Over the last few months, I have offered educational programming to the Patriots Gateway Community Center (PGCC) after-school program participants. The students ranged in age from 8-12 years old. PGCC was started in 1995 by the community members of Zion Lutheran Church. During our first meeting, we had over 20 participants eager to learn all they could about Butternut Squash. During our time together, we covered the health and nutritional benefits and discussed the difference between summer squash and winter squash. Finally, they had a chance to sample butternut squash in a dish.
In advance, I prepared the following for the participants to taste: Roasted Butternut squash, roasted butternut squash seeds, and butternut squash cupcakes. Everyone was willing to taste something, and many were willing to try it all. I found this encouraging because some had never eaten butternut squash before.
I asked them to rate what they liked the most with a show of hands. With no surprise, they placed them in the following order: Butternut squash cupcakes, roasted butternut squash seeds, and then the roasted squash brought up the rear.
The following were some of the comments shared:
“It’s good to try different things.”
“The roasted seeds are good, and they taste like sunflower seeds.”
“Can I take some squash home to my grandmother”
This has been a fun group to work with, and I look forward to our next meeting, where we will discuss the life cycle of plants, and each participant will be able to transplant and take home an herb plant to grow on the window seal. Before I departed, they thanked me and shared the following pledge:
“I am a patriot. I am responsible for what I say and do. I choose to be respectful, honest, and caring. I work hard to achieve my goals. I am a patriot.
The Learning Center Team is both saddened and proud to announce that our Resource Development Director, Leah Lawson, has accepted a new role with the Organic Farming Research Foundation.
Leah made a huge impact during her time with us, setting the Learning Center's Resource Development on a strong path the past 3 years while also strengthening our internal processes for gathering data in order to more effectively communicate our impact with our stakeholders.
Within her announcement to our team, Leah expressed she doesn't feel ready to leave the Learning Center and plans to stay connected to our organization and mission as much as possible. There are many possibilities our paths will continue to cross within her new role, as well.
We will deeply miss Leah's presence on our staff and wish her tremendous success in her future endeavors!
A note from yatte moore, urban farm manager
Hi, my name is Yatte Moore and I’m the Urban Farm Manager, and I have been farming for the last 9 years at Roots & Wing Farm & Garden. Roots & Wings is a half-acre urban farm located in Blackhawk Courts; a Rockford Housing Authority property. All the vegetables are grown organically, and we grow over 45 different fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs.
Roots & Wings provides access to fresh fruits and vegetables to the residents of the Blackhawk Courts community. Through our community garden, we specifically grow an assortment of vegetables that residents want, and all the vegetables are available for free.
Also, we offer a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. This program is primarily supported by the broader community but through the generosity from supporters we are able to provide free CSA shares to the residents in Blackhawk Courts. Our CSA is competitively priced and we offer both summer and fall CSA shares for sale. We know you have many choices where to get your vegetables and we ask that you consider our CSA as your source. To sign up for a CSA please visit our website!
It is important to me that I provide the community and CSA members with the best quality, locally-grown vegetables. I personally select all the seeds, decide where and how much to plant and keep detailed records to assist me with my planning. Food safety is our #1 priority! All of our vegetables are cleaned thoroughly. The tools, harvesting buckets, packing containers, and surfaces are sanitized continuously for safety.
The staff and I welcome all visitors to the farm. We offer farm tours, educational programming, volunteering opportunities, and community service work for residents in Blackhawk Courts.
Thank you, Yatte Moore
new year, new crew!
We'll miss you, Goli!
We are sad to announce that Goli Ziolek has resigned from Angelic Organics Learning Center and the Farmer Training team. Goli facilitated our Stateline Farm Beginnings® course and helped drive the CRAFT network. Through her work, she created wonderful connections and relationships with our experienced and beginning farmers.
Goli is dedicated to helping aspiring and beginning farmers learn how to make their farming dreams a reality. We will miss her wonderful facilitation skills, her deep appreciation for farmers and her work with many veteran organizations. We wish her well in her future endeavors!
2023 Roots & Wings CSA Now Open
The Roots & Wings Farm & Garden is a 1/2 acre organically grown urban farm located in Blackhawk Courts a Rockford Housing Authority property.
We offer a full (weekly) and half (biweekly) CSA share for the summer, a biweekly fall share, and a honey share as well. Supporting our CSA program provides employment opportunities for Blackhawk Courts residents and allows us to purchase needed equipment and supplies in advance. By participating in our CSA program you will not only receive an abundance of fresh, locally grown vegetables, but will also contribute to our educational programs in the Blackhawk community.
At the farm we grow over 40 different varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs - all of which are grown using organic practices. All vegetables are picked and packed carefully, and stored on site in our walk in cooler. We maintain the highest standards to insure your vegetables are kept fresh and are of the highest quality.
We know that you have many options for purchasing your vegetables, but we invite you to join us in our 10th year of providing vegetables to the residents of Rockford and the surrounding communities.
We have a limited number of summer (full, half) and fall CSA shares available, Also, you can support our program by gifting a CSA share to community members. So sign up today!
At the end of October, we had our annual Harvest Celebration at Blackhawk Courts Farm & garden. Every year, as we wrap up on the farm, we like to end the season by inviting folks from the community to come over to the farm to share a meal with us. Yatte makes sure he plans and grows enough vegetables specifically for this event.
This year we offered pull pork sliders, coleslaw, chili, salad, and sweet potato pie. All the vegetables used in the meal came from the farm. We had plenty of food and many residents took home multiple plates or came back for seconds. By the end of the day there was very little left.
The weather was perfect, and we had over 40 people from the community join us for this event. It is always nice to meet new residents and serve them in this manner. It’s another opportunity to connect with them, and fellowship over a meal
We are planning our Thanksgiving event in partnership with Zion Lutheran Church. During this event fresh greens from the farm will be provided to accompany the turkey and other items that will be given away to residents of Blackhawk Courts.
Finally, we are also planning a sit-down holiday meal with the Blackhawk residents in December. This will be the first time we are doing this post pandemic in over two years. We are excited and are looking forward to both events.
The Learning Center added two new members to the staff roster this month! Mia Spaid is our new On Farm Program manager and long-time friend of the Learning Center Andy Skupien will be stepping into the kitchen as our new chef for programs on the farm!
They both are busy learning the ropes and on-boarding with Jackie and their program directors, but they each were able to write up a lovely little bio to introduce themselves to our audience.
Mia Spaid, On Farm program Manager
I’m excited to join the AOLC team as your new On Farm Program Manager. I got started in my nature-based career with an MS in Environmental Science focusing on invertebrate ecology in the Great Lakes Region. Somehow that turned into a fascination with urban agriculture, and from then on I sought to use the food we eat as a way to bridge the mental gap between humans and the rest of nature. I believe that we can do great things by seeing ourselves as part of an ecological community rather than just a human one.
When I’m not trying to change the world one bite at a time I’m at home obsessing over my sheep and taking a million photos of every cute thing they do. I raise shetland and babydoll sheep alongside my partner’s dairy goats and a variety of free-range poultry.
Andy Skupien, chef for on farm programs
Hello Friends! I am very excited to join the AOLC team. I have always had a passion for food and nature so this just felt like a great fit. I spent over twenty years in the restaurant industry and have been blessed to work for some of the best chefs in our area.
In the summer of 2020 I opened Man Bundt Bakery. I specialize in plant-based baked goods with a heavy focus on locally sourced ingredients. It brings me great joy showing the kids who attend our camps how tasty farm to table can be! It is also wonderful introducing them to vegetables they may not have ever seen before. In my free time you can find me hanging with my family, hiking, or in my garden. I look forward to getting to know you all. There are no strangers, only friends we haven't made yet.
...and another goodbye!
In a surprise plot twist, our wonderful On Farm Program Director, Julie Tackett, was offered an opportunity she couldn't turn down, which meant resigning as Program Director with the Learning Center. It was a difficult decision! Everyone on the team is sad to see her go, but we all wish her great success in her new endeavor.
Julie had this to say about her tenure with the Learning Center:
I had a fabulous time working with all the people at the Learning Center. It was a great experience and I will always have fond memories of my time at Angelic Organics Learning Center. I will continue to support and appreciate the job that the hard working staff put into the day to day operations in order to help teach a new generation. Children and adults alike are lucky to have such a wonderful place to learn, grow and connect. Thank you for letting me be part of such a great organization. Best wishes to you all! -Julie
We already miss you, Julie!
A Fond Farewell
Autumn at the Learning Center is always full of changes. The beautiful oak leaves turn from green to stunning reds and yellows, the fall flowers bloom, and the gardens are put to bed for the year.
Along with the natural changes come changes to our amazing On-Farm Staff. We are saying goodbye to Laura Sjoquist, our long-time On Farm Program Manager. Laura has worked incredibly hard the past few years ensuring children and adults alike have received quality education. She has always been focused on fun activities for all camp participants and has delivered exceptional programming to hundreds of participants. Not only has Laura cared about two-legged animals, she has played a major caregiver to all of our precious animals on the farm. We want to wish Laura the very best in her upcoming endeavors. We will miss your smiling face around the farm.
With change comes new promise and we are fortunate enough to welcome three new On-Farm Staff members, Mia Spade, our new On Farm Education Manager, Andrew Skupien, Kitchen Manager and Tiffany Howell, Farm Assistant. All three of these wonderful people bring exceptional education, skill and talent to the Learning Center.
At the beginning of the summer myself, Yatte and Ken had an opportunity to spend some time at Beyer Early Childhood Preschool. Previously I had met with Principal Blackwell to discuss how we could use Blackhawk Courts Farm as a living classroom for both her students and teachers. The reality of having the entire student body visit the farm soon became unrealistic.
Instead we brought the farm to them! We spent 5 days, 8 hours each day, over a two week span teaching the children about the life cycle of a plant. We set up in the hallway of the school and rotated every 45 minutes allowing each classroom an opportunity to visit with us. Each child had an opportunity to transplant a herb plant (Basil or Cilantro) into a container and take it home with them. Finally, they all received a Roots & Wings sticker to wear as members of our team. The kids were so engaged, excited, and willing to sample a herb they may not have ever tasted. Throughout the day the kids would pass us in the hallway, proudly wearing their stickers, and enthusiastically waving to us and saying “Hi Farmer Tedd, hi Farmer Ken!”
We had a wonderful time and since many of the kids live in Blackhawk Courts, we were able to build new relationships. In the end we made over 500 new friends, and planted over 600 seedlings in preparation for the kids to take home.
While I was there I witnessed the love, respect, and attentiveness the teachers showed to all the kids. I walked away feeling in awe of the important role teachers play in our lives. Thank you Principal Blackwell and the staff for all you do!
- Tedd Snowden
Our wonderful On Farm Educators!
Our fabulous On Farm Educators have been busy at the Learning Center over the past couple of weeks. Randy, Jessie, Allyson, and Laura have all been busy delivering dynamic curriculums to hundreds of area high school students.
Some of the amazing things taught were: the natural history of our area, the value of crop rotation, organic farming, soil, and biodiversity, just to name a few.
In addition, the students were able to participate in hands-on projects, such as taking and analyzing soil samples in order to better understand the components of a healthy food system. They even harvested some herbs, fruit, and vegetables for their farm-fresh salad! Let's give a big thank you to our hard working On Farm Educators, they really are making a difference!