January News from the Learning Center
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
From all of us at Angelic Organics Learning Center, we wish you, our friends and supporters, a safe, healthy, and happy New Year!
We are so excited for a fresh start and looking forward to a positive year on the farm.
Pollinator Palooza
Randy Mermel has been an On-Farm Educator for the Learning Center for 14 seasons and is a board member of the Angelic Organics Association.

The December snowfall ushered in the opportunity to sow the seeds of a pollinator garden at Angelic Organics that has been a couple of years in the making. Thanks to a $5,000 grant to Angelic Organics Association from Monarch Farms in association with Creekland Partners, LLC, we were able to plan and implement a habitat for Monarch butterflies and other pollinators. The habitat will provide nearly an acre of forage to Monarchs and a wide range of pollinators and educational opportunities for visiting youth, adults, and families. This collaboration project unites Angelic Organics Association, a community land trust, and sister organizations Angelic Organics Farm and Angelic Organics Learning Center.

Loss of species diversity is one of the greatest environmental challenges that we face today. Specifically, butterfly decline is an indicator of a greater loss--that of our native landscapes and all the life they support. Agricultural practices have been a key factor in this destruction. Therefore, it is especially important as a farm to play a key role in the healing and re-creation of habitat. The good news is that the work of restoration may be paying off. According to Monarch Watch, the 2019 overwintering monarch population increased 144% over the previous season, higher than a decade before. 

Angelic Organics Association president Tom Spaulding, AOLC Executive Director Jackie de Batista, farmer John Peterson at Angelic Organics Farm, and I have spent many hours of designing, planning, and discussing to bring this project to this point. Farmer John Peterson and his crew have played a major role in preparing the ground for the seeds. The grass lawn on either side of the farm driveway was chosen as the 1-acre site to sow the seeds in order to create an aesthetically pleasing welcome to the farm for visitors and students, in addition to welcoming the pollinators. Of course, the pollinators play a key role in vegetable production and farm vitality as well. 

We eagerly awaited the first snowfall to sow the seeds. Winter seeding allows us to mimic the cycles of nature. A snowfall, followed by slight warming, is an ideal time to sow prairie seeds because it is the easiest way to stratify these seeds for germination in the spring. As the snow melts, the seeds sink into the ground. We chose a seed mix from Prairie Moon Nursery out of Winona, MN, called “Pollinator Palooza” for our main seed mix. Pollinator Palooza contains high-quality nectar plants as well as host plants for caterpillars. We added some black-eyed susans to the mix for a cover-crop that also beautifies. In addition, Zach Grycan from Natural Land Institute donated a similar seed mix to ensure complete coverage. 

I am especially grateful to Zach for sharing his expertise and time to help our volunteer crew sow the seeds. Our wonderful crew consisted of Zach, other AOLC staff: Rowan Mermel, Jessie Crow Mermel, Laura Sjoquist, Trisha Peters, and myself as well as Angelic Organics shareholders: Brian Saame and sons.

Of course, sowing the seeds is just the beginning. We will follow with a year of mowing to keep down weed growth, allowing sunlight to reach the slow-growing perennials and promote strong root growth.

Another wonderful benefit of this habitat installation is that it will provide a living classroom for future educational programs through AOLC. I have also set aside some milkweed varieties to start with visiting students in the greenhouse and later transplant in the fields. I look forward to gathering seeds of the mature plants with visitors to the farm and sharing them to establish even more native habitat and nurture biodiversity.

Despite the vast environmental issues we face, the introduction of native habitat/landscapes may be the greatest contribution to conservation we can make. Even a small planting in your yard can make a big difference.
Annual Appeal was a Success!
Our Annual Appeal this year was able to raise $22,500! We asked you to stand with us, and you did. You dared to imagine an equitable, life-giving, earth-cooling, sustainable future, and you boldly acted to turn this dream into reality. All of us here at the Learning Center are grateful for our community that came together in this difficult time and we look forward to all the wonderful things the new year will bring. 
Photography Programs on the Farm
Stateline Farm Beginnings Y16
The launch of this year's Stateline Farm Beginnings: Farmer Dreams Intensive 2021 course has been a success! We have 15 participants enrolled in the course, representing 11 different farm businesses across both Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. Classes are held over Zoom and are led by Farmer Training Program Manager Goli Ziolek. Participants work on setting holistic goals, developing farm visions, and creating missions. They will develop a Farm Proposal as their final project for the Farm Dreams Intensive Course. This week we are focusing on Systemic Racism and History of Land in the United States and Accessing Land For Farming (Renting, Owning, Leasing) presented by Advocates for Urban Agriculture & Liberty Prairie Foundation.
What's Growing at Roots & Wings?
At this time of year, I find myself reflecting on last year’s season, as we start planning for the upcoming season. Along with Yatte Moore (Urban Farm Manager), we are taking this time to evaluate the previous season's successes and failures. This will provide us with the framework for planning and setting our goals for the upcoming season.

As we look back over the last year we can’t help but ponder about how the pandemic impacted our programming and our personal lives. Despite this we had a really good season, and as Yatte put it “We made it to the playoffs and won the championship!”

Some of the highs and lows from last year:
  1. We had a successful CSA program and the assortment of vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers were fantastic.
  2. Because of the pandemic we couldn’t attend farmers market as we typically have in previous seasons.
  3. We deepened our relationship with United Way and established new relationships with the Boys and Girls Club.
  4. We hired a Youth Apprentice to work at the farm for the duration of the season.
  5. We grew over 2600 lbs of vegetables and donated over 150 lbs to the local pantry. We grew too much Kale, Okra and Basil and not enough Spinach and Collards.
  6. We had to postpone our traditional Youth Leader programing because of the pandemic but were able to offer a modified program for the youth at the Boys & Girls club.
  7. We caught and released: 4 skunks, 4 groundhogs, 1 squirrel, 1 raccoon, and 2 opossums.
  8. We re-built our compost system and are anxious to start using the soil from it.
  9. We experienced some damage to our High Tunnels; someone decided to cut some holes in the plastic.
  10.  We hosted our 1st virtual Good Food Celebration.
  11.  We had fewer volunteers at the farm because of the pandemic, but the staff at AOLC stepped in to provide support.

In 2021 we expect the pandemic to be a factor again and are determined to have another successful year. We are thankful and encouraged by the financial support we have received from personal donors and we anticipate some additional funding from grants and other partners to support our work this year. I’m thankful and grateful to all that have contributed to the Roots Wings Farm and Garden.

Warm Regards, Tedd & Yatte
AOLC Upcoming Events
Family Farm Adventures
  • Take a break from screen time and spend a few hours on the farm with your family
  • Meet and learn about the animals on the farm, help with chores
  • Tour the farm and explore our outdoor farm spaces
  • End with a hot chocolate (or bring your own lunch) by the bonfire
  • We’ve selected weekdays when the kids are off from school
  • These are short, family-friendly (all ages), outdoor, small group programs and space is limited
  • Masks are required
  • Dates: Lincoln’s B-day 2/12, President’s Day 2/15

Maple Syrup Hike
  • Take a guided hike on the trails in our forest
  • Learn about native habitat and the story of the land around our farm
  • Stop along the way to sample maple syrup and discover how it is collected and processed.
  • To keep group sizes small on this hike we are taking registrations for families or groups for specific start times
  • Masks are required
  • Dates: 2/27, varying times

Spring Break One-Day Camps
  • Sign up for one day or all 4 days of the week.
  • Tuesday-Friday with an optional family day on Saturday
  • Meet and learn about the animals on the farm, help monitor the pregnant goats
  • Play games, make crafts, and experience life on a working farm
  • New games, crafts, and activities every day
  • March 23rd-26th and Saturday, March 27th
  • March 30th-April2nd 
  • These are outdoor, small group programs and space is limited
  • Masks are required

To learn more and sign up for upcoming programs, please click here.