All year long, Billy Styles cares about soil, plants, bugs and water.
Styles, 55, has been a farmer in the Carolinas his entire life. He was born in Asheville and spent his early years in Burnsville. He lived on a farm where his family grew soybeans and corn, and lots of cows ate off the land.
His father moved the family to Charlotte in the '60s, and the family then commuted to their dairy farm in Denver.
Styles' upbringing influenced his choice of profession: He's a landscaper, a rehabilitator of soil and creator of organic products. He has a strong presence and Southern accent, and when he shares his knowledge of plants and soil his words flow nonstop. It's obvious he speaks from the heart.
Styles likens himself to a plant whisperer; he's a walking encyclopedia of urban stories and opinions about plants, living and dead, and what people do or don't do to the land.
About 10 years ago, he decided to create fertilizers and organic products that wouldn't harm the environment, and four years ago he started producing Organic Plant Health. He opened a store in Matthews and went on a campaign to find businesses that would carry his products.
Many Ace Hardware stores, as well as Blackhawk Hardware, now carry the Organic Plant Health line.
"You have to remember (that) in the urban environment, to create a healthy soil, it has to be fed," he said. "A healthy soil is the foundation of all life."
South Charlotte customer Margie Komito said she has used Organic Plant Health products for several years, not only because of the positive effect the product has on her trees, yard and shrubs: She is convinced she is protecting her Scottish terrier, Brew.
The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association has reported that, for some breeds of dogs, there may be a link between cancer and chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. Komito prefers organic products for that reason.
"The biggest thing is the products are pet-friendly," she said.
Organic products "are safe for children (and) pets and promote a healthier environment," said Styles.