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Jim Slama


Scott Mehaffey and Mike in the rose garden at the
Chicago Flower & Garden Show


Laura, Dan and Mike at the Flower Show


Bren Haas and Mike at #gardenchat in Chicago


Dave Coulter

 

 


Humanely raised livestock at Mint Creek Farm
Photo by Kate Gross (www.kategrossphotography.com)

 

 


The extremely talented Sunnyside Up at last year's Localicious

 

 

 

 


Sarah Batka, Jim Slama and Mike at last year's
Localicious

 

 

 


Paul Fehribach

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dennis Dreher in his natural element

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 19, 2015

A week of festivals in Chicago:

The 11th Annual Good Food Festival & Conference...

It's only fitting that my final interview leading up to the Good Food Festival & Conference is with Jim Slama, who is the founder, president and guiding force behind Family Farmed, which has been putting on this event for eleven years. He's not exactly a slouch when it comes to making his presence felt regarding environmental matters. From Family Farmed's website:

FamilyFarmed.org's work earned the Yahoo! for Good Green Award. In 1999 Jim was named by Crain's Chicago Business to its “Forty Under Forty” annual list of leading young business and civic leaders. Jim also received the Chicago Tribune Good Eating Award for his contributions to the Chicago food and beverage world. Jim was the founding publisher and editor of Conscious Choice magazine. During his 14 years tenure, Conscious Choice was named nine times by Utne Reader as a member of the Best of the Alternative Press.

Yeah, but what have you done for us lately?

Actually, the answer to that is the Good Food Festival & Conference, which brings together farmers, producers, policy stakeholders, financers, merchants, innovators, chefs, entrepreneurs and, of course, the public--all under one roof, with the common goal of figuring out ways that we can all eat tastier, healthier food.

As i write this, the event has already begun and runs at the UIC Forum, 725 W Roosevelt Road in Chicago, from March 19 through 21.

The Chicago Flower & Garden Show at Navy Pier...

Meanwhile, not that far away, on the lakefront, a show that has been running--some say as far back as 1847!--is the Chicago Flower & Garden Show presented Mariano's. Under the leadership of current president and show director Tony Abruscato, the quality of the event has slowly but surely improved. This year's show, with the theme "Do Green. Do Good." acquits itself rather well.

Among the features are 25 or so feature gardens, a marketplace, seminars and workshops, garden gourmet, kids activity garden, tablescapes, art of floral exhibit and much more.

I'm not offering a comprehensive review of this year's show, mainly because I spent most of my time there in the marketplace booth for Chicagoland Gardening Magazine, selling and signing copies of my book, Attack of the Killer Asparagus (do you have your copy yet? Seriously, what are you waiting for??) Anyway, in putting this week's podcast together, I let myself be moved by the moment...provided I had my recorder with me.

So, when I noticed that an old friend, landscape architect Scott Mehaffey, was involved in the design for a rose garden called A Classic Rose Garden, and he also happened to be standing in it and talking to garden show patrons, well, it was a no brainer to get a quick interview with him.

Then, as I was strolling through the show, I ran into a colleague and friend of The Mike Nowak Show, Dan Kosta from Vern Goers Greenhouse in Hinsdale. Now Dan had nothing to do with the flower show, except that he bought a ticket and showed up with his friend Laura. But we had just been through a couple of days of unusually warm weather, and I knew that Dan would have some good advice about what to do and what not to do in the garden in Chicago right now.

...and the people who tweet about them

What good is having a gardening or food show, if nobody knows about it? And in the 21st Century, that means more than justl the traditional media. It means Facebook and Google+ and Pinterest and Instagram and Tumblr and, of course Twitter.

Enter Bren Haas (@BG_Garden) and her fellow garden writers/bloggers/reporters, who get together every Monday night at 8pm Central Time and participate in something called #gardenchat. If you know nothing about Twitter, the hashtag (#) is a way to identify a word or a phrase that can be used by all tweeters to connect them to an online conversation. Of course, people can tweet anytime using #gardenchat, which they do.

Normally, Bren runs #gardenchat from her home in Ohio, bringing in a "guest" tweeter (I was actually in the guest chair once), but occasionally she hits the road to attend events like the Chicago Flower & Garden Show at Navy Pier. She gathered a bunch of Twitter types together at the Sheraton Chicago, where we had coffee, cheesecake, chocolate cake and, though we were sitting all together at a table, barely looked at each other for an hour as we tweeted our little hearts out.

We live in a strange century.

Anyway, Bren appears on this week's podcast, talking about her own love of growing things and how #gardenchat came together.

Listen to this entire podcast ON DEMAND.

 

March 12, 2015

Is there a place for the "post modern" hedgerow in the 21st Century?

In 2014, I welcomed Dave Coulter of Osage, Inc. to the program to talk about his study of hedgerows and how they might find a place in our fields and landscapes in the 21st Century. Dave is a certified arborist and former educator at Triton College, who has had what can only be described as a life-long fascination with hedgerows. In an article for the Solutions Journal called Life in the Margins, he explains how that came about:

One of my favorite memories from my childhood was finding a box turtle living under a line of gnarly Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) trees in my suburban Chicago neighborhood. It was not until many years later that I realized that this row of rough trees, threading through backyards and along roadsides, was a remnant farm boundary--a 19th Century hedgerow that had outgrown its purpose and yet, managed to persist into modern times.

In studying these agricultural artifacts, Coulter became aware that they were havens for numerous species--whether reptiles, mammals, birds, insects or more. Again, he writes,

Who cannot see the myriad possibilities offered by a new generation of hedgerows, linear assemblages of plants designed specifically for biodiversity, or for food, pollinators or endangered species? We are missing opportunities, that are right in front of us, to creat new niches for life. How many suitable spaces--urban and rural--do we pass every day that are otherwise going to waste?

Dude. I'm with you. And so, apparently, is the Midwest-Great Lakes Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration. Their 2015 chapter meeting is called Cultivating Ecological Restoration within Human Dominated Landscapes and it will be held at the Chicago Botanic Garden from March 27-29.

One of the symposia on March 27 is a presentation called "Life Along the Edges - A Discussion of the Value of Field Margins, Hegerows and Buffers in the Modern Landscape." Hmm, I wonder what that symposium is going to be about?

It's great to have Dave back on the show this week to talk the presentation on March 27.

Listen to this podcast segment ON DEMAND.

Humane, sustainable meat production is not an oxymoron

In another interview leading up to The Good Food Festival & Conference, I talk to Raya Carr, who is the sales manager for Mint Creek Farm, a family operation in Stelle, Illinois that raises premium, grassfed meats for the Chicago area. And if you think that eating any kind of meat is destroying the planet, this is what Mint Creek Farm says about that:

Who would have guessed that a combination so simple as sheep on grass could help with global warming?  Grasses and legumes naturally process and fix carbon in the soil.  Rotationally grazing perennial pasture is actually one of the best carbon-dioxide-absorbing natural systems there is— even better than planting trees, because the forage plants are kept in their vegetative state by the regular grazing of livestock.  Raising sheep and laying hens was originally part of the Carrs' plan to enliven and enrich the natural prairie ecosystems in their area that have been so depleted by modern mainstream agricultural practices.  They now raise sheep, cows, pigs, goats, and various poultry, as well, with the of goals of bringing back biodiversity and fertility to the land through organic farming methods and making  life-giving, grass-fed meat and eggs available here in a region where it is hard to come by. 

You also need to meet Mint Creek Farm's resident "Farmer Poet," Harry Carr, who just happens to be Raya's dad. I think he's located at the intersection of sustainability and performance art, though I'm not exactly sure. Anyway, Mint Creek is participating in FamilyFarmed's Good Food Business Accelerator and Raya is speaking at the Good Food Festival's Trade Day on Friday, March 20, in a panel called Scaling Up Local Meat.

They're among the local, sustainable and humane meat producing operations that are providing a badly needed alternative to the factory farm operations in our country that are creating misery and sickness in the name of cheap food.

The Good Food Festival & Conference is returning to the UIC Forum in Chicago for three days--March 19, 20 and 21. The three days look something like this:

Thursday: Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference
March 19th 9:00am-6:00pm

The Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference helps address one of the biggest challenges facing the growing Good Food movement: helping food and farm businesses gain access to investment that will help them scale up and meet the demand for local, sustainable food.  More than thirty businesses exhibit at the Financing Fair. Click here for the schedule.

Friday: Trade Day including Trade track, School Food track, Producer track, and Food Policy Conference
March 20th 9:00am-7:00pm

Each focused “track” on this important business-to-business day approaches the growth of Good Food from a unique perspective, and we encourage you to experience them all! Resource, network and buy from more than 100 exhibitors, then enjoy lunch at the Good Food Court.  Click here for the schedule.

Saturday: Good Food Festival
March 21st  10:00am-5:00pm

FamilyFarmed invites you to a day of samples from local food artisans, workshops, chef demos, and fun learning experiences at the Kids' Corner! Meet Good Food resources, shop exhibitors, buy products, and enjoy lunch at the Good Food Court. More than 100 exhibitors! Click here for the schedule.

Oh, and let's not forget

Localicious!
Friday, March 20, 7:00pm - 9:30pm at UIC Forum

You're invited to join award-winning Chicago Chefs as they prepare savory dishes for your tasting pleasure. pairing with local farmers who use sustainable growing methods, these artisans will demonstrate how "farm to table" results in extraordinary creations that will excite the senses and delight the palate. The party is complete with unique beverages created by Chicago-area and regional distilleries and breweries, providing the perfect complement to these amazing meal offerings. And back by popular demand is the band Sunnyside Up, playing terrific bluegrass and swing!

The Mike Nowak Show will be part of the Saturday grand finale, and it is even possible that I will be podcasting live from the event. Stay tuned.

Listen to this podcast segment ON DEMAND.

 

March 5, 2015

Talking southern cooking, sustainability, the Good Food Festival and more
with Chef Paul Fehribach of Big Jones Restaurant in Chicago

I have to start with The Good Food Festival & Conference, which is returning to the UIC Forum in Chicago for three days--March 19, 20 and 21. In case you've been on the Planet Nadnor for the past eleven years, the GFFC, as it's sometimes affectionately know, is pretty much the premiere foodie event of the year. And if you've been to any part of this remarkable conference, you know why.

The three days look something like this:

Thursday: Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference
March 19th 9:00am-6:00pm

The Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference helps address one of the biggest challenges facing the growing Good Food movement: helping food and farm businesses gain access to investment that will help them scale up and meet the demand for local, sustainable food.  More than thirty businesses exhibit at the Financing Fair. Click here for the schedule.

Friday: Trade Day including Trade track, School Food track, Producer track, and Food Policy Conference
March 20th 9:00am-7:00pm

Each focused “track” on this important business-to-business day approaches the growth of Good Food from a unique perspective, and we encourage you to experience them all! Resource, network and buy from more than 100 exhibitors, then enjoy lunch at the Good Food Court.  Click here for the schedule.

Saturday: Good Food Festival
March 21st  10:00am-5:00pm

FamilyFarmed invites you to a day of samples from local food artisans, workshops, chef demos, and fun learning experiences at the Kids' Corner! Meet Good Food resources, shop exhibitors, buy products, and enjoy lunch at the Good Food Court. More than 100 exhibitors! Click here for the schedule.

Oh, and let's not forget

Localicious!
Friday, March 20 7:00pm – 9:30pm at UIC Forum

You're invited to join award-winning Chicago chefs as they prepare savory dishes for your tasting pleasure. Pairing with local farmers who use sustainable growing methods, these artisans will demonstrate how “farm to table” results in extraordinary creations that will excite the senses and delight the palate.  The party is complete with unique beverages created by Chicago-area and regional distilleries and breweries, providing the perfect complement to these amazing meal offerings. And back by popular demand is the band, Sunnyside Up , playing terrific bluegrass and swing!

The Mike Nowak Show will be part of the Saturday grand finale, and it is even possible that I will be podcasting live from the event. We're working on the technology, folks. I'll get back to you on that.

But I am one of the media sponsors of the event and, as such, I get to talk to some pretty cool people on my podcasts. One of them is Paul Fehribach, who is Executive Chef and co-owner of Big Jones in the Andersonville Neighborhood of Chicago. Not only is he going to be part of Localicious on Friday and be doing cooking demos on Saturday, he is receiving the Good Food Chef of the Year Award fromt the festival for his outstanding commitment to local, sustainable, heirloom sourcing.

So it was a treat to go up to Andersonville to chat with Paul. It's a wide ranging conversation that runs the gamut from his definition of sustainability to who his cooking heroes are to what exactly is "southern" cooking. I hope you get a chance to listen.

MELA 2015 Conference focuses on stormwater management

Also on the show is Dennis Dreher, who works for an outfit called Geosyntech Consultants. He's a guy who knows about things like conservation design, sustainable development, stormwater and floodplain management, stream and wetland protection, water quality planning, watershed management, and biodiversity protection. All of that knowledge comes from his work for organizations like the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (which was folded into CMAP) and Chicago Wilderness, where he served on the Green Infrastructure Vision Task Force. He has been asked to speak at Pathways: Stepping Stones to Sustainable Landscapes, the 2015 Conference for the Midwest Ecological Landscape Alliance (MELA).

The conference also features Debra Shore, a Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), who opens the Conference with a profile of stormwater management in Chicagoland. Among the other speakers will be

  • Christine Nye, Horticulture Manager at The Shedd Aquarium
  • Michael J. Curry, BS, PLA, ASLA, GRP, President/Owner, GreenSite, Inc
  • Nicky Obenauf ecolgist and project manager for Davey Resource Group's Natural Resource Consulting team in Chicago
  • Heidi Natura, ASLA, Registered Landscape Architect, LEED AP BD+C, Founder/Partner, Living Habitats

The event will be held on Thursday, March 12 from 8:00 am to 3 pm at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn and you can register here.

Listen to this entire podcast ON DEMAND!

 

February 26, 2015

Weather, recycling and the One Earth Film Festival 2015

Tune in to GDGDRadio.com any day this week to hear the latest installment of The Mike Nowak Show. I just added one of those gizmos that allows my smartphone to play through my car radio (it cost me all of about $20, unbelievably), then called up the GDGDRadio app, and there I was, listening to Internet radio in my own vehicle. It's that simple, folks. Of course, you can use other apps as well, like Tunein, Spreaker and more. You can also follow The Green Divas on their Facebook page.

Let's get to what's on this week's show.

  • Any time I get the chance to talk weather and climate change with meteorologist Rick DiMaio, I jump at it. In this conversation, Rick and I chat about the second of back-to-back cold, nasty winters in the eastern part of the U.S. (California is another matter altogether.) At the same time, however, you can take a look at an article like this one in the Washington Post with the headline, Even as the eastern U.S. freezes, there’s less cold air in winter than ever before.

Huh?

Believe or not, that's true. From the story:

One may wonder how the cold air supply is so compromised after the relentless blasts of frigid air in the eastern U.S. the past two winters.

“You just need to look around and see how big the globe is,” Martin says. “The thing this simple analysis makes clear is that there is such an obvious difference between regional weather and global climate. There’s a better way to measure global change than backyard thermometers.”

Martin points out that while the U.S. has shivered, Alaska and northern Europe, in particular, have been much warmer than normal. And he is convinced the hemispheric warming signal reflects growing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

“The only way to have systematically smaller pools of cold air is to have greater retention of infrared energy [from greenhouse gases],” Martin says. “The planet can’t cool the way it used to.”

Rick DiMaio has been talking on my show about the important difference difference between "regional weather and global climate" for almost seven years! Which is just one of the reasons why he's back on the show this week.

Podcast

Cook County Steps Up to Keep Demolition Debris Out of Landfills

Next up is Bryant Williams, who is Manager of Engineering Services for the Cook County Department of Environmental Control. He's also the current president of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, a wonderful grassroots group on Chicago's southeast side that has fought environmental degradation for 25 years.

Believe it or not, Cook County is becoming a national leader when it comes to environmental efforts, which includes a law that went into effect in 2012 called the Demolition Debris Diversion Ordinance. In an article for Index Publishing Corporation, Deborah C. Stone, Chief Sustainability Officer and Director for the Cook County Department of Environmental Control writes that

The ordinance requires that a minimum of 70% of all demolition debris generated in the demolition, dismantling or renovation of single-family, commercial and industrial structures be diverted from the waste stream.

It further mandates that a minimum 5% of the material in residential structures be reused. Reuse has even more environmental benefits than recycling, as it uses the components in their final manufactured form and avoids the energy use needed to recycle into new components, and wastes less of the materials.

Under the ordinance, contractors are required to submit a demolition debris diversion plan at the beginning of demolition projects that meet the 3D criteria, as a condition of receiving a demolition or renovation permit from Cook County.

That has resulted in a diversion of more than 500,000 tons of material away from landfills! Bryant is on the show today to talk about webinar that the USEPA is co-sponsoring, which will focus on the ordinance, which is sometimes known as "3D."

The webinar happens on Thursday, March 5 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. CST and concerned communities and businesses that would like to learn more about 3D can register here.

Listen to this segment ON DEMAND!

Podcast

The One Earth Film Festival Is Back

The second hour of today's podcast is completely devoted to the Fourth Annual One Earth Film Festival. More than 35 films will be presented at 30 venues throughout the Chicago area over three days--March 6 to 8. You can find the complete schedule of events here. That includes the Green Carpet Gala on Friday, March 6, screenings for kids and families, and the Young Filmmakers Contest.

The One Earth Film Festival is hosted by a group called Green Community Connections, which calls itself a "deep roots" organization. They state that

One Earth Film Festival is the Midwest premier environmental film festival, creating opportunities for understanding climate change, sustainability and the power of human involvement through sustainability-themed films and facilitated discussion.  We engage private, public and non-profit sector community partners in the sponsorship and production of the film festival.  The 2014 festival drew 2500 from throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.

I went out Forest Park to meet with three of the folks from Green Community Connections--Cassandra West, Gina Robbins and David Holmquist--to talk about the films and the criteria for choosing them.

Podcast

Angel Azul...or Can Art on the Bottom of the Sea Save our Coral Reefs?

I also managed to have a conversation with filmmaker Marcy Cravat, who directed and produced a remarkable documentary called Angel Azul, which I the opportunity to view before we chatted. That film alone is a reason to spend some time at the One Earth Film Festival. Here's how Marcy describes her own film:

Angel Azul explores the artistic journey of Jason deCaires Taylor, an innovative artist who combines creativity with an important environmental solution; the creation of artificial coral reefs from statues he's cast from live models. When algae overtakes the reefs however, experts provide the facts about the perilous situation coral reefs currently face and solutions necessary to save them.

If the rest of the entries are as good as Angel Azul, this is going to be one heck of a film festival. You can follow the action on Facebook here.

Listen to this segment ON DEMAND!

 

February 16, 2015

This Week's Show is Back!!!

You could call it a vacation or call it a re-examination or call it what you will. After a few weeks of skipping the writing part of my program, I'm back in the saddle and moving forward.

As many of you already know, you can hear my podcasts every day from 1 to 3 pm CST on GDGDRadio.com, which is the home of The Green Divas. On GDGDRadio, I present the full two hour program. However, if you're interested in specific show segments, they are always available On Demand on my own podcast page.

We're very close to revamping the website--including creating a tutorial on how to listen to my shows online--so stay tuned, as they say. Here's what's on This Week's Show:

Podcast

    C.L. Fornari, who you can find at Gardenlady.com, is an author, speaker, blogger, radio & TV host and, of course, a gardener. Her latest book is Coffee for Roses: ...and 70 Other Misleading Myths About Backyard Gardening. Don't worry--she doesn't yell at you for having fallen for some old gardening half-truth. Her approach is to gently let you know that sometime "garden advice" has no basis in science...or reality. I truly enjoyed chatting with her about where these myths come from and how they get passed along from one generation of gardeners to the next

By the way, during our conversation, we refer to The Garden Professors: Science-based gardening information. You can also find this group on Facebook. Personally, I find The Garden Professors a bit intimidating; not so much with C.L. Fornari.

Listen to this segment ON DEMAND!

Podcast

Will GMO Food Labeling Come to Illinois?

Food & Water Watch is working hard to get a law passed that would label Genetically Modified Foods sold in the State of Illinois. Organizer Jessica Fujan says that, unlike efforts in other states that focused on statewide referenda, this one is aimed at the General Assembly--in particular, the Illinois Senate. You can keep up to date with Food & Water Watch Illinois on their Facebook page.

Listen to this segment ON DEMAND!

Podcast

Why Tim Magner Wants to Create Nature's Farm Camp for Kids

Tim Magner has been on my program several times, first as an author, then as proprietor of something called Truck Farm Chicago. Now, with the help of people like Elena Marre and Nance Klehm, he is working on pulling together Nature's Farm Camp. The idea is that it's a place for kids to have fun while connecting with nature, food, each other and themselves. I can't argue with that. They are also in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign, which you can link to here.

Listen to this segment ON DEMAND!

On the podcast, I talk a little bit about the "Monarch Massacre," as the Washington Post puts it. Well, at this moment, they are resting in Mexico, preparing for their northward journey in March. On a website called Monarch Joint Venture, you can read the story 2015 Population Update and Estimating the Number of Overwintering Monarchs in Mexico. Basically, the overwinter number is slightly better than last year but not enough to make you pop the champagne corks. It's going to take time, folks.

I also mention an interesting article by Chip Taylor, director of Monarch Watch, regarding the “Petition to protect the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus) under the Endangered Species Act.” While it seems that it might be a good idea, Taylor argues eloquently that there are pitfalls in taking this approach. You can read his full comment in his piece called Monarch Conservation: Our Choices.

  • And here are the three stories I briefly mention during the podcast, in case you want to follow up:

American Dockworkers Are Savaging Your Recycling Bin (Shanghai Scrap, the personal Blog of author Adam Minter, author of Junkyard Planet)

Keep daffodils away from food, supermarkets warned (BBC News)

An Uninvited Guest, Treated Like a Monarch, Makes Itself at Home (The New York Times)

It's good to be back.

Past Show Archives