February 21, 2014
Today is my 30 year anniversary with the University of Illinois Extension in Chicago. During my 30 years with Extension I have had the opportunity to work with and meet some great people. People like Gerald and Lorean Earles who taught a young Extension Educator how to dumpster dive for materials for their Slumbusters community garden. 75 year old Faith Rich dressed in her blue hat and sensible shoes while walking me through Westside alleys in 1985 pointing out potential sites for community gardens. June Bethely, a science teacher at Joplin School who after participating in our indoor school gardening program started a highly successful gardening program at Joplin, plus a community garden along the Metra tracks in her Southside neighborhood. Mary Jane Gaulke, a teacher at a near Northside school who started one of the first rooftop gardens in the city in 1986 and Brother Denis who brought me to his proposed two city lot community garden site covered in rubble that became the Su Casa community garden that continues today.
I have also been blessed to work with some "good" people in Extension like Jane Scherer, Greg Stack and Molly Hofer as part of the NE Region Web Development team. 15 or so years ago we came together to start developing educational websites for Extension's Urban Programs Resource Network website, not really knowing how to go about it and today that website averages millions of hits a month. Dr. James Oliver and Willene Buffett while under their leadership made Cook County Extension one of the most innovative Extension units in the country. My now retired secretary, Gladys Klimek whose work ethic inspired me and who made every day at work fun and Eva Woods and Edna Eiland former Urban Gardening program assistants who gave a young Extension Educator lessons in "Street Smarts"
I can't forget all the Master Gardeners who are the backbone of any programming we have done in Chicago. They are responsible for the success of our 19 year gardening program at the Cook County Jail, the Smart Home Garden at the Museum of Science and Industry, numerous school and community gardens and our programming at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show and the Macy's on State Flower Show
All I can say is I Love my Job!
August 30, 2013
Greg Stack, Cook County Extension Educator, Horticulture is retiring after 42 years of distinguished service with the University of Illinois Extension. I have had the pleasure of working with Greg for the past 30 years. Greg is a role model for future Extension staff to follow. His work ethic, common sense, creativity, organizational skills, ability to relate to people, leadership skills and his infectious enthusiasm for his job made him an "ideal' Extension employee.
In my 30 years with the University of Illinois Extension, I have never worked someone with such an outstanding work ethic as Greg Stack. Greg believes in getting the job done as efficiently and as quickly as possible. For many years he developed, organized and implemented award-winning garden displays for the Chicago Flower and Garden Show including "A Garden for the Senses" which was the first flower show garden to incorporate labeling with both print and Braille informational signing. The planning for these gardens started a year ahead of time culminating in a very hectic set-up week before the show. During set-up week, the gardens were constructed and planted with the assistance of Master Gardener volunteers. All of this was planned, organized and supervised by Greg.
Greg Stack has been a Master Teacher of horticulture for 42 years with the University of Illinois Extension. Greg's teaching was enhanced by his innate ability to relate to people whether it be his co-workers, a Master Gardener volunteer, an inner city community gardener, a special needs youth, a Cook County Jail inmate, a Chicago Housing Authority resident or the general public. He taught the first Master Gardener class in Will County in 1973. He taught Master Gardener classes at the Cook County Jail in Chicago. Following the Extension motto "Learning by Doing" at the Cook County Jail, he taught the inmates how to manage and grow crops in their new 1,500 square foot greenhouse which he helped design. Because of Mr. Stack's efforts the greenhouse is now growing and selling vegetables and herbs at the Daley Plaza Farmers Market and to high- end restaurants in Chicago.
Greg's teaching contributions include 31 years teaching the Garden Study Course of the Garden Clubs of Illinois, 37 years of Master Gardener training classes across northern Illinois, pesticide applicator training classes for thousands of commercial applicators in both English and Spanish and countless horticulture classes for teachers and students including inspiring a number of students to enter careers in horticulture because of his work with them in preparation for National Junior Horticulture Association educational competitions.
I have had the privilege of working with Greg Stack as a member of the award winning Northeast Region Extension web development team. When we stated developing web sites for the Urban Programs Resource Network, we had a goal of 100,000 hits that first year. The Urban Programs Resource Network website now receives millions of hits per month. Much of the success of the website is due to the creativity shown by Greg as he has authored or co-authored more than 35 websites for adults and youth.
Besides developing websites, Greg serves as a knowledge base for websites like the "Hort Corner: Ask Extension". Greg has been answering horticulture questions in a variety of categories on the website since 2004. This vast collection of questions and answers will be valuable resource for the gardening public for years to come.
Greg has been the "Go to Hort Guy" for major media in Chicago land including the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times. He has also developed more than 300 gardening videos that are now a part of the University of Illinois Extension's You Tube delivery system (http://bit.ly/1dXjbl2) as well as for use on mobile devices.
Greg has been a role model for the mission of the University of Illinois Extension: To bring research-based information to the citizens of Illinois. His work ethic, common sense/street smarts, organizational skills, creativity and enthusiasm for his job made him a highly valued University of Illinois Extension employee.
April 18, 2013
Chicagoland is often hit with spring and summer storms. The following are resources to help you prepare for and recover from these storms.
Sign up for Alerts from NotifyChicago on weather-related emergencies to traffic alerts http://goo.gl/DalT2
Thunderstorms (U of IL Extension) http://bi t.ly/q4NYO4
City of Chicago: Flood Preparedness http://goo.gl/26Ou7
Cleaning and Repairing Flooded Basements (Wisconsin Extension) http://goo.gl/b65Fr
Flooding: Disaster Resources (U of IL Extension) http://bit.ly/oysOxY
Flood Recovery Checklists (NDSU Extension) http://goo.gl/yiClW
Flood and Storm Recovery Links (Purdue Extension) http://goo.gl/7yUtC
Family Disaster Supply Kit http://bit.ly/nJcg8J
NOAA: Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States http://1.usa.gov/oMuIu3
Tornadoes - Disaster Resources (U of IL Extension) http://bit.ly/oveuEc
Lightning and Personal Safety (U of IL Extension) http://bit.ly/onNInR
Repair Storm Damaged Trees with Care (U of IL Extension) http://bit.ly/mmo495
Safe food handling during power outages (U of IL Extension) http://bit.ly/oeXDJi
Frozen Foods: When to Save and When to Throw Out (U of IL Extension) http://t.co/1ttJseb
Refrigerated Foods: When to Save and When to Throw Out (U of IL Extension) http://bit.ly/q20nUW
Using Portable Generators Safely (OHSA) http://goo.gl/0xZ0a
Sump Pump Tips (NDSU Extension) http://goo.gl/TG9mo
January 3, 2013
Contact: Susan Jongeneel
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Urban agriculture is promoted as a strategy for dealing with food insecurity, stimulating economic development, and combating diet-related health problems in cities. However, up to now, no one has known how much gardening is taking place in urban areas. Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a methodology that they used to quantify the urban agriculture in Chicago.
John Taylor, a doctoral candidate working with crop sciences researcher Sarah Taylor Lovell, was skeptical about the lists of urban gardens provided to him by local non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
"Various lists were circulating," he said. "One of them had almost 700 gardens on it."
On closer inspection, however, many of these "gardens" turned out to be planter boxes or landscaping and were not producing food. On the other hand, Taylor suspected that there were unnoticed gardens in backyards or vacant lots.
"There's been such a focus on community gardens and urban farms, but not a lot of interest in looking at backyard gardens as an area of research," Lovell agreed. An accurate map of these sites would be helpful for advocacy groups and community planners.
Taylor uploaded the lists from the NGOs into Google Earth, which automatically geocoded the sites by street address. He used a set of reference images of community gardens, vacant lot gardens, urban farms, school gardens, and home food gardens to determine visual indicators of food gardens.
Using these indicators and Google Earth images, he examined the documented sites. Of the 1,236 "community gardens," only 160, or 13 percent, were actually producing food.
Taylor then looked at Google Earth images of Chicago to locate food production sites. This work took more than 400 hours over an 8-month period. He identified 4493 possible sites, most of which were residential gardens of 50 square meters or less, and visited a representative sample of gardens on vacant land to confirm that they were really producing food.
All the large sites and a sample of the small sites were digitized as shapefiles (digital vector storage formats for storing geometric location and associated attribute information) in Google Earth. These shapefiles were imported into Arc Map 10, a geographic information system (GIS) mapping tool, to calculate the total area.
The final estimate was 4,648 urban agriculture sites with a production area of 264,181 square meters. Residential gardens and single-plot gardens on vacant lots accounted for almost three-fourths of the total.
To map the gardens onto community areas, the shapefiles were joined with 2010 Census tract shapefiles and shapefiles of 77 community areas and neighborhoods from Chicago's GIS portal. The tract information was subsequently joined with the Census Bureau's 2005-2009 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates of demographic and housing characteristics.
The maps showed that garden concentration varied by neighborhood. "Chinatown, Bridgeport was kind of a hot spot," Taylor said. Both of these neighborhoods have large Chinese-origin populations. Even outside those areas, many of the larger gardens were associated with households headed by people of Chinese origin. Neighborhoods in the northwest with large numbers of Polish and Eastern and Southern European immigrants also had a high density of backyard gardens.
They were not all growing the same kind of food. "There are distinctions between these cultural groups because the crops they select are sometimes from their home areas in addition to the suite of crops we can all grow in our backyards," Lovell explained.
As people move across borders, they often bring seeds with them. "In a Mexican neighborhood where we were working, a lot of people grow a tropical corn that is 12 to 16 feet high," Taylor said. "It's grown not for the ears of corn but for the leaves, which are used to make tamales."
He noted that many older African-Americans in Chicago who came north during the Great Migration from the south from the early 1900s to the 1970s remember farming and growing up with gardens. "They are almost reproducing in miniature in their backyards the southern landscape and gardening practices that they associated with their youth," he said.
Garden type varied by neighborhood as well. Home food gardens are concentrated in the northwest, where people tend to live in detached houses. Vacant lot gardens are concentrated in the economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the south and west sides, as are the community gardens.
Lovell said that, in some communities, more than half of the lots are vacant, and making use of them could be a huge opportunity. Chicago has a program that allows people living next to a vacant lot to purchase it at a fraction of what it would normally cost.
The results of this study suggest that both backyard gardens and vacant lot gardens contribute substantially to Chicago's total food production.
"Home gardens actually contribute to food security," Taylor said. "They're underappreciated and unsupported." He noted that people grow not only for themselves but for their neighbors as well, which is particularly important in food deserts where fresh produce is in short supply.
"There is also potential for empowering people because they are using their own space to deal with their own food security concerns," Lovell added.
The study, "Mapping public and private spaces of urban agriculture in Chicago through the analysis of high-resolution aerial images in Google Earth" by John R. Taylor and Sarah Taylor Lovell, published in Landscape and Urban Planning, is available online at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016920461200237X.
December 15, 2012
"This is the 13th annual Herb Day," said Chuck Voigt, University of Illinois Extension vegetable and herb specialist and coordinator of the event. "Even those who have been to previous Herb Days will find this one to be loaded with especially knowledgeable and entertaining presenters."
Jane Taylor, from Cape Elizabeth, Maine is the founding director of the 4-H Childrens' Garden at Michigan State University and the "godmother" of children's gardens across the United States. She will speak about "Kids in the Herb Garden" and a second talk about grilling with herbs entitled "Fire It Up With Herbs."
Carolee Snyder, from Carolee's Herb Farm in Hartford City, Indiana, will provide information about the "Elderberry, Herb of the Year 2013." Snyder has served on the board of the International Herb Association, is a member of the Herb Society of America, and has been a perennial vendor in the Herb Day retail area.
Jan Powers, from Stone Well Garden in West Peoria, Illinois, last spoke at the 2003 Herb Day and is returning this year to talk about "Herb Gardens." Powers is well known in the Peoria area for her gardening expertise.
Voigt said there will be one additional speaker at the event.
In addition to the speakers, there will be a retail area selling a wide variety of herb, spice and gardening products as well as books and products from the presenters.
Advance registration of $60, which includes an herb-themed lunch buffet (including vegetarian options), must be received by Jan. 11 to guarantee lunch. For more information, call Linda Harvey at 217-244-1693 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On-site registration on Jan. 19 begins at 8 a.m. and will continue only as long as space allows. On-site registration does not include lunch. The first educational session begins promptly at 9 a.m.
News Source: Chuck Voigt, 217-333-1969
News Writer: Debra Levey Larson, 217-244-2880