Future landscapers and current food lovers

March 13, 2011

Let the horticultural games begin!

Well, the future landscapers of America have to come from somewhere, don’t they? And in just a few days, those thousand or so college students who think they want to choose horticulture as a career will descend on Joliet Junior College for the 35th Annual Student Career Days, presented by the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET).

This is an annual three-day competitive event for students enrolled in interior and exterior horticulture programs at two- and four-year colleges and universities from across the country. Each year, a different host location is selected, which gives the participants a chance to see different parts of the country and also increases the level of difficulty for some of the outdoor competitions. The event also serves as a kind of jobs fair, where students meet with prospective companies and employers.

In case you’re wondering just what kinds of events these kids will be competing in, here’s a list:

3D Exterior Landscape Design
Annual & Perennial Identification
Arboriculture Techniques
Business Management
Compact Excavator Operation
Computer Aided Landscape Design
Construction Cost Estimating
Exterior Landscape Design
Interior Landscape Design
Interior Plant Identification
Irrigation Assembly
Irrigation Design
Irrigation Troubleshooting
Landscape Maintenance Operation
Landscape Plant Installation

And to think that when I was in college, I majored in pinball. Times have changed. I’m pleased to have a JJC student, Kathy Manow, in studio to talk about what it’s like to study horticulture at a time when the word “sustainability” is so prominent in the industry.She is joined by Roger Phelps, promotional communications manager for STIHL Inc. who is also a member of the PLANET board. I met him last year when I participated in the Stihl Tour des Trees ride through northern Illinois and I will just say that he has more energy than any six people you know. Good thing he’s on the phone.

THE local food event of the year is the FamilyFarmed Expo

Notice how I capitalized and italicized THE in the headline? It’s because during the three days of FamilyFarmed Expo you can do and learn just about anything related to local food. The festival takes place from Thursday, March 16 through Saturday, March 18 at the UIC Forum at the University of Illinois at Chicago, 725 West Roosevelt Road in Chicago.

Jim Slama, founder and president of FamilyFarmed.org, says that each of the three days represents different aspects of the local food movement:

Thursday: Financing Farm to Fork conference, supporting the local food movement by encouraging investment in farm and food production, processing and distribution businesses.

Friday: the Midwest’s leading local food trade show, a major school food track, the Meet the Buyers reception, the Food Policy Summit, and the one-of-a-kind Localicious Party to cap the day.

Saturday: cooking demos from celebrity chefs, educational workshops, Sally Fallon and an interactive Kids Corner.

I will actually be a part of one of those Saturday workshops:Small-Space Gardening How to grow food in your back yard, on rooftops, back porches, and in container, both indoors or out, from 2:00 to 3:15 p.m. I will be the humble moderator, in a conversation that features Milton Dixon, Permaculture Productions, Ron Nowicki, The Land Office. and Jeanne Pinsof Nolan, The Organic Gardener.

Another seminar, that will be held just after the one I’m moderating, is Cheap Food is Not Healthy Food. It takes a look at how sustainably raised food benefits public health, the environment, and animal welfare. Among the panelists is Bob Martin, who is with the Pew Environmental Group.One of the issues that is front and center with Pew is how to “save antibiotics” by reducing their use in food animal production. From the Pew website:

Up to 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to healthy food animals.The American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, Infectious Diseases Society of America and other leading medical groups all warn that the routine use of antibiotics in food animals presents a serious and growing threat to human health because it creates new strains of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Bob Martin also joins me on the program this morning. If you’re interested in attending FamilyFarmed Expo, there are various fee structures that you can examine here.

Good Growing: moving urban agriculture forward in Chicago

As you can see above, Friday’s sessions at FamilyFarmed Expo include the 6th Annual Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council Summit, where community representatives, food businesses, farmers, city leaders, chefs, not-for-profits and other food advocates come together to discuss poliices and influence the future of Chicago’s Food System.

But that work is already in progress, thanks to Advocates for Urban Agriculture, a coalition of organizations and individuals open to anyone interested in learning about, networking and advocating for urban agriculture in the Chicago Area. AUA member Martha Boyd, who is also part of Angelic Organics Learning Center, says that AUA has been working with the City of Chicago Commissioner of Department of Housing and Economic Development (which includes Zoning). The goal is to arrive at rules that don’t just get out of the way of urban food production, but actually help encourage it.

if you’re interested in this process, you might want to click onto these documents. The first is a letter crafted by AUA, asking about current policies and how they are interpreted by the city. The next document is the response from Commissioner Andrew J. Mooney. Just to clarify, this pdf includes the city’s response and draft of an Urban Horticulture FAQ. followed by the orginal letter, then, the AUA’s response to the city’s response. Whew! A little convoluted, I know, but these are the documents I have of this date. Martha promises to post them at the AUA site in their proper order.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in this disucssion, attend the Food Council Summit this Friday at FamilyFarmed Expo at the UIC Forum. There are TWO sessions on urban ag zoning and policy:

In the meantime, if you want to keep abreast of AUA activities, log on to the AUA Google site. It’s a discussion forum where new members are welcome. However, you need to join to be able to read all posts and add yours.