September 4, 2016 – DiMaio-Palooza! and Death of a Farmers Market?

South Shore Farmers Market shuts down

As I’m writing this, I receive an email from Qae-Dah Muhammad, manager of the South Shore Farmers Market:

Greetings All;

The South Shore Farmers Market will be closed until further notice.

That is not good news. How did we get here? Some background:

One of the advantages of having The Mike Nowak Show broadcast from Que4 Radio is that the studio is located in my own Chicago neighborhood of Logan Square. Which means that on Sunday mornings in the summer, I am mere minutes away from the Logan Square Farmers Market.

I often meet Kathleen at the market, where we supplement the produce we grow in our own yard with edibles that we cannot grow ourselves. And the place is always, always packed, come rain or shine.

Not so, apparently, with the South Shore Farmers Market on Chicago’s southeast side. The market, which operates out of Rainbow Beach Park (3177 E. 77th Street), has been around since 2013 and is a  City of Chicago Farmers Market (part of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events). The Market is operated by Chicago DCASE employees, members of the Ashe and Rainbow Beach Park Advisory Councils, EDGE Community Partnership, and many friends.

2016 SSFM opening dayOpening Day 2016 at South Side Farmers Market

I have known Qae-Dah Muhammad, who is SSFM founder and manager for a number of years and I know that she is a hard worker. So it was disturbing to receive an email from her noting that the market had lost a key fruit and vegetable vendor due to weak attendance.

It’s even more frustrating given that  SSFM offers the double value coupons for LINK participants to buy more food. The Experimental Station, which is working to build independent cultural infrastructure on Chicago’s South Side, is a driving force in the LINK Up Illinois program. Their goal is to make nutritious food more accessible to low-income households.

LINK Up Illinois helps achieve this goal by providing farmers markets across the state with funding for the Double Value Coupon incentive program. As The Experimental Station explains,

Recent statistics indicate that 1 of 6 Illinoisans receives Link benefits, including people of all ages and races. For many low-income Illinoisans, the only foods available to them are those that may be purchased with their Link card. In order for farmers markets to be accessible to them, the markets must have Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) systems in place that allow customers to use their Link cards at the market. Additionally, the often higher prices of fresh, nutritious, and locally produced foods sold at farmers markets can make these foods unaffordable for low-income customers.

Which is what the South Shore Farmers Market has been attempting to alleviate. But Qae-Dah Muhammad says that she has been forced to close the market for at least today (September 4), which she pounds the pavement looking for produce vendors.

She joins me on the program this morning to explain her predicament, and is joined by Corey Chatman, the project manager at the Experimental Station. Meanwhile, if you are a farmer or an organization that would like to help keep the SSFM going, contact Que-Dah at 773-554-8056 or write to her in care of the Ashe Park Advisory Council at

Patrick Barry returns with a Chicago Farm Report

 As we lurch into September (well, some of us lurch and some of us tread lightly), Peggy Malecki and I welcome back Patrick Barry with the Chicago Farm Report. He writes:

I’ll be ready to talk about agritourism, which is a bigger industry than people realize, with more than 800 destinations in Illinois alone. It’s all those you-pick operations, of course, but also farm dinners, tours, B&Bs, work days and other events. You want me to be more specific? Up in Southwestern Wisconsin each August, a bunch of women farmers organize the Soil Sisters weekend and open their gates to visitors, offering workshops and trainings (Fermenting 101, etc), but the real draw is the Sunday farm tour, which my wife Pam and I attended this year, while staying at an on-farm B&B. It really gave a close-up view of the entrepreneurial life of the small farmer.

Lindsey Morris Carpenter of Grassroots Farm from Soil Sisters farm tour. Photo by Pam Barry.

And I’d love to give a few minutes to a recent visit to the Global Gardens refugee farm at Lawrence and Sacramento. It’s right behind one of those 4×8-garden-box Peterson Garden Projects, but totally different, with bulging 40-foot rows with what the farm coordinator Linda Seyler calls “the most intensive intercropping she’s ever seen.” There are 100 family plots at Global Gardens, mostly tended by Burmese and Bhutanese refugees who were farmers in their homelands. Demand is so high that two extensions have been started, one with 10 plots at North Side College Prep, the other with 20 plots at the Dunning Community Garden. Most food is grown for home consumption but some is sold on Saturday mornings at the Horner Park Farmers Market, Montrose and California.

The fact that we’ve covered both Soil Sisters and Global Gardens on the show in the past, makes is doubly interesting. I hope we also have a chance to cover a couple of stories that Patrick has posted on his Chicago Farm Report blog. One concerns Stateline Farm Beginnings® program from Angelic Organics Learning Center (AOLC) and the other is a story about how to spot “farmers market fraud.”

It’s always great to have Patrick Barry on the program on a Sunday morning.


It’s DiMaio-Palooza!

If you’re a regular listener to the show, you know that Rick DiMaio has been a huge part of The Mike Nowak Show for about eight years. Even when I was wandering in the Intertubes wilderness during 2015, recording podcasts on my dining room table with my cat La Gata tap dancing on my computer keyboard, Rick would graciously do the occasional interview about weather and how it is related to climate change (or is it the other way around?)

Yeah, I know that he occasionally shows up on Gargantua Radio but, hey, with what I pay him, he’s allowed to talk to whoever he wants to on whatever radio station makes him happy. And I don’t push him to show up in the radio studio, so it’s always an event when he does stop by.

Perhaps because he has the extra day off for Labor Day, Rick, who is a meteorologist and an adjunct faculty member of the Institute for Environmental Sustainability at Loyola University in Chicago, will be in the Que4 Studios this morning. In fact, we’re spending the entire 10:00 hour with him!

Of course, we will discuss climate and weather, especially how the two come together in the form of storms like Hurricane Hermine.  In fact, the subject line of one of his recent emails read in part, “Could be SANDY 2!”

Of course that “Could be HYPERBOLE!” But, much more often than not, Rick is spot on with his predictions. So watch out, east coast!

What Hurricane Hermine will look like on Sunday at 6pm EDT

Call in to 312-985-7834 or post a comment on The Mike Nowak Show Facebook page or tweet us at @MikeNow. I do expect to hear from ersatz meteorologist W. C. Turck, but the rest of you are invited to join in the conversation, too.

August 28, 2016 – Protecting Our Land, Our Water and Our Right to Play

Playing in the garden…literally!

It isn’t every day that I climb on top of a five foot tall hollowed-out log and decide to sprawl out on a lawn (if you know me, you know that I’m not a huge fan of lawns). But that’s a different story at the Chicago Botanic Garden‘s brand spanking new Regenstein Learning Campus, which opens with a couple of days of celebration on September 10 and 11, with activities taking place from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. each day.

As the folks at CBG explain it,

The seven-acre campus is designed to serve learners of all ages, and facilitate connections between people and the environment.  The centerpiece of the Learning Campus is the new Learning Center, a 26,700 square-foot building that features 12 indoor and two outdoor classrooms, a nature laboratory, early childhood classrooms, the ITW kitchen and spaces for wellness classes. The Nature Play Garden, with its rolling hills and series of multisensory gardens, provides areas for hiding, exploring, learning and gathering.

The Learning Campus, open daily, will be the new headquarters for the Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden, which offers 1,500 classes, day camps and programs, including a Nature Preschool, one of only two located in a botanic garden in the United States.  

Peggy and Carol at CBGPeggy and Carol Cichorski splashing at the Regenstein Learning Campus

Peggy Malecki and I stopped by for a press preview the other day, and all you had to do is see the reaction of the kids in attendance to know who this the outdoors part of the exhibit is aimed at. I guess that includes me, too.

But indoors are classrooms that will feature all kinds of programming, including art and gardening classes, field trips and teacher professional development programs, yoga and other wellness offerings.

It’s One Stop Horticultural Shopping, so to speak. Peggy and I welcome Director of Education Eileen Prendergast to The Mike Nowak Show this morning to further explain the wide range of activities that this new interactive exhibit will provide for kids young and old.

Turn Here Sweet Corn comes to the Chicago stage

Here’s a tip for all of would-be farmers out there. If you’re cultivating land and you can see the tallest building in the nearby large metropolitan area from your porch, you might be in trouble.  At that point, you need to pay attention to the sign, “Warning, tall buildings are closer than they appear.” What I mean is that, unless you’re independently wealthy, your land is likely to be gobbled up by developers and turned into suburbs

Which is exactly what happened to a woman named Atina Diffley and her family in Minnesota about 25 years ago. That would be bad enough, except that when she and her husband Martin managed to purchase another property, they were informed that Koch Industries (yes, that Koch Industries) was planning to run a crude oil pipeline straight through their organic farm.

The saga of those years of pain, uncertainty, sweat, strength and, yes, joy, love and community, were told in her book Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works, which garnered Diffley a 2013 Minnesota Book Award in the category of Memoir and Creative Non-fiction  from Friends Of The Saint Paul Public Library. It also made her an icon in the organic farming world. Well, that she helped to create an Organic Mitigation Plan for organic farms in Minnesota.


Now, that book is coming to the stage in Oak Park for four performances. Turn Here Sweet Corn, an adaptation by playwright Jim Stowell,  has its world premiere at Madison Street Theatre Thursday, September 1 through Saturday, September 3 at 8:00 pm and on Sunday, September 4 at 5:00 pm. Tickets are only $20 and you can order them here.

It features storyteller and actress Megan Wells, the 2016 recipient of the National Storytelling Network’s Oracle Circle of Excellence Award, which recognizes master storytellers who set the standards for excellence and have demonstrated a commitment and dedication to the art of storytelling. The piece is directed by an old theatre colleague of mine, Scott Jones. (Please don’t ask how far we go back…and to what.)

It’s a pleasure to have them both in the Que4 Studio this morning to discuss the launch of this production.

The battle to keep oil in the ground and out of our waterways

I’m betting that a week ago, most of you had never heard of something called the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).  And that’s because there hadn’t been much coverage in the corporate media. Folks were getting their information from their social media connections.

Regardless, the word was getting out, and within a few days, reportedly thousands of people, mostly native Americans, had gathered in a place called Cannon Ball, North Dakota, which is near the home of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

Their goal: to stop construction of the Dakota Access, a $3.7 billion, 1,170-mile pipeline owned by a company called Energy Transfer Partners, with the capacity to deliver 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil daily from North Dakota to a refinery in southern Illinois (yay, Illinois!) It is, in fact, only nine miles shorter than the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which was ultimately stopped by the Obama Administration.

According to an article in Raw Story,

The Army Corps of Engineers gave DAPL permission to build in late July, despite pending lawsuits and active local resistance. One of those lawsuits, filed in federal court by the Standing Rock Sioux tribes against the Army Corps of Engineers, is the one being heard in federal court in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

The suit claims the pipeline will cause “irreparable” damage to sacred lands at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers. “Industrial development of that site for the crude oil pipeline has a high potential to destroy sites eligible for listing in the National Register,” according to the lawsuit. It further alleges that Dakota Access LLC failed its responsibility to adequately consult with tribes before construction, in violation of the National Historic Preservation Act. The Missouri River (Standing Rock’s only water source) and “water” itself is of vital cultural importance, the suit adds.

That suit was heard last Wednesday and Federal District Judge James Boasberg announced that he would issue a ruling by Sept. 9. Knowing that an appeal will follow, no matter what he rules, there will be another hearing the following week.

Meanwhile, the situation in North Dakota has been exacerbated by the declaration of an emergency  by Gov. Jack Dalrymple, followed by the decision of North Dakota’s homeland security director to remove state-owned trailers and water tanks from the protest site.

David Archambault II, who is  chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, writes:

It’s a familiar story in Indian Country. This is the third time that the Sioux Nation’s lands and resources have been taken without regard for tribal interests. The Sioux peoples signed treaties in 1851 and 1868. The government broke them before the ink was dry.

When the Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Missouri River in 1958, it took our riverfront forests, fruit orchards and most fertile farmland to create Lake Oahe. Now the Corps is taking our clean water and sacred places by approving this river crossing. Whether it’s gold from the Black Hills or hydropower from the Missouri or oil pipelines that threaten our ancestral inheritance, the tribes have always paid the price for America’s prosperity.

Meanwhile, a thousand miles to the east of Cannon Ball, N.D., lies something called the Enbridge Line 5. It is another oil pipeline, but it was built 63 years ago and it just happens to pass under the Straits of Mackinac.  In case you didn’t grow up in Michigan as I did, the Straits of Mackinac connect Lake Michigan with Lake Huron. Together, and with the other three Great Lakes, they represent about 20% of the fresh water on this planet.

Now, what could possibly be the problem with a 63 year old pipeline running under one of the most sensitive fresh water sources in the world?

Do I really have to answer that?

An environmental organization called Oil & Water Don’t Mix notes that nearly 23 million gallons of oil flow through two 20-inch diameter pipelines at the bottom of the straits each day. Here’s what it looks like in video from the Oil & Water Don’t Mix site, courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation:


Enbridge installed several support structures under the pipelines in 2006 and again in 2010, following the company’s oil spill into the Kalamazoo River – the nation’s largest-ever land-based oil spill. Enbridge officials have said that properly maintained pipelines can last indefinitely, but the company’s history of major spills in Michigan and across North America proves otherwise. Today, much of the oil flowing through the Line 5 pipelines is coming from Canada and taking a shortcut through Michigan and the Straits of Mackinac before crossing back into Canada near Port Huron.

Yup, in the case of the Canadian-based Enbridge, Inc., the United States of America is fly-over territory, a convenient way for the company to get its product from western to eastern Canada.

Even Enbridge, however, seems to understand that pipes don’t last forever. They recently agreed to pay $3.6 million to have the State of Michigan select two contractors to asses the spill risk of the Enbridge Line 5.

Oil & Water Don’t Mix and their dozens of supporting groups and thousands of individual backers aren’t waiting around for the results of that study.

This week, Michigan Native American tribal members and supporters of the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign are spearheading Pipe Out Paddle Protests around Labor Day weekend in Chicago and the Straits of Mackinac.


The Mackinaw City flotilla, in its second year,  is aimed at raising awareness of the threat to the Great Lakes and native fishing grounds from potential oil spills.

Peggy and I are pleased to welcome Mitch McNeil from Surfrider Chicago, one of the supporting groups, which is sponsoring a Pipe Out Paddle Protest this Thursday, September 1 at Montrose Beach in Chicago.

August 21, 2016 – Launching G-Ride; Building School Gardens; Planting Natives

The Return of the G-Master

He’s baaaaack!

A couple of months ago, Peggy and I talked to a guy named Stephen M. Cutter, who was working on a ride-sharing company…but not just any ride sharing company. He calls it G-Ride and, in their own words,

G-Ride is the first Eco-Conscious ride share company that makes it simple to have a positive impact on the environment. G-Ride is only utilizing Eco-Friendly vehicles and plants a tree with every ride, plus every 100 rides saves an acre of rain forest! Our mission is to make it easy and cost effective to go green and make your voice heard. Now all you have to do to start being the change you want to see in the world is switch the app you use to get around.

Piece of cake, eh? Except that there’s that little detail about raising the capital to get the business started. I don’t know exactly what Cutter has been doing behind the scenes for the past couple of months, but I do know that he’s been busy. In fact, I showed up a one of his events (see the photo below), just to meet him in person and see the kind of folks who are interested in changing the world…which is pretty much everybody I know.

Stephen Cutter

Well, now G-Ride has just (today, 8-21-16!) launched its Indiegogo campaign and all they’re hoping to do is raise a cool couple of million dollars. Excuse me while I perspire heavily. Anyway, why should you invest in, ride in or even drive for G-Ride?

Their answer is that riders will not be subjected to “surge” pricing; the drivers will be well-trained; there will be “green bonus” programs; and the company is planet-focused. They will  also raffle off a bicycle for every 1000 downloads (presumably of the app) and offer $20 off the first ride in a Tesla. (I’m not sure exactly what that means, so I’ll ask Stephen.)

If you want to drive for G-Ride, they claim that they will offer higher compensation than other ride-sharing companies; drivers can earn equity and will have tip options, not to mention a seat on the board of directors; and there will be a vehicle payment program for drivers, as well as residual income opportunities.

The G-Ride team finishes with the populist notion that “Your contribution will allow G-Ride to fulfill its green mission. G-Ride is beholden to the people and the planet, not investors!”

Sign me up! I mean, uh, sounds good. We’ll find out more this morning.

Creating Community Through Food

I had a vague knowledge about what was happening in the Chicago Public Schools via the work of The Kitchen Community, but sometimes there are so many groups out there doing so much good work that you can’t keep track of it all.

Well, I’ve been doing a little catching up and I discovered that back in 2012, The Kitchen Community began working with the Chicago Public Schools to create something they call Learning Gardens. By the end of 2013, there were 100 Learning Gardens in the CPS, providing, according to the City of Chicago, “hands-on nutrition and science education opportunities” for more than 50,000 children across the City.


A Learning Garden from The Kitchen Commmunity is a specific set of raised bed planters made of LLDPE (Linear-Low Density Polyethylene), art poles, benches or boulders and a shade sail system, all of which serve as an outdoor classroom.  The Kitchen Community customizes the gardens to specific schools and states, offering 9, 12 and 15 bed package systems.

I say “specific states” because The Kitchen Community is working with nearly 100,000 children a day at 300 Learning Gardens in schools and community organizations across the country, including in Denver, Los Angeles and Memphis.

So it was a fortunate set of circumstances when Whitney Richardson, who is a garden educator with The Kitchen Community Chicago, attended the premiere of the At the Fork documentary several weeks ago.  Peggy and I knew that she’d be a great fit for The Mike Nowak Show, and today she is in  the Que4 Radio studio with Chicago Director Tovah McCord.


The Return of the Natives


Stephen Cutter is not the only person who is returning to the program this week. Nick Fuller is the owner/operator of Natural Communities Native Plants, which, in the interest of full disclosure, is a sponsor of The Mike Nowak Show. Actually, I’m quite proud of that, because I think more people should be putting native plants in their yards and gardens.

Nick returns to talk about natives as we head towards the fall planting season. He has a blog that you should know about, which you can find here. And at this time of year, he’s answering questions about planting natives before the cold weather hits. Here’s some of his advice about whether milkweed can be planted:

I would say yes, with one caveat. I would caution you against planting Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed) super-late in the season, i.e. after say the 15th of October.  It would probably be OK, but Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed) seems to be the most finicky of the milkweeds around here.  Really they should all be fine, but if your really wanting to hedge your best go with Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) or Asclepias verticillata (Whorled Milkweed), they seem to overwinter in the pots the best, which is about the most extreme you can get for plants.  They are not connected to the ground for warmth nor are they connected for water.  So super-cold and dry is not good for plants.


 When plants including milkweeds are planted in the fall like September they send most of their energy into developing roots, this plus the ground provides insulation and moisture over the winter, it gives them a nice place to hibernate and live.


I love having smart, knowledgeable people on the show. I hope you  tune in and I hope you ask some questions. Call us at 312-985-7834, post on The Mike Nowak Show on Facebook, tweet to us at @MikeNow, or post a pic at @themikenowakshow on Instagram.