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A year in retrospect: Rebecca Haldeman, the Farmer Training Program Assistant and organizer of the CRAFT alliance, wrote this post in response to finding her place within Angelic Organics Learning Center and CRAFT. She will soon be leaving the Learning Center and embarking on a journey in pursuit of her music career. You can watch her grow and "like" her progress on Facebook: www.facebook.com/rebshaldeman

May 25, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing the produce section at Willy Street Co-op in Madison, Wisconsin. I always scan the shelves for the purple "locally...

Percheron, draft, horse, Angelic Organics, organic, plow, AOLC, Tom Spaulding

By Jessie & Randy Mermel, On-Farm Educators

Babe is one of our most gracious farm hosts.  She happily obliges visiting children to brush and pet her as she stands there, eyelids heavy with the pleasure of attention.    For many children who visit the farm, Babe is the first horse they have ever touched.  Her affectionate nature helps ease any apprehension about her massive size.  Naturally, she is one of the most popular animals on our farm.

We celebrate Babe, our lovely black Percheron horse, this month as she turns 30 on May 14th!  30 is an advanced age for...

Eco Advocates, Angelic Organics Learning Center, AOLC, Roots & Wings, low tunnel

 By Eco Advocates, Desmond Moore and Roger Ross.  

Recorded and Edited by Katie Townsend- Urban Farm Educator

 

The Ecos created a low tunnel because our high tunnel was vandalized during spring break. The construction crew consisted of Joey Grimmett, Roger Ross and Desmond Moore. Another name for a low tunnel is a caterpillar. Undamaged plastic from the original high tunnel was draped over PVC pipe hoops that were fastened to a raised bed. Now the seedlings for our farm tasks could be started under the little greenhouse. This all happened on Kent Street on the southside of Rockford,...

Comcast, Angelic Organics Learning Center, Urban Farming, Earth Day, Englewood

By Martha Boyd, Program Director, Urban Initiative (Chicago)

On Saturday April 27, Comcast Cares and Links Unlimited celebrated Earth Day with the Eat to Live crew in E2L's Community and Learning Garden in southeast Englewood.  They cheerfully weeded out grass from garden beds, hauled many loads of compost, and collected the winter's trash and debris.  Comcast employee Roberto singlehandedly moved about a ton of compost, while his co-worker Vernice posed next to her newly-fluffed beds.  She plans to help the E2L Garden grow all season.  The work day ended with a visit by the Fresh Moves Mobile Market, returning monthly for E2L's...

Dominic Green, Gentleman Farmer, Angelic Organics Learning Center

By Dominic Green, AOLC Boardmember

I was privileged to represent AOLC at the 98th Anniversary Celebration of the Chicago Community Trust at the Harris Theatre on Tuesday evening. For those who don't know, CCT connects donors to Chicago community needs, granting more than $150M to nonprofits in 2012. AOLC has been a grant recipient for many years now.

CCT helps literally hundreds of organizations, so it was a nice honor for AOLC to be highlighted on the evening in the "Food & Health" section. Host Bill Curtis gave a clear, succinct introduction to our work,...

Whole Tree Architecture at Angelic Organics Learning Center

By Jessie Crow Mermel, On Farm Educator & Communications Coordinator

“Design will save the world” is the tagline for Inhabitat.com, a website dedicated to featuring green design projects around the world.  Yesterday, Angelic Organics Learning Center’s whole tree architecture and sustainable building features were highlighted on Inhabitat.com in a piece by San Francisco-based writer and photographer Mark Boyer.

Boyer’s article and accompanying photo gallery illustrate the convergence of the structural and aesthetic innovation that architect Roald Gundersen of WholeTrees Architecture & Structure employed on the buildings of the Learning Center.  Gundersen has a knack for collaborating...

AOLC, Nicholson Conservatory, Atwood Award

It’s been a good year for AOLC’s Urban Farm Educator Katie Townsend.  Earlier this year, the Sinnissippi Audubon Society named her 2012 Conservationist of the Year.  Last week, she was awarded the Seth B. Atwood Award Park and Conservation Service Award for her outstanding contributions in conservation and education at the Rockford Park District City of Gardens program at Nicholas Conservatory in Rockford, IL. 

In addition to her work with AOLC’s Roots and Wings Initiative, Katie has been engaged with organizations dedicated to conservation and environmental education for the past 30 years.  The bulk of her career...

Cilantro interplanted with carrots in an unheated hoophouse.

On a blustery April 25th, twenty-six CRAFT members started the day at Hazzard Free Farm to learn about season extension. Hazzard Free Farm, started in 2007, is situated on a 240-acre plot in northern Illinois and consists of 10 acres in organic vegetable/herb production and 20 acres in organic grains. Farm enterprises include CSA, short-chain wholesale, and direct sales to other farmers. Owner/operator Andy Hazzard is also starting a farm incubator for farmers-in-training.

During the Field Day we focused on Hazzard Free Farm's multi-year effort to extend the growing season through hoophouse and greenhouse use. We toured three...

Kim Wasserman, LVEJO, Nieto Goldman Environmental Prize

By Jessie Crow Mermel, Communications Coordinator & On Farm Educator

In 1998, Kim Wasserman Nieto rushed her gasping baby to the emergency room.  Kim later discovered her son’s asthma attack was induced by environmental pollution.  Other residents in her community, Little Village, a densely populated neighborhood of mainly Latino families in Chicago, were also suffering from a host of respiratory problems and even premature deaths.

 

  The culprits were the Crawford plant and Fisk plants, owned by Midwest Generation.  These two “cloud factories,” as they were innocently called by local children, were two of the oldest and dirtiest power...

hoop house, urban gardening

By Katie Townsend, Urban Farm Educator 

April 8, 2013 greeted us with wet rain. No worries I thought as the students will be snug in the Hoop House planting seeds for their gardens as well as the plots cultivated by the Roots and Wings Youth Leaders and the starts for the farm at Blackhawk Courts. Then the phone call came …our covering for the Hoop House on Kent Street had been destroyed.

My heart sunk. The resilient Eco Advocate students and Green Americorp Project Leaders had already fixed the structure once after extensive vandalism. (See picture of the Hoop House...

Chicken Tractor at Angelic Organics Learning Center Farm

By Randy Mermel and Jessie Crow Mermel, On Farm Educators

When giving farm tours, we are faced with the challenge of encapsulating the complexity of Biodynamics into a palatable bite-size portion.  Biodynamic Agriculture, the brainchild of Rudolf Steiner (also the creator of Waldorf Education), is the philosophy and practice of our partner farm, Angelic Organics. 

For the general public, we choose to focus on the Biodynamic tenet of the farm as an organism.  Like a body composed of several organs working together for life to exist, a healthy farm system is composed of several...

Goat with newborn kids on the farm

by Nellie Conover-Crockett, Livestock Assistant, age 13

Although spring doesn't seem to be coming, things are already starting up at Angelic Organics Learning Center. Farmers are planting seeds in the greenhouse, baby chicks have arrived, and most importantly, goats have started to have their babies.

Last fall, in October, 8 goats were bred to have their babies in March and April. There were no babies in the first part of March but late on the night of March 17th, Sugar had her baby. Sugar had one girl, or doeling, who was named Blanquita, or "Little White One" in Spanish. Blanquita...

Choosing a CSA farm is somewhat like dating – there are as many personalities of farms as there are personalities of people.  Part of the beauty of CSAs  (short for Community Supported Agriculture) is that they offer more than just food – they offer a relationship, a chance to connect with your food and be part of the farm community.  Yet, CSA-shareholder pairings don’t always work out.  It is important to find one that clicks with your personality and needs.

Fortunately, The Local Beet has done all the footwork for you.  Their new 2013 CSA guide offers a...

Alex and Alison of Radical Root Farm with mentor farmer Peg Sheaffer

Are farms strengthened by competition or cooperation? Upper Midwest CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) launched in 1997 with a spirit of support, shared resources and networking among the handful of founding farms, but is this cooperative context valid today, with nearly 100 small-scale, diversified farms serving each of our regional metropolitan markets?

If you attended the Good Food Fest on March 15th, you would have been touched by the goodwill and promise that was demonstrated in the working relationship between mentor farmers Matt and Peg Sheaffer of Sandhill Family Farms and beginning...

Urban Livestock Expo

By Martha Boyd, Program Director, Urban Initiative (Chicago)

On February 16th, over 200 visitors convened at the Garfield Park Conservatory to learn about caring for livestock in the city. 

Many people helped make the first annual Urban Livestock Expo a success – the organizers: Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA), Angelic Organics Learning Center, Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts, the hosts, the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, the 15 presenters, 20+ volunteers AND the standing room only crowd who came to learn from experienced practitioners about keeping chickens, ducks, bees, goats,...

Farm and Learning Center Staff working on Kickstarter campaign.

Although we raised $39,000 and gained 600 backers, ultimately we did not reach our goal in our initial attempt at crowdfunding, with our “Barns Are For People, Too” Kickstarter campaign. The purpose of our Kickstarter campaign was to raise money for repairs on the barns on the farm and to install stairs, lighting, and safety features so that we can safely and warmly welcome larger groups on the farm to learn, grow and connect.  While building community was the desired outcome of our Kickstarter campaign, community building naturally developed in interesting ways simply by working on the...

This week, Liz Whitehurst joins the Angelic Organics Learning Center team as the new On-Farm Initiative Program Director. Former Program Director Deb Crockett will now serve as AOLC's Senior Program Director, providing oversight for all of the Learning Center's initiatives. She'll be more present in Rockford and Chicago in particular, as each of those program areas are expanding. Deb will still be teaching yoga at the farm, doing beekeeping with groups, and coaching Liz as she steps into her job. Deb and Liz will be sending out notice to partners this week to clarify the transition in roles. We are...

Eco Advocates Visit Rock River Valley Food Pantry

The Eco Advocates is a Comprehensive Community Solutions program in partnership with the AOLC Urban Initiative Roots & Wings network. The Eco Advocates vocational preparatory program for young adults combines academics, training in green technology and urban agriculture, life skills, leadership development, and community service. 

Last year, the Eco Advocates grew organic vegetables at the Tinker Swiss Cottage gardens and sold them at the Rockford City Market.  This year, they will be starting a CSA and are exploring other ways they can be of service in the community. They are...

Honey Bees

By Deb Crockett, Senior Program Director

If you think winter has been hard on you, be glad you aren’t a honeybee!  The more that I learn about honeybees, the more amazed I am by their strategies and adaptations to make it through the winter.   Clustered in a tight group the size of a softball, the worker bees rotate from the inside to the outside to maintain the temperature of the core, protecting the queen from winter chills. 

 I am always eager, on a warm winter’s day, to check the hives to see if there is any activity.  The bees “hold...

Cassie and Mike Noltnerwyss of Crossroads Community Farm

The 2013 Upper Midwest CRAFT Field Day Schedule got off to an early start this year, with our first on-farm event at Crossroads Community Farm in Cross Plains, Wisconsin. Owner and farmer Mike Noltnerwyss hosted 12 CRAFT members on January 29th for an informative and valuable afternoon of conversing about organic vegetable production.

John Hendrickson of Stone Circle Farm moderated the discussions, which focused on seven crops: onions, sweet peppers, cucumbers, melons, broccoli, tomatoes and ginger. For each crop the farmers chimed in about the experiences they’ve had and obstacles they’ve faced in regards to seed varieties,...

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