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!