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In our closing circle, the twenty-five third graders shared highlights from the three days they spent at the farm.  I was impressed and a bit awed by the diversity of answers from our intrepid group of young campers.

 

“Milking goats.”
“Walking in the creek”
“Carting hay to the compost”
“Whacking weeds”
“Helping stir and spray the Biodynamic compost”
“Planting in the garden”
“Being able to look up the hill and see the tree and the skyline and the clouds.”
“Going up in the hayloft”
“Hearing the roosters in the morning.”
...

A Collection of Seasonal Recipes

Angelic Organics Learning Center is proud to introduce a new cook book, 24 Boxes :: 1 Book, written, designed, and published by our friend Jen Mayer.  Jen became a shareholder of our partner farm, Angelic Organics, in 2006, and has been blogging about her weekly vegetables since 2007. In her blog, 24 boxes, she shares seasonal recipes created with ingredients from Angelic Organics and Grass is Greener Gardens. 24 Boxes :: 1 Book distills this collection, adding helpful extras, including a seasonal...

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The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University released a multi-state economic impact study on increases in fruit and vegetableimage production in a six-state area (including Illinois and Wisconsin) that was released this past week. Fresh Taste and the Illinois Local Food, Farms and Jobs Council, partners to the project, released the report in Illinois with a press conference on April 28th. As a co-chair of the Council that released the report in Illinois, I see...

Heirloom tomatoes

A recent Chicago Tribune article featured two of the Learning Center’s CRAFT network members farms, who are finding innovative ways to get their produce into the hands of busy commuters. Scotch Hill Farm and Harvest Moon Farms are two of more than 70 Upper Midwest CRAFT member farms. The owners of Harvest Moon are also graduates of the Learning Center’s Stateline Farm Beginnings program. We are proud of our farmers!

 


Download the article in PDF format. ...

Chickens can be raised in your backyard

We have experienced an overwhelming level of interest in our Backyard Chickens workshops this Spring. Our recent workshop in March sold out with 35 attendees--and a waiting list. When we presented at this year's Family Farmed Expo in Chicago, an estimated 150 were in attendance with standing room only. Everyone wants chickens!

 

In addition to hosting Backyard Chickens workshops, AOLC Chicago Program Director Martha Boyd also manages a Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts google group. The group brings together a flock of folks in and around Chicago to share stories and promote best practices in raising chickens. Many...

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A group of (people) kids joined us this week to welcome our newest (goat) kids to the farm. Overnight on March 23, goat goddess Thalia gave birth to two beautiful, healthy doelings. When we found them in the morning, the kids were up: walking, nursing, and ready to explore!

 

Meanwhile, we have a dozen children here for our first week of Kids with Kids Day Camp. The (people) kids are all assigned to their own goat mamas, and have the responsibility this week of checking the moms for signs of labor. Our junior farmers give frequent reports, “I...

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Last week, our aging draft horse Babe came down with colic.   As I waited with her for the vet to come, I heard something I’d never heard before in all my years at the farm.  From the distance, 4 or 5 times, I heard a faint whinny from another horse.  This surprised me, as the nearest horses are probably three quarters of a mile away as the crow flies.

 

In retrospect, I believe that the other horse knew that Babe was in distress, and was calling out to her.

 

Over time, I’ve thought a lot about...

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Winter is a nerve-wracking time for beekeepers. We do what we can throughout the summer and fall to make sure the bees store up enough food and are in good health as the weather cools. But once the temperature drops below 50 degrees, we need to keep the hive closed and there’s not much meddling we can do.

Food Policy Councils: Lessons Learned

 

Published by Food First and Community Food Security Coalition, December 2009 

 

By Alethea Harper, Annie Shattuck, Erik Holt-Giménez, Alison Alkon and Frances Lambrick. December 2009, 66 pages.

 

Based on an in-depth survey of 48 Food Policy Councils, the authors found
that despite dozens of successful case studies, Food Policy Councils
tend to encounter similar challenges, challenges that can sometimes
stymie progress, and must be countered with careful planning and
evaluation. This report contains tips and case studies for successful
...

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Last fall, I was sent a link to an article describing European farmers who have set up vending machines for fresh foods straight from their farms.

 

It seemed like a good idea, perhaps, for our on-farm education programs.  I was ruminating on this as I headed out to feed the animals.  Then it struck me—a vending machine has a lot in common with a chicken nesting box—the same boxy dimensions, made of many chicken size compartments and filled with delicious treats.

 

My mind started spinning:  Why not just skip the egg carton altogether,...

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A family recently returned to the farm for the first time since 2004, the year when Sylvia, the three-legged goat, was born.   Their young daughter was so enchanted by Sylvia’s sweet disposition that she insisted that people address her as Sylvia, and, eventually, her parents made Sylvia her middle name.   This child growing up in Chicago had a goat as an important childhood friend!

 
Thousands of people visit the farm and Learning Center every year; I believe that the most powerful aspect of their visits is not the skills or information that they return home with, but...

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Five fantastic interns and volunteers joined me for our last urban farmstead volunteer day of the year, just before the snow and below-zero wind-chill hit Chicago. After mulching First Presbyterian Church’s landscape with donated woodchips and feeding our composting worms, all six of us piled into our low tunnel, the 7’x 24’ passive solar mini greenhouse we built in our demonstration garden in October. Crouched under the 4 foot ceiling, we thinned, harvested and pulled slugs from beets, carrots, chard, radishes and turnips planted this summer and fall. Our extended season crops in the...

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The University of Illinois Extension-Winnebago County and the Winnebago County Local Foods Working Group present a film screening:

 

Fresh: New thinking about what we're eating. A flim by ana Sofia joanes.

 

"We all know about the problems with the American food system, but what about the solutions? FRESH is a bracing, even exhilarating look at the whole range of efforts underway to renovate the way we grow food and feed ourselves." - Michael Pollan, author of "Botany of Desire," "In Defense of Food- an Eater's Manifesto" and "The Omnivore's Dillemma."

 

The...

From a Chicago Couple, a Wisconsin organic farm that understands its urban customer.

Today Bob and Jennifer, both 45, own Harvest Moon, a 20-acre certified organic farm in southwest Wisconsin. They're in some ways a typical family-run organic outfit, selling whole and half CSA shares—including winter shares beginning this year. But they've also been innovative, teaming up with Uncommon Ground on Devon to offer "Farmer Fridays," a weekly farmers' market that runs from 4 to 8 PM. It's as much for the farmers as the patrons who'd prefer to shop after work: "We can't be getting up at...

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Roald Gunderson with his company, Whole Trees Architecture and Construction,
constructed Angelic Organic Learning Center's passive solar offices and
training center in Caledonia, Illinois. The New York Times recently
featured Gunderson and his work to revolutionize the building industry.
Read the New York Times article.

2009 Farm Beginnings Students

Along with the expanding awareness of the benefits of local and organic produce, interest in sustainable, organic farming is growing in our region.  This fall, the Learning Center’s Stateline Farm Beginnings program experienced a rapid spike in demand, when 29 farm families applied for the 15 available slots.

 

Farm Beginnings is a business training course that helps new and emerging farmers develop a strategic farm business plan.

 

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 Teachers often ask us about incubating eggs at school to teach students about biology, chickens, farming, and food. We asked Chicago chicken keepers if they would like to get their hens from classroom hatching projects. Reflections: 

  1. BIOLOGICAL REALITY IS: about half of the eggs will hatch out male chicks – and there’s no way to know which before they hatch (except a new method that measures estrogen levels inside the shell.) Right after hatching, sex-linked varieties can be distinguished (boys from girls) by color of certain feathers, for instance. Otherwise,
  2. ...
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The bees from both of the Learning Center's Chicago hives are bringing back nectar and pollen in many shades -- yellow, orange, and blue! The blue pollen is from scilla flowers, which are currently carpeting Jackson Park. There are even a few blooming in the courtyard here at First Presbyterian Church.

 

We will doing our first full spring inspection of Georgia (our langstroth hive that overwintered) on Wednesday, April 22, starting around 12:30pm, provided we get sunny weather above 55 degrees. We may also peek into Flora (the new top...

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