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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,...

Lexicon of Sustainability:  Farmer John

Unless we are outside traversing a nature trail, we are continually inundated with words and images.  These messages point the way, give directions, attempt to sell products or ideas, tell stories, and inspire us.  Artist Douglas Gayeton understands the power of images and words to help us understand, inspire us, and give us direction.  He recognizes that in order to work toward sustainability in the world, people need to understand what sustainable words mean; that people need a Lexicon of Sustainability.

He and his wife Laura Howard Gayeton set out on a three-year journey across...

A Permaculture-inspired vegetable garden

The term sustainability is getting used more frequently, but what do we really need to create sustainability in our world?

Altfrid Krusenbaum of Krusengrass Farm

In 2013, Angelic Organics Learning Center (AOLC) and the Upper Midwest CRAFT farmer alliance will recognize four beginning farmers and one farmer mentor who have been outstanding leaders, innovators or community-builders in the northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin region.  

Farmers are invited to nominate their farm by creating and submitting a video by February 25, 2013. Five cash prizes will be awarded during a public ceremony to be held on Friday, March 15 at the Good Food Festival in Chicago.   

A $1,000 honorarium will go to the "Beginning Farmer of the Year" spotlighted for recognition by...

Buttercup

By: Jessie Crow Mermel, On-Farm Educator 

Although this farm was once a dairy farm, there hadn’t been cows here in decades until 2007, when Buttercup and her daughter Maizy, two Scottish Highland cows, were brought here from Little Creek Farm in Wisconsin. These two beautiful cows contributed to providing entertainment and beauty to visitors as well as the all-important fertilizer for the farm. 

On June 8th, 2009, my children stood by me, along with families from a home school overnight, to watch as Maizy gave birth to a male calf, Mai. She needed some assistance from Executive Director Tom Spaulding and...

This summer, the youth leaders applied for and received a grant of $2,000 from the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, which allowed them to develop and launch a new free CSA program for low-income seniors in their neighborhood.

Bill Mitchell in the garlic fields

With a busy season coming to a close, Angelic Organics Learning Center's Farmer Training team has been pouring over evaluations and surveys from the past several months. In reviewing our fall CRAFT survey, we noticed the success of many Stateline Farm Beginnings® graduates and asked several to share their stories. Here is what Bill and Angie Mitchell of 3 Flat Acres had to say.

Angelic Organics Learning Center (AO): How did you get into farming as a career?

3 Flat Acres (3FA): First we must note that farming is not our only career.  Angie maintains a...

Altfrid Krusenbaum introducing his dairy herd

The fount of knowledge that flowed from Altfrid Krusenbaum’s lips in two and a half hours was staggering. Delivered with a casual, down-to-earth and generous demeanor, the CRAFT farmers in attendance soaked up Altfrid’s counsel on a brisk day in early October at Krusen Grass Farms in Elkhorn, Wisconsin

The CRAFT Field Day opened with Altfrid backgrounding us in the operations of a seasonal pasture-based dairy farm—a rarity in his field, as most dairy farmers choose the constant cash flow that accompanies year-round calving. However, at Krusen Grass the clear beginning and ending of tasks that seasonality brings...

Our herd is growing!  We are pleased to welcome Ferdinand, the 3 year old Scottish Highland bull.  He joins our other cattle: cows Buttercup, Melody and Maizy, newly named heifers Harmony and Cavatina, steer Mai, and bull calf Mel.  Ferdinand has his work cut out for him, as we hope to have five new calves by next summer!  Enjoy a photo of the whole herd grazing on the hillside. 

 

by Jessie Crow Mermel and Randy Mermel, AOLC On-Farm Educators

 

Angelic Organics shareholders, families, local community members, volunteer naturalists, birders, photographers and water scientists teamed up with Farmer John Peterson, some farm crew members and the Angelic Organics Learning Center team on a beautiful September afternoon. We celebrated our participation in human and non-human community with a Bioblitz on the new 70 acres in Caledonia, IL.  The purpose of a Bioblitz is for scientists, naturalists, and volunteers to spend a day intensively cataloging all plant and animal species found on a given area.  We spent the day from 9...

Thank you to our awesome crew of volunteers from Danfoss and United Way of Rock River Valley. The group of 9 volunteers came last week to help us get the 70 acres of Kinnikinnick Fields ready for our big BioBlitz event on Sept. 15. 

 

 

The crew trimmed branches, helped clear trails, and set up the goat demo area and picnic tables for the event. They even learned how goats help clear invasive species from the wooded areas. Everyone had a great time despite the rain! We hope to see you all again soon! ...

Sampling a Hmong farmer's cucumbers at Fondy Farm Project

After sharing a meal and warm greetings, the 31 farmers and farmer enthusiasts that convened at Fondy Farm Project circled up and settled in for a conversation on cooperative agriculture models. Led by Stephen Petro of Fondy Farm Project and Jay Salinas of the Wormfarm, both men gave a summary of their experiences working at incubators and facilitating the sharing of information and resources among farmers. Before diving into the nuances of these models, “farm incubators” were defined by the presenters as a place for beginning farmers to get started and from which they eventually graduate and move...

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