This past week my wife and I did a canning presentation with the residents in Blackhawk Courts. We all piled into the van and headed over to Zion Lutheran Church which has a large meeting space adjacent to its certified kitchen.
The demonstration covered the safety and sanitation practices required when canning, and then we moved into the necessary canning equipment needed. Finally, we got into the actual processing of the cucumbers.
This season we had an overabundance of cucumbers on the farm, so this was a perfect opportunity to make some pickles. We had three participants, and we made two different types of pickles. The first was a bread and butter pickle, and the second was a dill pickle. As we processed the cucumbers, the participants started to get excited as they saw their efforts come to fruition.
This month, Learning Center took a staff-development trip over the stateline to explore several impactful collaborative farms in Verona and Mequon to experience how these influential organizations operate.
Our team met with farm managers of The Farley Center and Fondy Farm, met collaborators and toured the unique and beautiful spaces these organizations inhabit. The team met resident farmer Jennica Skoug, proprietor of Lansing Street Veggies, a neighborhood produce stand in Madison. Jennica has been farming on rented land since 2017, and moved to the Farley Center in 2022.
With Farmer Tedd behind the wheel of "Van-na White", the Learning Center's transport van, the group paused for a quick lunch stop at Kettle Moraine Lapham Peak Unit.
Refreshed, it was on toward Milwaukee for a visit with Stephen Petro, Chief Operations Officer of the Fondy Farm Project, part of the Fondy Food Center, located on 40 beautiful acres of Mequon Nature Preserve land. Fondy Farm assists low-resource farmers in gaining access to the land, resources, and support they need to operate a successful business. Fondy Food Center also operates the Fondy Farmers Market, a century-old market in the historically underserved Lindsay Heights neighborhood of Milwaukee.
It was a long, hot day absorbing a lot of information about farmers and land collectives. The Learning Center team learned more about the land access needs of small alternative farmers, connected with the diverse farmers who work the earth, and grew our experience of collaborative farm spaces.
Last month I met with the students participating in the afterschool WOW program at Patriot Gateway, a recreation center owned by Zion Lutheran Church. This month we discussed worm composting, better known as vermi-composting. Composting with red wiggler worms is another method of putting your vegetable scraps to good use. The worms eat and convert organic waste into rich fertilizer.
We discussed the differences between an earthworm and a red wiggler worm and how they contribute to our ecosystem differently. I brought in 2 compost bins to show the various stages of decomposition. I also harvested some compost from the compost bin, and we compared this soil condition to clay soil and commercial farm soil. Many of the kids were willing to gently handle the worms as they gasped with excitement and fear. We finally discussed how they could start their own compost bin at home, and many expressed an interest.
This is the time of the year at the Roots & Wings farm when our anticipation and eagerness for the upcoming season becomes heightened. Our garden beds have been prepped, compost added, and the drip lines have been pulled out of storage, repaired, and placed on the farm.
Our seeds have arrived, and we have already started to grow new seedlings. Some have been transplanted already in our High Tunnels, and others will be transplanted in the coming weeks. Some of the recent vegetables transplanted were cabbage and peas. As the weather changes and we reach our last frost date on April 30, we will begin transplanting and directing seeding outside.
In the High Tunnel, we tested several varieties of vegetables to see how well they would overwinter. In late fall 2022, we planted Bok Choy, Red Russian Kale, Arugula, Collard greens, and Mustard greens, and they are all doing well. Yatte has already harvested some to take home. Harvesting fresh vegetables at this time of the year is so exciting!
On another positive note, our new farm apprentice will start in early May. Also. we have a group of students from Freeport High School coming to volunteer at the farm. These are Agriculture Science students, so we anticipate a robust conversation around our shared interests. We welcome other organizations to partner with us in our work at Roots Wings farm and garden. Volunteers are welcome as well.
Finally, you should sign up for a Roots & Wings CSA share if you want fresh, organically grown vegetables. This is our 10th year offering CSA shares, and we grow over 45 different varieties of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Attached is the link to our website, where you can find more information about our program.
Over the last few months, I have offered educational programming to the Patriots Gateway Community Center (PGCC) after-school program participants. The students ranged in age from 8-12 years old. PGCC was started in 1995 by the community members of Zion Lutheran Church. During our first meeting, we had over 20 participants eager to learn all they could about Butternut Squash. During our time together, we covered the health and nutritional benefits and discussed the difference between summer squash and winter squash. Finally, they had a chance to sample butternut squash in a dish.
In advance, I prepared the following for the participants to taste: Roasted Butternut squash, roasted butternut squash seeds, and butternut squash cupcakes. Everyone was willing to taste something, and many were willing to try it all. I found this encouraging because some had never eaten butternut squash before.
I asked them to rate what they liked the most with a show of hands. With no surprise, they placed them in the following order: Butternut squash cupcakes, roasted butternut squash seeds, and then the roasted squash brought up the rear.
The following were some of the comments shared:
“It’s good to try different things.”
“The roasted seeds are good, and they taste like sunflower seeds.”
“Can I take some squash home to my grandmother”
This has been a fun group to work with, and I look forward to our next meeting, where we will discuss the life cycle of plants, and each participant will be able to transplant and take home an herb plant to grow on the window seal. Before I departed, they thanked me and shared the following pledge:
“I am a patriot. I am responsible for what I say and do. I choose to be respectful, honest, and caring. I work hard to achieve my goals. I am a patriot.
The Learning Center Team is both saddened and proud to announce that our Resource Development Director, Leah Lawson, has accepted a new role with the Organic Farming Research Foundation.
Leah made a huge impact during her time with us, setting the Learning Center's Resource Development on a strong path the past 3 years while also strengthening our internal processes for gathering data in order to more effectively communicate our impact with our stakeholders.
Within her announcement to our team, Leah expressed she doesn't feel ready to leave the Learning Center and plans to stay connected to our organization and mission as much as possible. There are many possibilities our paths will continue to cross within her new role, as well.
We will deeply miss Leah's presence on our staff and wish her tremendous success in her future endeavors!
A note from yatte moore, urban farm manager
Hi, my name is Yatte Moore and I’m the Urban Farm Manager, and I have been farming for the last 9 years at Roots & Wing Farm & Garden. Roots & Wings is a half-acre urban farm located in Blackhawk Courts; a Rockford Housing Authority property. All the vegetables are grown organically, and we grow over 45 different fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs.
Roots & Wings provides access to fresh fruits and vegetables to the residents of the Blackhawk Courts community. Through our community garden, we specifically grow an assortment of vegetables that residents want, and all the vegetables are available for free.
Also, we offer a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. This program is primarily supported by the broader community but through the generosity from supporters we are able to provide free CSA shares to the residents in Blackhawk Courts. Our CSA is competitively priced and we offer both summer and fall CSA shares for sale. We know you have many choices where to get your vegetables and we ask that you consider our CSA as your source. To sign up for a CSA please visit our website!
It is important to me that I provide the community and CSA members with the best quality, locally-grown vegetables. I personally select all the seeds, decide where and how much to plant and keep detailed records to assist me with my planning. Food safety is our #1 priority! All of our vegetables are cleaned thoroughly. The tools, harvesting buckets, packing containers, and surfaces are sanitized continuously for safety.
The staff and I welcome all visitors to the farm. We offer farm tours, educational programming, volunteering opportunities, and community service work for residents in Blackhawk Courts.
Thank you, Yatte Moore
We'll miss you, Goli!
We are sad to announce that Goli Ziolek has resigned from Angelic Organics Learning Center and the Farmer Training team. Goli facilitated our Stateline Farm Beginnings® course and helped drive the CRAFT network. Through her work, she created wonderful connections and relationships with our experienced and beginning farmers.
Goli is dedicated to helping aspiring and beginning farmers learn how to make their farming dreams a reality. We will miss her wonderful facilitation skills, her deep appreciation for farmers and her work with many veteran organizations. We wish her well in her future endeavors!
2023 Roots & Wings CSA Now Open
The Roots & Wings Farm & Garden is a 1/2 acre organically grown urban farm located in Blackhawk Courts a Rockford Housing Authority property.
We offer a full (weekly) and half (biweekly) CSA share for the summer, a biweekly fall share, and a honey share as well. Supporting our CSA program provides employment opportunities for Blackhawk Courts residents and allows us to purchase needed equipment and supplies in advance. By participating in our CSA program you will not only receive an abundance of fresh, locally grown vegetables, but will also contribute to our educational programs in the Blackhawk community.
At the farm we grow over 40 different varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs - all of which are grown using organic practices. All vegetables are picked and packed carefully, and stored on site in our walk in cooler. We maintain the highest standards to insure your vegetables are kept fresh and are of the highest quality.
We know that you have many options for purchasing your vegetables, but we invite you to join us in our 10th year of providing vegetables to the residents of Rockford and the surrounding communities.
We have a limited number of summer (full, half) and fall CSA shares available, Also, you can support our program by gifting a CSA share to community members. So sign up today!
At the end of October, we had our annual Harvest Celebration at Blackhawk Courts Farm & garden. Every year, as we wrap up on the farm, we like to end the season by inviting folks from the community to come over to the farm to share a meal with us. Yatte makes sure he plans and grows enough vegetables specifically for this event.
This year we offered pull pork sliders, coleslaw, chili, salad, and sweet potato pie. All the vegetables used in the meal came from the farm. We had plenty of food and many residents took home multiple plates or came back for seconds. By the end of the day there was very little left.
The weather was perfect, and we had over 40 people from the community join us for this event. It is always nice to meet new residents and serve them in this manner. It’s another opportunity to connect with them, and fellowship over a meal
We are planning our Thanksgiving event in partnership with Zion Lutheran Church. During this event fresh greens from the farm will be provided to accompany the turkey and other items that will be given away to residents of Blackhawk Courts.
Finally, we are also planning a sit-down holiday meal with the Blackhawk residents in December. This will be the first time we are doing this post pandemic in over two years. We are excited and are looking forward to both events.