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July 20, 2014

The Attack of the Killer Asparagus Summer 2014 Tour Continues!

Join Mike at the Sugar Beet Co-op Edible Garden Tour next week

Now that my first book, Attack of the Killer Asparagus and other lessons not learned in the garden has been launched, you're going to have the opportunity to see a little more of me out and about the Chicago area. Hey, these things don't sell themselves, ya know!.

First, another reminder that a very special book launch party (we can keep these things going for months, the way I see it) is planned for Thursday, July 31 at Uncommon Ground Restaurant on Devon Avenue in Chicago. Thanks to owners Helen and Michael Cameron, there will be a book signing complete with snacks (and a cash bar, for those of you who can't face my writing without some alcoholic backup), a tour of the world famous organic rooftop farm, and even a 10% discount for folks who want to stick around for dinner (I'll be one of them).

You will need to RSVP for the event, and until it is listed on the Uncommong Ground site, you can write to me at and I'll make sure you get a seat.

Meanwhile, if you want to order a book for yourself, log on to Around the Block Press. The book is available via all of the usual online suspects, or you can special order it at your favorite bookstore. And would it kill you to give Attack of the Killer Asparagus a Like on Facebook?

But before that I'm taking a big box o' books to Oak Park next Saturday, July 26 from 9:30 a.m. to noon to be part of the 3rd annual Sugar Beet Edible Garden Tour. I'll be hanging out in the mother ship, the Sugar Beet Co-op, at 812 W. Madison in Oak Park.

The tour actually happens between 10 am and 3 pm, and the starting location is The Sugar Beet Co-op. The walk features edible gardens in Oak Park, Forest Park, River Forest and Austin. These private gardens are all about growing food and you might even pick up a few tips about how it's done in urban and near-urban yards, including the Forest Park Community garden, started by Jessica Rinks (a/k/a @SnappyJDog on Twitter), my buddy from Purple Leaf Farms, a wonderful advertiser on The Mike Nowak Show.

Other highlights include:

● Back by popular demand: The Ioder Goat Farm housed in a backyard garage in the Austin neighborhood, Chicago
● Examples of successful community gardens including Wonderworks Childrens Museum, The Longfellow Family Garden Club Garden, the Forest Park Community Garden and the Dominican Priory Garden
● A private home in North Oak Park that completely converted their front and back yard into an orchard and vegetable garden
● A private home in South Oak Park with a children's garden including a cucumber teepee

Cycling from garden to garden is encouraged. Kids are FREE, but please register them so we can get a headcount. And leave the dogs at home, please. Come by on the day of the event and sign up for a family lifetime membership to the Sugar Beet Co-op and your tickets to the tour are free! Otherwise, general admission is $12 and Co-op members get in for $10. They're warning folks that tickets are limited, so you might want to get yours in advance by going to Brown Paper Tickets.

While I'm on the subject, a few words about the Sugar Beet Co-op. They are self-described as A Community Owned Grocery Store, and right now they're raising the captial to launch as a member-owned, full-service business in early 2015. What does that mean? It means that The Co-op will carry locally and sustainably grown organic foods, when possible, and be a “one stop shop” for high quality foods all year round. By the way, membership is open to everyone and you can find out more about it here.

According to the group, "all of the profit will go back into The Co-op and, when possible, to its members. That means our grocery dollars stay in our communities to help support local businesses and farmers." In addition, Sugar Beet is working to make the building LEED certified, employing geothermal heating, and working with its vendors to reduce packaging as much as possible.

Cheryl Muñoz, Founder & Project Lead for The Sugar Beet Co-op, joins me In the Greenroom this morning to talk about a bright future for this venture.

Chicago Market wants 1000 owners in 100 days

While Sugar Beet Co-op is happening on the west side, a similar project is unfolding on Chicago's north side. It's called Chicago Market, and it sounds remarkably similar to what's happening in Oak Park:

Chicago Market will be a big, bright, beautiful community-owned grocery store featuring local, sustainably farmed, organic produce, meat and dairy products, as well as all of the other staples you'd expect from your market -- dry goods, bulk foods, frozen foods, wine, beer and liquor. We'll have a butcher shop, delicious prepared foods and fresh-baked goods. Chicago Market will be a community hub where shoppers can enjoy the juice and coffee bar while attending workshops, classes, meetings and performances.

Chicago Market will provide farm-to-table transparency about food, its origins and its processes. It will educate its community about nutrition, ingredient sourcing and methods of food production. The Market will support sustainability and integrity in all areas, including environmental stewardship, fair labor practices and cooperative principles.

In this case, however, Chicago Market is looking for what they call "owners," which might just be another word for "members." They are hoping to entice 1,000 people to become owners in the 100-day period that started on June 15 of this year.

Chicago Market will be open to everyone, though owners will have some perks. Again, like at Sugar Beet Co-op, members will have a say in how the business is run. They will also receive some direct benefits--

An annual patronage refund of co-op profits based on each owner's spending.
Owner-only sales & specials.
Owner discounts on classes, workshops & special events.
An opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors, which will be responsible for hiring the general manager and steering the strategic direction of the co-op.
A vote in choosing the Board of Directors.

--as well as Indirect benefits:

Giving great-paying jobs with benefits.
Giving support to our local farmers.
Giving the Earth a break through sustainable growing.
Giving your community a wonderful place to shop, an eclectic meeting spot, and an educational hub to learn about local, sustainable food.

Gregory Berlowitz is a founder and is also on the steering committee for Chicago Market. Since he moved to Chicago almost two decades ago, he says he has seen the need for this kind of institution:

I am an Owner of Chicago Market because I believe in the power of democratic organizations to solve community problems such as access, quality and transparency. I believe that we need more information, not less. Chicago Market will help us connect with the sources of our food, with the people who grow our food, and with the huge community of people around us: people who care about health and nutrition, who support local farmers through markets and CSAs, and who buy organic dairy, meat, fruits and vegetables for their families and children.

I believe cooperative development is the right path to local food success because it is dedicated to the Triple Bottom Line: people, planet, and profit. This means that Chicago Market will place premiums equally on Owner satisfaction, farmer support, and employee fairness, environmental stewardship, and quality and professionalism.

One of the people he has convinced is Ina Pinkney. You might recognize the name if you ever had a meal at the iconic Ina's on Randolph in the Market District, where she was chef/owner. In fact, her website is and, having had several breakfasts at Ina's, I agree with that choice. However, note that I said "had" a meal at Ina's. Unfortunately for all of us, that restaurant closed at the end of 2013, mainly because Ina has had some chronic health problems.

But Ina leaves behind an enviable career, including her special order bakery called The Dessert Kitchen, which she opened in 1980, before starting Ina's in 1991. She is a sought after judge at cooking competitions such as the National Beef Cook-Off, filmed for the Food Network. In 2014, Ina was awarded the Golden Whisk Award from the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Organization for excellence in
the kitchen, and was honored by the Women’s Foodservice Forum as
a ‘Woman Making Her Mark’.

If that isn't enough, she is also the author of Taste Memories and was a founding member of the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition.

So why did she decide to become an owner of Chicago Market? Well, that's why she is on the show this morning with Gregory Berlowitz. I'm looking forward to the conversation.

Rick Moskovitz battles mosquitoes at the Stihl Tour des Trees

It's been a pretty rainy 2014 (so far), which means that everybody's favorite spoiler of all outdoor activities--mosquitoes--are a big part of this summer's conversations. Which means that it's time to bring back the, uh, unconventional Rick Moskovitz, proprietor of A Plus Pest Control, Inc., and its sister operation, Plus Natural Enzymes.

It just so happens that Rick showed up at the book launch party for Attack of the Killer Asparagus (did I tell you that I've written a book?) at Women & Children First Bookstore the other week. Another friend of the show was there--Mary DiCarlo, Fund Development Specialist for the Tree Fund, which raises a lot of its money throught the annual Stihl Tour des Trees. You might recall that in 2010, the launch of the Tour des Trees rally happened with a special broadcast of The Mike Nowak Show from Millennium Park, where tree farmer and keyboardist Chuck Leavell from some band called The Rolling Stones entertained the crowd.

This year, the Stihl Tour des Trees is more or less back in the area, starting its 583-mile ride in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, heading west to Madison, up to Stevens Point, east to Green Bay, jogging up to Sturgeon Bay and back down Lake Michigan to Brew City.

And one of the things the bicycle riders are going to encounter guessed it--mosquitoes!

Which is why I turned to Rick Moskovitz, who, with his wife Marsha, has been practicing environmentally safe pest control practices since 1979. As he explained in an article in Illinois Homes:

In the field, my technicians have developed our IPM (Integrated Pest Management) philosophy. This simply means, inspect first, formulate a plan of action and then treat. We might tell a customer to seal a hole or fix a screen on a window. When pesticides are necessary, where we can, we use natural products, including our own Plus Natural Enzymes line. When we need to use regular pesticides, we use the safest and most effective products. We use natural products where we can in all of our service, ants, cockroaches, fleas, flies, bees & wasps, etc. and even bedbugs.

One of the natural products he introduced me to is Cedar Choice Mosquito Repellent, which can be used for both people and pets. Interestingly, it is derived from the oil of Juniperus virginiana, which is the common juniper that you find along roadways and in fields all over the Midwest. Just think of birds eating juniper berries and then pooping them at will. In fact, one of those plants is in my back yard. Hmm, I wonder if I can create my own cedar mosquito repellent.

The important point is that is doesn't contain DEET, a chemical that was developed by the Army in 1946 and approved for the general public in 1957. While the US EPA is finalizing its 2014 Review and has deemed it safe:

EPA continues to believe that the normal use of DEET does not present a health concern to the general population, including children. As always, consumers are advised to read and follow label directions in using any pesticide product, including insect repellents. Currently registered uses of DEET are also not expected to result in adverse effects for listed and non-listed endangered species, or critical habitat. As such, EPA concludes “no effect” for listed species and no adverse modification of designated critical habitat for all currently registered uses of DEET.

However, DEET can result in adverse effects, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Rick also deals with ants and bedbugs, and will be giving a talk called Safe Prevention and Eradication of Persistent Pests on Saturday, August 9 at the Chicago Center for Green Technology (CCGT).

Rick and Mary are both on the show this morning. Rick has threated to bring his ukulele, so I'm not sure exactly what to expect. I guess you'll have to tune in to find out what happens.





Photo courtesy of Susanne Fairfax

Photo courtesy of Susanne Fairfax


Cheryl Munoz


Gregory Berlowitz

Ina Pinkney



Rick Moskovitz

Stihl Tour des Trees

Mary DiCarlo