April 24, 2016 – Watching our water, native plants in your own backyard

I have never thought that my life was particularly interesting–at least not worthy of writing about. After the past year and a half, I’m beginning to reassess that view. And when I finally pen my memoirs, you’ll hear in graphic detail about my rendezvous with our medical system, which happened in the past couple of weeks. But that’s for the future.

Chicago Farm Report

For now, Peggy Malecki, intrepid publisher of Natural Awakenings Chicago Magazine, is back in studio to assist with hosting duties. Also back with another Chicago Farm Report is Patrick Barry.

He will be reporting on something called the “Whole Foods Effect”: when small, local producers face the daunting task of ramping up Farm stormproduction to meet the needs of large grocery chains.  He’s also looking at eighteen local sustainable farmers who were awarded 2016 grants from the nonprofit Frontera Farmer Foundation, which was started in 2003 by Rick and Deann Bayless and the staffs of the well-known Chicago restaurants, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.The capital-development grants, worth $12,000 or less, help farmers buy necessary supplies and equipment to expand operations and improve the flow of good food in the Midwest.Barry wants to call attention to the deadline of the Food to Market Challenge, which will award $500,000 to a team that can design an innovative solution to re-conceive supply chain practices that limit scale of the local food market in the Chicago region. That deadline is Tuesday.

We might even touch some more on local plant sales that are happening all over the area, even thought that was covered in some depth last week by Peggy and Sarah Batka.

Stopping water privatization

Next up is Jessica Fujan, senior Midwest organizer for Food & Water Watch. She warns that

In the past four sessions, the Illinois legislature has sponsored bills that would challenge our rights to defend our water or force ratepayers to foot the bill for risky acquisitions. Food & Water Watch has fought many successful battles at the state and local level, and is now taking the fight to Congress. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that our utilities need more than $700 billion to address infrastructure needs over the next 20 years.

I can think of few things more dangerous than putting our public safe waterwater supplies in the hands of for-profit companies.  lThink healthcare industry, and you know what I’m talking about. But in this era of concern about lead in our water systems, you will see the fear mongers–who stand to profit from our fears–rise up and make their pitches.

Fujan says that you can sign this petition to ask your lawmakers to keep our water supplies controlled by democratically elected (more or less) municipalities and water boards.

Using native plants in your own backyard

I’m pleased to welcome a new sponsor to The Mike Nowak Show, though you’ve already been hearing their ads for the past few weeks. Natural Communities Native Plants, in their own words,

Offering retail native plant sales with simple online ordering & delivery, and sales at green events throughout the growing season. Providing a impressive selection of fairly priced woodland, wetland, and prairie plants, shrubs, and trees native to the Chicago region and Greater Midwest. We sell plants both individually, and at bulk discount rates with convenient local pick up on Rt. 25 in Batavia, IL and at green events throughout the season.

Owner/Principal Ecologist  Nick Fuller notes that while their are a number of native plant suppliers in the Chicago region, it can be difficult to purchase those plants retail. He understands that many homeowners create their gardens piecemeal–even when it comes to 20150416_122806natives–so he wants to offer gardeners an opportunity to purchase plants on a smaller scale.

He’s joined by an old friend of mine, Keith Nowakowski, landscape architect in Illinois and author of Native Plants in the Home Landscape, for the Upper Midwest. He’s also author of the blog Sustaining Beauty. He works to create native plantings around residences that meet the needs of those particular spaces.

With Nick and Keith in studio we will attempt to demystify using native plants in the home landscape, offering tips and techniques about growing the best that the Midwest has had to offer for thousands of years.

By the way, Keith says that if folks are looking specifically for natives, they can go to the Native Plant Sales page of the Illinois Native Plant Society.