Jeffersonian Dinner

The Jeffersonian Dinner can be a great way to launch the creation of a new cause-centered community.  It can also help you to expand the network of individuals connected with an existing community.  And although money is not the central focus of the evening, it’s likely that, in the end, a Jeffersonian Dinner can activate far more resources than such traditional fundraising event.

To introduce the concept, we invite you step into a time machine and imagine being invited to a dinner in 1819 at Monticello, the elegant Virginia home of Thomas Jefferson—president, scientist, farmer, connoisseur, scholar, and author of the Declaration of Independence.  Around his table, you’d encounter some of the leading spirits of the age—men and women steeped in politics, literature, the arts, the sciences, theology, history, mores, and manners—people that Mr. Jefferson invited because he found them, intriguing and delightful to spend a stimulating evening with.  And an evening like this was also a prime source of education both for Mr. Jefferson himself and for the guests around the table, all of whom were engaged citizens, eager to share and debate the varied ideas that would shape the fortunes and spur the development of their rapidly-growing young nation.

Today Jeffersonian Dinners can help achieve a number of important goals:

Jeffersonian Dinner enlists new allies – The list of attendees at the dinner should include a number of people who are new to you and your organization.  The unusual nature of the event will make your organization stand out as a place that is focused on collaboration, feedback, and community building.

Jeffersonian Dinner helps to create and disseminate ideas – Conversations around the table at Jeffersonian Dinners often help to spark fresh thinking about important topics.  The interesting, partly-random assortment of attendees is likely to generate interesting insights that may provoke worthwhile new initiatives: “The story you just told reminds me of something we did in my community.  What if the two ideas were combined somehow? . . .”

Jeffersonian Dinner expands attendees’ networks – Almost every Jeffersonian Dinner attended has led to valuable new connections among people.  Many organizers wish they had a dollar for every time we’ve heard an attendee say, “It was so great to have a chance to speak with so-and-so!  We have so many interests in common, I can’t imagine how it is that we never met before!”

A Jeffersonian Dinner spreads knowledge about and interest in your organization.  Organize a Jeffersonian Dinner around the topic of your work helps to position your organization as a “thought leader” in the community.  It will also greatly increase the visibility of your organization as a leader in thinking about the topic, perhaps even the “go-to” group whenever related issues are mentioned.

Fledgling organizations have used Jeffersonian Dinners to recruit partners, brainstorm solutions to policy problems, and spread the word about their team among those doing parallel work.  Established organizations have used Jeffersonian Dinners to stay in touch with old friends, to meet new ones, and to get feedback and advice about potential new programs or changes in direction.  Organizations that are about to embark on major fundraising initiatives or expansion programs have used Jeffersonian dinners to energize the community and get the word out about their exciting new plans.

Most important, Jeffersonian Dinners are entertaining.  Participants almost invariably find them far more stimulating, thought-provoking, and engaging than either the typical purposeless dinner party (dominated by small talk and chitchat) or the traditional fundraising event (in which speakers “talk at” the audience rather than engaging in true, open-ended dialog).  For nonprofit partners who have become weary of the ritual—and the expense—of the annual gala, the informality, openness, and intimacy of the Jeffersonian Dinner can be a breath of fresh air.  And the simplicity of organizing a Jefferson Dinner—or even a series of dinners held throughout the year—is in stark contrast to the complexity of planning, funding, publicizing, preparing, and pulling off a star-studded gala. Most people, including nonprofit leaders themselves, regard the usual social activities in the nonprofit space as boring and enervating; they’re a major cause of burnout among nonprofit managers and fundraisers.  By contrast, people who’ve attended a Jeffersonian Dinner love to talk about the experience with friends; they’re thrilled when an invitation to a second such dinner arrives, and many of them get turned on to the concept of hosting a Jeffersonian Dinner of their own.


Spring Forward 2016 – Now 3 Speakers

Spring Forward 2016 is an event to celebrate the gardening community. We invite you to join us, Saturday, March 12, 2016 beginning at 10:00 am (until 4:00 pm) for an afternoon of fellowship, education and socializing. Guest speakers Joe Lamp’l – Growing a Greener World, Roger Swain of PBS The Victory Garden fame and Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries, will offer an afternoon of unique views of our communities. The $35 ticket package also include a wake up breakfast (coffee, juice and sweet rolls) a menu dinner and cash bar served by our host, Teibel’s Family Restaurant in Schererville, IndianaLearn more about Spring Forward 2016 and purchased your tickets now. 

Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a free, fun, and easy event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. Participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from beginning bird watchers to experts, and you can participate from your backyard, or anywhere in the world.

Each checklist submitted during the GBBC helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing, and how to protect them and the environment we share. Last year, more than 140,000 participants submitted their bird observations online, creating the largest instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations ever recorded.

This year the GBBC will be held Friday, February 12, through Monday, February 15, 2016. Please visit the official website at for more information and be sure to check out the latest educational and promotional resources.

Bird populations are always shifting and changing. For example, 2014 GBBC data highlighted a large irruption of Snowy Owls across the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes areas of the United States. The data also showed the effects that the polar vortex had on bird movement around the country. Learn more on the results of the 2015 GBBC, take a look at the GBBC Summary.

On the program website participants can explore real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting during and after the count. Check out the Explore a Region tool to get an idea of what you can expect to see in your area during the next GBBC.

Victory Garden

Groundhog Day Martini



  • 2 oz Jim Beam
  • 1 oz white creme de cacao
  • 1 oz Patron XO cafe
  • 1 oz strong coffee


Pour everything over ice and shake to chill

Strain into a cocktail glass

Groundhog Day Martini



  • 2 oz Jim Beam
  • 1 oz white creme de cacao
  • 1 oz Patron XO cafe
  • 1 oz strong coffee


Pour everything over ice and shake to chill

Strain into a cocktail glass

Horace Hagedorn

Horace Hagedorn, who applied Madison Avenue wizardry to the new plant food his wife named Miracle-Gro and sold it to just about every one of the postwar suburbanites who yearned for a green thumb, died on this date in 2006, at his home in Sands Point, N.Y. He was 89.

Miracle-Gro, which produced the world’s biggest cabbage, cantaloupe and dahlia, soon became as familiar a sight in the American backyard as the station wagon in the carport. The gardening business is now estimated to exceed $35 billion in annual sales, and Miracle-Gro’s share of the home fertilizer market is estimated to be about 85 percent.

Mr. Hagedorn orchestrated the growth of his product like the marketing genius he was. He hired a Norman Rockwell colleague to paint homey advertisements, and the actor James Whitmore, whose gnarled face suggested a trustworthy farmer, for television commercials. The $100,000 prize he offered for a tomato of world record size was conditional on the use of a certain plant food.

The green-and-yellow package he commissioned became so famous that other companies, including AT&T and Hyundai, used it in ads for their products. Mr. Hagedorn charged them nothing as long as they spelled Miracle-Gro correctly.

“He was a huckster,” his son James said with cheerful affection, “one of these, like, carnival salesmen.”

James said that his father was also a sophisticated, hard-driving businessman. When the Scotts Company, the huge garden products concern, merged with Miracle-Gro in 1995, most news reports said Scotts was absorbing the smaller plant food company. A year later, Horace Hagedorn told The Wall Street Journal that he had actually acquired Scotts by insisting on an all-stock transaction.

The deal left the Hagedorns the largest shareholders, with 42 percent of the company and 3 of 11 board seats. Horace was vice chairman and James was president. (James is now also chairman and chief executive.)

“The truth of the matter is, Scotts didn’t buy Miracle-Gro,” Horace said. “The truth of the matter is, we bought Scotts.”

Mr. Hagedorn, a multimillionaire, drove a Gremlin for many years, and said he owned three suits and two pairs of shoes. He gave tens of millions to children’s charities, and got special attention when he supported the education of 50 poor Brooklyn schoolchildren, with the goal of sending them to college. About 85 percent are going to college, and Mr. Hagedorn recently offered a sixth-grade class in Columbus, Ohio, the same deal.

Horace Hagedorn was born on March 18, 1915, in Manhattan, where his father was a real estate speculator. He earned a business degree from the University of Pennsylvania and began his working career selling advertising time on radio. He then produced a radio drama, “The Big Story,” a crime-drama series.

He moved on to a small Manhattan advertising agency around the time he had a conversation with Martin Small, the celebrated advertising man credited with inventing roll-on deodorant. Mr. Hagedorn said Mr. Small told him he would tell him, in five words, how to make a million dollars: “Find a need, and fill it.”

“I said, ‘Marvin, that’s six words,”‘ Mr. Hagedorn said in an interview with The Washington Post in 2002, “and he said, ‘So I lie a little.”‘

On day in the mid-1940’s, Otto Stern, a German-born nurseryman from Geneva, N.Y., walked in the door in person and asked to buy advertising time on the radio program “Rambling With Gambling” on WOR-AM in New York, one of the top shows there for many years. Mr. Stern hated to use the telephone because his thick accent made it difficult for people to understand him.

Mr. Stern sold plants and trees by mail, and they were arriving in pretty bad shape. Both he and Mr. Hagedorn hit upon the idea of fertilizer, and happened to read about the work of a Rutgers University professor, O. Wesley Davidson, an expert on raising orchids. They hired him as a technical consultant to develop a water-soluble fertilizer.

The ingredients were not entirely mysterious , because sellers of fertilizers are required to list the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorous, potash and other trace elements. But the dry product, easy to ship and store, is mixed with water, and the wetting agents and other ingredients are secrets.

“We were in the right place at the right time,” Mr. Hagedorn said in an interview with The New York Times in 1993. He cited the rise in home-building after World War II and a consequent demand for garden products. Also, Mr. Stern’s mail-order nursery business already had many eager customers.

Mr. Hagedorn’s wife Peggy came up with the name Miracle-Gro, and the company was founded in 1950. The next year, Mr. Stern and Mr. Hagedorn each put in $2,000 to buy a full-page advertisement in The New York Herald. The ad Mr. Hagedorn wrote was sprinkled with scientific phrases about things like radioactive isotopes and promised luxuriant plant growth. Within three days, they had made 10 times what the ad cost.

After four years, Miracle-Gro’s sales had passed $500,000 annually, and Mr. Hagedorn decided to leave a successful advertising career to work full time on Miracle-Gro. He bought out Mr. Stern in the mid-1980s, a couple of years before he died.

Mr. Hagedorn’s strategy was to advertise on television, sell through the emerging new hardware store chains and find a better way to apply the product than the original method of mixing a tablespoon of green granules with a gallon of water. His employees came up with a device to dispense the fertilizer through a garden hose.

Mr. Hagedorn did not veer from his own expertise, doing marketing and sales for Miracle-Gro and farming out manufacturing, packaging and distribution to smaller companies. He thus created what might be one of the first “virtual companies,” that is, companies that essentially exist to be successful brands, his son said.

When Mr. Hagedorn merged his company with Scotts, he had already given much of its stock to his children. He took the $50 million he personally earned from the sale to set up a charitable trust. Among many gifts, most to children’s causes, were contributions to Hofstra University’s school of education, which is now named for him, and to Adelphi University’s business school, which also carries his name.

A little more than a year after his wife Peggy died in 1984, Mr. Hagedorn was looking at the personal ads in a local paper when he came across one placed by a woman who liked to read seed catalogs and sail, his other passion. He answered on Miracle-Gro stationery, and he and Amelia Maiello, a prekindergarten teacher, later married.

For all of his success elsewhere and no matter how much Miracle-Gro he lavished, Mr. Hagedorn could never grow a tomato in his own garden that weighed more than three pounds. The world record is 7 pounds, 12 ounces.