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July 17th, 2012

Organic Gardening is keeping it Fresh!

Just want to take this opportunity to crow about the third edition of FRESH! Youth Voices for Food & Sustainability. It’s a village effort: many hands pulled together to help teacher Meredith Hill and her 7th grade Food & Sustainability class produce this publication, but OG’s involvement all started in 2010 when she and I met at a New York City Grows event. The rain was coming down in sheets, but the turnout had been amazing. As the day drew to a close, Meredith approached me and, describing her English lit class’s summer study of food sustainability, asked me if there was anything OG could do to help. The kids were visiting farms and organic growers, researching and writing reports, taking photos. Since making magazines is what I do, I offered up the idea of creating an OG junior, inviting the class to come to our offices and learn about the editorial process, as well as have visits to the Rodale Institute for a soil science lesson, the Rodale Family farm where it all began for a lesson in the history of organics in the USA and to the Rodale Food Service to learn about food sheds, local food sourcing and other supply and demand issues.

The class arrived on a hot day in late June. Just as their schoolmates before, the 2012 class had a lot on the ball, they had their questions, their opinions, and most importantly, they had a heavy dose of curiosity, the secret ingredient of a good journalist. It was going to be a great day!

Art Director Gavin Robinson and the Fresh! design team

Art Director Gavin Robinson and the Fresh! design team

Over lunch in the Rodale Café, the Organic Gardening team offered their experience, talking about design, illustration, editing, planning, copy editing and production, as well as marketing and advertising. The results are terrific.

The project has gone from strength to strength. Meredith’s dedication to her students and her passion for giving them the very best learning experience they can have while in her care is nothing short of awe-inspiring; and because of it she is able to draw the best out of each individual and bring them together to create their magazine. Their work together is a perfect testament to what teachers mean to the success of our society and the strength of nation’s future. They deserve our respect and support in whatever way we can give it.

So please, take a moment to listen to the young people are saying, even as you read their words. They are the voice of the future. (Photos courtesy of Michael Harlan Turkell, www.harlanturk.com.)

The Class of 2012 at Rodale with Ethne Clarke

The Class of 2012 at Rodale with Ethne Clarke

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August 25th, 2011

What I did this summer.

Blogging has been on my mind, especially since my last communique was in March. But I have an excuse. I’ve been traveling, which is what many gardeners I know love to do. So here, in retrospective order, are snapshots of just a few of the places I have been this past summer.

Chicago's latest new citizen

Chicago's latest new citizen

August: The Independent Garden Center hosted its 5th annual conference at Navy Pier; Organic Gardening was there (with our first booth) to meet the free-range garden enterprises that sustain and maintain the diversity of our gardens across the nation. Many of our advertising partners were there, too, displaying the garden goodies (and some are very good indeed) we’ll see in local garden retail outlets next year. Along side copies of Organic Gardening, I hope!

The prairie and the city.

The prairie and the city.

A visit to Chicago is not complete without a stroll through the fabulous Lurie Gardens on Michigan Ave, right next to the Art Institute of Chicago. As this is my hometown (GO CUBBIES!!) I’m a booster for the major contributions the city has made to public horticulture and landscape. And Millenium public park is one of them.

A section of SSE's huge seed selection

A section of SSE's huge seed selection

July: Heirloom gardens (see June, below) need heirloom vegetables, and I was excited to be in Decorah for the Seed Savers Exchange annual camp out cum conference. Every time I visit that place I come away inspired, educated and chilled out. It’s not the easiest place on earth to reach, being located in a distant northeast corner of distant Iowa, but boy is it worth the trip.

SSE is the mothership of many of the vendors of heirloom seeds, Baker Creek included, and it just astonishes me what they’ve achieved since starting on Diane Ott Whealy’s kitchen table. And you’re in need of a good book and some inspiration, I recommend “Gathering”, which is Diane’s memoir of how this great American organization came into being.

Real Fresh Foodie fun in KC

Real Fresh Foodie fun in KC

June: Another garden center association, the GCA of Greater Kansas City, brought me to Missouri in  when I returned to my old college town, (a short and utterly unremarkable moment at the Art Institute school). I had enough time there to visit the Nelson Atkins showing of the Monet waterlilies, before delivering the first of two presentations and to be one of the judges for a recipe contest at the Urban Farms & Gardens tour picnic in support of urban farming initiatives; the winner was raw food chef, Debbie Glassberg’s  Cold Sorrel Soup. For a fair to middlin’ size Midwest town, KC positively bristles with community gardens and leads the way through the issues surrounding environmental sustainability.

Just outside Kansas City is Powell Gardens, a private, not-for-profit botanical garden that is making great strides in developing the publics’ awareness of prairie gardens and native plant restoration. At its core lies the Heartland Harvest garden, the largest fruit and vegetable garden in the Midwest … or is the USA? A masterpiece of horticulture that brings together traditional formal kitchen garden design and the varieties best suited to the variable Midwest climate.

Heartland Gdn aerial view

And that is how I spent my summer — it was as good as a vacation.

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March 25th, 2011

Magic Mushrooms

Just a few days ago I returned from the annual Organic Gardening visit to The Natural Products Expo, aka Expo West. It’s just HUGE! There really is no shortage of organic goods to market, and far from being on the granola grind, these products are mainstreamable, if they aren’t already widely available.

At Expo, the most fertile hunting ground is in the New Products area in the basement. Here’s where you find the innovators. And we found two young men, Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora, who having obtained MBA’s and other worthy degrees, decided, phooey. Let’s do something fun. So they concocted Grow Your Own Mushroom Garden as the first product line from their seedling company, BTTR Ventures, (as in Back To The Roots.)

The old saying, “There’s money in muck” may be familiar to these guys, but the cardboard box “garden” uses spent coffee grounds as the growing medium, which is not manure, and when one side of the box finishes cropping, turn it over and the other side begins. When all is done and the mushrooms have been eaten, add the whole thing to the compost heap. Perfect closure of the proverbial circle.

Ten years ago they might have started a .com. Yet that is what is so thrilling about the basement at Expo West. Discovering the  investment and invention in organics and in championing regenerative practices and lifestyles being made by … I’ll call them Gen O (as in organic), that gives hope for a healthier future. Something we sorely need to hold onto as events unfold in Japan, the Middle East, and just about anywhere on the map you care to push a pin. I wonder what they’ll come up with next.

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January 19th, 2011

Cabin Fever at Rodale

Here at Organic Gardening Central, the natives are getting distinctly peeved with winter. Senior Managing Editor Chris Krogermeier was looking … how shall I put this … frosty at our recent book planning meeting.
“I’m tired of this weather.”
General agreement; nods all round.
“I’m going home and fill my basement with dirt, get some grow lights and just start gardening.”
Raised eyebrows…has our Girl lost her edge? With that someone offered the novel idea that she could, in that case, dispense with the compost heap, and just toss her veggie waste etc, down the steps. Instant compost.
“Right. Our next book: The Basement Garden!”
Chris’s gaze swiveled around the room, taking in our grinning faces…
“You know, it would work. The basement has water in it, so I wouldn’t need to irrigate.”
Now that’s what I call putting a pragmatic face on things. The house is a new build.

Chris K putting a brave face on winter in Emmaus.

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