Walnut Grove Vocational Farm receives grant

Donna Turner, member of the DeKalb County Community Foundation, presents a grant check to Dan Kenney, executive director of DeKalb County Community Gardens. The grant will help complete the construction at the Walnut Grove Vocational Farm and provide equipment for the vegetable packing shed, and help purchase a vehicle to get participants around the farm and through the prairie. Walnut Grove is a program of DCCG to provide a farm-based opportunity for individuals with handicaps to learn a variety of agricultural and horticultural skills. 

DCCG’s Five Points Food Forest

12994292_1037448696304254_8449876844232480871_n[1]This is an aerial view of DCCG’s Five Points Food Forest. Hope you can attend our “Let’s Get Started Event” Sunday April 24, 9AM. Learn about perennial growing for food production. A partnership between DCCG and the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District.

Volunteer Spotlight – Michael Payne

February 2016

Volunteer Spotlight: Michael Payne


DeKalb County Community Gardens would like to take this volunteer spotlight to appreciate Michael Payne! He is a full time student, a leader at NIU campus, and a dedicated volunteer for DeKalb County Community gardens. Michael’s love for gardening started at a very young age and truly flourished when he got involved with the NIU Communiversity Gardens during the summer of 2014. He finds his work to be very rewarding.

“I love giving food from the garden, and seeing the [other] volunteers incredibly interested in the food” says Michael. He loves the idea that the work he does in the gardens helps peoples around him to eat. It is very rewarding when people come back and tell him how good the food was. Michael is a regular volunteer. While he originally did not have much gardening experience prior to his work in the NIU Communiversity Garden, he quickly picked up on the skills and knowledge and people started to look at him for guidance and leadership.

His favorite part about DeKalb County Community Garden is that there has been so much growth in such little time. “It is very cool to see members of the community help as much as they can”, says Michael. He realizes that you can come as you are when you volunteer for DCCG. Michael points out that there is a misconception that people have to be expert gardeners in order to help at the gardens, but it is definitely not the case. Anyone at any skill level is welcome to volunteer! It is wonderful to see when the new volunteers become regulars. He wants all current and future volunteers to know that their work in the garden actually makes a difference and it allows for more food to go on people’s plate who need it most. Even the work that does not have to directly deal with the produce such as weeding, tilling, and compost turning matters because it allows for the garden as a whole to be more successful.

One of the best memories he has even had in the garden was when a family came to volunteer. They were so appreciative that they could take as much produce as they wanted. He distinctly remembers digging up a carrot with their son, and seeing the expression on his face when he saw what a carrot looks like when it comes right out of the ground. In the gardens, memories are made, laughter is shared and people like Michael Payne make a difference, one carrot at a time.

Fun Facts-

Favorite quote-“spread your cool”

Desired super power- to be able to see through walls and practices his ability to be in multiple spots at once

-He is a full time student at NIU, graduating in May of 2016

-Michael has multiple jobs on NIU campus

Volunteer Spotlight Prepared by: Gladys Sanchez, NIU Intern with DCCG

Volunteer Spotlight – Carol Bushong

January 2016

Volunteer Spotlight: Carol Bushong


Our volunteers are valued and appreciated!  The January Volunteer Spotlight is Carol Bushong. Her passion for gardening and growing food as a resource started at a young age, as Carol grew up listening to family stories of her Irish ancestors starving during the Irish potato famine. Additionally, both sets of her grandparents lived through the Great Depression. Developing self-sufficiency through subsistence food production became incredibly important to them. As she lived with grandparents for an extended period of time, she essentially grew up in the gardens!

Carol retired from teaching in 2013 and stated taking horticulture classes at Kishwaukee College. She also volunteers once a week at Tails and at the front desk at Kishwaukee Hospital. Of course, as often as possible, she spends time hanging out with friends and family enjoying their company. Her hobby is participating in antique flea markets, which she has been doing for over 12 years. Her favorite markets are Oregon Women’s Club Show, Pecatonica, and Elkhorn Flea Market.

Even with her busy schedule, she still makes time for DeKalb County Community Gardens. Her favorite memory was at Little John Elementary. Bushong spoke to two little girls during a tomato and kale taste test session during the summer. During discussion, the girls advised what to plant for the next year, specifically they requested that she plant the “dino” and the “ruffled” kale next year. Most importantly, the kids seemed to have fun planting, watering and harvesting in the gardens.

Carol  loves the quote by Jimmy Carter, “ My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, wherever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference”. She has a great spirit and feels that her volunteer experience has been rewarding. The fact that she is making an important difference for people in her community is the true motivation as a volunteer. Bushong says “This last summer was my best summer since I was a kid.” She spent almost all day every day outside working in one garden or another. She also feels that the people involved with DCCG are wonderful! “With DCCG, you do not have to be an experienced gardener to help, it is all about making time to help where and when you can help.”  For future volunteers, she suggests to get started and give it a try. There is never going to be a best time or enough time. You need to make time for what is important.

Volunteer Spotlight Prepared by: Gladys Sanchez, NIU Intern with DCCG

DCCG Hiring Lead Grower/ Community Educator

DeKalb County Community Gardens

Lead Grower and Community Educator

Job Description and Requirements

Location: DeKalb County Illinois. 60 miles west of Chicago.

Job Description: DeKalb County Community Gardens (DCCG) is an innovative County wide approach to end hunger and increase access to fresh food grown using organic methods. DCCG has over 45 sites spread throughout the County. This includes two or more sites of 2 acres or more. DCCG also works to increase access to fresh food by building gardens in backyards of homes, and neighborhood locations. Visit www.dekalbgardens.org to learn more about the organization.

DCCG is seeking a reliable, hands-on, experienced person to lead the tasks of a lead grower. The job will include the following tasks.

 Assist and oversee regular garden (field) related tasks of planting, weeding, harvesting, watering, soil amendments, and general maintenance of larger garden locations.
 Oversee a “caseload” of smaller school/ neighborhood gardens. The latter would involve coordination with the lead volunteers at the smaller gardens, and assisting where and when required.
 Hoop house operation, care, and maintenance.
 Orchard stewardship
 Train and direct volunteers, students, and seasonal interns as needed. This may include leading individuals and groups of many ages in contributing to the work of the gardens, this may include early evening work hours.
 Assist in coordination of gleaning local fields and orchards.
 Coordinate seed gathering and saving. Assist with seed ordering.
 Coordinate and oversee distribution of garden production to end-users, such as food pantries, community meal sites, farmer markets, and special events. This also may include harvesting and preparing the Box of Hope Program deliveries. (A CSA type program.)
 Manage composting; maintain garden infrastructure such as hoop house, raised garden beds, tool repair, etc.
 Plan and implement classes and workshops on sustainable home gardening, seed gathering, plant identification, etc.
 Assist in outreach planning, presentations to interested groups, and community capacity building.
 Organize and give regular tours of garden sites.
 Plan and organize special events involving garden activities, etc.
 Work closely with the DCCG executive director. Report to the executive director progress and problems related to the operation of the gardens. Provide guidance when required to assist the executive director with planning.
 Plan and assist with the construction of new gardens as may be required in backyards, and/or other community locations.
 Plan and conduct education programs about basic skills involved with raising food, harvesting, etc. Also be able to mentor someone as they learn gardening skills. Must be able to work in an educational capacity with people of all ages, and abilities, including individuals with special needs.
 May also be required to provide training and guidance to the farm manager at our Walnut Grove Vocational Farm location.
 Other duties that may be assigned

Qualifications and Compensation

Minimum Qualifications for this position:

 Experience working on an organic farm or community garden, from annual planting, care, harvesting to seed gathering and saving.
 Experience with managing the distribution and sale of vegetables and/or fruit.
 Experience with training and supervising workers in the gardens. (Volunteers, interns, staff, students, etc.)
 Knowledge of fruits, nuts, and other perennial plants. Preferably familiar with gardening methods that do not require tillage.
 Excellent communication and organizational skills.
 A strong work ethic and the ability to be self-directed and capable of working independently with minimal oversight.
 A flexible work schedule. During growing season, May 15 to October 15, capable of working 40 or more hours per week.
 Non-smoking while at garden sites.
 Must be able to pass a criminal background check.
 Must be able to lift 50 pounds and work under potentially difficult physical conditions.
 Must be dependable, organized, flexible, and have a sense of humor.
 Must have a valid drivers’ license and good driving record. Must also have own transportation to and from work.
 Must be personable and capable of working with all kinds of people of various ages and abilities; including children.
 Should be capable of basic “fix-it” skills, handy with an electric drill, various garden related hand tools, tiller operation, etc.

This is a 12 month position, with 40 hours a week for 40 weeks and 20 hours for 12 weeks. During the growing season, approximately March 19 to Dec 19, 40 hours a week, December 15 to March 15, 20 hours per week.

Yearly salar commensurate with experience.

Two weeks’ paid vacation, preferably taken during the winter, December 15 thru March 1st.

Six paid illness and/or personal days per calendar year.

$500 toward additional training opportunities.

$0.50 per mile when using own vehicle on the job.

Application Deadline: Open until filled. Hope to have positions filled by December 20, 2015.

Email resume and cover letter describing your interest in the position, and your experiences to: Dan Kenney, executive director of DCCG: dkenney@dekalbgardens.org
If you have questions call Mr. Kenney @ 815-793-0950

Volunteer Spotlight – Peter Schram and Tricia DeBoo

November 2015

DCCG Volunteer Spotlight: Tricia DeBoo and Peter Schram


Peter and Tricia started gardening 18 years ago when they bought their Sycamore property. Over the years, they expanded and now have created a continuous bloom. Having the skills and interests that would be of use to DCCG, they started to become regular volunteers. They believe that “no person should go hungry” and DCCG offers opportunities to address the issue on a local base. In their free time, they are busy with their real estate management business. Peter and Tricia’s favorite aspect of the organization are the genuine and generous people. The best advice that each of them shares is “each adversity is, in reality, an opportunity.” We truly appreciate the both of them for their presence and kindness. In Peter and Tricia’s experience as volunteers, they feel that “you get back so much more than you give.”

Peter Schram and Tricia DeBoo are two dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers of DCCG. From frequenting garage sales to find used gardening tools, to helping with operations at DCCG evens,  their commitment to DeKalb County Community Gardens is vital and we would like to sincerely thank you!

Volunteer Spotlight Prepared by: Gladys Sanchez, NIU Intern with DCCG

Volunteer Spotlight – Patty Ruback

Volunteer Spotlight: Patty Ruback


Patty Ruback grew up in Chicago, but spent lots of summers in Wisconsin surrounded by family members that had large gardens. In her youth, Patty had some form of garden at every house she resided in. Now, she focuses on building healthy soils through composting and rotational planting. Also, she is trying to learn to preserve the harvest better through freezing, canning, drying and fermenting. “Gardening is a “life- learning” project”, says Patty.

Aside from being a dedicated volunteer, Patty has founded the Eat Local DeKalb County to help connect local people to local sustainable produce. Eat Local DeKalb County has over 550 members. In addition, she co-founded DeKalb County Home Educators to connect homeschooling families in the area and they have a membership of over 40 families. Currently, she is working on a Panamanian snake with two other female, NIU alumni. Patty says “Most importantly, I am raising my daughter to be an awesome person and citizen, and teaching her how to follow her dreams”.

Her most memorable story as a volunteer is when she worked at the St. Paul’s Thrive Farmer Markets where people want local, organic, and sustainably grown produce to feed themselves and their families. She felt it was very rewarding to see people from all economic situations coming together at the market for the sole purpose of sharing in a healthy harvest.

DeKalb County Community Gardens is very fortunate to have Patty as a volunteer. Her favorite aspects about DCCG is the feelings of human connection and seeing how the different gardens produce variety of foods. Patty says “that people should pick from gardens, enjoy the produce especially since you have worked hard from keeping it alive”! For future volunteers, she says to be the change you want to see in the world. Volunteering also opens up so many opportunities and helps to build lots of relationships.

Patty Ruback- Thank you for being an awesome volunteer for DeKalb County Community Gardens.

Fun Facts

  • Loves roller skating and recently founded Chicks in Bowls, DeKalb
  • Traveled to Southern Africa 4 times
  • Her mantra: “ I do what I want”


Volunteer Spotlight Prepared by: Gladys Sanchez, NIU Intern with DCCG

Bread & Roses Concert Sunday November 15th to Benefit DCCG

Mark Your Calendars!

Don’t miss this opportunity to spend an enjoyable afternoon of wonderful music, positive community energy, and refreshments. The women’s chorus Bread & Roses will be holding their fall concert, this year entitled “Hopes of the Season.” They will also be joined by the barber shop chorus, The Kish-Wua-Keys!

Bread and Roses always provides a great concert. They offer a variety of songs, that stir you and delight you.

Following the concert their will be community time with treats provided by DeKalb County Community Gardens!

Hope to see you there. You will not want to miss this one! Postcard fall 15 (1)

Volunteer Spotlight – October 2015- Joel Maurer

Volunteer Spotlight: Joel Maurer


At DCCG we cannot thank our volunteers enough for the sense of community and service they provide. Often times we have a volunteer who goes above and beyond for DCCG and exemplifies the true spirit of service of volunteerism. Joel Maurer, a volunteer who lends his time and knowledge all over DeKalb County, is one of those people.

Living by the best piece of advice he has ever received “Show some kindness to others, work hard, and finish your tasks.” Joel not only volunteers at DCCG but with the Network of Nations, Medevac, and the Sycamore Food Pantry as a director. Joel says he naturally gravitated towards volunteering at DCCG due to the garden’s vicinity to his home. He puts in a lot of hours in the garden on NIU’s Campus, aptly titled the Communiversity Garden. From weeding, to laying mulch, to troubleshooting the water access, to helping harvest fresh produce for the food pantries of DeKalb, Joel says he has seen the mission of DCCG come to fruition.

Joel’s start in garden work came from a childhood of farm work. However, he says it is not necessary to have gardening skills if you want to volunteer at DCCG. To this day his favorite thing about DCCG is working in the soil and doing hands on team projects. He enjoys growing food, helping other volunteers and helping international students at NIU feel at home. When Joel is not helping someone in the community time he spends his personal running, biking, and singing in a Gospel Quartet. We just want to say: Thank you Joel, for all that you do, not only at DCCG, but for the entire DeKalb Community!

DeKalb County Community Gardens’ Local Flavors Harvest Benefit

Sunday September 20th, at 4pm and 6:30pm will be DCCG’s Annual Local Flavors Harvest benefit at Tapa La Luna!

A unique event that people who have attended in the past look forward to each year. Enjoy the beautiful and community atmosphere of Tapa La Luna. Enjoy the wonderful music of Craig Mathey. Enjoy a creative, original, and delicious meal orchestrated by the amazing Chef Chad. He will be using ingredients grown locally by DCCG and area farmers. It is always one of the most talked about evenings of the year! Don’t miss out, get your tickets today, because seating is limited. Thanks to the great work of Alex with the Egyptian and www.dekalbcountytickets.com, you can purchase your tickets on line this year! follow the link:



Thank you to our lead sponsors for this event: Ken Spears Construction, Kish Health Systems, Dawn Equipment, Lehan’s Drug Stores, and Hy-Vee. Also thank you to our lead partners this growing season: NB&T, DeKalb/Sycamore Chevrolet, Doug and Lynn Roberts Family Foundation, DeKalb County Community Foundation, DeKalb County Farm Bureau, and Live Healthy DeKalb County. Thank you to all who have helped in the gardens this growing season. It has been another bountiful season, and made even better by all of the fantastic community support! Together we are making a lasting difference in the lives of so many.

Look forward to seeing you on the 20th.




DCCG Mums Are Ready!

mumsinrowsSOLD OUT! Thank you everyone!! Remember us in the spring for your bedding plant needs! And remember Walnut Grove Vocational Farm! Plants, vegetables, mums, berries, and more!! Help others while you help yourself! Thank You!!The mums are ready! Get your locally grown mums, purple fountain grass, and flowering kale for fall from the DeKalb County Community Gardens (DCCG). The mums are beautiful and filled with buds. Get beautiful fall color for your home and yard, and support the building of the Walnut Grove Vocational Farm for individuals with special needs. Visit the DeKalb County Community Gardens website now to learn about all they are doing.

mumsonracksPrint off the Mum order form here and mail it in. It’s an easy way to help close the food gap in DeKalb County and support great farm experiences for individuals with special needs. Help to provide them with the training they need to live a fuller and more meaningful life.

Volunteer Spotlight: Tracy Coyle

Tracy 1

“The part that I love is that even though I am one person, the amount of impact that I have is great. With any great cause, even if you are only one person, your efforts matter.”

Tracy Coyle, Malta Elementary School Librarian, grew up with a grandmother who had a passion for gardening. “She had flowers and vegetables everywhere, along every fence line, around the house [and] under the trees. She would give me bunches of flowers each time I visited and I loved it,” Tracy says. Her grandmother’s green thumb would inspire Tracy to continue that love of the outdoors through photographing nature, camping with family, and gardening and volunteering with the DeKalb Community Gardens.

Tracy has contributed to the garden’s by being a point person of the Malta Elementary School Community Garden. She says her favorite part has always been the children, “I love sharing my knowledge with the students. They are so eager to learn and to help. They love every part about the gardens from the digging in the dirt, to planting and harvesting. Our kids at Malta are very much involved with our gardens.” In fact, the students work with Tracy year round to keep Malta Community Gardens thriving. “The 5th graders start our seeds, the rest of the classes plant all our beds, and our Malta families sign up to take care of the gardens once school is done for the summer.”

She is able to keep families involved in the gardens by engaging their children, and creating organized sign-up sheets for families during the summer season. Tracy sees this as an easy way to plan for the year and in the long run, save time. “I don’t feel like I spend too much time,” she says, “so a little work in the beginning, makes the summer awesome”. However, Tracy attributes her main success to the support of the Malta community including the Malta elementary School Principal, PTO, and families.

Thank-you for supporting the DeKalb Community Gardens with your hard work and organization Tracy! We would not be the same without you.

Fun Facts!

  • Tracy has photographed over 90 birds as of June 2015
  • Tracy is celebrating her 20th year at the Kishwaukee Family YMCA this August! Congratulations!

Tracy Selfie

Facebook Buzz

Only two days remaining to vote for DCCG. Please vote for DCCG today.! woobox.com/8zhtcp

Please consider taking a few seconds to vote for DCCG!
DCCG has established 55 gardens all around DeKalb County raising over 65,000 pounds of fresh produce for the food insecure of DeKalb County. Thus far this growing season DCCG has provided fresh vegetables to Hope Haven, eight food pantries, Voluntary Action Center, First United Methodist Church summer lunch program, senior citizens, and individuals. DCCG has provided horticultural and agricultural training and experiences for over 40 individuals with special needs. In addition DCCG has provided training and employment to three people who are or have been homeless. DCCG has provided educational garden experiences, volunteer opportunities, workshops to individuals in diabetes classes at Kish Hospital. DCCG has also provided garden training for individuals in low-income housing areas.
Please consider taking a few seconds to vote for DCCG and support their work. Thank you for being part of the solution. Please share with friends and co-workers, and family! Voting link: woobox.com/8zhtcp
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Please vote for DCCG today.! woobox.com/8zhtcp


WHY- is always front and center with non-profits.
DCCG works to keep its focus on the WHY with all we do, Here are some reasons a vote for DCCG will impact the community:
- 1 in 5 children in DeKalb County struggle with food security, many go to bed hungry or without proper nourishment. DCCG is the only organization in DeKalb County that provides locally sustainably grown vegetables to food pantries, community meal sites, low income housing areas, and senior citizens. woobox.com/8zhtcp

- 1 in 4 of DeKalb County residents struggle with diabetes or pre-diabetic conditions. DCCG provides nutritious fresh, diet appropriate food for people with diabetes, and obesity. DCCG works in partnership with the Voluntary Action Center of DeKalb County, DeKalb County Health Department, the Kishwaukee Hospital ,Kish KishHealth System, Hope Haven of Dekalb County, Inc.and Northwest Medicine to provide education and access for people who need the freshest healthiest vegetables possible for their diets. woobox.com/8zhtcp

- Over 90 youth with disabilities are on the waiting list for services in DeKalb County, young people who can contribute to the community if they have the opportunity. DCCG provides an opportunity for individuals with special needs to learn agricultural, horticultural skills that can provide a path to jobs in the community, helping them to feel involved and engaged. woobox.com/8zhtcp

-There are those who struggle with being homeless, or are elderly and unable to grow their own gardens any longer. DCCG provides gardens and fresh produce for Hope Haven Homeless Shelter, senior citizen living facilities, and others. DCCG has worked with over 70 different organizations, churches, businesses, and civic groups over the past 4 seasons to provide over 65,000 pounds of fresh healthy produce to families and individuals in need.

These are but a few of the WHY's for DCCG. I need to stop for now, because it is time for me to deliver a box of hope to a person who is struggling, she called asking for assistance because of her struggles financially and with her health right now, and because DCCG is there, she is now able to get a fresh box of healthy vegetables.

Only 4 more days to vote. Please vote daily for DCCG, help be part of a creative solution to many issues our county faces. You can vote from any where in the U.S. Please consider taking a few seconds to make a lasting difference. Thank you for joining the effort and for being part of the solution!

Voting Link: woobox.com/8zhtcp

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What I saw at the Prairie at Walnut Grove today. Come out and enjoy it too. ... See MoreSee Less

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Friday and Saturday the u-pick will be open from 9-1:00pm at Walnut Grove Farm, 33600 Pearl St., Kirkland. Beets, carrots, dill, basil, onions, and cucumbers will be available for purchase. Also please don't forget to vote for DCCG! woobox.com/8zhtcp ... See MoreSee Less

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Attention all volunteers interested in helping out at Farmers Markets! We need y…

Attention all volunteers interested in helping out at Farmers Markets! We need your help! This Saturday is St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s first Thrive Farmers Market from 11-2. If you’re interested in working the DCCG table, please e-mail Amy Stratton at astratton1@niu.edu! For more information on the Thrive Market, check out : http://www.thrivemarket.org/

Click Here to Follow the DCCG on Facebook!

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