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Local

DCCG to kick off growing season at meeting

DeKalb County Community Gardens will hold its first meeting of the growing season at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 20, in the Blank Slate Room of the DeKalb County Outreach Building, 2500 N. Annie Glidden Road in DeKalb.
DeKalb County Community Gardens will hold its first meeting of the growing season at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 20, in the Blank Slate Room of the DeKalb County Outreach Building, 2500 N. Annie Glidden Road in DeKalb.

DeKalb County Community Gardens will host its first organizing meeting of the 2017 growing season, at 6:30 p.m. Monday. The meeting and potluck will be in the Blank Slate Room of the DeKalb County Outreach Building, 2500 N. Annie Glidden Road in DeKalb.

The event will be an opportunity to get an update on all the activities of DCCG and to learn of ways to become involved. Attendees can learn about upcoming groups, workshops, volunteer opportunities, prairie restoration and foraging walks.

“It’s a great opportunity to get involved and to learn about all of the local foods work going on in DeKalb County,” Dan Kenney, founder and DCCG executive director, said in a news release. “Those who attend can get involved with the beekeeping group, help with the community orchard or the Five Points Food Forest, or get involved at the Walnut Grove Vocational Farm up by Kirkland.”

DCCG is beginning its sixth growing season. In its first five years it has expanded to more than 50 locations across DeKalb County. The group has coordinated more than 300 volunteers a year to raise more than 100,000 pounds of fresh vegetables for food pantries, meal sites, senior living facilities and for others in need.

In addition to the gardens, DCCG also has planted more than 100 trees and berry shrubs in three of its locations – the Annie Glidden Community Orchard, the Five Points Food Forest and the Walnut Grove Vocational Farm.

DCCG also conducts workshops on basic gardening, seed-saving, prairie stewardship, wild foraging, maple tree tapping and other food and gardening-related topics.

In its first five years, DCCG has established more than 70 partnerships with elementary schools in DeKalb and Sycamore, churches, businesses, organizations, the health department, KishHealth System, now part of Northwestern Medicine, and Kishwaukee Hospital, Northern Illinois University, Kishwaukee College, Adventure Works and many others.

“This year, our Walnut Grove Vocational Farm Program is in full operation training individuals with special needs,” Kenney said in the release.

The Walnut Grove Farm is an agricultural and horticultural training program for young people with disabilities. The farm offers training and experiential opportunities for individuals with special needs. The farm works with each participant to set up an individualized training program so they can then move out into the community and gain meaningful employment. The participants can work with chickens in the 3,000-square-foot greenhouses, work in an acre of garden, assist with the savannah prairie restoration project, run the produce stand or work in the orchard. DCCG also sells spring bedding plants and fall mums from their Walnut Grove Farm Program.

This year, DCCG also is offering a “Community Growers Program” for people living in the low-income areas of northwest DeKalb, such as University Village. Working with social service agencies, such as the Community Action office of DeKalb County Adventure Works, DCCG will offer access to land, tools and education for those interested in learning and taking part in growing vegetables for themselves and their families. Some people also will be guided and assisted in growing vegetables to sell in the local markets; learning a variety of marketable skills to put them on a path forward out of poverty.

In an attempt to increase access to fresh vegetables for all, DCCG will offer a new Backyard Gardens for All program. With the support of various civic groups and churches, and working in partnership with local food pantries and social service agencies, DCCG will provide the materials and assist in building backyard gardens for people in need. DCCG, along with the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program, will provide guidance for families as they establish their garden, and teach them how to care for and harvest, and how to use the produce they raise.

The first organizing meeting also will be an opportunity to learn about the local food opportunities in DeKalb County and Patty Ruback will talk about the new Eat Local DeKalb website and map of where to find local products in the area.

For information, contact Kenney at 815-793-0950 or dkenney53@hotmail.com.

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