Naturally Rockford: The CSALC at Angelic Organics: Education for all, organic products for the needy

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-112127313931145.jpg’, ‘Photo by Melissa Wangall’, ‘Deb Crockett greets goats at CSALC.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-112127318131829.jpg’, ‘Photo by Melissa Wangall’, ‘Youth-built compost box.’);

So much of our current society is isolated, segmented, and prepackaged for convenience. This leads to disconnection from the very thing that sustains us—food. It’s shipped from random places around the world. It’s wax-coated, saran-wrapped, canned, or attractively packaged in landfill-populating materials. The Community Supported Agriculture Learning Center (CSALC) at Angelic Organics offers educational opportunities to reconnect people with the ultimate food source—the land.

Founded in 1998, the CSALC, a non-profit resource center, funded through grants, individual donations, program fees and sales, seeks to renew relationships with the land, farmers, and the community. They do this through a variety of educational and outreach programs that empower people “to create sustainable communities of soils, plants, animals and people through educational, creative, and experiential programs.”

The organization’s primary focus is education through programs like Roots and Wings, an at-risk youth leadership and agro-ecology program.

Deb Crockett, agro-ecology educator and program facilitator, describes the program: “We work with community-based organizations in Rockford, helping the kids to design, plant, tend and harvest from their own organic gardens. The gardens—plus trips to the farm—are the launching pad for learning about health, nutrition, environmental issues, teamwork and solving problems peacefully.”

The kids have been learning how to make compost (through the help of worms), grow gardens, and raise chickens all in an urban setting. Some even sell what they produce, adding to the family income, and teaching them business skills. This is just one of the Learning Center’s programs. Others include: Agro-Ecology Education for Youth, Adults & Families, Technical Assistance for Urban Growers, Skills and Creative Workshops, Oak Savanna Restoration, Food Shed Advocacy and The Food Security Harvest Shares Program, which helps low-income families receive subsidized, organic vegetables and herbs.

The Food Security Harvest Shares Program is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) arrangement. In a CSA, a group of subscribers, or shareholders, make a single payment to a farmer at the beginning of the growing season. Then, as the crops are harvested, the farmer delivers a weekly share of herbs and vegetables to a number of drop sites where the shareholders pick up about three-quarters of a bushel of produce per week. Low-income families pay half-price for their share in the Harvest Shares Program, which is subsidized through charitable donations.

In 2004, low-income families purchased 24 shares through the program. However, Crockett says, “Between the boxes dedicated directly to individual families, and directed to non-profit organizations who distributed or prepared the vegetables for homeless, near homeless, single moms and abused families, the program surpassed its objective of reaching 60 low income families with fresh produce. In all, we reached more than 114 individuals with fresh produce.” Crocket said, “The number [served by the program] this year will depend on funding.”

The CSALC is also taking steps toward accepting WIC payments and food stamps. The stumbling block is adequate staffing. Crocket said, “We’re hoping to secure money for staffing this spring so we can make this a priority.”

While most of the current drop sites for the Harvest Shares Program are in Chicago, the CSALC intends to expand the scope of the program in Rockford. Crocket said, “We’d love to see Rockford develop as a hub for urban food security: linking farmers, gardeners and consumers together in a way that supports all groups.”

More Info: CSA Learning Center at Angelic Organics, 1547 Rockton Rd., Caledonia, IL 61101; 815-389-8455;

From the July 13-19, 2005, issue

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