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!
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 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!
In partnership with Zion Lutheran Church we officially opened the Buddy House. Residents from the Blackhawk community were invited to join us for a fun-filled afternoon, which included relay races, scavenger hunt at the farm for the kids, and bingo for the adults. The food was prepared by several volunteers from the Blackhawk community and the menu included hamburgers, brats, chicken and BBQ ribs. Side dishes included potato salad, baked beans, green beans and macaroni and cheese (Yum..Yum). Finally for dessert there was homemade strawberry ice cream, along with an ice cream making demonstration. The strawberries came from the Roots & Wings Farm & Garden.
The Park Players, a youth group from Zion Lutheran Church served the food to over 125 Blackhawk residents. It was good to see these young men and women supporting our efforts and volunteering their time to serve in this way. In addition their were a few vendors on site selling their wares, and I noticed several items being purchased from them.
Fun was had by all, and we are already planning our next event. It was so nice to see the community coming together enjoying one another's company, and deepening their friendships. I want to thank Janice, Peggy, Yatte, Angela, Wayne, Leon, Park Players and the residents that supported this event.
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.