JANUARY'S MEMBER OF THE MONTH: Mike Bald, Got Weeds?
We are excited to share NOFA-VT's Member of the Month for January! In this monthly feature, we choose a member to recognize each month as a way to celebrate all the wonderful people that make up the NOFA-VT community. Thank you for being a part of it!
Mike Bald is the owner of Got Weeds?, a Vermont company that uses manual and non-synthetic control methods to eradicate, contain, or suppress non-native invasive plants. Got Weeds? is not a lawn care company, nor does it seek to re-direct the efforts of farmers who have found a workable balance with the weeds in their cultivated fields. Rather, Mike will work with landowners to control unwanted weeds, shrubs, and vines around field edges, yard borders, forested landscapes, and streamside areas.
Why are you a NOFA-VT member?
Probably 10 / 11 years ago, I was really pushing to learn more about soil health and found myself traveling to Massachusetts on a regular basis. Have to give credit to the folks there in Mass; that's where I learned about the NOFA chapters and got the inspiration to start my own company managing landscapes without use of chemicals / toxins / synthetics.
What do you value most about NOFA-VT’s work?
NOFA brings people together, period. Plenty of people feel like they already know what they're doing, they've got it down, and that the science is “done” in so many arenas, but that's just so totally removed from reality. I like to ask questions, poke around and push the assumptions, but challenging established thinking and mindsets can make a lot of people uncomfortable, so it's good to have a NOFA where people can talk freely, learn from each other, compare and contrast methodologies, and feel welcome.
How long have you been a member?
Do you identify as a…. (eater, gardener, homesteader, farmer, etc.)?
All of the above, really! I love great food and all the work that goes into it. NOFA folks come from lots of backgrounds and professionally they point in every possible direction, but they all enjoy sharing and I think we all look to continue learning.
How have you been involved with NOFA-VT in the last year?
I almost always attend the winter conference and a number of workshop events throughout the growing season. I'm always curious to see what others are doing.
What's the best garden/farm experiment you did this year?
Most of my project sites are experiments to some degree. There are some consistent patterns and “givens” with invasive species, but every place is unique with its own set of drivers, so it's my job to tap into that and recognize all the nuances at play. And to make the subject of invasive species more approachable or less overwhelming, I've been seeking to capture the depth and power of the natural world through creative photography. I even hope to use some locations for fun, artistic competitions this year, why not? Let people come out and discover their wild side or some spiritual element that they never knew existed. People need to know that the natural world is where we can let things go, make our peace, find hope, and get ourselves re-grounded.
All that said, I know a lot of people are impacted by Japanese knotweed on their land. I push every year to get a little switch-a-roo happening where we stop with the over-harvesting of fiddleheads and throw some knotweed shoots on the plate instead. Let the ostrich ferns recover for a year or two; no one seems to realize that aggressive harvesting just “sets the table” for domination by knotweed. So that's an issue of our own creation, we'll see if I make any progress. I published an article on the idea last spring, but the response was zero. Hoping to get some artisanal paper-making underway as well, again with knotweed. Good fun, and it's not like we don't have the capacity here.
Why does organic matter to you?
The Spirit of Organic is what matters to me. The word itself is often debated and interpreted and even mis-represented, but you encounter people who do understand the intention and meaning. Taking the time to know the land and all the dynamics at play is crucial; even we ourselves are just one of the dynamics, btw. Organic ultimately just shows that we care; it seeks deeper understanding, and offers a much more fulfilling, spiritual positive. I feel that simply ignoring the long-term health of the land (and therefore the waters that flow over / under it) is a “take, take, take” mentality; whereas, if we truly want to honor past and future generations, we should embrace more “give, give, give.”
What's your number one priority for NOFA-VT this year?
Just continuing to broaden the audience and the inclusiveness. NOFA is such a great energy, and bringing in more people can only add to that. If more of us connect with the natural world, we'll all be better off. In conversations about water quality and maybe the larger public health scenario, I rarely hear “NOFA” credited for the good work our members do all the time. We all have an impact on the land, but NOFA does a lot of good. I'd like to see that recognized in more ways, certainly by the state agencies. There would be a collective benefit to that, for everyday citizens and for our way of life.