Roots & Wings welcomed our first volunteers of the year to the farm in May! Disrupted for over 2 years due to the pandemic, we were excited to once again partner with Youthbuild Rockford, a long-time supporter of Roots & Wings and Angelic Organics Learning Center. During their visit we accomplished two main tasks: distributing mulch throughout the farm and turning and organizing our compost pile.
Youthbuild Rockford is one of several programs led by Comprehensive Community Solutions. Youthbuild Rockford provides academic education for acquiring a high school diploma, vocational skills training culminating with industry recognized credentials, personal case management and trauma informed care supported by a personal development plan, positive peer support, leadership development, job placement and follow up support.
It was nice getting to know them and hearing about their future endeavors, which ranged from becoming a real estate agent, pursuing a position in the medical field and attending a Historically Black College or University.
It’s these types of relationships we value, and their support is always needed to advance the work at the farm. We are looking forward to them returning this month. I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to the young men and women from this program and thank them for their contribution. We wish them the very best in all of their future endeavors!
What is ERME?
The Extension Risk Management Education (ERME) program was formed out of the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000. While the act was largely focused on amending and expanding the federal crop insurance protection, it also mandated the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation to create research initiatives, pilot projects, funding pools, and an education and assistance program. ERME established four regional extension centers for education, which are located at Washington State University, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, University of Delaware, and University of Arkansas.
The mission of the ERME program is to “educate America's farmers and ranchers to manage the unique risks of producing food for the world's table.” ERME fulfills its mission by funding education and training programs for farmers (typically through university extension services), maintaining an agricultural risk library, and providing grant funding to projects to develop resources, networks, and systems of support in order to mitigate the risks farmers face.
The team enjoyed exploring Omaha’s downtown and bonding with one another. Kate says, “We learned a lot about each other which will help us work together as a team more efficiently.” Ritchie enjoyed spending time with the Farmer Training team and "learning about each other’s interests, quirks, and patterns in various circumstances because the better we understand ourselves and each other, the more compassionate we can be and the more effective we will be together.”
To learn more about our Stateline Farm Beginnings® program, click here.
"I first heard about Roots & Wings from fellow neighbors and students, that there was a local farm in the community that provided on-site training and education for aspiring future farmers. I was about 12 when I started with the Youth Leader program and I was a part of it for about four years. What I like about the Youth Leader program is that it makes a conscious effort at redirecting children and providing opportunities to expand their skills and knowledge with farm-based tasks while giving them notable work history and experience.
I became a farm apprentice by simply volunteering on-site, and over time I was entrusted with more roles and responsibilities until I was able to earn a wage with the organization. I enjoy making stews from the vegetables grown in our garden, and certain vegetables like okra, cherry tomatoes, and red peppers are very delicious freshly harvested from the field.
Learn more about the history of Roots & Wings and the partnerships that make our urban farm possible here. If you would like to get involved with Roots & Wings or schedule a visit, please contact Tedd Snowden, the Roots & Wings Program Director at email@example.com.
Miky Eum is the farmer and owner of Humbleweed Farm in Champaign, Illinois. She recently completed Farm Dreams Intensive, the first part of our three-part training program Stateline Farm Beginnings®. Helping farmers like Miky turn their farm dreams into reality is our goal, and we hope Miky's farm dream story inspires you as much as it does us.
During my first growing season as Humbleweed Farm, I had lots of ideas that I wanted to bring to life but didn’t have the tools or resources to achieve them. I also realized that I needed to improve my business skills. At first, I tried learning everything on my own. Having to frantically squeeze in all of the on and off-farm tasks on my own as a single-member LLC was overwhelming, and I needed help.
I learned about the Stateline Farm Beginnings® program from staff at The Land Connection in Champaign, Illinois. I signed up for the course because I knew I needed to take a step back from the nitty-gritty of my farm business and look at the bigger picture of the quality of life that I wanted for myself. I was burning myself out with my two off-farm jobs while starting my small farm business and I hadn’t realized it. I knew I wanted to be able to articulate my farm dream better and felt that having a support system that kept me accountable to do this deep soul searching would be beneficial. I cannot recommend the Stateline Farm Beginnings® course enough to new and aspiring farmers. The course is thoughtfully curated and structured, with lots of opportunities to practice sharing your farm story and your farm dream. The Farmer Training staff are personable and they really root for you to be successful. It is not an exaggeration when I say that I didn’t want to miss a single class because each class was valuable and fun. The aspiring farmers in my cohort were vastly supportive of each other and each one of them has made a positive impact in my farming journey. I know that I will be in touch with all of them even after we have completed the program at the end of this year.
My goal for my second growing season is to provide Korean chili powder to my customers. I have spoken to fellow farmers and have made some progress to find potential certified kitchens to launch this value-added product by the end of the year. Korean chili powder is used in most Korean dishes so I am very motivated to continue to produce delicious and clean Korean chili. Two more goals for this growing season are to launch a short trial summer CSA and to become an authorized SNAP retailer to be able to accept SNAP EBT payments from customers. I started going to the farmer’s markets in Champaign-Urbana because of this program and I believe it is very important to reach customers that are unfamiliar with the seasonal, local food movement. I am very much looking forward to the learning connections coming up in Stateline Farm Beginnings® as well. I am eager to expand my knowledge in effective record keeping, composting, and crop planning on a working farm. But most of all, I look forward to continuing to meet farmers that will inspire me to keep moving forward.
Almost everything about the Rockford Art Deli business has environmental intention behind it- from the supplies used in the shop to trying to only buy from vendors and suppliers that show how and where products are made. Jarrod is also a founder of Allmade Apparel, an ethically sourced and environmentally friendly shirt company, and about 80% of Rockford Art Deli shirts are Allmade. Jarrod is always on the hunt for products to sell in the shop that are made from recycled materials.
The Rockford Art Deli has been printing shirts for our summer camps for years. Jarrod first visited Angelic Organics Learning Center in the summer of 2021 where he fell in love with our mission and our spaces. Jarrod took the opportunity to sponsor our Farm Dinner, which sealed the deal for him. He says, “What a magical place that more people should know about and experience.”
We are so grateful for eco-minded business leaders like Jarrod who are investing in our community. To learn more about Jarrod’s story of starting the Rockford Art Deli, visit their website.
In 2008, we began planning and making trails on the 70 acres of woodlands that are nestled between our Lodge and Angelic Organics Farm. Our staff and volunteers have been working for years to remove invasive plants in order to liberate the native oak trees and restore balance in our woodlands. Although removing honeysuckle by hand is physically and personally rewarding, this is perhaps the slowest method of ecosystem restoration.
Thanks to a generous donation, we were able to hire Bluestem Ecological Services to use their tools on our land. They drove a brush mower over the flattest areas and took down large invasive trees that block sunlight and steal nutrients from native plants. Although the land looks a bit barren now, the woods will be lush and green again in just a few weeks.
Our plan for the future of the woodland includes continuing our regular volunteer restoration work days, reintroducing fire as a natural maintenance tool, using our livestock to graze invasive resprouters, and planting more native species in the areas that have been opened up.
If you’re looking for a sign that it’s time to turn your farm dream into reality, this is it!
Stateline Farm Beginnings® is farmer led, community based, and rooted in sustainable agriculture. Cultivating a diverse network of aspiring and beginning farmers, the program gives participants a leg up in achieving viable farm dreams and fosters the growth of the regional farm leaders of the future.
Stateline Farm Beginnings® is a yearlong course, with 100+ hours of interactive class time and three courses: Farm Dreams Intensive
Cohort 1: January to March | Cohort 2: May to July
Skill Building Practicum
Cohort 1: March to October | Cohort 2: July to October
Farm Business Intensive
Cohorts 1 & 2: October to December
To learn more or apply for Cohort 2, visit our Stateline Farm Beginnings® page.
We are excited about the upcoming season. We have scoured through the many seed catalogs, marveled at the beautiful vegetables inside, narrowed our selections down and now we wait with anticipation for them to arrive. While waiting, we recently received a generous gift that makes us very excited for the growing season.
Tomato Bob is a family-run seed farm located in Hilliard, Ohio that has been growing for over 20 years. They offer high quality, unique heirloom seeds to local areas and they ship to various farm communities across the midwest. Tomato Bob and his family believe in helping farm communities as well. For the 2022 farming season, the family has donated various vegetable seeds to our Urban Farm, Roots & Wings. Thank you to Tomato Bob and his family for their contribution to our youth development through urban agriculture!
The seeds donated to Roots & Wings include eggplant, radish, swiss chard, tomato, cabbage, arugula, lettuce, beet, honeydew melon, squash, carrot, and broccoli. To learn more or order your own seeds from Tomato Bob, visit their website.
Thank you to all who have purchased or donated a CSA share from Roots & Wings. We still have a few summer and fall shares available- details here.
Tedd, Program Director of Roots & Wings and Yatte, Urban Farm Manager at Roots & Wings
The Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education and Service (MOSES) is a nonprofit organization that provides education, resources and expertise to organic and sustainable farmers. A cornerstone of their work is the annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference, the country’s largest conference on organic and sustainable farming, which takes place in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Our native Floridian Farmer Training Program Coordinator, now frost-hardy upper Midwest transplant, Ritchie reported that he had “an immensely enjoyable time.” Not only was this the most time he has spent within leek-swinging distance with his organizational family since moving north, this was also the first time since the pandemic began that he had been in close company with so many immeasurably diverse food system people who have aligned and overlapping purposes, perspectives, and experiences. He thoroughly enjoyed learning about the use of topographically-tailored, wooded riparian buffers in surface water management. He was deeply grateful for the candor and solidarity within BIPOC sessions. And he was intrigued by both old and young farmer approaches towards, and their visions of, post-capitalist economies and organizations centered around informal currencies.
“Thanks again to the joyful people with whom we made and shared meals, those we’ve journeyed far with in confined spaces, the late-night visitors, friends we’ve bickered loudly amongst regarding horoscope accuracies, jousted sarcastically against over friendship rankings, cooperatively faced eviction with in light of food pairings, and confronted on all planes of over-amiability including the howling embarrassment of drooling mid-speech. Let’s all do better next year." - Ritchie
How did you get started?
I grew up surrounded by nature and animals in Michigan. My parents had a small hobby farm where my mom raised sheep and we had a mischievous goat named Sundance that I loved. A graduate school program brought me to Chicago for an internship and after graduation I took a job in the city. I always felt like something was not quite right and I missed open spaces, nature and animals. Eventually, I was able to change jobs and work in the suburbs. I was drawn to a Conservation Community in Grayslake called Prairie Crossing where at the heart of the neighborhood was a working organic farm. I met many local small farmers from living there and became passionate about local food in the Chicagoland area. Soon after moving there, I applied to a farm business development program that was offered at the farm. Most of the other beginning farmers there were growing vegetables, but I was super drawn to goats and all of the different products you could make from their milk and fiber. I never thought that I would be accepted into the program because I did not have degrees or a real background in agriculture. I was so excited when I was accepted. I purchased three goats as soon as I was accepted and the herd slowly grew from there! My husband and father-in-law built me a small barn on wheels where I could move the goats from pasture to pasture with portable electrical net fencing. I spent four years in the program before moving to Pecatonica and purchasing my own land and farm to build a dairy to make cheese.
What are your proudest achievements?
Our soap was featured on Oprah’s website in 2011 as one of her perfect presents. In addition, our soap was carried nationwide in Crate & Barrel stores for a one year contract. The biggest achievement was purchasing our own farm and figuring out how to build a certified dairy and a creamery!
Do you have advice for someone who wants to start farming?
My advice would be to keep your day job as long as you can. There is a tremendous amount of money that you will need to start a farming enterprise with unexpected costs when buying farm land or building infrastructure. Make friends in your community if moving to a rural place. You need your neighbors in the country! Find a good livestock veterinarian. They are worth their weight in gold and hard to find. You always end up needing one during kidding season in the middle of the night.