School Garden Heroes: Organic Mechanics Soil Company

Jan 12, 2012
Happy New Year! We hope your 2011 rocked, and that your 2012 will be even better! This year we are kicking off our Woolly School Garden blog with our new “School Garden Heroes” series, in which we will feature individuals and organizations who inspire us by making school gardens and nutrition education a reality.
SCHOOL GARDEN HERO: school gar·den he·ro [skool] [gahr-dn] [heer-oh]
(noun, plural -roes)
1. a person of distinguished courage or ability,
admired for their determination to teach kids how
to grow their own food.
2. a person who helps children discover the living world,
increases access to fresh healthy food, and brings hope
to communities by making school garden projects a reality.
Mark and Mike of Organic Mechanics Soil are our first feature, because isn’t that what every garden needs to get started? Great quality organic soil? Organic Mechanics Soil Company has sponsored soil for 8+ of our Woolly School Gardens in Philadelphia and on the East Coast… That’s over 160 cu feet of organic soil for kids to grow and eat edibles! That’s a lot of donated dirt!
Tell us a bit about yourselves and the Organic Mechanic Soil Company
Organic Mechanics was started in 2006 by company President Mark Highland.
Mark Highland: “I’ve always been an environmentalist. That eventually led me to work on an organic farm in Oregon after my B.S. at the University of Florida. During my M.S. in Public Horticulture the goal of my thesis was to help improve the composting process for Longwood Gardens. Those experiences galvanized my interest in starting an organic, peat-free and earth-friendly potting soil company. When I’m not working on your soil, I enjoy gardening (of course!), good music, and spending time with my friends and family.”
Mike Betterly (VP): “I’ve always had a passion for the environment, going back to my days of the Recycling Club in middle school and SAVE (Students Against Violating the Earth) in high school. I’m zealous about working to educate others about the power of organic soil and food, renewable energy, and being mindful of our buying behavior, and how it effects the earth.”
Why do you choose to support school garden projects?
Kids are amazing learners, and soak up knowledge like a super-sponge! We think that the ability to teach kids about nature, and to create a respect and love for it, is vital to our future. For us, healthy soil = healthy plants = healthy kids! Empowering them to be able to grow their own vegetables, fruits and herbs reduces their need for processed foods and gets them excited about eating healthy. The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow. Showing them the importance of eating healthy, locally, and organically will positively impact their lives, and eventually, the next generation after them.
Plus, the Woolly School Gardens are so easy to install and manage, the kids can quickly become proficient gardeners! Providing soil is just a part of the Woolly Gardens Programs, but we’re so happy and proud to be a part of such an important movement.

What is your company’s main mission?

At the heart of all we do, we share a philosophy that embraces environmental sustainability, first and foremost. We are actively pursuing the dream of producing the most eco-friendly, highest quality potting soil on the market. Our vision is to spread the message of being kind to the earth, keeping conscious of our surroundings, and living sustainably. By providing people with the most earth-friendly and easy-to-use potting we can make, we hope to inspire others to grow their own food to help provide for themselves and their loved ones, recycle and reuse what they can (our ingredients are almost all high quality, recycled by-products), and become more proactive in helping to save our environment. The more that we set an example, and help to teach others, the better we can affect positive change in the world.
What is your favorite veggie to harvest? Why?
Mark: “Carrots, since you can leave them in the ground until you are ready to pick and eat them. They keep well if left in the ground, and get sweeter after a few frosts. Plus after you pick them, you get to do a bugs bunny impersonation…What’s up doc!”
Mike: “Pumpkin, because I can use it in everything! Soups, pies, breads, cakes, you name it. It reminds me of fall as a kid, cooking pies with my mom, and going on tractor rides in the corn fields. Nothing beats pumpkin pie on a cool fall night!”
Thank you Mike and Mark for inspiring us today! Do you know a School Garden hero? Email us at

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