The Stuff of Legends

March 10, 2013

A show filled with legends

Legend #1: Bill Kurtis

Many of you are probably aware that news anchor Bill Kurtis recently made news when it was announced that he and co-anchor Walter Jacobson would not be renewing their contract with CBS2 Chicago, after being reunited for two and a half years.

But often, one door closing simply means another opens. At more or less the same time, Kurtis revealed that he will be the host of a new series of short radio segments about the environment, entitled “Earth Matters.” Interestingly enough, the first station to sign on was WCPT, Chicago’s Progressive Talk.

So I had to have him on my program to get a preview, since Earth Matters launches on Monday, March 11. Of course, many of you are aware of his involvement with the A&E shows Investigative Reports , American Justice, and Cold Case Files . You might also know that he founded Tallgrass Beef Company after learning about the health and environmental benefits of grass-fed beef.

It is indeed an honor to have Bill Kurtis on my program this morning to talk about the state of our fragile environment. I hope he will return from time to time.

Legends #2 and #3: Jim Slama and Vicki Nowicki

The Good Food Festival comes to Chicago next Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 14 through 16, and it’s becoming kind of a tradition on my show to have Jim Slama and Vicki Nowicki stop by to speak about this excellent local food event. In fact, the Good Food Festival and Conference (previously called the FamilyFarmed Expo) is considered by some to be the leading food event in the country. Part of the reason is that it is so far-reaching in scope! It includes a Financing Conference , Trade Show, School Food and Food Policy Summits, and a Saturday Festival that celebrates Good Food.

The man behind the plan is Legend #2, Jim Slama. For the past two decades, Jim Slama has been a national leader in promoting environmental sustainability and the Good Food Movement. He is the founder and President of, which encourages the production, marketing and distribution of locally grown and responsibly produced food. expands the market for local farmers and food producers by advancing the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement, training farmers to adopt best practices in food safety, playing an integral role in public policy, and supporting farmers to develop new wholesale markets.

Vicki Nowick is Legend #3 because she and husband Ron have been permaculture practitioners for more than 30 years–long before that word even existed. Their businesses, The Land Office and Liberty Gardens, combine the concepts excellent landscaping with sustainability and food production. From The Land Office website:

We are convinced that the beautiful and healthy landscapes we help to create are made so not just by decades of hands-on design experience and a high level of ecological literacy, but also by satisfying the objectives of: increasing biodiversity, conserving energy and resources, enhancing the educational potential of the landscape and helping others to make strong and lasting connections to the natural world.

It’s a pleasure to have them back on the show.

Legend #4: Mel Bartholomew

Anybody who knows anything about gardening knows that Mel Bartholomew is a true legend. After all, you don’t sell two million books by accident.

In 1981, after several years of experimentation, he published the ground-breaking (if you’ll forgive the gardening pun) Square Foot Gardening, which is no longer just a book but an entire foundation. So what nerve did Mel hit when he published this book that made it such a phenomenon?

Actually, he hit several nerves. Look at just some of his secrets to gardening success:

  • Plant a mixture of flowers, vegetables and herbs to create the garden of your dreams.
  • Spend only an hour per week maintaining your garden.
  • Grow twice as much in half the space using Mel’s special organic soil mix.
  • Eliminate heavy work like tilling, hoeing or constant weeding.
  • Take an Earth-friendly approach to gardening. Grow green!
  • Make gardening so simple & easy you can learn it in less than an hour.
  • Bring your garden right up close to your kitchen door instead of way out back like old-fashioned single-row gardens.

But how long will it take? In his lectures, Mel tells his audiences that

if they are new at gardeing, or perhaps afraid or overwhelmed by the idea of starting a garden, they will be able to learn this simple method of gardening in just an hour or two. Howevber, if they are already “expert” gardeners, it will probably take them about two weeks!

After reading that, I’m really looking forward to talking to Mel Bartholomew. If you want to see him in person, he is speaking at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show on Monday, March 11 at 6:15 p.m. Here’s what I suggest. Grab a quick bite to eat after work, head on over to Navy Pier, and take advantage of this opportunity to learn from a real gardening legend.

Legend #5: Jennifer Brennan

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. You work with Jennifer Brennan on Dig In Chicago and you’re just blowing smoke.” Well, guess what, gentle reader. I am NOT blowing smoke.

Jennifer joins me this morning to critique the 2013 Chicago Flower & Garden Show at Navy Pier. Yes, she is my co-host on our TV show Dig In Chicago, which is returning for a second season. We’re excited to announce that we are moving to WCIU “The U” for 2013. We will be on their “U Too” Channel, 26.2 in the Chicago area, and on the Comcast, RCN and WOW cable networks. It’s a definite step up for us.

Starting in mid-April, Dig In Chicago will move to its new time slot, 8:30 a.m. on the “U Too” Channel, following P. Allen Smith Gardens. We hope you will join us as we continue to explore the great variety of Chicago gardens and food.

But back to Jennifer. I have known her for fifteen years, and if there is a more knowledgeable and nicer person in the horticultural business, I don’t know who it is. I am more than honored to have her on my team. She’s the best.