I want to thank all of the people in my life who have reached out recently and provided listening, ideas, suggestions and empowerment to me. In the past I would have never been so vulnerable and real with my wife (yes I’m a married man now), my friends, myself, nor my clients and everyone was great with me. Even my gardening clients. Some of whom were even willing to have me design their gardens and pay out of their pockets to hire people to do the physical work that my body cannot handle anymore.
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind and I have faced some interesting fears, disempowering beliefs and unresolved past failures, and I did the work to move past them. One of the most interesting things that came up over the last two weeks was a memory of running a 200 meter race at track meet at St. John’s University during my freshmen year of high school. I was really bad my freshmen year, one of the three worst runners on my team, to be exact and was in a race for the slow kids who actually all happened to be my teammates. I remember getting to the line and not wanting to give my all because I didn’t want to make my teammates feel bad by beating them, so I give just enough effort to not finish last and not enough effort to compete with anyone else in the race.
What I realized in this flashback was that I thought that everyone in my high school was better than me. I went to Fordham Prep, a really high-level Jesuit (Catholic) High School in the Bronx after attending public elementary and middle school in the Bronx prior to HS. For the first-time in my life I was around people outside of the friends that I grew up with and a lot of the kids at Fordham Prep were from well-off families in Westchester County (the northern suburb of NYC). We weren’t poor by any means growing up and some of these kids were mega-rich and mega-privileged and I felt so out of place because the kids at Fordham Prep lived in fancy homes in fancy neighborhoods and had access to any and everything and I told myself that everyone here is better than me.
I carried this disempowering thought with me throughout life and as an adult have at times thought that everyone around me was better than me and have worked extremely hard to make up for this perceived deficiency. It’s how I went from being the third-worst runner on my high school track team to being named captain of the team my senior year of high school and running at major invitationals against national powerhouse runners and teams my senior year go high school. I carried this over to my college running and in my sophomore year of college was keeping up with runners who would have dusted the track with me during high school, yet I never ran well in meets because I psyched myself out so badly prior to races as a result of believing that everyone on the line was better than me.
Moving into my career — at 21 years old I was the top app’t setter in my first “real” job among 25 other app’t setters in the company. In my next job, got promoted to Assistant Marketing Manager in less than a year at Whole Foods Market, which is nearly unheard of for someone with no marketing background and no prior industry experience. I have carried this on over and over again and my propensity to work harder than everyone led me to work crazy long hours in a crazy stressful job where I was helping my clients implement a food waste diversion technology that reduce the amount of food waste and the amount of carbon emissions that my clients produced. It was my dream job and the job was really stressful at times as I had 52 clients spread among 7 different states and at some level had a hand in 63 of our 71 clients in the U.S. I also mentally punished myself every time that a client issue happened and thought that the only way I could stop the issues was by working harder. I worked myself to the bone for 2.5 years and then it happened.
I was in Planet Hollywood’s kitchen in Times Square and after wrapping up a routine site visit, I reached two feet forward to grab my notebook, which I had put down during the site visit and as I was reaching forward I felt the worst pain that I have ever felt in my life in my back. The pain was so bad that I screamed in their kitchen. The entire kitchen staff ran over to me as they thought that I cut myself with a knife or got my hand caught in a piece of equipment and everyone asked me if I was ok. I said, “I didn’t cut myself or get my hand mailed by equipment and I’m not sure if I’m ok. Could you get me a bag of ice and grab me a chair in the restaurant?”. I sat for a bit and knew that I was in trouble.
I saw my Sports Medicine Doctor two weeks later and was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, a permanent condition where one of the vertebrae in my back got pushed forward. The only two reasons that she could up with for the injury was that my back was taking a lot of weight as a result of the fractured rib that I suffered in October 2015 (4 months before this injury) and stress. When I heard stress as one of the major reasons I knew that I had to quit this job and I called my boss and gave him a months notice. It was a really hard conversation and I had to do it. He honored my 1 month notice as we had done some amazing work together and when I left the job I felt like the biggest failure in the world. I saw only the failures and none of the good things that I accomplished for years.
So I went about my life as if I never even did anything great at this job and moved on. Interestingly enough, an opportunity just arose literally 2 weeks ago to go in with another sustainability company in Boise to submit an RFQ for the city’s sustainability consulting bid. I said yes, in the midst of feeling like crap for not being able to succeed in my business and we went about working on the RFQ. I told the person that I was partnering with that we should hold nothing back in our experience and I started to see all of the great work that I did. I started to realize that I did some incredible things, saved dozens of accounts, created incredible sustainability programs for clients and help day clients divert over 5,000 tons of food waste from landfill and helped my clients eliminate over 400 gigatons of carbon from reaching the atmosphere. I realized that I am an incredible sustainability consultant and have a ton to offer to businesses and the proposal started flowing from there.
I pushed myself harder than I have in years and we wrote a fantastic proposal. The City of Boise even sent us a winning sustainability bid from 2017 that we did not ask for and we saw the level of work that went into their proposal and started putting that work into our proposal. We met with a proposal expert at the Idaho Small Business Development Center who significantly helped us with our fee schedule and a few compliance pieces for the proposal and gave us a green light to submit our proposal based on the work that our businesses do, the content in our proposal and our feasibility for completing the work.
This entire process was incredible and we just turned the proposal into the city. I would love to win one of the bids in the area of climate change and sustainability planning, which we potentially are in good shape for and even if we don’t win the bid we have an amazing proposal that positions us as experts in the sustainability consulting realm and can use this proposal to submit to commercial RFP’s and other government RFP’s. I let go of feeling like everyone around me is better than me and put my all into this RFQ and this is the win.
I am present to the impact that I make as a sustainability consultant, am excited to jump back into this work and have created a new mission for Pure Love Sustainability Inc. — to reverse and eliminate climate change. It can be done and I can lead this movement. I am ready to rock and am still looking for a standard consulting, sustainability consulting, project manager or instructional design job for the time-being while I am building up Pure Love Sustainability Inc. so I can run this as a full-time business with full-time revenue and make a huge difference.
Thank you to everyone who showed up during this time, I really appreciate it and you. Thank you for believing me and helping me find the light.
Soil is more than dirt and more than just a medium that you can grow grass, vegetables, flowers and trees in. Soil is made up of multiple layers (silt, sand and clay), it is made up of many different types of organic matter (root cells, leaves, worm castings, bark, etc.), there are thousands to even millions of microorganisms in a couple of ounces of healthy soil and there are even different types of soil (fungal/acidic and bacterial/alkaline). So many factors determine whether your seeds/transplants will grow into healthy productive plants, bushes, shrubs or trees and one of the key factors that determines the success of anything that you plant is knowing whether your soil is acidic or alkaline.
Soil pH levels have a tremendous bearing on your ability to grow things. Neutral pH is 7.0 and many things can grow in a neutral environment, yet some of the things that we plant need higher pH levels to grow and some need lower pH levels to grow. Vegetables for instance, prefer neutral to alkaline soil and if you were to plant vegetables in acidic soil they will not grow. Flowers, most bushes and most trees (fruiting trees are the exception) prefer acidic soil and most flowers, bushes and trees will not grow in alkaline soil. This is why knowing your soil pH matters so much as no matter how much effort you put into growing tomatoes in a wooded area, they will not grow as the soil of a wooded area is acidic.
Knowing this, how can you figure out whether your soil is acidic or alkaline? Soil testing definitely helps and your local agricultural extension offices (New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles all have agricultural extension offices so you can find one anywhere in the U.S.) have soil sample kits that you can purchase from them and once you’ve collected your samples you can send them in and your agricultural extension office will interpret the results for you within a few weeks. You can also buy pH strips at a local garden store and get quick results.
There are also a number of ways that you can tell whether your soil is acidic or alkaline without having to run any soil tests. Soil that non-fruit bearing trees grow in will be acidic one hundred percent of the time, soil that blueberry bushes grow in will also always be acidic, soil that rose bushes or any flowering bush grows in will be acidic one hundred percent of the time. Hard, compacted soil like you find in a forest will also always be acidic. Grass on the other hand prefers natural to slightly alkaline soil, so if grass is not growing in your soil there is a good chance that your soil is acidic. Soil that has tinges of copper or gold colors (this is a good thing) will also be acidic one hundred percent of the time as woody plant materials that breakdown in the soil turn copper or gold as they are breaking down.
Checking to see if your soil is acidic or alkaline is something that all gardeners and farmers should do every year to ensure that you can successfully grow the vegetables, flowers, fruit, trees and bushes that you want to grow. If your soil is acidic and you want to grow vegetables or if your soil is alkaline and you want to grow flowers, there are ways to naturally change the acidity or alkalinity in your soil. With this said, it is very easy to make a mistake and create soils that are too acidic or too alkaline where nothing can grow, so if you want to change the pH of your soil hire an experienced gardener or farmer or call your local agricultural extension offices so you can be guided through the process.
Compost is one of the best soil amendments that you can add to your soil. High-quality, finished compost naturally adds nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and other minerals to your soil and if your compost pile was kept outdoors you can also add key bug, bacterial, fungal and microbial life that are essentials to healthy soil. Compost is a huge win all across the board and your composting game can be taken to the next level.
Compost tea is the next level of compost. Compost tea is made through a water-based process that concentrates all of the good stuff in compost into a liquid form that you can spray straight onto your plants and field. Spraying compost tea directly onto your soil also increases root mass and protects plant surfaces because the beneficial organisms that are found in compost have been added directly to the plant that you sprayed it onto.
Compost tea can be made by grabbing a 10 gallon bucket and filling it one-third of the way with compost. Then you add filtered or dechlorinated water to the bucket until the bucket is full (water treatment plants add chlorine to water to kill microorganisms and you can dechlorinate your water by boiling it in a pan for 5 minutes). Once you have added the water, you will let the mixture of compost and water sit for 3 – 4 days. When the compost and water mixture has sat for 3 – 4 days, you will grab a piece of cheesecloth and strain the mixture through cheesecloth into another bucket (you can keep the solids and add them right back into your compost bin) , then dilute the remaining mixture with water (use 10 parts water to one part mixture) and you are ready to use the compost tea (http://www.homecompostingmadeeasy.com/composttea.html).
Compost tea can benefit any garden, farm or orchard and a number of small-scale organic flower and vegetable farmers use compost tea every spring and fall to keep their soil healthy and provide a wide array of beneficial microorganisms, bacteria and fungi directly to their plants. You can even buy a portable compost tea sprayer that fits to your body like a backpack and transport your compost tea all throughout your garden or farm. Regardless of how you use your compost tea, you will reap the benefits of it in your garden, farm or orchard (just don’t drink it!)
Remove your garden pests with one application of our patented bug killing solution. Hate bugs in your garden? We hate them even more, this is why you need our ultimate pesticide that will protect your fruits, vegetables, trees and flowers from any and all forms of bug life. These are some of the ads that we see for pesticides or lawn sprays, in an exaggerated form of course. The not exaggerated part is that we have come to detest bug life in our soil and our dislike for bugs is also killing the life in our soil. Like it or not, bugs are part of a healthy soil food web and we need them in order to have healthy soil.
Bug life is a part of a healthy ecosystem. Yes there are bugs that will eat your vegetables, fruits and flowers and this is natural and normal. What is not natural and normal is an outbreak of one or two types of bugs in your garden. These outbreaks tend to be happen because your soil does not have a healthy soil food web.
What is a healthy soil food web? A healthy soil food web means that your soil is the home for millions of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes. It means that your soil has bugs like worms, ants, spiders, praying mantises, aphids, earwigs, bees, ladybugs, pill bugs and a host of other bugs. It also means that your soil plays host to all different varieties of birds, squirrels and higher level predators.
Spiders are a gardener’s best friend — they will never go after anything that you are growing and they survive by eating the bugs that will eat your plants. Colorado potato beetles on the other hand are a potato growers nightmare. If Colorado potato beetles start multiplying in your garden or on your farm and you don’t have bugs like spiders, ladybugs and lacewings in your garden to control the Colorado potato beetle population then it is likely that an outbreak of Colorado potato beetles will happen and there is a good chance that you will lose your potato crops before they even start to produce.
There are so many other bugs that are beneficial and necessary in your soil. Earthworms help to break down plant material into usable organic materials and then poop out the usable materials so that the soil and your plants can access these materials to help them grow. Ground beetles live on a diet of slugs, caterpillars and cutworms and without having ground beetles in your soil there is a good chance that you eventually will get an outbreak of either slugs, caterpillars or cutworms, all of which love to feast on your plants. At the same time ground beetles will not be in your soil if they don’t have any food, so they actually need slugs, caterpillars and cutworms to survive. There is even a bug known as aphid midge. Aphid midges eat aphids and if you don’t allow different species of good bugs to survive then it is very easy to get an outbreak of bad bugs in your garden or farm.
Bad bugs (the ones that will eat your vegetables, flowers and fruit) are brilliant, they know when there is food for them and over time they flock to available food sources. If you don’t have a colony of good bugs to protect your crops then the population of the bad bugs will grow until they have reached a critical mass and you will start to see the bad bugs attacking your plants. Life is interconnected, beneficial bugs need predatory bugs, predatory bugs need food.
The interconnectedness of life is something that we should not mess with and this is why I am so strongly for organic gardening and farming methodologies. Pesticides are impartial, they kill both good bugs and bad bugs, which may sound great to you and the bag bugs will eventually adapt to the pesticides and become immune to them. By the time that the bad bugs have become immune to the pesticides, you are in big trouble as you will not have a colony of good bugs in place to protect the flowers, vegetables and fruit that you are growing.
Birds also do a fantastic job at killing bugs and if there is no food for a bird to eat because pesticides have been sprayed that killed the bug life that they need to survive, then birds will flock elsewhere and kill bug life elsewhere. So, by choosing organic methodologies and building a strong soil food web, you can naturally avert outbreaks of bad bugs and also create an ecosystem that supports good bugs like earthworms and pill bugs (pill bugs do a tremendous job at breaking down dead material in your soil and making it available for plants to use) which prevent bug outbreaks.
Replace your lawn with native plants to save money, time and energy
In my work with homeowners to create the gardens of their dreams, I have been dealing with a lot of lawns that homeowners want me to find solutions for. I have been asked to remove weeds and mushrooms from my clients lawns, plant grass seeds and design solutions to make people’s lawns more useful and I have seen that it takes a lot of work and resources to take care of your lawn, a decent amount of space and large amounts of regular watering to keep a lawn looking good. All of which is completely unproductive and costly as my clients also regular hire lawn care companies and pay anywhere between $360 and $1200 a year on to have someone come in and take care of their lawns. I would like to propose a different solution for your front yard – plant native plants.
Yes a beautifully manicured and well kept lawn looks nice and lawns are a huge drain of time, energy and money to keep up and in the grand scheme of things are completely unproductive. So why do people have grass in their lawns? Keeping up with the Joneses is a factor as the homeowners that I have worked with feel a certain pressure to have beautifully manicured grass lawns so they can match their neighbors homes and look good. Here’s the kicker though, according to a NASA study, American lawns are the largest single crop in the U.S. (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/lawn-largest-crop-america_n_55d0dc06e4b07addcb43435d). This means that more eland is devoted to grass lawns than to food production, which is absurd.
Lawns also seem easy to take care of as all you need to do is mow them (or hire someone to mow them), water them and sit back and relax and there are a lot of hidden costs to taking care of your lawn. Lawnmowers are powered by gasoline, need fertilizer to grow (most of which is derived from gasoline or gasoline by products) and require huge amounts of water to maintain. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that 9 billion gallons of water per day are used on lawns alone (https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-stop-mowing-your-lawn-20150805-story.html). So why not divert your time and energy away from taking care of your lawn.
Well thankfully there is a solution, planting native plants has been shown to have be extremely beneficial in a number of ways. Native plants are uniquely adapted to the climate that you live in, which means that they will naturally grown in your environment without needing the copious amounts of water, the large amount of work and the investment that comes in maintaining your lawn. Native plant gardens comes with a whole host of other benefits, which includes increasing biodiversity in your region, creating bird, butterfly and pollinator habitats, conserve water and can remove carbon dioxide from the air and store the carbon dioxide that they take in (https://www.audubon.org/content/why-native-plants-matter).
Native plants stand out in your front yard and provide a stunning array of colors, species and many different types of habitats from shrubs, to flowers to trees and bushes. Many native plants are perennials that can live for decades with the proper care, can survive long winters and hot summers without extensive care, are often drought-resistant and even help eliminate weeds by growing in dense groupings (http://grownative.org/why-use-native-plants/).
When you think about it, native plants make a lot of sense for homeowners, schools and gardens. The benefits far outweigh the benefits of having a lawn and if you are not ready to fully give up your lawn, then you can devote a part of your lawn to native plants and still receive some of the benefits of native plants.
Michael Forman is the Founder of Pure Love Sustainability Inc. He works with homeowners to help create the gardens of their dreams, solve garden problems and teaches homeowners how to grow their own food in their backyard. Michael can help you to get rid of your yard and create a native plant garden that can provide all of these benefits. If you are interested in ditching your lawn and planting a native garden, submit a contact from on Pure Love Sustainability Inc’s website
Development and loss of farmland throughout the United States is going to wreck havoc on our food system. Yes we need to create new acres of organic, sustainable produce farmland in the U.S. and yes we need to make farming a profitable venture once again and yes we need small, local farmers who are producing food for their local communities and I posit that we also need as many people as possible growing their own food in their backyards. The resiliency of our food system is being challenged right now, even though you may not feel the effects of it at this moment.
Loss of farmland is a huge factor in why our local food systems are being threatened. According to the American Farmland Trust’s Farms Under Threat Initiative, the U.S. lost 31,000,000 acres of farmland from 1992 – 2012 and 11,000,000 of those acres were among the best farmland in the nation—classified as the most productive, most versatile and most resilient land. If we keep on losing land at these rates, our food prices are bound to go up and the amount of food that we produce as a country will go down.
It’s the same story with development, farmers are choosing to sell their land to real estate developers to cash in for their retirements. Another reason why farmers are selling their land is because their families do not want to go into farming and look for more glamorous jobs that pay better and allow them to lead a more comfortable lifestyle. So if we do not have enough farmers in the country and we cannot grow enough food to feed our population then we are going to have to start importing food from other countries, which will increase food prices and will impact our local economy
With these two factors in play, what are we to do to ensure that our local food systems stay strong and to ensure that we are continuing to grow food for our local communities?
Starting your own garden and growing your own food is the solution and I believe that this is a new path that will solve food insecurity, provide a huge boost to the local economy and make sure that our food systems will not be interrupted by development and the loss of farmland. If we are all growing our own food, then our local food system will be optimized. In a working local food system homeowners will grow enough food to take care of their needs and any excess food that a homeowner grows can be sold or bartered with neighbors.
If you are looking to contribute to your local food system, start your own garden. If you need guidance and support to grow your own food, because it can be challenging, then request a consultation. Heck I can even hold a consultation with you virtually as long as your are in your garden space and can show me your garden space via Skype or FaceTime. Click on this link to request a consultation or send me an email at: email@example.com
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines activism as a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue. Pretty straight-forward and after reading the definition of activism you must be asking yourself what does it have to do with gardening? How about everything!
By gardening you are choosing to speak up for your values, speak up for what you believe in and take a stand for how you want the world to be. As many people garden to grow their own food, provide their own food independence and resiliency, not be reliant on big companies dictating your food choices, grow flowers that provide habitats for bees, enjoy the literal fruits of your labor and take charge of your own destiny. Standing for your food independence and resiliency, not relying on others to tell you what you should be doing and take action to be in charge of your own destiny sure sounds a lot like activism.
When you garden you are telling people that I don’t want to allow others to tell me how my life should be, I don’t want pesticide, herbicide or fungicide- on my flowers and vegetables and you are choosing to support causes that you are aligned. Which is no different than fighting for a cause that you believe in and telling the big businesses that want things to stay the same that you are voting for others options with your dollars. On top of all of this, gardeners tend to support the local economy with more vigor and buy their tools, seeds and garden support structures from local businesses because doing so aligns with their values.
So whether you garden to teach your children where food comes from, if you garden because you love beautiful flowers and wildlife, if you garden to grow your own food, if you garden for fun or if you garden for any other reason you are being an activist. You are creating positive change in the world and you are telling the world what matters to you and how you want to live your life. And the world is happy to have you speaking your truth.