Yogurt maker Stonyfield helping Richmond park go organic

From left to right, Greg Hardesty, City of Richmond Parks & Landscaping Superintendent; Tom Butt, City of Richmond Mayor; Michael Garlardi, Tour Manager with Stoneyfield Organic; and Mark Maltagliati, City of Richmond Parks Supervisor. (Photos by Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney

With help from yogurt-maker Stonyfield Organic, Nicholl Park in Richmond is set to transition to organic management, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt announced at an event at the park today.

Richmond is partnering with Stonyfield’s PlayFree initiative, which with assistance from Beyond Pesticides and Osborne Organics aims to help convert public parks and playing fields across the country to organic grounds management free from pesticides.

Stonyfield presented the city with a $5,000 grant to help identify alternatives at the 21-acre Nicholl Park.

Mayor Butt said the issue has been vexing for the city.

In 2012, the city adopted an integrated pest management ordinance that allowed the use of pesticides when there was no other reasonable alternatives available.

“It turned out our maintenance people found a lot of situations where no alternatives were available, to a point there was no change,” Mayor Butt said.

So in 2015, Richmond City Council adopted a resolution to ban all pesticide use, including herbicides like glyphosate, from public parks and fields, and is working with school districts, city departments, and citizens to encourage a move to organic field maintenance.

“It was challenging because our maintenance people are everywhere and they depended on these chemicals,” Butt said. “They were concerned it was going to cost the City of Richmond more money to maintain landscaping and they would be unable to do a satisfactory job of it.”

Michael Garlardi, a tour manager with Stonyfield, said in celebration of the company’s 35th anniversary, it has been visiting 35 communities to help transition to organic pesticide-free play fields.

“We have moved from cattle fields to fruit and vegetable fields,” Garlardi said. “And we think it is safe for people to move into recreational playing fields. Stoneyfield is helping transition and assist through information and education to help those communities. And today we are in Richmond to do just that.”