Healthy Concepts

I am what is known in my circle as a mandala maniac (pun intended). Mandala means “sacred circle” in Sanskrit, and I fell in love with the particular process I learned back in 2010.

My friend Ellen had been talking about going to mandala class and meditating on her mandala, and I asked what it was all about. She showed me some of the mandalas she had drawn, which were beautiful but rather than try to explain the whole process to me, she gifted me a place in a class held by Laural Virtues Wauters, a certified mandala facilitator in the style pioneered by Dr. Judith Cornell.

I didn’t know exactly what to expect from the class, but what I experienced that day in February changed my life. We sat in circle, spoke openly without fear of judgment about what was on our minds and hearts, learned about the healing method of mandala creation taught by Judith Cornell, set an intention for what we hoped to get out of the class, worked with oracle cards, went on a meditative journey, and drew our mandalas based on where the journey had taken us. There was no talking during drawing time, and quiet meditative music played in the background. One of the participants began crying shortly through, and didn’t stop until the class was over. The revelations can be quite emotional.

This mandala process isn’t about the final product; that is to say, it’s not about the art. It’s not about creating a perfectly symmetrical, beautiful design. It’s also not about ego, or getting hung up with judging your own or others’ creations. It’s about letting what your conscious mind is ready to receive come to the surface and manifest itself on the paper. It’s about the message you receive after you’ve meditated on what your mandala is telling you. It’s about a positive way forward.

Whenever I feel a need to quiet my mind and allow answers to come, I take out my mandala supplies, meditate and draw what comes to mind. It was one such session that caused me to take a profound turn in my life and leave behind much of what no longer served me. I moved into a life of compassionate service, including becoming certified as a second-generation mandala facilitator of this method. This involved 108 hours of facilitating classes.

Is the mandala for everyone? No. But it’s a healing method and a medium that has worked for me and many others. It’s three hours that you devote to self-care and self-discovery. It’s a community. And though it is sacred work, I try to throw a bit of fun into every class, which centers around a different theme every month.

For a schedule of mandala classes I am offering for the rest of 2017, please visit my website at

Higher health care and insurance costs require us to take charge of our health. The good news is that new programs are emerging to control cost and improve health.

A few years ago a client called about coverage for monthly cholesterol screenings. His doctor wanted to put him on a statin drug for high cholesterol, but he wanted to try diet and exercise first to avoid the cost of medicine and potential side effects.

His health insurance plan would only cover cholesterol tests if his doctor recommended it as being “medically necessary,” and since his doctor already recommended a medicine, it would not be covered.

He told me his last cholesterol test covered by insurance was billed at $212, but reduced to $80 after applying the insurance discount.

Someone who wants access to a cholesterol test at a set price any time without a doctor or insurance company approval can travel to Manitowoc. Holy Family Memorial (HFM) has three clinics there that offer direct lab tests. It’s like going to McDonalds. You check off what tests you want from a menu of 73 items, pay up front, sign a release form and have your blood drawn. That’s it. The test results are mailed directly to you within a week.

The HFM direct lab test for cholesterol costs $20. It is listed as a lipid panel that includes total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglycerides.

To learn more about the HFM program, and click on “Services,” then “Lab Services” and finally, “Direct Lab Testing.”

The direct lab program is an example of how people are changing health care to be more patient-centered — it offers access, set pricing and convenience.

Faced with higher deductible plans, providers are realizing that more payments come directly from the consumer and not insurance. As a result, health care providers are rethinking their services to meet consumer wants and needs. The big shift is a focus on health. More consumers are asking for help to avoid the need for expensive medical care because they do not want to pay their higher deductible.

Finding new ways to engage health consumers to achieve better health is one of the big challenges for providers. Whether it is a diet and exercise approach before medicine or access to tests to measure health progress from a lifestyle approach, more people want help to improve health and lower cost.

Remember to always use a licensed health insurance advisor to learn more about your health insurance options for health care. 

“You want me to coach soccer? I don’t know anything about soccer! You wouldn’t want me to be a coach.”

As a Youth Sports Director, this is something I often hear. Parents think they are not qualified to be a coach because they feel they don’t have the knowledge necessary to teach the skills of the game. This often keeps them from volunteering to coach their son’s or daughter’s team.

I have had the opportunity to supervise many different sports leagues and observe and help multiple coaches. I have also done a lot of coaching including coaching my own children in basketball, soccer and football. Through these experiences, I have learned that a successful coach isn’t always the coach with an in-depth knowledge of the sport, but rather one who is committed to the job for other reasons.

Build Relationships

When I register my children for a sport their first question is, “Are you going to coach?” They do not care about how much knowledge I have about the sport, they just want to enjoy the experience together. As a child, I had the opportunity of having my father as a coach. What I remember the most is how much I enjoyed spending time with him on the basketball court and the baseball field. Coaching your child is another way to build a lasting relationship. In the end, your child will not remember how much you knew about the sport, but they will remember the time they spent with you.

Additionally, you will build and model strong relationships for the other members of your team, as well as create relationships with the parents of your team members. Parents that trust coaches will naturally encourage their child to be a leader on the team, be respectful and work hard. All of this leads to a stronger, more solid team experience for each person involved.

Have Fun

The most important thing you can do as a coach is to make sure you and your team are having fun! If you asked your child why they like playing sports, the most popular answer is likely that “It’s fun,” or “I want to have fun.” How you make that happen is with your attitude and approach. A positive attitude goes a long way to creating a fun environment. If you show up to each practice and game with a smile, and provide encouraging feedback on what your players are doing well, along with how they can improve, you and your team will have fun each week. The players will develop a love for the sport and you will enjoy every minute of your coaching experience.

Role Model Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship is all about how you treat others. A good coach needs to model true sportsmanship. This means teaching players how to handle a call, even if you don’t agree with it. It is about teaching kids that it is OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them, and that no matter the outcome of the game, you should be happy with how hard your team worked. A memorable coach is the person who is a positive role model, demonstrates sportsmanship, teaches the team to be humble and stays calm in all situations. These are the valuable life lessons players are learning by being a part of a team.

Be Organized

An organized coach communicates with parents and players, comes prepared to all practices and games, and is committed to his or her team. It may seem like a simple idea, but even a coach who knows all there is to know isn’t helpful if he’s not present. A coach who shows their dedication to the job and to the team will get more out of their players throughout the season. When there is mutual respect between coaches and players, individuals will work harder not only to better themselves but to better the team as well.

If you can have fun, be a positive role model and be organized, then you have all the qualifications to be a great coach. Many organizations need dedicated and willing volunteers. Being a coach has a lasting impact on the organization, the participants and the coach. A great coach will teach his or her team sportsmanship, a love for the game, character values and teamwork. Go ahead, take that first step! Say, “I will coach,” and see the lasting impact your contribution will have. 

How would you know? As you get older, your appetite decreases naturally. Are you eating more good fat? That is a good thing; however, it can make you feel full and lead you to eat less. The same is true of using gelatin, a good thing, but it makes you feel full too.

If you are feeling tired or feel run down, you may be short of vitamins and minerals. Taking a multivitamin may not solve your problem. Multivitamins in pill form often do not break down. They are called bedpan bullets in nursing homes as they end up in the bed pan and doing no good at all. Some vitamins are synthetic. The FDA regulates vitamins differently, so you must research what you are getting.

Here are some suggestions that worked for me. I am “Grandma Rose” for a reason. I am almost 79 years old. You may be short of vitamin B12. As we get older, we have less stomach acid and it is often difficult to extract B12 from meat. Get some B12 that dissolves under the tongue. Liquid B12 works too. It is difficult to overdose on B12 so get a large dose.

Seniors are often short of CoQ10. Liquid CoQ10 absorbs better than pills and your heart needs it. I get liquid CoQ10 at Costco. You can also order it online.

A shortage of magnesium is common in many people and more so if you don’t eat enough variety. Magnesium can also help you sleep better. Again, liquid is best absorbed. I buy it online.

Vitamin D3 is important, especially since you live in Wisconsin, as it is the sunshine vitamin and it absorbs well. The little pills work.

It is important to have a proper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 oils. If you eat processed foods at all, you will need omega-3 (cod liver oil capsules will work, and they will dissolve). A vitamin B complex is good, I put it in my Nutribullet with any liquid and grind it up so I absorb it better.

I grow kale and Swiss chard, and last year I dehydrated them and ground them to a powder in my Vitamix. I put a teaspoon of powdered kale in my yogurt every day. That is like eating a large salad. It has lasted me all winter and it is organic.

Solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles — they’re everywhere. Renewable energy that we can use for electricity, hot water, space heating and transportation is not the fuel of future/fantasy-based sci-fi movies. It’s the fuel of today.

Three-quarters of Americans prefer renewable energy to traditional fossil fuels like oil and gas, and that percentage is increasing regardless of political party affiliation.

Why? Two key reasons:

  1. The unstable and unpredictable future price and supply of fossil fuels
  2. The negative environmental impact of traditional energy generation and consumption

Coal is mined from states like Montana, Wyoming, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and transported via railcars to large power plants all over the U.S. It’s then pulverized and burned to heat vast quantities of fresh water to create steam. Steam drives a turbine, which is coupled to an electrical generator and makes power. The environmental consequences of this process are nothing short of devastating, and “clean coal” is simply an oxymoron.

Natural gas prices have declined thanks to the recent technological “breakthrough” called hydraulic fracturing or fracking. Rocks are fractured by drilling into the earth and blasting highly pressurized liquid, gas or sand through fissures in the rocks until the precious gas is released. This process has become highly controversial in recent years, and has sparked national debates and local hardships. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend watching Gasland, a 2010 documentary by Josh Fox to learn more about fracking.

Our future, affordable oil supply is, well, let’s face it — bleak at best. We’ve used most of the “cheap” oil already, and what’s left is either getting too expensive to extract or too costly to fight for. We need to seriously reconsider sending troops overseas to secure “our” oil supply.

We have clean, environmentally-friendly, free fuel here at home: an endless supply of it. Let’s use it! In case the last couple of paragraphs got you depressed, allow me to give you a ray of hope. Today there are more people employed in the solar industry today than gas, oil and coal combined.

Solar power is more affordable now than ever. Solar electricity (photo-volt-A-ics, or PV for short) is 1/80th of the price it was when Jimmy Carter had a system installed on the White House. Increased efficiency in the lab-grown PV cell, smarter manufacturing processes of PV modules and overall improvements in our electronics today have all contributed to this downward pricing trend. Many states offer rebates or incentives for solar projects, and you can take advantage of a 30 percent tax credit if your system is installed by the end of 2019. PV systems last 30 years or longer, and a residential system typically pays for itself in less than half of that time. Larger, commercial systems today are seeing paybacks in single-digit years.

Now combine our ability to produce electricity from the sun with electric vehicle technology. This is where it really gets exciting! Get to work and park your car under a PV carport. Plug it in and let it charge while the array shades your vehicle and keeps it cool. Or charge your car at home during the nighttime hours when the electrical grid demand is low, saving those kilowatt-hours for when they’re most needed: during the day.

There’s no doubt our electrical infrastructure and appetite is changing. Just as it would have been strange to believe a few decades ago that we’d no longer be using a landline on a corded phone hanging in the kitchen or that we’d all be connected with an “internet,” the utilities are struggling to adjust to this new world and the demands of their consumers. Some have embraced renewable energy through their projects and policies; others are fighting it with all their might.

Regardless, one thing is clear. Renewable energy, like rock and roll, is here to stay.

To learn more about renewable energy and sustainable living, consider visiting The Energy Fair in Custer, Wisconsin from June 16-18. With over 250 related workshop topics like Energy Efficiency and Conservation and Photovoltaics (Solar Electric) you can learn simple and easy ways to live sustainably this summer. For more information,

References: “Gallup poll.”

Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

When you think of what Russia is famous for, what comes to mind? Perhaps Vladimir Putin, given the stories we see in the news today. Russia is also known for the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral and its colorful onion-shaped domes, Matryoshkas (Russian dolls made of wood that nest inside one another), and of course, vodka.

In the fitness world, however, Russia is where one of the oldest fitness regimens originated. Kettlebells, a cannonball-shaped weight with a handle and a flat bottom which keeps it from rolling away, were used in the 1700s by Russian strongmen to help increase strength and flexibility. They’ve been used for centuries and Pavel Tsatsouline is generally credited with introducing them to the U.S. in 1998 as a form of strength training for U.S. Navy Seals and Special Forces.

Even though there have been numerous reports and research proclaiming the importance of strength training for health and performance, there are still several myths that keep people from giving it a go.

Myth #1: “Lifting weights is going to make me bulky.”

When you ask most people why they want to exercise, reducing fat often tops the list. Adding weights as a part of your strength training program is a smart choice for fat loss because strength training through weight lifting actually increases your metabolism so you burn more calories even when you are resting.

It is common for a woman to be concerned with getting too “bulky” from lifting weights. Let me explain why you probably don’t need to worry about this any longer. Although there are some outliers, most women do not have the hormone levels (i.e. high testosterone) that is necessary for packing on muscle. The individuals in the bodybuilding arena who specifically train to put on a lot muscle spend an inordinate amount of time at the gym, follow a very strict lifting, eating and lifestyle practice geared specifically toward building lots of muscle — they don’t achieve their results by accident. So you can enjoy the fat melting, strength building and muscle defining benefits of a good weightlifting program without concern of “bulking up.”

Myth #2: “It will take away time from the activity I love (running, Zumba, dancing, ice skating, etc.).”

Just a half-hour strength training focus twice a week, in addition to an activity you are already doing, will add substantial core strength, flexibility, and balance in just a few weeks. These things will actually improve your ability to do the activities you currently enjoy, and you will likely enjoy them even more!

Take the case of Ekaterina Gordeeva, the Russian figure skater who was a four-time World Champion and a two-time Olympic Champion with her partner Sergei Grinkov. If you ever watched these two skate, you may remember their grace and elegance on the ice. To achieve both of these, balance was the critical element to achieve this and core strength was the key.

Myth #3: “I have to run or use machines (elliptical, treadmill) to get the cardio I need.”

According to the American Society on Exercise, a study conducted in 2010 led by research experts from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, showed that training with kettlebells resulted not only in an increase in flexibility and muscle strength (something the researchers expected from the results), but also found their test subjects gained a significant improvement in aerobic capacity, i.e. cardio — a person’s ability to sustain a certain level of aerobic activity for a prescribed length of time.

One researcher stated during this kettlebell training protocol, “…they were burning at least 20.2 calories per minute, which is off the charts. That’s equivalent to running a six-minute mile pace.” So take it from the researchers at UW La Crosse and put the “kettle” on to get an extra dose of cardio.

Most of us have no desire to look like Ivan Drago, Rocky Balboa’s Russian nemesis in Rocky III, but strength training isn’t important just for body builders and boxers, its important to us all.

Because insulin is a major hormone, it is impossible for the body to balance its minor hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, for example) until insulin metabolism is balanced first.

Being insulin resistant puts a woman at a much greater risk for many other conditions including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, breast cancer and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Our metabolism developed thousands of years ago when our diet included fewer and more complex carbohydrates. Blood sugar imbalances, now rampant in our society, can become chronic and progressively serious, eventually leading to diabetes.

The first step of this progression is the development of insulin resistance, a state in which the muscle and fat cells no longer accept glucose. The body’s demand for fuel varies but the brain requires our blood sugar to remain stable. Getting the cells in the body the energy they need without changing our blood sugar level is a critical function played by insulin as it signals the cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. The body monitors what we have ingested, blood sugar level and cell demands, then releases insulin in the correct amounts. This process represents a healthy body that is “insulin sensitive.”

Many women’s diets are low in healthy fats and consist of an excessive amount of refined, processed carbohydrates from sugar and other processed foods, most notably those containing high fructose corn syrup. Some of these foods are marketed as “healthy,” such as some breakfast cereals, low fat yogurt, diet soda, white bread, bagels, pasta, etc. Consuming these foods causes a rapid rise in blood sugar. The body manages this high blood sugar with a compensatory rapid rise in insulin. The overproduction of insulin causes a rapid and drastic reduction in blood sugar for a short period of time. (The brain can only last a few minutes without a steady supply of its fuel: glucose.)

This drop in blood sugar levels triggers a compensatory rise in cortisol level (responsible for moving sugar out of storage and into the bloodstream), which generates more of the same cycle including cravings for more carbs and sugar. Extra insulin travels with the new rise in blood sugar to transport the glucose into the cells for storage or energy production. Over time, however, the cells lose their ability to take in large amounts of glucose and this state is called insulin resistance. The cells in the body literally alter the shape of their insulin receptors so the insulin no longer fits the receptor and insulin can no longer transport glucose across the cell membrane. Both the insulin and the glucose are left to circulate in the bloodstream.

The body is not designed for prolonged high levels of insulin. It disrupts cellular metabolism and spreads inflammation. Insulin disrupts fat metabolism. When the cells can’t absorb the extra glucose any more, the liver converts it into fat. Fat cells are loaded with glucose receptors so this is a vicious cycle. Ironically, while the insulin-resistant woman is gaining weight, her cells are actually “starved” for glucose so she feels exhausted and tends to eat carbohydrate heavy foods in search of energy.

The fat cells are now considered a metabolically active endocrine organ. The extra fat cells are little factories producing estrogen. This contributes to estrogen dominance, which causes multiple symptoms in the perimenopausal transition for women.

This cycle of glycemic stress places a great burden on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). Elevated cortisol interferes with the function of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, and leads to increased progesterone conversion to cortisol and hence decreased progesterone, resulting in a state of relative estrogen dominance.

Anyone can become insulin resistant — even if they are thin. The more processed and refined foods we eat, the more insulin we require to metabolize it. The more insulin in our blood, the less responsive our cells become. As we age, this continual exposure wears out our tolerance for refined carbohydrates and reduces our sensitivity to insulin.

Women with the greatest risk for developing insulin resistance and progressing into Metabolic Syndrome are those who suffered from gestational diabetes, have hypertension, are seriously overweight or have a family history of Type 2 diabetes.

Women who are apple-shaped, carrying their weight around their abdomen, show less tolerance for insulin. If a woman’s waist/hip measurement is > 0.8 (divide waist measurement in inches by hip measurement in inches) she is at risk for developing insulin resistance.

A skin change called acanthosis nigricans, warty-like darkened patches of skin at the neck and armpits also indicates insulin resistance in over 90 percent of women.

The good news is that glucose metabolism is highly responsive to lifestyle changes and can be supported through dietary modification and supplementation. Weight loss improves insulin resistance. Specifically, losing abdominal fat is key. Also, to sustain weight loss, preserving muscle and lean mass is critical.

Diet and Lifestyle Interventions

Keys to an effective dietary prescription include:

  • Eat a balanced breakfast and eat foods with a low glycemic impact. Eat on a regular basis every 3-4 hours to keep blood sugar levels stable.
  • Reduce total calories while maintaining regular protein intake — consume some type of protein with each meal and snack throughout the day. Avoid dairy and meat that may have added hormones.
  • Shift carbohydrate intake from sweets and wheat and flour containing products to whole foods: primarily organic vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds such as chia, hemp and quinoa and home cooked cereals (not instant or refined), and less starchy vegetables and grains.
  • Select healthy fats and include small fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, herring and wild caught salmon, flax seed, nuts, olives and cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, avocado, macadamia and coconut oils. Avoid all oils that are called “vegetable” and all corn, soy, safflower, sunflower and canola oils, and foods made with partially hydrogenated and trans fats.
  • Avoid all sweetened drinks: soda, fruit juices, sports and energy drinks.
  • Avoid all artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup and foods with preservatives and food colorings.
  • Eat foods high in fiber to slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. Include hard-shell beans such as kidney beans, navy beans and chickpeas. Adding a half cup of beans to a meal will significantly increase fiber intake or add other fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
  • Regular exercise is key but patients need to recognize that exercise without dietary changes is not going to be effective. Resistance exercise and aerobic exercise are both necessary. Exercise improves the sensitivity of the insulin receptors independently from diet.
  • One last note, never eat carbohydrates in isolation except for fruit. Fruit will not spike your glucose if you are not already insulin resistant. This depends on how insulin sensitive you are — fruit is a complex food that we evolved eating! 

Whether planning for the beach, park or ball field this summer, protecting your skin should be at the top of your mind — and shopping list. Research has shown that getting severe sunburn, just once every two years, can triple the risk of melanoma skin cancer. In the case of infants and toddlers, just five blistering sunburns can increase a child’s risk of developing melanoma by 80 percent.

Sunscreen use can help prevent skin cancer by protecting the skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Walk into any store and you will see an abundance of sunscreen options to choose from. I understand it can be overwhelming trying to decipher the difference between each bottle. It is important to recognize not all sunscreens are created equal. There are three main areas to look for when considering which sunscreen to buy.

Broad-Spectrum Protection

Look for sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum sunscreen protection. This type of sunscreen protects against the two types of UV light harmful to your skin: UVA and UVB. UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, where UVB rays can burn your skin. Too much exposure to either type increases your risk of skin cancer.

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher

SPF is a measure of how well the sunscreen protects against UVB rays — UVA protection is not currently rated. When applied correctly, a sunscreen with SPF 30 can block 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. A higher number SPF blocks slightly more of the sun’s harmful rays, but does not allow you to spend more time outside without reapplication.

Water Resistant

The term water resistant means the SPF within the sunscreen can be maintained for up to a certain amount of time while swimming or sweating. It is common for the water resistance level to be a maximum of 40 minutes, but some brands are longer. Read the label carefully to find out its duration. Regardless, it is important to dry off and reapply often for continued protection.

While these three areas are crucial in deciding which sunscreen to choose it is also important to determine the type of application you need. Sunscreen comes in a variety of styles including creams, lotions, gels, sticks and sprays. Ultimately, it is a personal choice but each comes with their own benefit. Creams work well if you have dry skin, especially on your face. Lotions are best when needing to apply over a large area. Gels are great for applying in hairy areas such as the scalp or chest. Sticks are useful in applying sunscreen around the eyes. Lastly, sprays are convenient to apply on children, but know it can be difficult to tell how well you are applying — you may be applying less than you realize.

Regardless of if the sun is shining or clouds are hovering, it’s best to be proactive. Try to seek shade, if possible, be diligent with applying sunscreen, and wear protective clothing including a hat and sunglasses. The choices you make today, whether for you or your child, will have long-term effects on your skin health.

In Wisconsin, one of the most appreciated components of the spring season is “fresh air.” Opening our windows, seeing and feeling the sun shining, and the refreshing scent of the outdoors brings us back to life after a long winter.

In the beginning, the transformation is slow as trees and flowers begin to bud and grass starts to grow again. Before we know it, the vibrant greens and bright florals are back in full force — things are alive and well. And that means the season of lawn care and maintaining landscapes has begun too.

It’s an alluring image, but one that can quickly become clouded when considering the harmful chemicals and toxins associated with traditional lawn care practices. It’s not only detrimental to the grass in the long run, but also the health of our loved ones — both pets and people.

According to Dr. Phil Landrigan, professor of pediatrics at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, “there is... concern that pesticides of all kinds can damage the developing nervous system and can result in learning disabilities in children, behavioral problems and possibly chronic diseases like Parkinson’s.”

Troy Reissmann was made aware of the potential link between the chemicals and health complications while working for a conventional lawn care company. It didn’t take him long to reflect and realize he was going to change the course of his career, and life, for the better.

“I thought, ‘I don’t want to contribute to the problem for the rest of my life, I want to do something to help it. Where do I begin?’”

After researching how to organically and safely treat lawns, he and his wife Lisa established Valley Organics in 2009. The local business provides the area — from Green Bay to Fond du Lac — with natural and organic lawn care to achieve healthy and lush lawns without the toxic effects.


Traditional chemical-based care uses a regimen of harsh and toxic elements to treat lawns, and Troy and Lisa say it also creates an unhealthy cycle that is hard to break.

“The main weed control that’s used is one of the two active ingredients that was in Agent Orange. It’s called 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D),” Troy explains. “It won’t kill the grass, but it will kill the majority of weeds. But in doing that, it also kills off a lot of new grass growth, which makes the lawn dependent on the chemicals.”

“Valley Organics is the opposite,” Lisa adds. “We want to make the lawn healthy and sustainable so eventually you can step down from treatments and simply maintain it to keep nutrients in the lawn. By then the root growth has gotten so much longer and it’s easy to sustain.”

They achieve this by providing all-natural fertilizing, core aeration, winterizing and special treatments like insect repellant by their one-of-a-kind tea.

Yes, tea.

“Intelli-tea” combines fertilizer, compost, worm castings, fish fertilizer and black strap molasses to create a concoction that adds live culture back into the lawn. After brewing for 24-48 hours, the tea is sprayed to feed the lawn with its lacking nutrients. Surpassing typical organic teas that have a 10 gallon to 100 gallon ratio of concentrate to water, Valley Organics prefers a much stronger concoction at 50 gallons of concentrate to 50 gallons of water to the lawn’s benefit.

“We found out through trial and error that we can actually get rid of a lot of lawn insects — not by killing them but by repelling them using garlic oil, peppermint oil and things that are too pungent for them,” Troy says. “It helps control the insect population and it’s also really beneficial for the lawn.”

In Valley Organics’ case, what’s safe for the lawn is safe for all of us — and that includes our two- and four-legged family members.

“We can tell people that what we’re putting on their lawn is safe and healthy, and won’t damage the environment, their animals or anything at all,” Troy says.

“We put a little flag out on the lawn saying that we were there,” Lisa says. “But it doesn’t say ‘Danger’ or ‘Keep Off.’ People ask us all the time if they can go on it, and yes you may. We don’t have to wear masks or boots when we apply the treatments. It’s not harmful!

“Canada and some states even have banned the chemicals,” she adds. “And more and more people are getting it every day,” Lisa says. “Our customer base is made up of a lot of pet owners, families with young children and now grandparents with grandkids who are understanding that it’s important.”


Just like every family member’s health and safety is important, Valley Organics realizes each and every lawn is unique, and determines their plan of action. A four-step plan beginning in spring and continuing through the summer is often the most popular choice for new customers, and most plan choices regularly include grass seed as part of the first and last treatments.

“A soil test helps us determine what’s going on in the soil to proceed going forward,” Lisa explains. “Then we do a granule treatment and that includes seeds, which right away helps thicken the lawn up.”

The soil test results — showing pH levels, identifying dry clay soil versus sandy soil, etc. — determine what the next three steps are. They could be a combination of granule or a liquid-based compost tea.

“In addition to our fertilizers we have different amendments like lime or gypsum to help with anything the lawn might need,” Lisa says. “It’s tailored to that specific lawn. And sometimes it’s different from the back lawn to the front.”

Educating the public about transitioning from conventional lawn care to natural and organic is important for Troy and Lisa, and they often spread the word about information ranging from the benefits of natural lawn care on the honey bee population to why dandelions are a positive sight and what they describe as simple science.

“Grass needs three things to live: oxygen, food and water,” Troy says. “Rain takes care of the water, oxygen is aerating and pulling up the soil, and the food is up to you. You can feed your lawn nothing at all, you can use chemicals which are not sustainable, or you can feed your lawn something healthy like what we use.”

“There is an alternative to the chemicals,” Lisa says. “You don’t have to use them to have a nice lawn. It may take a little longer organically, but it’s possible and it’s worth it.” 

Valley Organics believes aeration is one of the healthiest measures you can take for your lawn by allowing moisture and oxygen to enter into the root system, which is why

new customers receive a FREE aeration in fall!

Stay informed!

Troy and Lisa are often met with customers who struggle with allergies and effects of conventional lawn care chemicals, and encourage people to visit to sign a registry to become informed about when your neighboring lawns will be sprayed. According to the site, “The Landscape Registry allows Wisconsin residents to be notified before lawn care and landscape companies apply pesticides to neighboring property. You list the addresses that you want to be notified about, and companies check that list against their lists of clients.”

“It’s nice to know when to bring your dogs in, have your kids play inside and even hang laundry on the line,” Lisa says.

Valley Organics Lawn Care


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“Our deep respect for the land and its harvest is the legacy of generations of farmers who put food on our tables,preserved our landscape and inspired us with a powerful work ethic.” —James H. Douglas, Jr.

The April issue of Nature’s Pathways outlined some benefits of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and how farm share programs typically work, but we know that’s only the beginning of the valuable information regarding this special part of spring and summer. Below we focus on what it means for farms to be considered organic and how Integrated Pest Management is changing the game by eliminating pesticides.

What does it mean to be organic?

According to, “the philosophy of organic food production maintains certain principles: biodiversity, ecological balance, sustainability, natural plant fertilization, natural pest management and soil integrity. Since farms vary in product and practice, there is also a wide variety in how these principles are applied. However, generally, organic food products:

  • Are grown or raised by a producer who uses practices in balance with the natural environment, using methods and materials that minimize negative impact on the environment…
  • Are produced on land that has been free of known and perceived toxic and persistent chemical pesticides and fertilizers for at least three years prior to certification, and synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are not used in production.
  • Are planted on a rotating basis within the farm system. Crops are rotated from field to field, rather than growing the same crop in the same place year after year. Cover crops such as clover are planted to add nutrients to the soil and prevent weeds.
  • Organic meat, poultry and egg products come from farms that use organic feed, do not administer added hormones to promote growth or any antibiotics and they allow animals the space and freedom to behave naturally.”

What is Integrated Pest Management?

Growing food in nontoxic and healthy environments, i.e. without pesticides and chemicals, plays a large part in keeping our current and long-term health a priority. It’s also a great reason to take part in local farm share programs that share the same belief in consuming only the best-for-us produce — both in delicious organic taste and also in its natural practices. So how do these farms control the insects and potential disease that are also associated with growing plants?

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is one great way. According to, it’s “a program that should be based on prevention, monitoring and control, which offers the opportunity to eliminate or drastically reduce the use of pesticides, and to minimize the toxicity of and exposure to any products which are used. IPM does this by utilizing a variety of methods and techniques, including cultural, biological and structural strategies to control a multitude of pest problems.”

We need your help!

Nature’s Pathways wants to highlight area farms that offer farm share programs to share the wealth of nourishment with our readers!

If you are a local farm that participates in farmers markets and/or offers a farm share program, and are interested in being featured in Nature’s Pathways, please email Karen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.." target="_blank">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

Check out these local CSA farm share programs!


Where to find:

Types of shares:

Featured items:

About the farm:

Burr Oak Gardens, LLC

W5511 County Road B, Rio



CSA pick up sites located near Appleton North High School and at Goodwill North Central Wisconsin in Menasha on Thursdays, June 15 through October 26 (20-week season).

Mini share, Basic share, Double share, Double Every-other-week and Late Fall Storage share.

Fruits, vegetables, herbs. Honey available as an add-on in the fall.

We are certified organic through Midwest Organic Services Assocation (MOSA). We have been delivering to the Fox Cities since 2010. Our farm uses sustainable practices to produce wonderful vegetables and a few annual fruits that are suitable for growing in Wisconsin. We are always astonished by what mother nature does with a little rain, a little soil and a lot of light.

Field Notes Farm

1579 Church Street, Stevens Point


Downtown Appleton Farm Market, Saturdays 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m.;

Future Neenah Farm Market, Saturdays 8 a.m.-noon;

Downtown Stevens Point Farm Market, Saturdays 8 a.m.-1 p.m.;

Pulse Young Professional's Bazaar After Dark.

Every week and every other week pick up, mid-June through mid-November.

Summer season is 18 weeks + 4 weeks of fall storage season. Each share is 3/4 bushel with 9, 11, 18 or 22-week pickups.

Work shares and Farm Artist shares available.

A variety of 8-15 household favorite vegetables each week, including weekly herb and

occasional fruits and apple cider.

We are certified organic and take pride in farming with a focus on soil health, building community and transparency. Each share features a newsletter with a story from the farmers, a list of the share's contents and simple recipes. We also have an orchard of peach, plum, pear and apricots. In the fall, we press apple cider to be fermented. We have a 5-month payment plan for our shares. Pick up sites in Appleton, Neenah, Amherst, Stevens Point and Plover.

Good Earth Farm

W8965 Oak Center Road, Oakfield


Fond du Lac Downtown Saturday Market from 8 a.m.-noon.

Summer season CSA: Weekly Large, Medium, Small and Every-other-week shares from June through October.

Winter season CSA: November through February.

Mushroom shares and fruit add-ons available. Weekly newsletter, The ComPost, with news from the farm, great vegetable info, recipes and more!

We are a certified organic vegetable farm offering vegetable shares to the Fox Valley and surrounding areas. Our CSA is a fantastic opportunity to eat with the seasons and purchase locally from farmers who use sustainable and environmentally responsible farming methods. We offer many opportunities to see where your food grows, meet the farmers and have fun on the farm!

Oakridge Farms

125 County Road CB, Neenah


Appleton Downtown Farm Market, Saturdays 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Standard share, Half share and Market share.

Fruits and vegetables.

We are a family farm growing fruits and vegetables using sustainable farming methods. We focus on building soil health and using minimal chemical inputs on our fruit crops. We offer summer CSA shares, pick-your-own strawberries, raspberries and blackberries and offer a daily farm stand open mid-June through September.

Park Ridge Organics

N8410 Abler Road, Fond du Lac


Appleton Downtown Farm Market, Saturdays 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (our stand is on College Ave. in front of McKinney Photography).

Our on-farm store is open Monday to Saturday from June through October.

Full, Half and Quarter shares offered every week for 20 weeks (June through October). Late season shares (November and December), Winter Storage shares (January and February).

Vegetables, mushrooms, eggs (available for farm pickup only), pasta and herbs.

Park Ridge Organics has been certified organic since our beginning in 2003. It is a second-owned farm providing produce to over 300 members each season. Our farm grows high quality produce and takes strong measures to ensure food safety. With over 14 years of growing experience and soil management, our produce flavor is exceptional!




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