jumping the gun a little bit. Especially because this annual event takes place on what some folks call 3,100 acres of nirvana–especially if you’re a fan of prairies.

Illinois is called the Prairie State, but you wouldn’t know it from the amount of prairie that remains. Nachusa Grasslands is an attempt to preserve some of that land for present and future generations. The 3100 acres consist of prairie remnants, restorations, and reconstructions located between Oregon, Dixon and Franklin Grove, IL. The Nature Conservancy has gradually recreated a vision of 1800 Illinois’ mosaic of prairie, savanna and wetlands.

Hundreds of dedicated volunteers have collected seed to replant former corn and bean fields. They also devote their time to removing non-Illinois plants. Thanks to all of these efforts, Nachusa Grasslands is home to over 600 native prairie plant species as well as many important birds, insects, and reptiles.

Bill Kleiman is one of those people on the front lines of preserving our prairies. Not only is he Nachusa Grasslands Director, he is also a volunteer steward of the land. He stops by the show this morning to promote Nachusa Grasslands 22nd Autumn on the Prairie on Saturday, September 17, 2011 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

It’s free and open to the public. Activities include guided tours, horse drawn wagon rides, live music, kettle corn, live birds of prey, local artist at work, children’s tent, a food vendor, and more! For more information, visit or call 815-456-2340. And if you want to support Nachusa Grasslands, click here.

Sustainable Food Fundamentals:
Saving Landreth Seed Company one catalog at a time

Last week I explained how gardeners and horticulturists on Facebook and Twitter had sounded the alarm in an effort to save the oldest seed house in America, Landreth Seed Company. The company finds itself in deep financial trouble and needs to sell one million catalogs in the next month just to keep their doors open. No, I’m not making this up. Here’s what I posted last week, directly from Landreth owner Barbara Melera:

My husband, Peter, and I have been working to restore this historic American company for the past 8 years.

On Wednesday, August 31, 2011, the Company’s accounts were frozen by a garnishment order initiated by a Baltimore law firm. If this garnishment order is not satisfied within the next 30 days, Landreth will cease to exist and a part of America’s history will be lost forever. I need to sell 1 million 2012 catalogs to satisfy this garnishment and the cascade of other indebtedness which this order has now initiated.

If you want to help save this piece of America, if you love gardening and heirloom seeds, if you care about righting the injustices of a legal system badly in need of repair, then please help Landreth. Please purchase a Landreth catalog, and if you can afford it, purchase several for your friends. Please send this link to everyone you know, One million catalogs is a big number, but with the internet it is achievable. Please help us to save Landreth.

There are two things here that almost take my breath away. The first is the Herculean task of selling that many catalogs in such a short time. The second is how evil our financial system has become.

And yet, there’s still hope. Owner Barbara Melera will be on the show this morning. During a phone conversation I had with her a couple of days ago, she told me that in the first few days after the social media folks began putting out the word, the company received an order every 10 minutes. I few days later, it was up to an order every 5 minutes. By Wednesday of this week, they were averaging one order every minute.

In a sense, this is the perfect “Ten Years After 9/11” story, because it’s not about how morally small and shriveled we have become as a society. It’s about an honorable company that has been doing honorable work since this country was founded. It’s about how gardeners cherish the heritage of open-pollinated plants and how they will fight for their literal survival. It’s about how smart people kinow that the future of our food should not be determined by how many alien genes we can cram into a seed. It’s about looking at the past as present and future, in a positive way.

As I said last week, you can help if you BUY A CATALOG RIGHT NOW!. Also, make your voice heard on social media sites. Here are a few: Facebook sites Landreth Seed Co, Save Landreth Seed Company, Order their 2012 Catalog!, and probably more. If you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #savelandreth.