Fighting Enemies, Cultivating Active Educators in 2017


MPAC’s Ryan Anderson calls for an all-hands-on-deck effort to eliminate pesticide misuse in 2017. The MGG Forum’s active education approach builds the foundation.

2017 started with the worst possible news for us.  On January 2nd in Amarillo, Texas four children died in their trailer home from the misuse of the toxic pesticide Aluminum phosphide. The unknown user mixed water with this poison designed to kill rodents and accidentally produced toxic Phosphine gas.

I mention this story not to scare you, but to enlighten you about the overpowering enemy MPAC faces day in and day out.  No, I’m not talking the billion-dollar pesticide manufacturing industry or your local “chem-lawn” care company. This enemy works far more in the shadows: pesticide misinformation or illiteracy.

The Amarillo user clearly got the poison from the black market as they did not know that water would cause such a catastrophic result. Yet, every misinformed resident increases the risk of improper and dangerous pesticide use. That’s a lot of risk given that the majority of us do not devote our professions or lives to pest and weed management. The kind of risk that causes the average urban homeowner to use three to ten times more toxins per acre on their lawns than what the average farmer applies to crops.

Survey after survey finds a systemic public misunderstanding of even the simplest lawn care practices of mowing and watering.  The type of systemic misunderstanding that general information about proper lawn management cannot tackle alone.  To challenge this enemy, we need to create action knowledge that guides individuals to reevaluate their lawn care behavior. We need the peer-to-peer learning taking place at the Midwest Grows Green (MGG) Lawn & Land Forum.

The MGG Forum started as a partnership between MPAC and the Illinois Sports Turf Managers Association to document, summarize, and improve the state of Integrated Pest Management and Natural Lawn Care policies and practices locally, regionally, and nationally.

Our first session on October 26th, 2016 covering community engagement ended with more questions than answers, but we want that! The more than 50 participants of the Forum representing park and school districts, lawn care providers, and local governments drive the findings and discussions.

By using this participant centered format we arrive on IPM and NLC topics and issues that influence everyday decisions in the management of our parks, schools, golf courses, and other recreational spaces.  Case in point, our next MGG Forum webinar on Wednesday, January 18th will cover cost factors of IPM after multiple questions and talking points during the October session focused on the topic.

How do these discussions relate to tackling public lawn care illiteracy? We find that many homeowners turn to their local park and school districts for expertise on lawn care. This peer-to-peer learning forum encourages these districts to embrace their role as an educator of proper lawn care through technical, communication, and outreach support that reduces uncertainty about less toxic practices and prepares them for the decisions and problems they will face in implementing IPM and/or pesticide-free strategies and policies.

As active educators, our park and school districts enable the dispersal of action knowledge at our parks and recreational spaces through IPM and NLC demonstrations, signage, and interactive events.  Adding a key piece to our puzzle of achieving large scale pesticide reduction in Chicago, the Midwest, and nationwide.

To learn more about the forum, visit our page at or contact me at Also, please share our January 18th session with your local park and/or school district at Each new participant improves the discussions and the resources that we develop at

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