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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...

The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation recently featured a blog story about the Learning Center's farmer training program, and program graduate Bob Vierow, of Bob's Fresh & Local.

Mr. Vierow is one of more than 100 farmers who have graduated from our Stateline Farm Beginnings ® farmer training course since it began in 2005. Beginning farmers learn from established farmers throughout the region, and 76 percent of graduates report they are currently farming.

We are grateful for the ongoing support and partnership of the Donnelley Foundation. The Foundation has provided essential funding for our farmer...

The farm was covered in ice and fog on the morning of Feb. 3. IT manager Tara Lamb took these lovely shots during a walk around our beautiful farm.

After taking the Learning Center’s “Basic Backyard Chicken Care” workshop in the fall of 2009, entrepreneur John Emrich had a light bulb moment.

 

“When I logged on to the Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts discussions page, I noticed that 9 out of 10 posts were about how to get organic chicken feed for backyard chickens. There wasn’t a local source for organic chicken feed.”

 

Emrich launched his organic chicken feed delivery business, Backyard Chicken Run, soon after and made his first delivery in January 2010. He now serves more than 100 customers throughout Chicago and the suburbs, delivering organic chicken...

The on-farm Learning Center in winter

By Katie Townsend, AOLC Urban Farm Educator

 

My Dear Students,

 

It is New Year’s Eve. Before I revel the night away my habit is to revisit the year. Sometimes I retrace my footsteps. I like to stand one last time in the places I have labored and dreamed. So I find myself at the sleeping garden we have tended together. Tiny snowflakes melt into blackened soil. We have done our part and nature is about to do her rejuvenating work. Snow, compost and hope all go together. You will see come April.

 

Dan Janssen, a University Extension...

Our four year-old cow Maisie gave birth on Thursday, June 30th to a bull calf. Mom and baby are both doing well. We are taking suggestions for names now through July 31st. Submissions may be dropped off at the Learning Center, or emailed here. Farm John will select the winner. The winner gets a pie!

Angelic Organics Learning Center: Urban Initiative (Roots & Wings) 3rd annual Be Healthy Walk is this Saturday (May 28th). All are welcomed to join together with us to do something healthy and fun and at the same time help the Roots & Wings Youth Leaders celebrate the beginning of their Spring academic period.

One of the joys of working at the Learning Center is experiencing the farm for the first time through the eyes of a child.  That connection with the farm is often delightful, and surprising, coming in forms so different from the connections adults make with the farm.

This week, the Waldorf 3rd graders were helping me care for the chickens during animal chores.  We opened the door to the eggmobile, and the three girls hopped right up.

The chickens, as they settled in towards night, had begun to roost.  For those uninitiated to farm life, chickens sleep on...

Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and the Learning Center's Martha Boyd help Little Village community residents work in an urban garden

Edible Chicago recently featured the Learning Center's partner, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) in the article "Plants Sprout, Justice Served in Chicago's Little Village,"  by Terra Brockman. Located in South Lawndale (Little Village), LVEJO has developed three garden sites with assistance from the Learning Center. Providing technical assistance, project and budget planning, and funding for equipment and other garden supplies, the Learning Center has worked with LVEJO to help community residents grow, get, and eat good and healthy fresh food. Learning Center staff have been able to offer workshops to project leaders and...

Dear Friends,

I'm glad to let you know that we have yet 2 more new arrivals today on the farm!!!

At 10:45AM, I (Deb) found that Aphrodite had given birth to Zoe, an all white doeling with short ears.  I ran to tell the rest of the staff, who  joined me in welcoming Aphrodite's 2nd baby girl, Zinnia!  Zinnia is smaller than Zoe, and has a very light tan coat much like Lily.   She also has short ears (and wattles).

The birthing process was very smooth for all involved.  Aphrodite and...

Baby Lily

By Nellie Conover-Crockett, Age 11, Livestock crew

I was at home with my mom when we were called by Suzanne at about 2:30 in the afternoon.  She told us that one of the goats, Thalia, had some mucus and looked like she would have her baby soon.  We hurried out to the farm to find Thalia pacing and panting.  We decided to stay with her for a while. 

It seemed like it was taking a LONG time. 

Myles and Myles

Learning Center day-camper Myles (pictured above) turned 8 this week, and received an unusual birthday present: a newborn goat as a namesake! 

 

Spring is kidding season at the Learning Center, and on March 23, our first three baby goats were born during our popular Kids with Kids daycamp! The camp group present on the day of a goat birth gets the priviledge of naming the new kids.

 
Program Director Deb Crockett reports that everyone was a bit disappointed after the first day of camp, as none of the goats had given birth yet. "But this morning, when...

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It’s emerging! A youth-led urban agriculture hub in Southwest Rockford, IL. A hoop house, built by over 30 Rockford youth, is up and is being prepped for its first season of production.

The 2011 plans for cultivation and growth of over 6 urban agriculture sites are being developed by 3 contributing organizations. These plans even include youth owned micro-enterprises; Rockford truly has amazing youth with great ideas!

AOLC volunteer beekeepers

Photo of AOLC beekeepers courtesy of John Lodder.

Heidi is one of five dedicated volunteers who make up the Learning Center’s beekeeping team, and tend our beehives weekly at our urban farmstead in Woodlawn at 6400 S. Kimbark. You can learn more about our bees and how to start your own hive at our upcoming Beekeeping workshop on March 26. Heidi was interviewed by AOLC Grants Coordinator Laura Wetter.

 

Q. When and how did you first become interested in beekeeping?

Heidi: My curiosity was piqued (like many others) when Colony Collapse Disorder made the news....

Farm Beginnings Class of 2011

By: AOLC Grants Coordinator Laura Wetter

Each winter, the Learning Center offers Stateline Farm Beginnings, a year-long training program that helps beginning and transitioning farmers develop a vision and whole farm plan for their emerging farm business under the guidance of leading sustainable agriculture growers.

On Saturday, February 19, Stateline Farm Beginnings held the final session of the nine-seminar business planning course portion of the program. Since October, Stateline Farm Beginnings students have spent Saturday mornings and afternoons learning from experienced farmers and the Learning Center staff about the practical aspects of farming, and refining their visions...

AOLC Chicago Urban Initiative Program Director Martha Boyd weighs in on proposed Chicago zoning changes that would affect urban agriculture in a recent Chicago Tribune article, The city that grows: Officials, local farmers divided on new urban agricultre rules.

 

You can read also the proposed ordinance on the city's website. Stay tuned to our blog for further updates on the outcome of this debate.

 

 

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Where were you on November 19th, 2010? If you were not at the 2nd Annual Harvest celebration hosted by the Roots & Wings Youth Leaders, you missed a dinner that included turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, fresh salad, squash, lemon pie, sweet potato pie, and cheese cake.

Many of the food items were prepared by the Youth Leaders themselves and some of the food came out of some of our Rockford gardens. Most people enjoyed seconds and thirds.

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For a moment you could have gotten Easter and Thanksgiving confused this past weekend at the Learning Center. “I found an egg!” a third-grade Girl Scout exclaimed excitedly. Together I was with a group of 12 girls and a handful of parents as they were meeting and learning about chickens and their role on farms and in our food processes. Their excitement heightened when they found out that they could hold or pet the chickens, something many explained to me that they had never had the opportunity to do before.

 

Girls from second to seventh grade gathered around tables...

The Southwest Rockford Community Gardens, a Urban Initiative: Roots & Wings (Rockford) sponsored project, celebrated it's first Harvest celebration on October 29, 2010. The Rockford Register Star newspaper and WREX/Channel 13 news were both on hand to witness the youth reflect honestly and thoughtfully on their urban initiative experience.

Youth Leaders working on invites

 

The Youth Leaders of Roots & Wings would like to remind all that will be attending our annual Harvest Celebration on this Friday, November 19, 2010 from 5:30-8pm.

The Youth Leaders look forward to hosting you all and have planned many fun and informative events. We would also like to remind all to bring a dish for our potluck! The Youth Leaders themselves are preparing pies, cheesy potatoes, and other goodies.

The celebration will be held at Court Street United Methodist Church, 215 North Court Street in Rockford.         

Please see the attached ...

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