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Urban Livestock Expo, Worm Bin Starting Tips, Chicago Honey Co-op & Frosty Farms Contest
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Welcome to AUA's Winter Newsletter!

Dear friend, 

While this edition of AUA's E-Newsletter finds Chicago buried in snow, let's not forget the fact that so far this Winter has thankfully turned out to be quite a bit more mellow than last year's barrage of cold! Could this mean an earlier start to the growing season of '15? Who's ready?

If you didn't raise your hand right away, don't worry – we're here to help. Below you'll find an abundance of great information and opportunities to ease your way into the swing of Spring. From offering presentations and workshops to mapping urban farms and gardens to campaigning for better city composting rules, AUA is working hard to create fertile ground for another year of growing Chicago's urban agriculture movement.

In this edition of AUA's E-Newsletter you'll find:
Happy growing,

Billy Burdett
AUA Director

3rd Annual Urban Livestock Expo this Valentine's Day

AUA’s goat nothing but love fur you, so join us this Valentine’s Day for our 3rd Annual Urban Livestock Expo! The Expo offers new and experienced keepers of urban livestock the chance to learn about caring for a variety of animals, and to network with each other. Presenters with expertise raising chickens, ducks, quails, rabbits, bees, and goats will introduce visitors to the primary needs of each, highlighting issues to consider and steps to take in preparation for keeping livestock in the city. 

February 14, 2015
10AM-1PM (Doors open at 9:30AM)
Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences
3857 W. 111th Street, Chicago, IL 

Click here for more details, including the event schedule. Volunteers are needed. Please contact us at info@auachicago.org if you are interested. 

The 2015 Good Food Festival Is Just Around the Corner!

AUA has been busy co-organizing much of the urban agriculture content of this year's Good Food Festival (March 19-21). We are especially excited to reprise our role in coordinating a total of 30 micro workshops in growing, composting, and preserving at the Good Food Commons on Saturday, March 21. Be sure to also check out the Financing & Innovation Conference on Thursday the 19th, the Trade, School Food, and Policy sessions (plus the evening "Localicious" party!) on Friday the 20th, and the urban farm bus tour on Saturday. Tickets are now on sale – click here to save by purchasing online!

Project Profile: Chicago Honey Co-op
By: Christine Johnson

 
Cuddling a cup of coffee with Etta James swooning in the background, the swirling snow begins to mirage into a sweeter scene: summer. Dill, beets, broccoli, and bok choy occasionally find themselves shaded by the nearby flowering apple tree. A honeybee buzzes past your ear… oh wait, that’s the radiator.

This dream does not have to be too far away. In fact, January through March is the perfect time to begin preparing a home for one of the pollinators that will make your garden possible: bees. If you’re unsure of where to start, I would personally recommend Chicago Honey Co-op. What began as a few avid apiarists in 2004 has evolved into a multi-location, nearly 50-hive network in Chicago, encouraging and educating novices and the knowledgeable alike. Offering Beginner’s Beekeeping, Swarm Control, and Candle Making with Beeswax classes, the CHC reaches a wide spectrum of honey lovers.
 
The founders of Chicago Honey Co-op, Michael Thompson, Stephanie Arnett and Tim Brown, have seen the desire for beekeeping grow in audience but also difficulty. Vandalism in the city has resulted in the loss of one hive for CHC, for which they are currently seeking a new location. Building their organization on the principle of sustainable agriculture, the CHC incorporates multiple limbs of their organization to keep the bee dance strong:
  • Raising Queen Bees: CHC raises queens for their hives in case they need to replace a queen, resulting in a more sustainable approach than importing queens from different locations with different climates. 
  • preSERVE Garden partnership: North Lawndale Greening Committee, NeighborSpace, Slow Food Chicago, and Chicago Honey Co-op created a garden as an example of the variety and potential of locally grown food in Chicago. Volunteer or visit this garden by contacting Aislinn at slowfoodpreserve@gmail.com or visiting Slow Food Chicago’s website
  • Chicago Honey Co-op Training Center: a newly incorporated 501(c)(3) that offers more extensive educational programming, specifically filling the large number of requests for school visits, tours and scholarships for beekeeping classes.
With bee farms located at Testa Produce in Back of the Yards and the green rooftop of Christy Webber Landscaping, CHC is not only producing honey and wax products, but also a network of perennial beekeepers, not unlike a hive itself. To learn more about Chicago Honey Co-op’s classes, including Beginning Beekeeping on February 21, 2015 and March 21, 2105, visit www.chicagohoneycoop.com/classes/. Until then, swap your coffee for a cup of tea with honey.

International Year of Soils: Starting a Worm Bin Indoors
By: Stephen Ulman


The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils, so AUA will be bringing you soil-related resources throughout the year. To start off this winter right, consider creating a worm bin in your home. 

Right now is a great time to start a worm bin. The depths of the winter doldrums may be upon us, but deep beneath the blankets of snow and frozen soil, life goes on. Soil-building is a year round activity, and by employing the help of some industrious little worms called red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) you can create rich organic compost called vermicast that is great for new seedlings or amending the soil in existing pots and beds.

AUA Blog Seeks Readers and Writers

The AUA Blog is up and running! Make sure to subscribe to get the latest updates on tips for urban growing, reports on current research, profiles on projects, and relevant policy issues in Chicago. 

We've been delighted with the variety of thoughtful and informative blog contributions – including Stephen's above – that we've received so far. We are also welcoming new submissions from... you! Please see our blog guidelines and contact us at info@auachicago.org if you are interested in contributing an article.

Help AUA Make a Difference!
Become a Member and Donate Today!


Becoming a member of AUA is free and easy! Signing up shows us and the world that you support AUA's Mission & Vision, which gives our coalition greater influence as we advocate for good urban agriculture policy. 

Can't remember if you've already signed up as a member? Have new contact information? Play it safe and simply click here to fill out a few boxes -- no need to worry about being counted twice! Remember, membership is separate from being subscribed to our Google Group or this E-Newsletter.

While membership is free, sustained financial support for AUA’s work is essential, so please take a moment donate today. Whether it’s helping to fund website maintenance, printed materials, event costs, payroll expenses for AUA's staff, or a new Civic Engagement Coordinator position that AUA hopes to add soon, your donation will go a long way towards increasing AUA’s impact. Plus, donations of $30 or more come with some great benefits -- click here to learn more!

Announcing the Frosty Farms Photo Contest

#AUAFrostyPhotoWith the days already getting longer, growers all over Chicago are looking forward to starting up again in spring. Send us a picture of what your growing space looks like under the ice or how you are preparing for the thaw. Send your submissions to info@auachicago or tweet to us at @AUAChicago with the hastag #AUAFrostyPhoto. The submission with the most “Favorites” on Twitter will be declared the winner, so be sure to vote and retweet! The deadline for submitting your photos is February 17th, with voting concluding March 1st. Prize to be announced shortly!

Fall Gathering Report

On November 11, urban agriculture practitioners and supporters gathered at Loyola University's Institute of Environmental Sustainability (IES) for AUA’s annual Fall Gathering. This year, the event centered on the intersection between academia and practice. Kellen Marshall (UIC), David Lowenstein (UIC), and John Taylor (UIUC) gave presentations on their research, while Chris Peterson discussed Loyola's new sustainable agriculture programs. We're excited to follow up with these researchers and include some of their findings, which include some very practical information such as effective biocontrol for common Chicago cabbage family pests and tomato varieties that do best here, in AUA's Urban Agriculture Resource Guide. The Institute of Environmental Sustainability was a gracious host, and we'd especially like to thank Engrained Cafe, which offers delicious locally-sourced food at IES, for generously donating a portion of their proceeds during the event to AUA.

Working Group Updates

Resources Working Group

Since we last checked in, the Resources Working Group has continued to make strides with the Resource Guide, Blog, and Mapping Project.

AUA’s Urban Agriculture Resource Guide aims to consolidate Chicago’s urban agricultural tools and information into a logical user-friendly guide. We've been holding open work meetings at which participants take on one or more Resource Guide section (e.g. aquaponics, composting, crop plan templates) to coordinate. These stellar volunteers have been contacting experts in their respective fields and doing research of their own to collect and organize how-tos, videos, material source lists, links, and much more. Check it out when you get a moment, and if you enjoy researching or have extensive knowledge on a certain urban ag topic, we would love to have you join the fun! You can contact us at info@auachicago.org, or keep an eye out for the next work party on our Calendar and Google Group.

As you've probably heard, we recently opened our website's blog to contributions from AUA's membership and the broader urban ag community, and the response has been great! Read more in the blog update above.
 
Last but certainly not least, the Chicago Urban Agriculture Mapping Project has finally imported its last large batches of urban farm and garden data, adding up to a total of 775 growing sites for the map and directory so far! After a few more tweaks to make sure the map is working as it should, we will do a "soft launch," making the map and the majority of the data we've collected publicly viewable. That will be followed by an official launch, at which point gardeners and farmers will have the opportunity to provide more detailed information about their growing sites. This will help to spark new connections between growers, vendors and consumers, and give us the most comprehensive view yet of the state of urban agriculture in Chicago. Please stay tuned for more information!

Check AUA's Calendar and Google Group for upcoming Resources Working Group meetings (we'll be meeting soon to develop our annual work plan), and join the Resource Google Group if interested in joining the effort!

Connections Working Group
The Connections Working Group (CWG) has been very active this winter. We have welcomed Christine Johnson as our new co-chair. Christine has brought dedication and new ideas to the planning of some of our upcoming events. The planning for the February 14th Urban Livestock Expo is underway, as well as for the Spring Gathering, which will focus on a knowledge exchange with visiting Cuban farmers on April 16th. The CWG also did outreach at the KAMII MLK Food Justice and Sustainability Weekend, and plans on having a presence at the Chicago Community Garden Association’s Annual Gathering on March 7th. 

We always love to see new people at our Connections Working Group Meetings, held the 3rd Wednesday of each month, so join us if you're interested in helping to build a strong urban ag network in Chicago! The next meeting will take place on Wednesday, February 18 from 6 to 8 (location TBD). Check AUA's Calendar and Google Group for the most current meeting info. You can also join the Connections Google Group to join the conversation.

Advocacy Working Group
AUA's Advocacy Working Group engages a key topic at each meeting, generally the 2nd Tuesday of the month, from 5-6:30PM.

Several recent meetings focused on our recommendations for a new “Weed” ordinance that will better align with Chicago’s own sustainability efforts. An improved ordinance will define “weeds” very specifically and allow a wide range of plantings from conventional turfgrass to natural landscapes, rain gardens, and edible gardens. It will also guide inspectors and provide gardeners with the opportunity to correct or contest violations before being fined for “weeds” that actually aren't. We are incorporating feedback and suggestions to the draft and seek more reviewers’ input before we have a final version to submit for ratification by AUA members.

Closely linked to an improved “Weed” ordinance, Advocacy is also exploring ways to champion a pesticide-free, pollinator-friendly urban environment, with biodiversity as the alternative to toxic chemicals for pest management in lawns and gardens/farms. Pesticide exposure damages living things – and not just their intended targets. Pesticides are implicated in many human health problems, including cancers and autism. Pesticides are easily purchased and over-used in urban spaces, often by people who lack sufficient training or information about their hazards. At the same time, urban yards and gardens can host a great diversity of plants, pollinators, and other beneficial organisms, and serve as protective niches and “corridors” for those creatures to thrive in a healthy urban ecosystem.

While state law prevents the City from restricting or banning sales and use of pesticides by residents, the City, Parks, and some institutional owners of large property in Chicago already practice “integrated pest management” or have stopped using pesticides. Along with the Midwest Pesticide Action Center, Advocacy will promote alternatives to pesticides in urban agriculture and lawns, and develop a position statement on pesticides and pollinators for AUA members’ ratification. 

Advocacy continues to collaborate with the Mayor's office, the Illinois Environmental Council, the Chicago Food Policy Action Council, and others to reform the City's compost regulations. We aim for the new rules to do two things: 1) allow urban farms and community gardens to accept offsite materials, such as landscape waste and fruit and vegetable scraps, for their compost systems, and 2) make the permitting process for opening non-profit community composting facilities less cumbersome and costly. We are currently evaluating recommendations from the Mayor's office, and hope to have final language ready for membership review and ratification by Spring.

Finally – the aldermanic and mayoral election is coming fast. After the dust settles, Advocacy will re-activate our Ward Ambassadors project. We want to identify, prepare, and support 2-5 people in each of Chicago’s 50 wards to carry the message about urban agriculture’s potential and needs to their ward alderman and staff. If you’re interested in becoming an Ambassador or helping with the project overall, please contact Advocacy Co-Chair Martha Boyd.    
 
If you're interested in getting involved with the Advocacy Working Group, you are invited to join the discussion here. You are also encouraged to come to Advocacy Working Group meetings, which are generally held on the 2nd Tuesday of each month from 5 to 6:30pm (meetings are also always posted to AUA's calendar and Google Group). 

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