Organically Grown

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An inspiring nonprofit dedicated to improving the urban environment by planting trees in the Los Angeles area.

Heal the Bay

A resource nonprofit based in India that does research on sustainable agricultural solutions.

Morarka Organic Foundation

An organization committed to cleaning and preserving the waters of Southern California.

Our Journey

30 Trees in Encino with the Tree People

Having lived in Encino, California for the past eleven years, my wife Julia and I have seen about 60 trees die in our neighborhood. It was sad. My dog, Hero, helped me notice this, because there were less trees for him to pee on. I thought the city would replace them, but it didn’t happen. I soon learned that although we have wonderful, committed people working for the city of LA , budget cuts had taken its toll, substantially reducing the number of city of Los Angeles workers to care for the trees. I wanted to see if there was anything I could do.

This is where the TreePeople comes in. The TreePeople is an organization created by Andy Lipsius. Andy started TreePeople in 1970, when he was just age 15 to replace fallen trees. More than ever, the city needs private organizations like TreePeople to help replace and maintain its trees. But the TreePeople is here to “inspire, engage and support people to take personal responsibility for the urban environment, making it safe, healthy, fun and sustainable and to share the results as a model for the world.” Thus, the TreePeople needs volunteers to get involved in their respective neighborhoods and make it happen.

We did our first tree planting January 6, 2009 in Encino Park. We planted 12 trees with the help of the TreePeople, the City Of LA and extraordinary volunteers including the friends, neighbors, the Boy Scouts and the wonderful Disneyteers. The next phase was to plant 29 trees on the city streets of Encino over a three block, one quarter of a mile radius. This which would require a lot more effort and time to get accomplished. You think it would be easy to get the support of your neighbors. First all of all, everybody receiving a tree had to sign a simple agreement with the city. They had to promise that in exchange for receiving a tree, they would care for it. Although I was warned about this in my TreePeople one day citizen forester training, incredulously, some people would not want a tree. After all, trees drop leaves, attract birds and birds poop, block views and have to be cared for. I had to respectfully confront this and discuss the value of having trees with my neighbors… like they create oxygen, cut pollution, create shade that can reduce your home energy bill, it’s the right thing to do… Also, I didn’t know all of the people in my 3 block. radius. Thank you, Janie Thompson for helping me. Janie knew certain neighbors, I did not know. She actually told one elderly neighbor, “Honey (Janie’s originally from Texas) by the time that tree has 100′s of leaves falling, you will long be gone. You have nothing to worry about.” At the end, only two neighbors refused to participate. Luis Torres works for the city of LA. Luis came out and marked the spot where our trees were to be planted. Some trees we lost were on street corners, but the new trees could not be planted on street corners because they would grow to obstruct a driver’s view.

We then discussed the proper tree selection. On Genesta Ave., we chose jacarandas because of the preexisting tree line and have a beautiful purple flower. It is very satisfying to see our baby jac trees in a row with the old jacs. In front of the school, eucalyptus… On Otsego and Magnolia Streets, crepe myrtles that could be grown under the telephone and power line and neighbor Barry Freeman, aka “Beautiful Barry” received his requested birch tree. What upset me the most was what I saw in front of Encino Elementary School. There were beautiful eucalyptus trees in a row. But in two tree beds, one had a tree stump and the other was covered with asphalt. It was like that for years. What a pitiful example to set for the kids of this school. Did anybody in the school ever even notice this? Luis had the stumped removed the next day! Luis got me permission to remove the asphalt. It was like that Joni Mitchell song, “Big Yellow Taxi”, the one with the lyric, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” I hit that asphalt with the same contempt that Gideon smashed the idols ( I think I’m getting a bit dramatic). Now we have two gorgeous eucalyptus. trees in a row with the older trees. Thank you, Luis.

The next thing I had to do was call, Dig Alert. These guys move like the air force. You wouldn’t believe what has to be done. Before you dig, the city calls out the gas co, telephone, co, DWP, cable co, water & power etc. They all have to sign off with Dig Alert before we could dig. Each company sprays a different paint color in the street showing us it was okay to plant. This was amazingly and efficiently done within 48 hours of me calling Dig Alert! Thank you, Dig Alert.

The day before the scheduled planting, the City of LA delivered a truckload of mulch on my front lawn. The mulch would help keep the moisture in the ground, protecting the tree from the heat of the sun. Now it came time for the planting and it rained. Fortunately, Michelle Bagnato, our TreePeople representative, was able to shift our planting to the following week. Thank you Michelle, for your passion and amazing organizational talents. The grounds were soft from the rains and that made it easier to plant. Michelle was right: The trick to a successful planting is to get the trees in place the night before. Thank you to everybody who picked up their trees the night before and to the neighbors where we set up distribution centers, such as at the home of Nancy and Jerry Cohn. A distribution center is where we stored several trees the night before, but on planting day, the trees could be put in the proper planting place within two minutes. Each tree was given a name. The Cohn’s tree was aptly named, “Judge Jerry”, as Mr. Cohn sits on the bench.

The greatest part of the event was the volunteers. Thank you to my friends, neighbors, TreePeople ( Art, Michelle, Marcos, etc. ) UCLA Fraternity, Girl Scouts, Kelli Wurtz and friends, Americorp (what an amazing organization) and thank you to our dear friend and Organically Grown licensee, Andre Costa deSousa from Mashon.

The kids who volunteered were amazing. I thought I would inspire them, but they really inspired me! And of course to my wife, the amazing Julia Stein, for cooking for 75 volunteers her award winning world class chile. I know that as long as Julia cooks, we will have tons of volunteers!

We began planting the trees at 9:00am, only after The TreePeople gave a demonstration how to plant the trees. The Treepeople provided all of the equipment and supplies. The tree planting was supervised by 6 TreePeople supervisors. Amazingly, by noon, all 30 trees had been planted. Now that the trees are in the ground, the work has just begun to care for them. Thank God that two weeks after the planting, we’ve had lots of rain.

I hope that in some small way this has inspired you to have your own tree planting.

2009 TreePeople’s Volunteer Awards Dinner

Bob Stein, Co-founder and CEO of Organically Grown, was honored on May 30 at the 2009 Treepeople’s Volunteer Awards Dinner.

The dinner was held at the new Center for Community Forestry. Below the ground where the dinner took place is the TreePeople cistern. This cistern is a 70 ft. diameter, 15 ft. circular tank that can store up to 216,000 gallons of rainwater captured from the building’s roofs, and runoff from the parking lot. The water is first filtered and then stored, and used to irrigate the planted landscape.

Bob received the 2009 Los Angeles Park Forester Award, but the highlight of the evening for Bob was meeting TreePeople’s founder, Andy Lipkis. Andy began planting trees to rehabilitate smog and fire damaged trees and forests when he was 15 years old. Since its founding in 1973, the TreePeople staff and volunteers have planted more than 2 million trees in the LA area.

Organically Grown & TreePeople Planting January 25,2009

Organically Grown celebrated the New Year by planting trees in Encino Park, California with the TreePeople and the City of Los Angeles. Despite the warnings of continued rain showers, the sunshine warmed the softened earth to perfection, preparing the park for the event held early Sunday morning on January 25th.

Community Citizen Forester Bob Stein & Julia Stein of Organically Grown, both expert gardeners, recognized that many trees had been lost over the last few years in their community parks and reached out to their foundation partners, the TreePeople. Through TreePeople, the trees were provided as part of LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Million Tree Los Angeles Initiative.

Joined by over 50 friends of the “urban forest,” including Moira Brandt, a co-founder of Organically Grown, and lead by TreePeople expert forester Julia Prejean, they planted eleven trees and mulched and weeded another 40 existing ones. Carlos, the Eagle Scout (going for his merit badge), local high school students, representative from “Disneyteers,” neighborhood residents, friends and family came ready to plant! Organically Grown reached out to the community and beyond, promising a rewarding experience and delightful organic lunch!
The planting created a new sense of community, responsibility and pride for the local residents and beautified the park for generations to enjoy. The new plantings were named and blessed by a circle of hand-holding, garden-gloved volunteers who chanted, “Trees need people and people need trees!”

Do your part! Take a look around your neighborhoods and streets. Have trees fallen from old age or disease and not been replaced? If so, contact your Environmental Organizations of Conservation Corps who plant and donate trees and see how you can sponsor a planting of your own.

TreePeople's Annual Harvest Moon Event

Organically Grown was delighted to participate as a donor “in kind” of product giveaway at TreePeople’s 21st Annual Harvest Moon event held on October 12, 2008. The event dually celebrated the official opening of their new $10 million Center for Community Forestry and the $1.5 million donation to TreePeople from the Disney Company.

Over 500 guests attended the “tree chic” event, including representatives from the local community, entertainment, and corporate industries. Annette Benning was present for the official ribbon cutting ceremony and Victoria Principal was mentioned as a special friend of TreePeople by Andy Lipkis, the CEO and founder of the organization. It is the mission of TreePeople to inspire the people of Los Angeles to take personal responsibility for the “urban forest.” The center functions as a park and educational training facility, where one can learn to plant and care for trees and improve the neighborhoods in which they live and play.

It is the organization of choice for Organically Grown, as we both “plant seeds. ”Organically Grown promotes the production of organic cotton through our design and marketing efforts, creating affordable, fashionable products for the family. With our partner Wearology, we created a special organic gift tote and tank top that delighted the glittering guests. A basket of Organically Grown baby products was a great success at the silent auction. The design of the new sustainable center is a stunning example of the perfectly harmonious structures seated in the natural terrain.
The dance floor was actually a giant cistern which collects millions of gallons of drain off water from the mountainside. The new amphitheater is tucked along a hiking trail and will host new artists in a beautiful setting around the year. The exclusive offices are yurts with carved wooden icons, such as butterflies and trees, marking each address.

Organically Grown plans to support the efforts of TreePeople as part of our mission to plant some seeds and watch them grow. We encourage our friends and our partners to reach out in their communities as well. The urban forest inspires with its beauty, cools the streets on “globally warm” days, freshens the air and plants roots for future generations to enjoy...thus leaving a green legacy.

TreePeople's Annual Harvest Moon Event

A not for profit voluntary organization was set up by Mr. Kamal M. Morarka in 1993 to create wealth for the nation through innovations in resource management and capacity building of the people. From being a successful grassroots level implementing agency for ten years, today it is also being recognized as a leading resource organization offering solutions for sustainable agriculture in the world.

Our partner Wearology has a Joint Venture with the Morarka Foundation, one of India’s largest NGOs for Organic Farming. They currently have 10,568 acres of agricultural land under contract farming, certified as per USDA standards. Various different produce, such as cotton, soy, bamboo, vegetables, and spices are grown by us. They intend to increase our area under cultivation to 100,000 acres, a ten-fold increase in the next 5 years through their Farmer Outreach Program.

Organic Farming

  • prevents and reduces farmer debt
  • prevents and reduces dependence on genetically modified seeds
  • fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals
  • improves food stability as a result of crop rotation
  • prevents contamination of the water table
  • prevents poisoning of farmers and their families
  • improves and maintains biodiversity

"My land was dead. Now it is alive. That is the most important thing.
My land is linked directly to my life; My land is alive and so we are alive."

“The village watering holes now provide cleaner water and there are not so many illnesses. In the past, farmers became ill with skin irritations and breathing problems from spraying the pesticides, and we had to spend a lot of money on medical treatment. Some farmers and workers even expired. Those of us who have converted to organic no longer have these problems.” - Ratanbhai (Senior Village Farmer, India)

Current Events

Organic Baby Show

Join us at Parenting magazine's OC Baby Fair! We will have a booth from 10am - 3pm, featuring a giveaway with great organic prizes!

Natural Products Expo

Julia and I attended the Natural Foods Expo, which is the largest trade show for natural and organic foods in the US...

Can Chine Turn Cotton Green?

I just read a fascinating article by Chris Wood that appeared in the February edition of Miller-McCune Magazine...