May News from the Learning Center
A Disappointing Return to Normal
As I reflect on where we were last year versus this year, I can’t help but be both grateful and relieved that we’re able to fully program with fewer limitations and restrictions. We’re joyfully welcoming people back to the farm for programs and events, we’re back to leading and assisting with garden education programs at partner sites, and we’re hosting in-person CRAFT field days once more. We can also work together on-site as a staff again, which leads to stronger relationships, understanding, collaboration, and results for our community.

It feels great, it really does. But I'm also a little disappointed by our return to normalcy. Is business as usual what we're going for here? An example to consider:

Local food systems workers like us have always extolled the benefits of supporting local farmers.

  • Eat local and you’ll get the freshest, most nutrient-dense food possible.
  • Eat local and you’ll support your local economy while preserving open space.
  • Eat local and you’ll reduce food waste and carbon emissions.
  • Eat local because it’s fun and the food simply tastes better.
  • Eat local because local farmers are the backbone of a stable food system.

Local farmers are the backbone of a stable food system. Last year at this time, this was proven beyond a doubt. As global, national, and even regional supply chains were severely disrupted by Covid-related shutdowns and panic buying, we saw record numbers of Americans turn to local farmers to feed their families. In response, farmers increased production, created new ways to get our products to consumers, and worked diligently to ensure our products and distribution methods were safe and Covid-free. We donated meat, eggs, and produce to food pantries, we delivered food to your homes. Funders stepped forward, too, to support these efforts and invest in new infrastructure and distribution methods.

Fast forward one short year, and our partner farm, Angelic Organics, has sold almost 700 fewer CSA shares than last year. Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks works with a number of local farmers in Illinois to supply their wholesale business, and they said many are reporting lower direct-to-consumer sales this year as well. Our own CSA farm at Blackhawk Courts in Rockford is struggling to sell its 20 CSA shares. This is upsetting because small, local farmers need your sustained commitment to enable us to continue farming and provide you with a healthy, stable food supply. With its federal crop insurance programs and subsidies, large agribusiness can withstand a boom-and-bust economy. Your local farmer cannot.

We can be joyful about reopening without choosing a return to “normal”. Let's instead choose to progress society toward a healthier, more equitable, sustainable, and just model, one which includes local food and farmers at its base. Choose local.

Jackie de Batista
Executive Director
New Wild Spaces at AOLC
We are excited to announce a new era of the wild spaces on the farm north of Rockton Road. Thanks to a grant from Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, we have been making updates to the trail system including informational kiosks to welcome visitors to explore the 70 acres of beautiful, rolling landscape that surrounds Kinnikinnick Creek. 

Along with the kiosk, we are developing interpretive signs, blazes to mark the trails, a trail map, and trail safety information. A youth leadership camp for teens helped map out the trails and aided in the creation of these materials this past fall. 
The first kiosk was installed in May at the fire ring near Angelic Organics Lodge. On Farm Educators Rowan and Randy Mermel dug holes and used local black locust posts for the kiosk, extending the tradition of whole tree architecture characterized at the Learning Center spaces. The project is also eco-conscious with posts harvested from the fire ring area and the kiosk made of recycled plastic. 

We hope these additions will help campers and other visitors to deepen their understanding and connection to this wonderful natural area. Later in the year, we will celebrate an opening day for the trails. If you would like to visit, please contact us to make an appointment. 
What's Growing at Roots & Wings?
We Knew Her Before She Was Famous
As an active Farm member of Upper Midwest Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT), Dulce Morales of Cedillo’s Fresh Produce is no stranger to the AOLC newsletter. 

This month, we spotted Dulce in her neighborhood of Southside Chicago - in two places at once - representing Routes to Farm, as 2020 Beginning Farmer of the Year. Made up of farmers, educators, and organizations, Routes to Farm is a collaborative effort to make resources available to farmers who are launching or growing their farm businesses in the Chicago foodshed. 

Let’s make all local farmers famous by supporting their farm businesses at your local CSA or farmer's market. Or better yet, find your own route to farm at