Category Archives: Information from Past Shows

September 25, 2016 – What will we do when all the trees are gone?

This week’s edition of The Mike Nowak Show runs the gamut from the sublime-but-more-than-slightly-obsessive desire to grow pumpkins that weigh as much as small cars to what happens when you, as an unsuspecting gardener who is trying to rescue a nearly extinct plant, find that it is taking over your garden to the idea of the City of Chicago creating a “green” space by cutting down century-old cottonwood trees and replacing them with…well, nothing.

It’s the Great Pumpkin Weigh Off, Charlie Brown!

Saturday is not my favorite day of the week, mainly because I have a radio show on Sunday mornings and I’m usually writing these breathless bits of prose while I have college football on the T&V. Well, I ventured out of my humble domain yesterday to attend the Giant Pumpkin Weigh Off at Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm in Lockport, Illinois. And, despite my usual hermit status, I’m glad I did.

That farm, as I discovered from owner Paul Siegel, has been around since 1909. And while they hosted pumpkin weigh offs in the 90s, that event had migrated around the Chicago area. But now it has returned, and Saturday’s festival had a lot of suspense, though it did not produce a record-breaking pumpkin for Illinois.

The winning entry was grown by Joe Adkins of Wheaton whose entry weighed in at 1,861 pounds. Here’s what it looks like, surrounded by the Adkins family:


However, that fell considerably short of the 2145.5 pound entry that Gene McMullen grew in 2015, which was the heaviest pumpkin ever recorded in North America.  But every growing year is different, which people who grow plants learn quickly.

I wasn’t able to get Joe on the show this morning but Peggy Malecki and I will be talking to a couple of the growers–George Janowiak from the Illinois Giant Pumpkin Growers Association, who has been on this program many times, and Greg Sliwka, who grew his 1,468 pound beauty in a community garden! Here it is:


George is a stalwart for the IGPGA. Just say the name “George” and everybody knows who you’re talking about. Greg tells me that he has a passion for science and gardening. Not a huge surprise. We’re pleased to have both of them on the show this morning.

Can an endangered plant take over your yard? Ask Ron Cowgill.

I have been reporting on the Marshall Strawberry for several years. This is a plant that, to make a long story short, was rescued by a woman named Leah Gauthier. who is a food artist and a bit of an activist.  The Marshall Strawberry was on Slow Foods most endangered foods list less than ten years ago.

Now? Well, I do know that Gauthier has managed to propagate and sell many plants, including several to me and my friends, when I was at Progresso Radio. One of those people was Ron Cowgill, who is the host of a radio program about home improvement called Mighty House.

He planted one Marshall Strawberry in the yard of his Glenview, Illinois business in 2013. A couple of months ago, he called me to say that the plants were overrunning his yard and that he needed some advice about what to do with them. Oops.

cowgill-and-marshall-strawberriesA man, his truck, his tools and his strawberries

Well, my advice was to dig some up and pot them so that we could give them away to even more unsuspecting gardeners. Right? So that’s what we’re going to talk about this morning, as Mr. Cowgill comes to the Que4 Radio studio. I guarantee that it will be fun.

Suppose they created a park and nobody showed up…

This is the story of Park No. 503, located at located at 8900 S. Green Bay Avenue, on Chicago’s southeast side.  Here’s what it looked like a few years ago:


Here’s what it looked like when I visited it last month:


Pretty terrific. If you love lawns. And telephone poles. And don’t like trees. Or places to sit. Or anything else that makes a park appealing.

I know two people who have an interest in why the City of Chicago cut down about a hundred trees to create this sterile, desolate place where nobody wants to be. One is a guy named Chris Mest, who is a certified arborist who is part of an organization called Tree Guardians. The other is a woman named Karen Roothaan, who, like me, is a TreeKeeper, and who just happens to live in that neighborhood. They are both in studio this morning.

Chris also wants to bring up a story he saw recently on It claims that we have lost fully half of the trees on our planet that once were growing here and that, if we continue at this rate, in another 300 years, all of our trees will be gone.

Fun! And you know, don’t you, that it has to do with humans. Oh, come on, you knew that!


September 18, 2016 – Farm Strolls; 12 Special Species; A Visit from Dallas Goldtooth

Strolling on the farm (wear your boots!)

Michelle Byrne Walsh is a buddy of mine for a number of reasons. First and foremost, we both have worked for Chicagoland Gardening Magazine. While I have remained in my humble position as columnist, Michelle has moved on in the State By State Gardening empire to become editor of Indiana Gardening, Ohio Gardener, Pennsylvania Gardener, and Missouri Gardener–all at the same time! (She must be rich! But I digress…)

She’s also an Illinois Master Gardener–not in Cook, but in McHenry County, which is why she stops by today to promote the 2016 McHenry County Farm Stroll and Market on Sunday, September 25 from 11am to 5pm. It’s what they call an “educational agriculture-centric” tour, featuring apple orchards, vegetable growers, cows, goats, chickens, turkey, horses, alpacas, a vineyard, sustainable agriculture, hydroponics and more!


There are 12 farms in all and the tour is family-friendly and self-guided. You can visit as many–or as few–farms as you like.

The Farm Stroll and Market is organized by the McHenry County Farm Bureau and the University of Illinois Extension McHenry County Master Gardeners. and it’s absolutely free, though you can purchase food, produce or other farm-related products, which makes sense. Be sure to bring cash.

And, of course, you’re not at the beach, so flip-flops and sandals are not appropriate. Dress appropriately, preferably in layered, all-weather clothing and sturdy shoes. Children of all ages are welcome, but they must be supervised at all times. No pets, please. A few farms will have toilet facilities, but several do not, so plan accordingly!

You can get more information on their Facebook page or call  815-338-1520.

One Home: Chicago Wilderness supports 12 species in 12 weeks

Another old friend (which is a relative term, so cut me some slack, folks) joins Peggy Malecki and me on The Mike Nowak Show this morning.  That person is Suzanne Malec-McKenna, who is executive director of Chicago Wilderness. If you’ve been around Chicago for a few years, you know that she is a former commissioner of the Chicago Department of the Environment.

Oh, wait. That department was dismantled as one of the first decisions of the Emanuel Administration in 2011. Which reveals volumes about Rahm Emanuel’s priorities. But again, I digress..

So let’s talk about the Chicago Wilderness’s One Home: A Campaign to Support Our Species. CW is working with 11 partner organizations to call attention to what they consider to be priority species in our region. There are 12 in all, and people are urged to make donations on CrowdRise, a crowdfunding platform. The funding raised during the One Home campaign will directly assist the 12 species and their habitats. Each of the priority species tells a unique story of survival, and of our efforts to preserve and enhance their homes.

smoothgreensnake2-n-illinoisSmooth Green Snake. No false advertising here.

The 12 species are, in no particular order: Blanding’s Turtle, Red-Headed Woodpecker, Monarch Butterfly, Blue-Spotted Salamander, Rusty Patched Bumble Bee, Ellipse Mussel, Smooth Green Snake, Henslow’s Sparrow, Bobolink, Little Brown Bat, Mottled Sculpin and Regal Fritillary.

In what I consider to be a great honor, I was asked to do the voices of six of those animals for the Chicago Wilderness videos. For instance, here’s the video for the Smooth Green Snake.

It’s great to reconnect with Suzanne Malec-McKenna this morning. But the important thing is to get folks to reach into their pockets to help protect these priority species. Please do what you can.

Dallas Goldtooth, environmental justice and humor.
Hmm. Sounds familiar.

Peggy Malecki writes:

As Mike and I were trying to make sense of the more than 300,000 Google news hits surrounding the #NoDAPL protests and a lot of the other stories we’ve been covering lately on the Show, we kept coming back to the same word—water and its connection to

  • Factory farming operations
  • The Flint, MI water system and lead testing in our Chicago schools and neighborhoods
  • Ravine restoration and trout streams in Highland Park
  • Louisiana flooding, increased tropical storms and heavy rains in the Midwest
  • Enbridge Line 5 pipeline protests in Chicago and Mackinac City, MI
  • Waukesha, WI water diversions
  • Sweet corn. SWEET CORN!

And this is just from our summer shows!

Last week, we were privileged to broadcast live from the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project Factory Farm Summit, in Green Bay (click here to listen to the podcast if you missed it). At Saturday night’s dinner, organizers presented an Oneida Water Welcome ceremony. Following dinner, Mike Wiggins, Jr. , former chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, took the stage to deliver his keynote and set the tone for the Summit—Water. Here are a few of the memorable things he said:

  • ”Everyone is made up of over 70% water. We’re all water sentinels, but we’re not random water. The watershed you live in is what makes you up… We’re all standing on common ground, in which common law is natural law. Our children are water sentinels, staring back at us. That can shrink the corporate view back to nothing.”
  • “We can walk through the world and feel like a little bitty speck under the stars. It’s the same as when we approach these big companies. It’s about our children and their children; it’s about life and death. All of us are in it together. It’s the seventh generation worldview.”
  • “Water is the new civil rights issue of our time and will be so on an unbelievable level for our children and our grandchildren.”
  • “There is no help coming. It’s time to step up and stand up. We’re at that moment in time when the tribes are saying enough is enough.”

On April 1, a small group of Standing Rock Sioux and members of other local tribes began a small encampment at Sacred Stone Camp, near the banks of the Missouri River, just south of Bismarck, ND. Energy Transfer Partners was in the process of obtaining final permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which would carry light, sweet crude from North Dakota’s oil fields through South Dakota and Iowa, and terminate in southern Illinois.

The tribes arrived to protest the permitting process that would allow the pipeline to route through sacred and historical lands, and under their water source, the Missouri River. They filed a lawsuit to maintain their land and water rights and halt the permitting and construction. Then they dug in for the long haul.

As summer progressed, more and more people showed up and set up camp. The Sacred Stone Camp spilled over the hills to a much larger encampment along the Missouri River. Representatives from more than 200 tribes arrived, as did supporters from other groups, the ACLU, politicians, actors and the media. Protestors and media have been arrested. Pipeline crews, local government and protestors have encountered each other, and not always in friendly ways.

What started as a relatively small tribal protest against an oil pipeline evolved into what is being called a movement, and it’s caught the worlds’ attention with headlines appearing regularly in global news outlets (again a Google search will reach into the thousands).

The movement seems to be inspiring groups everywhere. For example, on September 13, protestors siting solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux were arrested for blocking work on a local pipeline in New Haven, VT.

Needless to say, the movement is not going to go away quietly, or anytime soon.

The gathering of so many Tribal groups could be building a new coalition and a new hope for righting some of the wrongs that have been bestowed on Native Americans since the first treaties were signed and broken. And broken again. In fact, it may even be the start of a civil and environmental rights turning point.


We’re thrilled this week to welcome Dallas Goldtooth to The Mike Nowak Show. Dallas (Mdewakanton Dakota and Dine) is the national Keep It In The Ground campaign organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network and is a veteran of the protest agasinst the Keystone XL pipeline. He’s a digital media producer and dedicated organizer, as well as a co-founder of the 1491s comedy group. A nationally known public speaker, activist, performer and event emcee, Dallas has traveled across Turtle Island (aka North America) sharing story, entertainment and knowledge.

Dallas was on the front lines of the #NoDAPL protests in North Dakota, reporting from the Sacred Stone Camp and other Dakota Resistance camps via social media, offering real-time insights into life at the encampments on his Facebook page.

What’s made the difference in North Dakota, says Dallas, and why it has taken on a life of its own, is the leadership of the various tribal groups and how they’ve come together in solidarity for the Indigenous rights and culture.

We’re looking forward to talking with Dallas about the #NoDAPL camps, the stories and the meaning behind the protests. And discussing how this movement fits into the larger global issue of environmental justice that affects us all.


September 11, 2016 – LIVE From the Factory Farm Summit in Green Bay, Wisconsin!

Mike and Peggy hit the road for Green Bay, Wisconsin

This is one of those weeks when you realize that two hours of show time isn’t nearly enough to talk about all of the environmental and food issues that our country–let alone our planet–faces.  The 2016 Factory Farm Summit: Demanding Accountability in Animal Agriculture in Green Bay Wisconsin highlights just one of those issues, and we’re happy to be on site for the event.

There are a number of partners for this event, which is led by the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP). As the presenters note,

Throughout rural America, factory farms are expanding at an unprecedented rate. As a direct result, the air in rural communities is increasingly polluted, local waterways and wells are fouled, and farmers and rural citizens are finding themselves in a position of fighting for their homes, their businesses, and rural quality of life.

Unfortunately, Big Ag–which includes Big Hog, Big Chicken and Big Cattle–would have you believe that despoiling our land, air and water with animal waste is just another part of country livin’.  They just don’t understand why regular folks can’t stand the stench or the dead fish in the rivers  or the plummeting property values of those homes unfortunate enough to be in the way of a factory farm.


This summit is national in scope but make no mistake–Illinois laws concerning factory farms are among the worst in the nation. Among the changes that groups like SRAP and Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water (ICCAW) would like see made are these:

  • Require all concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to register with the Illinois EPA (IEPA), so the agency actually has an accurate location database maintained. (Yup, the IEPA has no idea how many factory farms are in the State of Illinois.)
  • Require all large CAFOs to obtain operating permits from the IEPA to prevent pollution. (Basically, under current law, nothing happens until after the pollution has occurred. Nice.)
  • Close the expansion loophole under Illinois’ livestock facility siting law administered by the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA). (Operations can more than double their size every two years without being subject to public informational meetings and other regulations. Surprise!)
  • Allow county boards to convene meaningful hearings and issue binding recommendations to the IDOA on the siting and construction of new large-scale livestock confinement operations. (Right now, a duly-elected county board and its constituents can say “no” to a CAFO, and the IDOA can say “Sorry, we say yes.” And I thought taxation without representation was tyranny. Silly me.)
  • Give adjoining landowners, neighbors and other impacted citizens to proposed new and expanding large-scale livestock confinement operations the legal standing to call for automatic public hearings on applications and the right to appeal poor siting decisions by the IDOA.
  • Create setbacks from existing surface waters and increase setbacks from homes and towns for large facilities.
  • Require all livestock facilities to submit waste management plans with spill control and a prevention plans to be approved by IDOA prior to siting and construction approvals and mandate that those plans to be subject to public review and comment as part of the application process. (If your jaw isn’t already on the ground over this one, it should be.)

We could go on for hours about how industry-friendly, environmentally destructive and just plain backwards our particular Illinois law, called the Livestock Management Facilities Act, is, but you can find out for yourself in this devastating series of articles by the Chicago Tribune called The Price of Pork.
Instead, we’ll talk about who Peggy and I hope to interview on Sunday’s show:

  • Danielle Diamond, Executive Director of SRAP, and Karen Hudson from both SRAP and ICCAW. Both have been on my program in the past.  As they sarcastically note, Illinois seems to have won the race to the bottom as far as enforcement and regulations over factory farms.
  • Nancy Utesch, who is fighting CAFOs in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin and Mary Doherty,  who is in Bayfield, WI, on the shores of Lake Superior, where a CAFO could threaten the water supply from the greatest of the Great Lake
  • Maria Payan, from Delaware, who proves that the factory farm issues aren’t just a Midwest problem.  In this case, the fight is about poultry CAFOs, not pork.
  • Michele Merkel is an attorney for Food & Water Watch and a staff member of Food & Water Justice, which works to develop and implement legal strategies and remedies to promote clean water and safe food. She co founded Environmental Integrity Project and is currently a board member of SRAP.
  • John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics  at the University of Missouri. He has written six books on sustainable agriculture and sustainable economics and has worked to develop the concept of Deep Sustainability—whereby sustainability’s economic concerns are bounded by social relationships, with both being ultimately bounded by ethical and moral beliefs.

Now here’s Peggy with the rest of what might or might be mentioned on the program this week, but what is still valuable information:

There’s so much happening this week that we may not get to it all and still have time for Rick DiMaio’s weather report. It’s been a busy news cycle. So we’re giving you the basics to follow along with our news and event Round-up.

We’ve been following the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests on the show and in our social media. Friday saw the decision by U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg to deny a halt to construction of the pipeline under the Missouri River. Native tribes, led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, had sued the Dakota Access pipeline company to prevent construction through their sacred lands and under the river. Growing numbers of Native Americans and their supporters have been protesting at the construction site since April.

Shortly after the judge’s decision was announced, in what MSNBC’s Rachael Maddow called “a really big turn that no one saw coming”, the federal Department of Justice and the Army Corp of Engineers intervened, calling for a voluntary pause on construction on Army Corp land at the site of the Missouri Rover crossing in North Dakota until permit applications could be properly studied. Wow.

To celebrate its 20-year legacy as the region’s leading conservation alliance, Chicago Wilderness launched its One Home: A Campaign to Support our Species. Chicago Wilderness and its lead partner organizations are leading a fundraising effort to support the health and habitat of 12 priority animal species in the region and kick off a five-year conservation campaign.

bluespottedsalamandBlue Spotted Salamander, one of the 12 priority species for our region

“This is the first time that anyone has launched a crowdfunded campaign of this scale to support wildlife in our region,” says Suzanne Malec-McKenna, Executive Director of Chicago Wilderness, who will join Mike and Peggy on the September 18 show to talk more about this campaign.

Running from September 6th – November 29th, the One Home campaign is hosted through CrowdRise, a crowdfunding platform. In addition to pledging your support, you can sign up to lead a fundraising team in your community.

It looks like the Cook County Board may finally be ready to do something about safe disposal of unused prescriptions and OTC drugs, which pose ”a real and continuous danger” to public health and the environment. In August, Walgreens announced that some Illinois stores, including 13 within Chicago, will offer kiosks to collect unused meds. Lake County has a strong prescription drug program via SWALCO and police stations. Other counties also collect through police department drop boxes. However, Cook County is lagging behind.

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District president Mariyana Spyropoulos, Commissioner Debra Shore and the commissioners published a letter to the editor in Saturday’s Chicago Tribune showing their support for this legislation and urging residents to contact the Board members about voting in favor of this amendment.

We first met Katharine Egan at the Advocates for Urban Agriculture Soiree in August. She wrote this week to tell us about the big youth urban agriculture graduation party coming up September 24 at The Grober Urban Farm in Evanston. This suburban farm was launched this past spring, and serves a teaching garden for middle- and high school kids. This free party and fundraiser is a great way to see youth urban agriculture in action. Get your tickets here.

Midwest Circus in the Parks started as a small group of performers in Europe and has evolved into an organized (non-animal act) touring circus that is “creating community, raising funds and rebuilding parks … one circus at a time.” The troupe comes to Wicker Park (1425 N. Damen, in Chicago) September 17-18 with five performances to benefit the Wicker Park Advisory Council’s Initiatives, which include the WickerICE skating rink, the park’s ornamental and teaching gardens and the CREATE class series.  Get your tickets here.

Thinking of starting some backyard chickens next year? You may want to check out the Windy City Coop Tour, September 17-18.  You can see chicken coops in action, learn about the flocks from their caretakers and find out how to start your own backyard coop.  It’s a self-guided tour that runs from 10am – 2pm at a cross-section of urban coops. Check the website for more details and a map.