December 1, 2013
Welcoming Illinois Extension educator Ellen Phillips
Don't be misled by that headline. Ellen Phillips has been with Illinois Extension for a long time. She is a Local Food and Small Farms Educator whose programs have focused on increasing production, marketing, risk management on small farms while encouraging environmental stewardship. Works for me.
What I meant is that for a number of years, Ellen has been serving three counties in western Illinois--Boone, DeKalb, and Ogle--and five weeks ago returned to work in Cook County. And we're happy to have her. She and I first crossed paths when I interviewed her on Gargantua Radio Down the Dial. Obviously, that was a while ago.
The Extension website says that her her areas of expertise
include organic production, Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS), large scale and backyard composting, soil management, manure management, small farm crop production and marketing and livestock pasture management and grazing. In this role, she works closely with farmers, agri-business, homeowners and other agencies to identify educational needs, and deliver unbiased research-based information to clientele.
One of the things we'll discuss on the show this morning is the Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism and Organic Conference, which takes place in Springfield every year in the second week of January. In 2014, the conference runs Jan 9 and 10 at the
Crowne Plaza Hotel and Convention Center in Springfield, Illinois.
The conference is open to everyone interested in local food and farming. I t provides professional training for farmers to learn the newest techniques for improving production, crop protection or ways to add value through post-harvest handling. In addition, there will be five pre-conference workshops:
- pumpkin production
- season extension and year-round markets
- Good Agriculture Practices (GAPs) and food safety guidelines for Farmers Markets
- optimizing plasticulture and drip irrigation practices
- growing unique fruits and vegetables.
As you can see, GAPs, or Good Agricultural Practices, is another area that interests Ellen. These are the Best Management Practices that farmers use to minimize microbial contamination from seed to market. As Ellen tells me:
Farmers look at the farm from a whole farm perspective and develop a food safety plan including training their staff, record keeping, mock recalls and traceability. More and more markets (grocery stores, schools, and even farmers markets) are requiring farmers to become GAPs certified.
Gaps Certified means that a 3rd party organization such as USDA comes to the farm, evaluates if the farm is doing everything that is written in the plan. If they are, they are certified. The University of Illinois Extension has a cost-share program to help farmers cover the cost of the Audit which can be $1000 to $3000
There are a number of GAPs workshops in 2014. Each lasts from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There will be on
February 10 in Cook County. If you're intrested, contact Ellen Phillips, firstname.lastname@example.org., or 708/449-4320. Two of the workshops will be webinars, In April and June, there will be webinars on Mondays. For the April sessions, contact Ellen Phillips. For June, contact James Theuri, email@example.com, or 815/933-8337.
Or perhaps you're interested in become a farmer. The University of Illinois has received a 3 year grant to train new farmers, after just completing the first year with almost 80 people trained. The Second year begins in December, 2014, and website registration begins July 1, 2014. In this part of the state, it's at the St. Charles Horticulture Research Center.
It covers everything from starting seeds, to marketing to writing a business plan. There's also a workshop called "Is Entrepreneurial Farming for you?” on December. 5 at Westchester.
Last but not least, Ellen tells me that
the Kendall County Board Tuesday approved a special use permit that will pave the way for a poultry and small animal processing plant near Newark. She says this is important for people raising chickens in Illinois because, as of now, there is only one processing plant in the state.
Al and Mary Maly are behind the effort. They live on a 13-acre farmette in Kendall County, raising about 600 chickens and turkeys on their site. Presently, they must take their animals down to Arthur, Illinois for processing. Their proposed plant would handle about 3,000 poultry per day.
Lots to discuss. Ellen Phillips joins me in studio.
More on compost pick up in Andersonville
A couple of weeks ago, I welcomed some folks from the EESP, or Edgewater Environmental Sustainability Project. and one of the things we talked about was a new composting program that had just started in the Andersonville Neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. The initiative, which is the result of a coordinated effort by the Andersonville Development Corp., Chicago Compost Coalition, Loyola University and the Chicago Resource Center, allows people to have their food scraps collected and composted for a small fee.
This week, I'm happy to talk to Ellen Shepard, Executive Director of the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce and the Andersonville Development Corporation. She writes that their composting program
is part of the Eco-Andersonville initiative of the Andersonville Development Corporation. We have been working on it for about three years, sitting on committees with Jen Walling [Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council], lobbying in Springfield to get the legislation changed, and finally, becoming Chicago's largest neighborhood-wide residential compost pick-up initiative. The program was the brainchild of Brian Bonanno, our Sustainability Programs Manager. The commercial side of the program, for Andersonville restaurant pick-ups, has been supported by Han Pham and the good folks at Loyola. They provided a grant to help keep costs down and compostable bags for the restauarnts. In addition to the four restaurants Han mentioned on your show, two Andersonville restaurants are now on board, and we are actively seeking more.
Shepard notes that Andersonville is working in many other ways to be a green community, including
· Streetscape recycling. First neighborhood in the city to do this.
· Parklets and bike corrals. First in the city to do parklets and the only neighborhood with two of them. We also have the most bike corrals and helped the city develop both of these programs.
· Green Building incentive program (we reimburse a portion of businesses' costs for select sustainability improvements). Improvements have included lighting retrofits, solar shades, and a bamboo floor.
· Sustainable Business “Merit Badge” program. This is an overhaul we are doing of our former Sustainable Business Certification Program, where business can earn “merit badges” for sustainability efforts in individual categories, such as energy efficiency, water conservation, etc.
· Andersonville Farmers Market. We just completed our fifth year. This was specifically designed to get Andersonville hooked into the local food system so that we can support local farmers and lesson the amount of fossil fuel and chemicals it takes to feed our community. We were the first in the city to do an evening market.
· Sustainability “blitzes.” We started with an exit sign blitz, where we got special pricing on retrofitting businesses' exit signs with LED lights, and we did a bunch of them at once. We also did this on a much smaller scale with low-flow water sprayers for restaurants' sinks.
· Green Gift Wrapping party. Coming up on Friday, December 20 at George's Ice Cream, 5306 N. Clark, as part of our Late-er Night Andersonville event. Every year we gather festive materials that would otherwise be headed for a landfill –blueprints, old movie posters, etc – and invite shoppers to come wrap their holiday gifts with them.
Brian Bonnano and Ellen Shepard are in studio today to talk about all of these efforts.
By the way if you're interested in the Andersonville Community Compost program, go to http://www.andersonville.org/eco-andersonville/composting/ or call 773/728-7552.
Sauganash Prairie Grove Habitat Restoration and Potluck
Team member Rob Kartholl (@copedog on Twitter) asked me to plug what sounds like a great event: the Sauganash Prairie Grove Habitat Restoration and Potluck, next Saturday, December 7. It's a Habitat 2030 project. Those people describe themselves as
a group of dynamic young(ish) volunteers who care about the remarkable natural areas of the Chicago region. We are continuing the illustrious history of local volunteer stewardship and helping to build a culture of 20-30-40-somethings who will understand and care about our preserves long into the future. We gather at weekend workdays to remove invasive plants, gather and spread seeds, and more. After hard, satisfying work, we gather around the brushpile fire for brats, s'mores, and whatever else we can figure out. Everyone is welcome! We'll show you the basics and help you discover the overlooked ecological treasures within miles of our city.
Get folks interested and invested in our environment while they're young, I always say. Here are the details:
Sat, December 7, 10am – 1pm, Sauganash Prairie Grove ( map )
RSVP via Facebook, Meetup.com, or the Forest Preserves of Cook County Volunteer page
Sauganash Prairie Grove, a mosaic of oak woodland and prairie, resides within the Chicago city limits! We will be lopping and sawing invasive shrubs like buckthorn, with a brush burn pile if conditions permit. We'll work 10AM - 1PM and feast around the fire afterward. Bring something to share. The entrance to the preserve is between Kilbourn and Kenneth Avenues on Bryn Mawr, so park along a side street. All you need is a pair of tough shoes or boots, a sweatshirt and coat if it's cold, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, a water bottle, and a hat. We'll supply work gloves and tools. We strongly recommend against nylon or other synthetic fabrics, as sparks from the fire will melt holes in them.