Tag Archives: vegetables

Finding funding for Cook County Extension

May 13, 2012

Another year, another Cook County Extension crisis

Here we go again. I received an email last week from my friend Ron Wolford, Cook County Extension Educator, under the subject line “It’s Back!! Another Cook County Extension Budget Crisis.” It seems that every year, some governmental body or another decides that Illinois Extension is some kind of frivolous expense and needs to be trimmed.

Sigh. So we’ll try to explain it one more time. Legislators and policy makers everywhere, this time please pay attention. I’ll start with an excellent post by Beth Botts, who is co-hosting the show this morning. She titles it Cook County Extension needs your help telling its story to fight new funding threat. From the post:

In the Chicago area, if people have heard about the Extension at all, they may have some dim sense that it has something to do with farmers or 4-H. It seems like a vestige of the agricultural past. In a time when county staffers and commissioners are trying to close to close an estimated $427 million shortfall in the county budget, they see funding for what they think is an anachronism as an expendable frill.

So board president Toni Preckwinkle is planning to eliminate Cook County’s entire $411,000 contribution to the Extension budget. Since state and federal matching funds and grants are based on local funding, Cook County Extension director Willene Buffett estimates that this would end up costing more than $740,000, or about 65 percent of the Extension budget in Cook County. It could end Extension programs in the county. “How can you say that the largest populated county in the state will not have an Extension program? How can you say that?” asks Buffet.

Indeed, how can you say that? Especially when Cook County Extension, in one way or another benefits these institutions and programs:

• Garfield Park Conservatory
• Oak Park Conservatory
• Forest Park Community Garden
• Wicker Park Garden Club
• Cheney Mansion
• St John’s Lutheran Church
• Polaris Charter Academy
• PAEC Elementary
• Chicago Talent Development Charter High School
• Pritzker Elementary
• WestSide Youth Tech Entrepreneurial Center
• New Birth Christian Center
• Westside Health Authority
• Museum of Science and Industry
• CEDA PLCCA Maywood Head Start
• CEDA Resurrection Health PRO CARE
• Head Start –Bellwood
• Nobel Elementary
• Ryerson Elementary
• Morton Elementary
• Orr Community Academy High School
• Cease Fire
• Chicago Talent Development Charter High School
• Garfield Elementary School
• First Congressional Baptist Church of Chicago
• Children’s Health Clinic
• Maywood Youth Mentoring Program
• John Hay Academy
• Hope Institute Learning Academy
• Neighborhood Recovery Initiative

And that’s just in District 1. There are 16 other districts!. Furthermore, There are 5.5 million Cook County residents, and Extension has reached nearly 1 million residents since January 2011 through face-to-face teaching by staff and volunteers, and web-based outreach. 60,000 volunteer hours were contributed by Extension volunteers – a program value estimated at $1,307,400.00

Given those fact, it’s impossible to say that Cook County Extension isn’t efficient or cost effective. Joining me today to talk about this issue is Julie Emerick, a member of the Cook County Extension Advisory Council since 2007. Julie, Beth and I are all Master Gardeners, so you can understand our concern.

How can you help? The Cook County Board is meeting Monday, May 14, and this is a good time to contact your commissioner and tell him or her how important Extension is for the well-being of Cook County.

Send your message to:

Toni Preckwinkle, President, Cook County Board
118 N. Clark St., Room. 537
Chicago, IL 60602
Phone: (312) 603-6400
Fax:  (312) 603-4397

Commissioner Robert Steele
3936 W. Roosevelt Rd., 1st Floor
Chicago, IL 60624
Phone: (773) 722-0140
Fax: (773) 722-0145

Commissioner Bridget Gainer
5533 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
Phone: (773) 561-1010
Fax: (773) 561-1025

To find your local county commissioner’s name and address, click here .

Got organic veggies? Kilbourn Park Greenhouse does!

Well, if you’re planning on getting your vegetable garden started, I would certainly advise doing it in the next few weeks. The weather has been absolutely fabulous and you don’t want to get too far behind. And if you haven’t had a chance to plant seeds, I have good news. The annual Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse Plant Sale is next Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20.

Kilbourn Park floraculturist Kirsten Akre once again stops by to preview the 2-day event that features more than 150 varieties of organically-grown vegetable, herb, and flower seedlings.The admission is free and plant prices vary. In fact, if you to see the full spectrum of what’s available, check out the Catalogue of Seedlings for sale.

The sale features a wide variety of open-pollinated and heirloom tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.  Other highlights include an assortment of greens and onions.  These seedlings are grown with the support of a team of dedicated volunteers who make this Plant Sale possible.  This yearly fundraiser supports the greenhouse and our work to connect kids to nature and healthy foods.

Here’s the info:

Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse
3501 N. Kilbourn Avenue
Chicago, IL , 60064

More on the fate of Chicago’s landfill ban

Last week, Tom Shepherd from the Southeast Environmental Task Force and Mel Nickerson from the Environmental Law and Policy Center appeared on the show to talk about three possibilties:

1) That waste hauler Land and Lakes might legally grab Chicago property that was once an active landfill. The property is on the Chicago-Dolton border along 138th Street and the waste company wants it annexed to a neighborhing Dolton site, which is still an active landfil.


2) That an ordinance proposed by 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale that would lift a moratorium on landfill dumping within the city limits of Chicago would be passed.


3) That the state would get involved and pass legislation banning landfill dumping in all of Cook County. State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) introduced Senate Bill 3728, which would prohibit new or expanded Cook County landfills. But just as quickly, the bill was pulled from the Senate Environmental Committee hearing, which was cancelled and the vote delayed.

The first two possibilities are unacceptable. Which leaves option #3.

Where are we a week later?

That legislation continues to be debated. On Wednesday, an Illinois Senate Committee unanimously approved legislation to prevent new or expanded landfills in Chicago and Cook County. The legislation, HB 3881, introduced by Sen. Harmon and supported by dozens of community and environmental groups, will preserve Chicago’s 30-year-old landfill moratorium.Without a landfill ban, waste companies will once again be able to ship garbage into the area.

This is where all of you come in. HB 3881 will be voted on by the full Senate next week and my environmentalist friends tell me that the waste industry will be fiercely opposing it. You can find out more about the issue by going to the No Chicago Landfills website or their Facebook page.

Meawnhile, it’s important that you write to your state legislator to demand that the ban be preserved. Log onto No Chicago Landfills page to send a message today!

Beautiful music in the studio and hog trouble in Michigan

April 1, 2012

Appearing live in studio: Tracy DeMarco and Brian Bradbury!

Well, it IS April Fool’s Day, after all, and I didn’t want to spoil the fun of bringing a real, live harp into the studio. It so happens that Tracy DeMarco is a fan of the show and follows me on Facebook. Here’s her own Facebook page. When I realized that she plays the harp and was planning the launch of her new CD as The Glass Hour, I challenged her to show up in the WCPT studios and do background music for my radio show. The fact that it was on April 1 is purely coincidental. Really. She said that she would bring in keyboardist Brian Bradbury, as well. Works for me.

Here’s more on Tracy:

Tracy performs all original music on electro-acoustic harp in the Chicago and metro areas for private and public events. Her style is ambient, atmospheric, jazz and world influenced, composed and improvisational. She currently resides in Kankakee, IL, and has been in the Chicago area for over 6 years working also in the graphic arts fields. She has been a musician since childhood, and performer on harp over 10 yrs.

Tracy has joined forces with many other talented area Chicago musicians, including jazz violinist Sam “Savoir Fair” Williams and Avant-Jazz Composer/Director, Renee Baker as part of the Chicago Modern Orchestra Project. In 2004, Tracy formed the recording project, “The Glass Hour” joined by drummer/guitarist Ed Nudd and talented acoustic guitarist Matt Schneider in creating the trio’s first CD, “Amaranthine” – a unique harmony of acoustic and electronic ambience. After 2005, Tracy continued The Glass Hour as solo project, building upon previous evocative, and storybook atmospheres with added electronic orchestration, new vocals, harp solos, and experimental tones. Guitarist/keyboardist Brian Bradbury joined The Glass Hour in 2010, and the pair are currently working towards their first CD release. Tracy remains the primary composer of the project.

I hope you enjoy her music. It’s quite beautiful and relaxing. Not like me at all.

Lights, camera, grow ’em! Dig In® Chicago shoots this week

The next few days should be pretty interesting. Starting at about 6:00 a.m. on Monday, Jennifer Brennan and I and the Dig In® Chicago video crew will start shooting our first episode at the fabulous Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. We’ll be talking to director and head horticulturist Jennifer Davit. On Tuesday morning, it’s over to the Shedd Aquarium to visit with horticultural manager Christine Nye, who worked with plantsman Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm to create the sustainable gardens surrounding the world famous institution.

Wednesday afternoon, we cross the sidewalk to the Field Museum of Natural History to tape a very interesting project called The Edible Treasures Garden. It’s a community vegetable garden that’s a partnership among The Field Museum, Jewell Events Catering and The Peterson Garden Project. The garden’s mission is to demonstrate urban vegetable gardening at one of Chicago’s great landmarks. The garden will be tended by museum employees who donate their time.

We’ll also be visiting a number of independent garden centers and other companies in various suburbs. It’s jam-packed few days when we will create three full half-hour programs in three days. This is TV-to-go, folks!

Meanwhile, don’t forget to Like us on Facebook!

Is there a “War on Humanely Produced Food” in Michigan?

You might remember that just a few weeks ago, I talked to farmer Karen Hudson, who is with Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water and Socially Responsible Agricultural Project and has been fighting factory farms since 1996,

At that time, she talked to me about a so-called “Ag-gag” law that had just passed in Iowa and was being considered in Illinois. The Illinois version never made it out of committee, but it opened my eyes to the way that Big Ag is fighting to preserve concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) all over the country.

Now it looks as though a new front has opened up in the “War on Humanely Produced Food” In an article titled Michigan CAFOs Conspire with Government to Ban Outdoor Pig Farming, writer Kimberly Hartke reports on a new order by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) that targets destructive “feral” species for elimination across the state. But it doesn’t stop with searching open areas for feral hogs. It manages to lump heritage breeds raised by small-scale farms into the category of “feral”.

That means that as of today, April 1, 2012, heritage pork producers could find themselves in violation of the law simply by owning and raising their own farm animals. These same farmers could face criminal charges and find the State of Michigan destroying their herds. Natural News paints a stark picture:

In other words, there is nothing sensational or overblown about the claims made that the state of Michigan has basically declared war on all pig breeds besides the select few raised by large-scale factory farms. The DNR’s approach to the situation is beyond misguided — it is a blatantly-unscientific assault on small-scale pig farmers across the state of Michigan, many of which face being completely put out of business.

“The DNR’s thinking is irrational,” writes Senator Darwin L. Booher from Michigan’s 35th District in a recent article on the issue. “The department says we must ban certain pigs because the state has a feral hog problem (pigs running at-large or outside a fence). But since all pigs outside of a fence are feral and the DNR cannot genetically differentiate between swine, the department decided to ban certain pigs in Michigan simply due to their appearance.”

One of the farmers who will be profoundly affected by this new law is Mark Baker of Bakers Green Acres in Marion, Michigan. Go to that website to see his testimony on Friday to the Michigan Senate Agriculture Committee. Baker has filed a lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and its director Rodney Stokes.

Obviously, people other than farmers will be affected by this draconian decision, including fine dining chefs and people who choose to buy humanely raised meat for their family table.

Hartke, who is publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation, a leading nutrition education non-profit that promotes sustainable agriculture and traditional foods, sees a connection and possibly a conspiracy:

The pork confinement operations in Michigan have come out in favor of this new law.  As the public becomes increasingly aware of the eco-damage, filth and animal cruelty on these mega farms, rather than clean up their act they are pressuring government agencies to thwart alternative production models. So sensitive to the growing public concern about their practices, in some states pork producers are introducing Ag-Gag legislation to keep the public from seeing how their food is produced.

According to the USDA,  all together, the 2009 small farms in Michigan raise less than 500  pigs. And, 1725 of those farms have less than 25 pigs. In contrast, a typical factory farm would have several barns, with upwards of 5000 hogs under each roof!

Another day, another attack on our environment. I’m pleased to have Mark Baker and Karen Hudson on the show with me this morning.

Last but not least…catching up on news stories

  • I’ve been warning Chicago gardeners that the 80 degree temperatures were not going to last and that, in Jennifer Brennan’s words, “If you plant early, you’ll plant often.” Now I’m getting backup from the University of Missouri.And if you’re wondering how fruits will be affected by the weather, here’s someting from Chris Doll at Illinois Fruit and Vegetable News:

    What a year already! Weather, primarily warm weather, has been a hot topic, especially for the past month. I have not averaged the daily temperatures, but the media report that March has been the warmest on record, with only three days to go (and all above 70 degrees). There have been only two freezing temps (27 and 29 degrees F) on March 3 and 4. As a result, all phenology developments are the earliest on record. Apricots began blooming on March 7, peaches were in full bloom on March 12, and first bloom of apple was on March 20. The differences in days for these crops from 2007 (our most recent early spring that saw an Easter weekend freeze and widespread crop loss) are 17 days earlier for apricots, 14 days for peaches, and 11 days for apples, which makes them at least 3 to 4 weeks ahead of “normal.” Two big questions are being asked: Will there be any killing freezes? When will harvests begin? As per a press release from Smalls Orchard in Mondamin, Iowa, if the crop survives the killing freezes, will Jonathan harvest begin in the heat of early August?

    More comparisons with the 2007 year with the Easter Sunday freeze that was devastating in this area: Our March 2012 above-average warm spell began on March 13, and since that time the daily high temps were above 74 degrees 14 of 16 days. In 2007, the warm spell began on March 21 and continued for 14 consecutive days before five days of freezing temps beginning on April 4. Many fruit areas in the Midwest and eastern parts of the country had freeze warnings this week, but in the St. Louis area, 50 degrees was the minimum for the week. It remains to be seen whether summer will bring predicted heat and low rainfall.

  • Coyotes are back in the news. This article from the American Bird Conservancy reports that when it comes to snack time, coyotes are often looking for cats. The same organization reports that migrating birds are returning early. Quelle suprise!
  • Oh, great. The weird spring weather might just have caused a maple syrup shortage. Start stockpiling.
  • Crab apple trees are wonderful, but Pat Hill reminds us that we have some terrific native trees that are spectacular at this time of year. I need to have Pat on my show soon.
  • Two new European studies published in the peer-reviewed journal Science, implicate neonicotinoid insecticides in honey bee losses. As usual, the chemical companies question the data. Blah, blah, blah.
  • At long last, the FDA has acted to reduce the routine use of agricultural antibiotics.
  • Finally, for those of you who get a headache when trying to sort out the terms “open- pollinated,” “F-1 hybrid” and “GMO,” here’s an article called Seed Buying 101: A Seed Gardener’s Glossary from the Home Garden Seed Association.

A win for front yard veggies, two great conferences, and trying to get a win for clean air

February 13, 2011

Victory Garden!! Northbrook allows front yard veggies!

You might remember last year’s late summer brouhaha involving a modest vegetable garden that a modest family in Northbrook just happened to put in the wrong place–their front yard. When a neighbor decided to issue a complaint, Alex Lyakhovetsky and his mother Dora quickly became the poster children for the suburban Locavore movement

It seemed a little bizarre to me that a lawn, which has been described as a “biological desert,” might be preferred over a plot of land that produces food. Regardless, the matter ended up on the agenda of the Village of Northbrook Board of Trustees. I attended the meeting where Dora presented them with a basket of tomatoes that had been grown in her own yard. “It’s wonderful,” she said, and placed it on the table in front of them.

Fast forward to Tuesday of this past week, when the board met to discuss whether a vegetable garden was an appropriate use of a front yard. Lee Goodman, who spoke eloquently to the board last September in defense of the Lyakhovetsky garden, fired off an email to me. It read:

The Northbrook village board decided tonight to allow people to have vegetable gardens in their front yards, without any size restrictions, and without prior permission. It took us a long time to get this decision, and I consider it a total victory. Hopefully people will follow Dora’s example and plant vegetables, and other municipalities will follow Northbrook’s lead.

Woo-hoo! I called the Lyakhovetskys and the lovely Dora (who laid a beautiful cantaloupe on me last fall) called it her “victory garden.” Hence the headline above. Alex Lyakhovetsky and Lee Goodman are on the show this morning to discuss the action of the City of Northbrook.

Garfield Farm presents 25th anniversary native plant seminar

Garfield Farm Museum has an all-star cast for its 25th annual Prairie, Woodlands, and Wetlands Management Seminar on Saturday, February 19 from 8:30 am-4:30pm. A couple of the speakers, Roy Diblik from Northwind Perennial Farm and Connor Shaw from Possibility Place Nursery, are friends of my show. Also featured are John Engstrom, Cathy McGlynn and Jerome Johnson.

What I like about this day long event is that it’s directed at the average land owner–from backyard gardeners to owners of natural area acreage. The seminar covers all the key methods and techniques of preserving and using the best adapted plants for the Illinois environment.

Jerome Johnson, Executive Director of Garfield Farm Museum and Cathy McGlynn join me on the program this morning. Cathy is Coordinator of the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership (NIIPP) and will be talking about new and established invasive plants in prairies.She will also talk about the New Invaders Watch Program (NiWP) and how the average citizen can get involved in stemming the tide of invasive plants. How do we do this? By knowing about each plant’s natural history, identification, native look a-likes, control methods, and current known locations. Sound like a lot of work? You betcha. And necessary, too.

There is a $50 donation for the all day seminar which includes lunch and refreshments. That is SUCH a deal! I want to help Jerome fill the place next Saturday.

Speaking of great conferences…

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) is holding it’s 19th annual Natural Landscapign Seminar 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. This year’s program is called
“Tending the Earth”.

On next week’s show, I will be talking to 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. I’m also hoping to talk to Steven Apfelbaum, chairman and principal ecologist of Applied Ecological Services, Inc. His talk is called “Nature’s Second Chance”

Normally, I don’t preview my shows a week in advance, but the WPPC had some issues with getting their conference invitations out via snail mail recently, and I’m stepping in. They invited me to speak up in McHenry County a few years ago and they’re a great organization. I hope people turn out in force for the seminar.

Valentine’s Day is “Clean Power Ordinance People’s Hearing” Day

How about sending a love note to Chicago’s air tomorrow?

49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore was on the show a couple of weeks ago to talk about how a hearing on the Clean Power Ordinance, which he introduced last year, had been put on the back burner by the Chicago City Council, more than likely at the behest of the Daley Administration.

But that’s not going to stop Moore. Tomorrow morning, starting with a press conference at 9:30 a.m., Ald. Moore with convene his own ad hoc hearing on the Clean Power Ordinance, and I encourage you to be there. The site is City Hall Council Chambers, 2nd Floor, 121 North LaSalle Street in Chicago.

Meanwhile, Greening Together: A Benefit to Re-Elect Joe Moore, which was postponed by the Blizzard of ’11, has been rescheduled for this this Wednesday at Uncommon Ground Restaurant, 1401 W. Devon Avenue in Chicago. Even if you don’t live in the 49th Ward (and I don’t), you might want to consider supporting this true champion on environmental issues and citizen participation in Chicago government.