During Milwaukee Grows Weekend communities, schools, and nonprofits envision a future Milwaukee landscape without synthetic lawn chemicals.
No pesticides, no “Keep off the Grass” signs, and no environmental and health risks. That’s the future the Midwest Pesticide Action Center (MPAC), Milwaukee Riverkeeper, and many others hope to demonstrate during Milwaukee Grows Green Weekend, April 27th – 29th.
Demonstrations and activities throughout the weekend focus on building soil organic matter, the key to achieving healthy plant life.
“Unlike pesticides, which deplete soil health, natural lawn care and organic gardening builds the soil, turf, and plant system at every step,” said Ruth Kerzee, Executive Director of MPAC. “Every dollar spent improves public health and the quality of soil, air, and water.”
The Highland Community School, Vincent High School, and Village of Whitefish Bay all manage turf grass properties with a natural lawn care approach that restores soil quality and limits or eliminates synthetic lawn pesticide and fertilizer use. For Grows Green Weekend, these entities will open their properties and/or share their strategies with parents, students, and the public.
“Many Milwaukee-area green spaces experience extremely high usage, resulting in plenty of soil compaction and wear and tear,” Healthy Community Project’s Amy Joyce, said. “Natural turf management practices address these stressors and focus on creating healthy, durable green spaces that can withstand lots of foot traffic.”
As pesticide use continues to rise in both urban and residential areas, a growing body of scientific research links pesticides to a host of behavioral, reproductive, immune and nervous system disorders, including asthma, birth defects, and several kinds of cancer.
“These risks are most dangerous for our children, who are still developing and exhibit behaviors, such as putting grass in their mouths, that make them susceptible to exposure,” said Kerzee.
Milwaukee’s six watersheds have not been spared from lawn pesticide and fertilizer use either.
“What we put on our lawns and landscapes, including pesticides and fertilizers, runs off into area waterways where it damages water quality and harms fish and aquatic life,” said Cheryl Nenn of Milwaukee Riverkeeper. “Getting your lawns and gardens “off drugs” can help make our waters safer for fishing, swimming, and drinking.”
Milwaukee Grows Green Weekend unofficially starts on Thursday, April 5th when event leaders discuss their professional work to Harold S. Vincent High School Horticulture students who will implement soil quality research in collaboration with MPAC and the University of Wisconsin.
“This research will expose students to researchers and turf-grass management professionals, opening up possible continuing education and career pathways,” said Joshua Capodarco, Vincent High School Horticulture Teacher. “Collaborations like these allow our students to see the real-world value of their education.”
MPAC will officially kickoff the weekend on Friday, April 27th by discussing eco-friendly lawn care products at Puhl’s True Value and Village Outdoor Living. Later at 3 pm that afternoon, MPAC’s Ryan Anderson will cover natural lawn care basics at the Great Lakes Research Facility. On Saturday, April 28th, MPAC and Milwaukee Riverkeeper will educate Highland Community School parents on sustainable grass management. Finally, on Sunday, April 29th, the Healthy Communities Project and MPAC will host a natural lawn care demonstration at Whitefish Bay’s pesticide-free Klode Park.
More information on Milwaukee Grows Green Weekend can be found at bit.ly/MGGweekend. Visit MPAC’s Midwest Grows Green website (see bit.ly/MGGweb) to learn more about the natural lawn care approach and make an actionable commitment to reduce your own synthetic lawn pesticide and fertilizer use by taking the MGG pledge (visit bit.ly/MGGpledge). This work is proudly supported by both the Brico Fund and Fund for Lake Michigan. Other partners include the IPM Institute of North America, Sweet Water, and the Green School Consortium of Milwaukee.