A week of special events

August 14, 2011

Event #1 – Now streaming LIVE: #gardenchat party at The Yarden!

You might even have noticed my shiny new uStream screen on the home page. It’s up there because I’m going to be streaming the 2011 Garden Party Event from my own website Monday evening, August 15. If it all works well, (and you know what can go wrong with technology) you can just click on tomorrow evening and join the fun. Here’s what’s will be happening.

As I mentioned last week, the Independent Garden Center Show, or IGC, is one of the really big horticultural trade events of the year. It’s at Naviy Pier this week, Tuesday, August 16 through Thursday, August 18 and features 1,000 vendor booths and dozens of seminars. And when the big industry shows are in town, the industry media descend, to see what’s hot, what’s news and generally what’s happening. More and more, that means garden writers armed devices that allow them to immediately connect with their followers on their blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook and more.

As a kickoff to IGC week, some of those social media types will be gathering in LaManda Joy‘s fabulous garden on Chicago’s northwest side. LaManda is one of the forces behind the Peterson Garden Project, a historic 40th Ward victory garden that has become the largest community garden in the City of Chicago. She is also known as the proprietor of The Yarden blog, and her Twitter handle is @TheYarden (quelle coincidence!)

It’s a Twitter garden party, as a bunch of aforementioned horticulture media types gather to have some food and drink, tour her garden, but more importantly, tweet until their fingers drop off! If you have a Twitter account, just go to #gardenchat to join in the conversation. If you couldn’t care less about Twitter (and you know who you are), the whole shebang is going to be streamed live on Ustream from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. CDT tomorrow, August 15,

I will be co-hosting the event with garden writer Brenda Haas, who goes by the Twitter handle @BG_garden, and who has her own blog, BGgarden. If you are a Twitterphile, there are a number of good reasons to log into #gardenchat from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. CDT. The first is that you might win some great prizes, just for tweeting during the event.

One lucky participent will have their name drawn at the end of the #gardenchat Summer Party Event 8/15 in @TheYarden as the winner of the @Subaru_Life Tailgate Wagon. YOU MUST BE tweeting on #gardenchat during the 7 -9 p.m. CT event to be eligible to win the Subaru Wagon. Now before you get all breathless about winning an automobile, you need to know that the Tailgate Wagon isn’t that. It’s a wagon–you know, like a Radio Flyer–except that it’s the perfect size for…um, a tailgate party. Hence the name.

A few other great companies, who sponsor #gardenchat will have things to give away. They include Corona Tools, Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs,and Easy Gardener , to mention a few. To see the full list of giveaways, click on to the Summer 2011 Garden Party Event link.

Rumor has it that horticultural TV guru P.Allen Smith and social media expert Kyle Lacy awill be on site, which doesn’t do you any good, ’cause you didn’t get an invitation. No offense. There’s only so many people that will fit into LaManda’s garden. Which is why you should log on for the Chicago garden event of the season. It’s going to be fun. I hope you join us on Twitter or watch us on uStream. TWEET ON, DUDES!

Event #2 – Recycle Now! fundraiser for CRC on Thursday

If you live in Chicago, you’ve heard these questions more than once:

  • When is my block going to get blue carts?
  • Why do I have to schlep my recyclables to a drop off site?
  • Why can’t Chicago recycle???!

I have a question of my own:

  • Why the heck are we still talking about this in the 21st Century?

It used to be that the city had an excuse–Mayor Richard M. Daley was in charge and he didn’t care about recycling. You could look it up. Well, you could if he had ever said anything about the issue, Now we have a new mayor–some guy named Rahm Emanuel–and it’s hard to tell where he stands on this important environmental matter..At least it is to us at the Chicago Recycling Coaltion, because he’s done his darndest to pretend that our organization doesn’t exist.

First, in the interest of full disclosure, I am president of the CRC. However, I don’t make a dime for holding that position. I don’t exactly make a lot of money for being the host of my radio show, either. Boy, can I pick ’em or what?

Last month, Mr. Emanuel announced that he was intiating a six month “managed competition” program for Chicago’s Blue Cart Program. In essense, the mayor is pitting city workers against private contractors to see who can more effeciently and cost-effectlvely perform reycling services. To read more about the media reaction to the mayor’s proposal, go to the CRC home page for a list of stories. The CRC has its own reservations, detailed in an article called Is Mayor Emanuel’s “managed competition” really just “stealth privatization?”

One of the questions that CRC asks is whether this is the first step in turning over ALL Bureau of Sanitation pick ups to private companies–including garbage. To get a good sense of where this might be headed, check out Mick Dumke‘s excellent piece in The Reader: Why you should care about the way garbage is picked up.

Meanwhile, this is no time to sit back while the mayor makes unilateral decisions that will have far-reaching consequences. (Think parking meters.) it’s time to take action…and I hope you’ll join me next Thursday to do just that.

The CRC is holding a fundraiser at the beautiful, Gold LEED certified Logan Square Kitchen on Thursday, August 18 at 6:00 p.m. Do you have something to say about recycling? Do you want to hear what other people have to say? Do you want to be part of a new game plan for a new administration? If you stop by, You’ll meet people who have been fighting for recycling in Chicago for twenty years and people who just moved into town and can’t believe that recycling isn’t recognized as a basic city service. You will have a chance to talk with Chicago Recycling Coalition board members about how we can mobilize to get an efficient, socially fair recycling program instituted in Chicago.

We’re trying to make it an offer you can’t refuse in a number of ways. How? Check it out:

  • The documentary Scrappers will be shown. Shot by local filmmakers, it’s about two metal scavengers in the alleys of Chicago.
  • PC Rebuilders & Recyclers will be on hand to pick up your electronic waste.
  • There will be tours of the gorgeous Logan Square Kitchen facilites.
  • You can talk to CRC board members about possible solutions to moving recycling forward in Chicago.
  • There will be gourmet popcorn (FREE!), as well as craft beer, wine and craft sodas for sale (proceeds go in part to CRC)
  • You can sign up for future strategy sessions with the CRC.
  • AND IT ONLY COSTS $20!!!

Reservations can be made at Brown Paper Tickets. However, I know that many of you won’t be able to attend. So I hope you consider sending a message to city hall that Chicago is an embarrassment in the “greenest city in America” competition until it has a comprehensive recycling program. You can do that clicking RIGHT HERE to make a tax-deductible donation.

“Scrappers” filmmakers Brian Ashby, Courtney Prokopas and Ben Kolak join me in studio this morning to talk about their film, which, among other things, received 3 1/2 stars from Roger Ebert. They’ll be joined on the phone by Zina Murray of the Logan Square Kitchen.

Sustainable Food Fundamentals:
Sweet Home Organics keeps up with changing seasons

It’s time for another visit with “commuting farmer” Kim Marsin of Sweet Home Organics. Even she has begun to use that phrase, which I guess I coined. I can’t wait for the royalty checks to start rolling in. You might remember that Kim and Rachel are part of a new breed of farmers who don’t own the land on which they grow crops. Primrose Farm, where they lease land, is owned by the St. Charles Park District. The farm itself is the last of a line of what used to be 3-5 working dairy farms. The former neighboring farms have since been torn down or turned into homes. The park district runs the farm as a living history farm open for the public for tours (on Wed and Saturdays).

I spoke with Kim the other day and she gave me an ear full of how she and partner Rachel Reklau are “switching fields.” That is to say, they’re about to start planting on fields that have been growing cover crops, which help fertilize the soil naturally. In fact, why don’t I let Kim explain it herself?

We’re in the process of switching fields. We’re on a 2-year rotation, so we’ve been growing our veggies on the East 2 acres and next year we’ll grow on the Whabitatest 2 acres (that was previously growing a red clover/annual rye cover crop). Clover does a great job of breaking up soil and fixing nitrogen. Cut clover makes tasty hay for the Primrose dairy cows and draft horses. We’re excited to make this switch because we know our veggies will do very well.

Today the farmers of Primrose cut the clover one last time to make hay for their animals. Next week we’ll till in the clover and put down our fall cover crop, forage peas and oats. These will winter-kill (die over winter), which will allow us to plant straight into the ground (without tilling) in spring. We’ve previously tried growing over-wintering (plants that will go dormant during the winter, but then start back growing once the ground warms up) cover crops. We found this added stress trying to kill off the cover crop in the midst of unpredictable spring soil moisture craziness. I used to shake my head when I’d drive by all the fields that have just bare open soil in winter, wondering why don’t they plant a cover crop to prevent soil erosion, etc. After what we struggled through earlier this spring, I now understand the draw to leaving the soil exposed and ready to plant come spring.

Having half or part of fields resting or growing cover crops/green manures is a key component to most organic agriculture practices. It’s a great way to allow soil to build up organic matter and replenish nitrogen and other nutrients (without bringing in compost or other ‘bought’ fertilizers). A fun side benefit is the habitat it provides for beneficial insects. We have a yard of honey bee hives on site and the beekeeper likes that we grow clover as it makes for lots more great-tasting honey!

By the way, Angelic Organics Learning Center, which often helps me bring guests to the Sustainable Food Fundamentals segment, features Sweet Home Organics in their latest farmer profile.