Once Viewed as a Traitor, This Businessman Helped Make Water Cleaner.

By: Jeff

My Father Michael Juchnowicz and Ms. Penny

“My kids live here, I have to live here,” he said. “It’s all about, are you for clean water or against clean water.”

That was my dad over a decade ago speaking on behalf of clean water legislation that swept coastal counties. We spoke at the state senate and at almost every coastal county commissioner meeting down each coast of Florida.  We dedicated hundreds of hard fought hours into helping the Sierra Club and other environmental groups calling for the protection of our bays, estuaries and oceans. For the past 12 or so years we have been the leading voices in the private sector advocating for clean water for Florida. My father and I had a vision and we built this vision through advocacy and changing our own practices to not only benefit our customers, but benefit our environment from old out-dated practices.

My Father and I celebrating at a restaurant after a 6-1 vote in favor of clean water at City of Marco Island City Hall.

Ahead of the curve

My father always wanted to be 10 years ahead of the competition, over a decade ago we made all of our fertilizer blends Zero phosphate because phosphate mining destroys natural habitats. We also made our blends over 50% slow release nitrogen.

We knew that we had an impact on the environment, and by measuring the amount of shear pounds of fertilizer we were going through per year we knew that our impact was substantial.

I now own my own Fertilizer and Pest control company in SWFL (Terra Garden Solutions) and we use the same chemistry and systems my father uses in Sarasota. Water is Florida’s greatest natural resource, and protecting it and using responsible practices on your yard really does make an overall impact as you can read in the excerpt below.

Barkley and Jeffrey on the forklift at our SWFL warehouse

Once viewed as a traitor, this businessman helped make water cleaner.

It has been nearly a decade since the founder of Gardenmasters of S.W. Florida Inc. broke with the fertilizer industry by pushing for stricter nitrogen-control laws — a proposal many fertilization services believed at the time to be a threat to their industry.

He testified before legislators, welcomed county commissioners into his private headquarters and worked with university researchers — fighting the powerful lobbyists his own industry had hired.

But now that restrictions have been in place for several years — banning the use of fertilizer in Sarasota and Manatee counties from June 1 through Sept. 30 — Juchnowicz says he has an established system, while many others are still scrambling to keep their lawns green during the peak summer months.

“Why go against it,” said Juchnowicz, “Figure out a way to work it. It took years for us to develop a program — a new way of doing it.”

Gardenmasters now is the largest lawn and garden fertilization company based in Southwest Florida, with a 15,000-square-foot warehouse in Venice and a satellite office in Naples (Currently owned by his son Jeffrey Juchnowicz and re-named “Terra Garden Solutions”).

Barkley on the forklift loading fertilizer onto the Gardenmasters truck! (Now a Terra Garden Solutions Truck)

The way it was

For decades, companies that provide services like Gardermasters would fertilize heavily during the summer to help combat the heat.

“There’s not one single measure that will correct the systemic problems that have happened over decades,” said Jon Thaxton, a former Sarasota County Commissioner who championed the ordinance. “The fertilizer ordinance is a critical tool. The bay’s recovery — and the reduction of nitrogen — has been remarkable.”

The fertilizer industry fought hard to prevent change.

Juchnowicz was one of the few in the business to rebel against his peers, citing the importance of clean water.

Barkley and Jeffrey Enjoying Clean Water in April 2018

A better balance

The company now uses a slow-release product line that it says is a “custom blend mixture that is environmentally friendly and compliant.”

It is lower in phosphate and nitrogen than the products more commonly seen before the new regulations, but Juchnowicz says it is just as effective. He also cut down on his use of insecticides.

“It’s like seatbelts,” he said of the fertilizer guidelines. “I remember when they first came out — nobody wanted to wear them. Now, I won’t get in a car without it.”

Juchnowicz says he just felt that testifying in favor of tighter guidelines was the right thing to do, even if it meant he’d be blacklisted in his own business community.

“I have a son, and he doesn’t have any kids yet, but he will someday,” Juchnowicz said. “This is making a difference.”

Sarasota County took a leading role on fertilizer reforms, passing its own ordinance in 2007. Manatee County joined with a similar initiative in 2011.

Experts say the new rules have made a difference for the better, and that Juchnowicz’s role was crucial to the initiative.

“He was the best kind of spokesman,” said Jack Merriam, who is now retired but worked as Sarasota County’s environmental manager at the time the ordinance was passed. “He would sit at the industry table, and you would hear rumblings that he should be sitting with the environmentalists.

“We have more sea-grass now than we did in 1950, a benchmark, good year. The bay is doing better, we know that.”

A Lee County Clean Water Advocate

This is an excerpt of an article written By Josh SalmanPosted May 9, 2016 at 12:01 AM

Josh was with the Herald Tribune at the time this article was published.

About the Author:

Jeff Juchnowicz

Jeff began working for his fathers pest control and fertilization company in 2004. During that time he studied under The Horticulturist, Will Strickland and his father who is a chemist and agronomist, Michael Juchnowicz. He was the youngest L&O Pest Control License holder in the state having passed the test directly after his 18th birthday. Soon thereafter Jeff went to FGCU to study Marine Science/Environmental Studies. In 2008 he moved from Sarasota to Naples/Fort Myers to start his own company which eventually became known as Terra Garden Solutions. With a focus on an unparalleled level of service and a resounding commitment to quality products, the company has grown leaps and bounds. Today you will find Jeff in his truck and monitoring properties we service. Occasionally you will see him out with his Yorkie dog Barkley, don’t be afraid to smile and say hey!

About the author