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This year in Rockford we expanded the farm operation at Blackhawk Courts Farm and Garden significantly, increasing both productivity and community activity.  As the season winds down, we will soon enter a planning and visioning process with Blackhawk leadership to collectively envision the future of the farm. 

Angelic Organics Learning Center, Hazzard Free Farm, organic watermelon

Angelic Organics Learning Center, Hazzard Free Farm, organic watermelonOn May 13th, a crew made up of residents from Blackhawk Courts, Eco Advocate participants, and the Rockford urban Learning Center staff headed out to Andy Hazzard’s farm to plant watermelon seeds for a future harvest. Andy is owner of Hazzard Free Farm located in Pecatonica, IL. In April, she participated in our Business Summit as a guest speaker and was eager to support the youth’s entrepreneurial efforts. As a result of her enthusiasm, we entered into an aggregation agreement whereby Andy offered some land at her farm for us to grow...

urban garden, urban agriculture, youth garden, Rockford community garden

By Spencer Ellsworth, Urban Farm Manager, Roots & Wings

One fine June Thursday in Rockford, a group of people met early in the morning to talk about squash. 

“If we put them in the Northeast quadrant, they’ll be able to vine up the fence.”

“Plus, they’ll be farthest away from that fat groundhog.”  The groundhog had already come around, looking for a feast, despite the fence’s bottom edge having been sunk a foot into the earth. 

“Gotta dig the beds first, though.” 

“Good thing we have help today!”  This convention of strategic minds was the twice-weekly Blackhawk Courts Farm &...

Kindergarteners and first graders from Yale Elementary plant seeds in Englewood

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

This spring at Yale Elementary, Eat to Live provided enrichment activities in the classroom, after school program, and the Garden. Students related the Growth Cycle of plants with the parts we harvest and eat. They held red wrigglers from the food composting wormbin, and learned that worms have 5 hearts (don’t cut them in half)!  They tasted self-sown lettuce and lambsquarters (wild spinach), and learned to prepare healthy recipes. By mid-June, students and Garden volunteers planted half the Garden with tomatillos, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, corn, summer squash, and cucumbers. Deborah...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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! ...

Bronwyn Weaver, left, owner of Heritage Prairie Farm and farm manager Nate Sumner, harvest a cold weather variety of spinach, growing in one of the farm's greenhouses. (Chuck Berman, Chicago Tribune / February 12, 2012)

"Restaurants take a fresh look at local produce" describes ways that restaurants are serving more locally grown produce, to the benefit of their businesses, clientele, and farmers. The article features Bronwyn Weaver, co-founder of Heritage Prairie Farm, and a member of CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training), facilitated by the Learning Center. Weaver explains how restaurant partnerships help small farms:

"When they embrace local foods, it really can make a huge difference to the farming community; it really helps to make us viable."

CRAFT was founded in 1997 by a group of family farmers...

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