Spreading some good dirt
Durango-based “Good Dirt Radio” hits the airwaves

The Good Dirt team, from left, Tom Bartels, Ron Margolis, Jude Terry, Nancy Jacques, Katrina Blair and Gary Lewin, gather for a photo Tuesday evening at the Cosmix Sound studio where the new public radio show is taped. The program’s mission is to report
inspiring stories of individuals making a difference through environmental stewardship./Photo by Todd Newcomer.

It may interrupt usual radio programming and cause temporary confusion, but don’t worry, it’s good. Good dirt that is.

A typical program may sound like this: “Welcome to Good Dirt Radio, where innovative ideas take root. I’m Tom Bartels and I’m Tami Graham.”

But listen further and you’ll see that Good Dirt Radio is anything but typical; all news is good news: “U.S. dependence on fossil fuels has become an environmental, economic and political liability. And most of us believe the problem is out of our hands. But sometimes people take up the challenge to save the biosphere in personal-sized increments. Such is the case with the growing bio-diesel movement. Citizens are powering their diesel cars, trucks and metro-buses with vegetable-based oil. Some older diesel vehicles require upgraded rubber fuel lines to handle biofuel, but most new diesels, by design, handle the fuel beautifully...”

Gary Lewin, a Durango Realtor, founded Good Dirt Radio as a nonprofit, five-minute news program. He said that the inspiration for the show, which first aired on local stations in March of this year, came from his own desire to get involved.

“I was looking around in my world and was extremely distressed,” Lewin said. “I had a recording studio, Cosmix Sound, and wanted to produce a beneficial media source.”

Lewin shared his idea with friends and managed to build a core board of five members and two announcers. The board members’ skills range from writing, media experience and law to environmental activism and organic gardening. They all share in story writing and production planning duties. Lewin said the board also came up with the name “Good Dirt Radio,” which entails “Digging up good dirt for a change.”

The program reports inspiring stories of individuals making a difference through environmental stewardship. Through such stories, the program hopes to provoke innovative ideas and further a means of action for individuals, businesses and communities to positively affect their immediate and global environments.

“The focus is to report on good news for a change,” said Lewin. “There’s plenty of bad, but we want to focus on the good. There are people out there who are doing amazing things.”

Gary Lewin, founder of Good Dirt Radio, adjusts the sound board at the studio Tuesday evening. The program first aired on local public radio stations in March./ Photo by Todd Newcomer.

Good Dirt Radio thus far has produced four shows; the most recent, “Nontoxic and Environmentally Friendly Alternatives to Dealing With the West Nile Virus,” aired on Wednesday, May 26.

“The stories stem from ethers,” said Nancy Jacques, a Good Dirt Radio board member and professional writer. “The stories may start out with a local perspective, but tend to lead to a bigger picture.”

Other stories have covered topics such as nontoxic pest control; biodiesel, the nontoxic, carbon-neutral alternative to fossil fuel; and compact fluorescent bulbs. Future story ideas include green building, voting with your dollars and green hotels, which operate in an environmentally friendly manner.

“High Plains News was of a similar niche and was an initial inspiration,” Jacques said. “The intent of the program became to look for solutions.”

Host Tom Bartels agreed, saying, “A lot of people get catatonic in light of current environmental degradation. Such a program can take you out 4 of the paralysis by showing what good is happening. We’re looking for current answers that lead to future answers.”

Approximately 40 hours of research and studio work are condensed into each concise, 5-minute segment. In addition to the extensive work entailed in producing the show, all Good Dirt Radio members hold full-time jobs.

“The show is 100 percent volunteer work and exists because we feel that it should be done,” Bartels commented.

Besides their work for the program, Good Dirt Radio board members, like Katrina Blair, are able to offer first-hand experience. Blair, founder of the Turtle Lake Refuge, was able to share her personal transition to biodiesel on one of the program’s shows.

“Turtle Lake had an ’84 diesel truck to which I added an extra tank and fuel filter, and created a heat exchange system,” Blair said. “Now I just strain the vegetable oil and run it right from my tank. Skinny’s Grill gives me 5 gallons of oil each week; I have so much extra that I wish others would convert.”

Like the biodiesel story, stories may begin local but have a broad view that can serve as inspiration to many communities, Blair said.

The program currently airs on KSUT the last Wednesday of every month, in the middle of “All Things Considered,” and on KDUR bi-monthly. However, Good Dirt Radio soon plans to take root nationally.

After the program completes six stories, an initial marketing to Colorado public radio stations will begin, and six months thereafter, a broad-spectrum marketing to all national public stations is planned. Lewin says that approximately 1,100 U.S. public stations may choose to receive the program free of charge, as its funding is sponsor-based.

“We don’t want to grow too fast,” said Jacques. “We want to have the system down, a battery of stories to count on and a large enough pool of writers to draw from.”

With a national weekly story projection, Good Dirt Radio hopes to gain the involvement of more writers.

“We’re looking for experienced environmental writers who have the passion to become involved in a project like this,” said Lewin. “Those interested can look at our mission statement and writing parameters located on our website, www.gooddirtradio.org.”

Good Dirt members such as Bartels welcome the prospect of new writing talents.

“It would be fun to have more writers on board,” said Bartels. “With more eyes, there’s the option to introduce more variables at play.”

One positive feedback for the program, which host Tami Graham refers to as “a breath of fresh air,” may be evidence that environmental awareness and interest are on the rise.

“There is a current groundswell in environmental awareness, and it’s increasing,” said Lewin. “Since doing this I’ve seen so many other groups involved, from websites to environmental groups and concerned citizens.”







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