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On a beautiful September Sunday, people gathered from near and far for a hands-on (and feet) learning experience building an earthen oven.

 

The events started with introductions and presentation by Randy Mermel and Judy Speer on the hows and whys of building with cob, which stimulated many great questions and conversations. We tried to keep the presentation to a minimum so we could get outside and get busy with the cob. Before the potluck lunch, we built the brick oven entrance, laid the fire bricks for the oven floor and prepared the sand form that would act to hold...

 Image: 2010 Stateline Farm Beginnings graduates

 

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Randy Mermel and Michael Suess utilizing whole tree architecture for the cob oven shelter.

The cob oven workshop is quickly approaching! The work crew has been busy preparing the area for the cob workshop.  It is essential to have a good roof and a strong foundation when building with cob so it lasts.  The foundation was completed over the summer using reclaimed urbanite. Last week, Michael Suess and Randy Mermel harvested local locust trees and began building the unique structure for the earth oven shelter.  Whole tree architecture is being utilized for its strength and asthetic value, as well as economic and ecological benefits.  There are still spaces available for the upcoming workshop.  This will...

Building a Cob Oven

Many visitors who have come to the farm in the past 2 years have enjoyed fresh baked bread and pizza from our unique oven.  In addition to learning about the process of artisan baking, they have also had the opportunity to learn about this form of sustainable building.  This earth oven is made from cob.  Cob is one of the oldest building materials.

 

It is a mixture of clay, sand, and straw; making it simple to source locally.  There is no need to ship in building materials. A variety of groups have utilized the earth oven,...

By Constance McCarthy

One of the places that makes my heart happiest is Angelic Organics, a biodynamic farm in northern Boone County. But wait. Isn't this series supposed to be about biodiversity? Indeed, it is. As biodiversity refers to the diversity of plant and animal life within a particular area, I don't think that it is constructive to draw lines around certain parcels of land within which we're concerned about biodiversity, while overlooking the overall biodiversity of all the land within an area.

Roots & Wings participants visit the ECO Co-op managed by AOLC volunteer Dietrich McGaffey

Learning Center board member and volunteer Constance McCarthy shares her experience of a recent educational trip to Chicago with Roots & Wings youth.

 

Early on Friday, June 18, the Roots & Wings Youth Leaders headed into Chicago for a two-day whirlwind urban agriculture tour and team-building activities. The EcoAdvocates, the newest member of the Roots & Wings network, joined us on Friday, as well. At the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, we met Martha Boyd, Director of Angelic Organics Learning Center's Chicago Urban Initiative and our tour guide for...

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The picnic bench at the farm was filled with goat milk ice cream, black raspberries and mulberries, and three plates of brownies filled with “mystery” vegetables. Campers in our cooking day camp had baked brownies, each group with a secret ingredient from the farm. A blind taste test revealed that the favorite dessert was made with...beets!

 

One of the campers said, “When I told my mom what our secret ingredient was, we were both kind of grossed out because we don’t like beets, but then, it was my favorite cake of all!”

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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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