Tag Archives: CSA

The benefits of trees, CSAs and funding the IDNR

December 2, 2012

Dr. Rex Bastian helps your trees recover from a tough 2012

One thing I’ve learned over my years as a gardener and a gardening radio show host is that there is no such thing as a “normal” growing year. No matter how you slice it, there’s always going to be some kind of weather anomaly that causes trouble, whether it’s cold, heat, storms, drought, flooding or some combination of the above.

That being said, 2012 will be remembered as a year where very little seemed to be “normal.” It started with an abnormally warm winter that turned into an off-the-charts string of 80 degree days in March. It was the warmest March in the contiguous 48 states in our history. That led to excessive heat in much of the country in spring and summer, accompanied by drought in a many areas, including the Midwest. Once again, we hit a new high, as July became the hottest month ever recorded in the United States.

The heat abated in some areas, but the drought has persisted, leading Illinois Extension and its counterpart at Purdue to create websites devoted to drought information.

If you’re a gardener, it’s relatively easy to see when your annuals and perennials take a hit from heat and lack of water. However, the average person isn’t always aware of the damage being done to trees, which often take much longer to respond to environmental changes. But if you’re a tree farmer, you know that it has not been a good year for your crops, and the effects could be around for awhile.

That’s why I’m pleased to welcome Dr. Rex Bastian from The Care of Trees back to the show. As you might know, The Care of Trees has been a loyal sponsor of The Mike Nowak Show ever since I started at Chicago’s Progressive Talk in 2008. Dr. Bastian is Vice President of Field Education and Development for TCOT and has a Ph. D. in Entomology from Iowa State University

And he knows his stuff. Get ready with your tree questions at 773/763-9278. We will discuss how this year’s amazing weather has affected your trees and the insects and diseases that can prey upon your trees. We’ll also tell you what to look for next spring, as your trees begin to leaf out after being subjected to all kinds of indignities in 2012.

Meanwhile, I asked Dr. Bastian to supply me with some of the websites he likes. Lo and behold, many of them are the ones I recommend to my listeners and readers. Great minds…oh, you know.

Trees Are Good – Website sponsored by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) that provides good information and links on proper tree care and Certified Arborists

Morton Arboretum Plant Health Care Report - Periodic updates during the growing season addressing current tree/landscape issues/concerns. Chicago area focus.

Chicago Botanic Garden Plant Information Services - Plant information, fact sheets, diagnostic services. Chicago area focus.

University of Illinois Home, Yard, and Garden Pest Newsletter -  Periodic updates during the growing season addressing current tree/landscape issues. State wide focus.

National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center – Short/long term estimation of future weather conditions.

Kim Marsin has a CSA for you (it might be hers)!

Speaking of being at the mercy of Mother Nature, there’s nothing like growing food to keep you humble. I know about it from a very small scale, but people like Kim Marsin and her partner Rachel Reklau at Sweet Home Organics know about it up close and personal.

They’re part of the new breed of organic farmers. You’ve heard me call them “commuter farmers” because they don’t live on the land that they cultivate…though rumor has it that they’re in the midst of moving closer to their operation at Primrose Farm, which is part of the St. Charles Park District.

And just yesterday (Saturday, December 1), they were doing a presentation on marketing to this year’s class of Stateline Farm Beginnings® students at Angelic Organics Learning Center. The program is a farmer-led training and support class designed to help people plan and launch sustainable farm businesses. Since 2005, graduates of the program have launched more than 35 new sustainable farms in our region.

I will finally get to meet Kim in person at the WCPT studios, after having spoken to her by phone perhaps a half dozen times on my show. She’s currently using her seemingly boundless energy to encourage folks to sign up for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, like the one at Sweet Home Organics.

The way it works, according to Local Harvest, a website that helps you track down CSAs in your area is that

a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

In addition to Local Harvest, Marsin recommends checking out Family Farmed.org’s CSA page with the caveat that the 2012 CSA data is still posted.

More funds for IDNR…will that help Starved Rock?

I received a message from Jennifer Walling at the Illinois Environmental Council yesterday:

I am very pleased to let you know that the funding bill for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources passed the Illinois Senate.  This bill passed 39 yes – 11 no.

Today’s roll call is available here. The Governor will have to sign the bill before it can become law.

Thank you to Representative Frank Mautino and Senator Toi Hutchinson, the sponsors of this bill in the House and Senate.  It’s a great day for conservation in Illinois thanks to these legislators, our array of advocates through Partners for Parks and Wildlife , the staff at IDNR, and all of the supporters and advocates who championed this legislation.

As anybody who has listened to my program lately knows, I have been frustrated by IDNR’s seemingly contradictory roles as protector of natural resources in Illinois but also as an agency that facilitates their havesting and sale.

The case in point is the proposed open pit frac sand mine outside the eastern entrance of Starved Rock State Park. IDNR says on its website that “Outdoor recreation opportunities such as boating, camping, fishing, hunting, picnicking, sightseeing, wildlife observation, swimming and trail use create a $3.2 billion annual economic impact in Illinois, supporting 33,000 jobs statewide.”

And yet, those very activities near Starved Rock State Park are under threat because of the proposed sand mine.

I hope Jennifer has good news about how the monies coming to IDNR will be good for our natural environment.

Bill McKibben’s “Do the Math” tour comes to Chicago

What do the numbers 2, 565 and 2,795 have in common?

Before you reach for The Google and start typing “prime numbers” into the search engine, let me use two words: Global Warming. Here are two more words: Bill McKibben . He was one of the first people to raise the alarm about climate change, in his 1989 book, The End of Nature , and went on to found the group 350.org , which is based on the number of CO2 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere that many scientists claim is the safe limit for humanity. Unfortunately, we’re already up to 392 ppm…oops, our bad. And it gives you an idea of why McKibben speaks about the subject with a certain amount of urgency.

His latest attempt to cut through the clutter about Justin Bieber and fiscal cliff nonsense is something he calls the “Do the Math” tour, which arrived in Chicago on Wednesday evening on the way to completing its 21-city U.S. run in a little under a month. Lisa Albrecht and I (and a few hundred friends) watched McKibben and others take to the stage to impress upon his audiences that we’re already speeding toward an environmental cliff and, instead of putting on the breaks, we keep hitting the accelerator.

That’s where the numbers 2, 565 and 2,795 come in. The 2 stands for the the global temperature rise that would have “catastrophic” consequences for our planet. That won’t happen unless the world releases 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide that are stored in its fuel reserves. Unfortunately, fossil fuel companies already have 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide in their fuel reserves and, at the current rate of consumption, they’ll get to the 565 mark in 16 years. Think those oil guys are interested in slowing down or switching to cleaner and sustainable energy sources? If you do, you haven’t been paying attention to the political debate in the past 30 years or so.

So forget the Mayan Calendar. The McKibben Calendar has the planet set to enter uncharted waters (and air) in 2028. Unless we do something right now.

McKibben’s strategy–and it makes as much sense as anything else I’ve heard to this point–is to go on the offensive by encouraging individuals, churches, schools/universities and municipalities to disinvest in the oil companies. “we are asking that people who believe in the problem of climate change stop profiting from it.”, said McKibbon. The movement is laid out in the campaign Fossil Free, where you can find a campaign, start a campaign, download a disinvestment toolkit, sign up for updates and more.

Looks like we’d better get started. We’re already in way over our heads.

Fernwood Symposium, Openlands Lakeshore Preserve and The Local Beet’s 2011 CSA list

February 27, 2011

Next week: An all-star lineup at a great gardening event…in Michigan!

If you’re a gardening fan and you live in Chicago, you know what’s happening next Saturday. Yes, it’s Fernwood’s Spring Garden Symposium at the Fernwood Botanical Gardens in Niles, Michigan.

Okay. I’m betting that some of you thought that I was referring the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, which also opens on the same day. I’ll talk more about that next week. But for now, I’m going to defer to the fine folks at Fernwood because

a) I’m speaking there next Saturday
b) They refer to me as a “Horticultural Heavyweight”. (I’m not kidding. Check out this link. Hmm. Maybe it’s because I’ve put on a little weight lately.)
c) Their event also features my friends Beth Botts from Growing in Chicago and Roy Diblik from Northwind Perennial Farm.

Their symposium also features Chris Woods, who I’ve never met before. That’s why he’s on my show this week. He’s a native of England who now lives in Santa Barbara, California. He trained as a horticulturist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which is just outside of London, England. I’ve been there and I’m already in awe of Chris, though I’ve never talked to him. Since coming to the states, he has served as Director and Chief Designer of Chanticleer, a private estate near Philadelphia, and now owns a garden design business and works as a consultant.

Fernwood Executive Director Carol Line will also be part of the conversation, and her C.V. isn’t too shabby, either. She came to Fernwood from the Chicago Botanic Garden and has worked at the Huntington Botanical Gardens (Los Angeles), Denver Botanic Gardens, The Morton Arboretum, and the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University.

I’m sure she would love to have all of you head out to Michigan for this first March weekend. Me, too.

25 miles north of Chicago, a rare ecosystem finds new life

[Update: The podcast of this conversation is now posted: http://www.mikenowak.net/podcasts/?p=episode&name=2011-02-27_20110227_20110227_adelmann_collins.mp3)

On Thursday I was privileged to walk one of the rarest ecosystems in the world, and it’s just a stone’s throw from the City of Chicago. Here’s the YouTube video of that hike. Many people in northeast Illinois have always known this area along Lake Michigan as Ft. Sheridan. Geologically speaking, it lies on part of the Highland Park moraine, which formed as the final glacier retreated from northern Illinois about 10,000 years ago. And it’s part of the Lake Border Moraines Bluff Coast, a hilly area that extends from the town of North Chicago at the north end to Winnetka at the south. At that point that the land flattens out again and remains relatively even through Wilmette, Evanston, and on into Chicago.

From 1888 to 1993, Ft. Sheridan was a U.S. Army military base. When the base was closed under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Act of 1989, the land was dispersed among the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, the newly-created town of Ft. Sheridan and the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Later, in 2004, a federal law authorized the transfer of the bluffs, ravines, and shoreline at Fort Sheridan to a non-profit land conservation organization for the purpose of providing permanent protection. In 2006 Openlands acquired the land and, with a generous $4 million contribution from the Grand Victoria Foundation, began  restoration of this ecologically sensitive property.

That winding stretch of land has been renamed the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, and the tour I took last week was in a section called Bartlett Ravine. My guides were Robert Megquier, Director of Land Preservation, and Aimee Collins, Openlands Lakeshore Preserve Site Manager. To give you an idea of why this acquired land is so important and special, here’s a piece from the Openlands website:

Cool, moist, and shady, Lake Michigan ravines are different from any other ecosystem in the region. What’s more, the ravines at the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve are unique to the world, according to botanist Gerould Wilhelm. “Bartlett Ravine contains a very rare amalgamation of plant life…it’s completely unlike any other timber tract on the planet, and it sustains a tremendous amount of biodiversity.” More than 150 native plants can be found in Bartlett Ravine alone, and the three ravines combined provide a migratory stopover for tens of thousands of birds every year.

Ironically, the limited access to Ft. Sheridan helped to preserve some of characteristics of the ravines, bluffs and shoreline. In the past few years, Openlands has been removing the invasive species and opening up the land to both native flora and fauna. Even in the dead of winter, the efforts of the Openlands staff is clearly evident–from restoration techniques to interpretive signs to the addition of art along the trail.

I’m pleased to be able to speak in studio this morning to Aimee Collins and Openlands President and CEO Jerry Adelmann about this wonderful project, as well as the many other accomplishments of an organization that all Chicagoans should be proud of.

Good Growing: The best darned list of CSAs in the Midwest

I was cruising the Internets yesterday and decided to check in on my friends at The Local Beet. I’m sure glad I did because they’ve just posted their 2011 list of Chicago area CSAs or Community Supported Agriculture. Rob Gardner is on the show today to talk about it but he says that much of the credit for compiling the list of 75 farms and farmers should go to Wendy Aeschlimann and Robin Schirmer.

The timing is great, because the 2011 FamilyFarmed Expo is happening from March 17 to 19 at the UIC Forum in Chicago. It just so happens that at the Expo I will be moderating a panel of experts who will be speaking about Small Space Gardening: How to grow food in your back yard, on rooftops, back porches, and in container, both indoors or out.

Last but not least, it’s great to have this list of CSAs because I can add it to a bunch of other lists that Intrepid Green Reporter Leah Pietrusiak has put together with the help of Kathleen Thompson. It covers gardening and environmental classes, events, green festivals, talks and more. It’s quite possible that www.mikenowak.net now has the best list of lists anywhere!

Voting in Chicago, caring for natives in McHenry, and delivering fresh food throughout Chicagoland

February 20, 2011

If you live in Chicago, please exercise your right to vote this Tuesday

I was thinking about Chicago’s municipal election as I sat in City Hall last Monday, listening to witnesses testify in 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore‘s ad hoc hearing on the long-delayed Clean Power Ordinance. We’re not a nation that particularly cares about its constitutional voting privileges–a mere 37% of Americans bothered to get to the polls last November–and a lot of Chicagoans are likely tostay home this Tuesday.

That would be a big mistake. We tend to think that the big national races are the ones that really count. But the truth is that individual citizens are likely to have much more influence with their local officials than with their U.S. Senator. And while our Congress is busily working to gut the EPA, it’s quite possible that by putting pressure on their aldermen, Chicagoans might actually be able to shut down the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired plants within the city limits.

It’s something to think about. What if, instead of waiting for the feds to take action, we did it ourselves and, by doing so, set a new standard of environmental actions for the country? I’m just sayin’. Meanwhile, if environmental concerns are on your radar screen at all when it comes to electing our new mayor, you might want to take a look at this story in this week’s Chicago Reader.

“Tending the Earth” next week in McHenry County

I have a soft spot for the Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee, or WPPC (and I keep telling them that they need a name that rolls off the tongue a little more easily) up in McHenry County. It’s not just that they’ve asked me to speak there at least a couple of times…though that doesn’t hurt. I guess it’s more about the great conferences they have each year. For a very reasonable price–this year the admission is $30 in advance, $35 at the door–attendees get some fabulous information from terrific speakers about landscaping with native plants.

WPPC spokesperson Nancy Gonsiorek says that the 19th annual Natural Landscaping Seminar is on Saturday, February 26, 2011 from 8:00 am to 3:45 pm at McHenry County College Conference Center, 8900 US Route 14 in Crystal Lake, Illinois. The program is called“Tending the Earth” and one of the featured speakers is Carole Brown, who will be presenting the talk “Ecosystem Gardening: Native Plants are Essential.” She is a conservation biologist, passionate naturalist, photographer, author and educator.

If you want to know more about what she does, click on to her website Ecosystem Gardening. She says on the website that conservation begins in your own backyard and that she wants to teach people to become stewards of their properties. It starts with these 5 pillars:

1. Sustainability
2. Soil Health
3. Water conservation
4. Invasive plant removal
5. Plant more native plants

When we do these five things, says Brown, we will begin to see more wildlife in our gardens. Every small action can have almost immediate benefits. Okay, let’s do it.

Good Growing: Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks

If you listen with any regularity to my program (don’t forget that you can always download a podcast if you miss The Mike Nowak Show on Sunday morning), you know that I talk a lot about CSAs. That stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a way for local farmers to get their goods to people in their area. They grow the food, you sign up to receive a shipment of their latest harvest for a prescribed period, and they either deliver to you or you pick it up. The only limitation is that, generally, you are required to take what they give you, regardless of whether you know how to prepare bok choi or not. However, it’s a good way to stretch your culinary palette.

But there’s another, closely related model to a CSA that, until this week, I was unaware of. Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks offers year-round home delivery in the Chicago area of local and organic produce, meat, dairy and eggs. The difference between what they do and the standard CSA is that you choose the specific items you want. Of course, you can go the CSA route, too, and opt for a Fresh Picks Box that is automatically delivered to your door weekly or bi-weekly.

Irv Cernauskas says that his company is committed to working with local sustainable farms it personally knows and trusts. Irv is also a member of the Illinois Local Food, Farms and Jobs Council. So, in addition to talking about his unique business, he is giving me an update on the council’s work in 2011.