Stonyfield Organic, a Londonderry, N.H.-based organic yogurt maker, announced the first 10 communities selected for its StonyFIELDS #PlayFree initiative. The company said the initiative will help convert public fields and parks to organic grounds management, ensuring fields and community spaces are free from the use of toxic persistent pesticides and harmful chemicals. This is especially important for children, who are most vulnerable to pesticides, Stonyfield said.

The initiative comes at a critical time, as awareness for glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto's Round-Up weed killer and an identified "probable carcinogen" or cancer-causing substance by the World Health Organization's Cancer Agency, IARC, is finally getting the critical attention it deserves, the company noted.

"Over 26 million kids play on parks and fields, most of which are managed using a chemical cocktail of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides — glyphosate being one of those commonly employed," said Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield’s co-founder. "Unfortunately, the federal agencies in charge of protecting us from dangers like these are now being dismantled right before our eyes, so we feel the time is right to lend our voice to this critical issue and inspire everyone to become advocates and change agents for the health of their loved ones."

South Portland, Maine, the inaugural community, is beginning organic management work at its Bug Light field and will celebrate with a town Field Day on Sept. 29, Stonyfield said. The other communities among the first 10 s that plan to team up with Stonyfield over the next year include Costa Mesa, Burbank and Tustin, Calif.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Houston, Texas; North Miami, Fla.; Hyattsville, Md.; and Portsmouth and Dover, N.H.

"South Portland recently enacted an ordinance to establish organic practices as the primary means to care for and maintain property in the city, including lawns, gardens, athletic fields, parks and playgrounds," said Julie Rosenbach, sustainability director in South Portland. "In this endeavor, we are proud to be working with Stonyfield to improve the grounds at one of our most beautiful parks.

Several of the cities Stonyfield is supporting have already begun organic management practices on their parks and fields, and Stonyfield said it is honored to support and celebrate the work they've done by providing extra seed funding and ongoing technical support as they move forward with their organic programs.

Furthering its longstanding mission, the brand also announced two donation programs — a community donation and a grassroots donation — to help other communities across the country make the conversion to organic field management. Stonyfield's 10 community donations will provide towns with $5,000 in cash to use toward the purchase of organic inputs and/or landscaping equipment needed for organic management, plus in-kind technical support and guidance from expert resources. Residents, town employees or town elected officials can nominate their community to receive one of these donations, and those interested in applying can find application details here

In addition, a grassroots donations program that is geared toward 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations looking to take their community organization to the next level was established. For this part of the program, a total of $50,000 will be given out to 501 (c)(3) groups based on project proposals, Stonyfield said. Interested applicants can find details on the grassroots donations here. All selected applicants from both donation programs will be announced in April 2019.