Waterman Lions donate to DeKalb County Community Gardens

Shawn Blobaum (left), president of Waterman Lions Club, presents a check for $100 to Dan Kenney (right), director of DeKalb County Community Gardens. DCCG’s mission is to end hunger and food insecurity in DeKalb County by providing access to fresh, locally grown vegetables for all who may be in need. It manages more than 15 acres of growing space. Waterman Lions Club also sponsors college scholarships, eyeglasses, a kids’ back-to-school party and an Easter egg hunt as well as helps fund other Waterman-area civic improvement projects.

Walnut Grove Vocational Farm Fall Open House

Saturday August 27th, from 9am to 1pm, the Walnut Grove Vocational Farm, a program of DeKalb County Community Gardens, will be holding its second annual Fall Open House. The farm located at 33600 Pearl Street, north of Kirkland, is the only farm and greenhouse operation in northern Illinois where individuals with special needs learn about agriculture and horticulture while raising vegetables, plants, and mums.

fallopenhousewg“When my son leaves high school, it will be like he fell off a cliff.” Said a mother whose son struggles with disabilities. Illinois ranks 49th in the nation when it comes to providing services for individuals with special needs. DeKalb County Community Gardens is attempting to address this lack of services with its Walnut Grove Vocational Farm training program. DCCG is partnering with DeKalb County high school transition programs to provide horticulture and agriculture training for individuals with a variety of handicaps. The goal is to provide them with skills that can lead to employment with area growers such as Midwest Ground Covers in Virgil, or other greenhouse operations. Also others will be able to eventually grow their own vegetables in their own gardens, which can lead to having their own small businesses. This is an innovative program that combines growing food for the food insecure, with training individuals with special needs.

mumsOn Saturday the 27th there will be tomato and garlic tastings, music provided by Kayla’s DJ service, operated by an individual who lives with special needs. Farm tours will be led at 10am and 11:30, All day there will be opportunities to buy mums, fountain grass, and flowering kale, as well as u-pick vegetables. Tours of the 10 Acre savannah prairie restoration project will be provided by Ron Cress, lead prairie steward. You will see the second greenhouse under construction, see the newly finished packing shed, see the pumpkin patch, and much more.

“It is inspiring to see how the farm is coming along. It has been a dream of mine ever since my son Scottie was born with downs syndrome.: Said Gene Heinsohn who owns the property where the farm is in operation.

DeKalb County Community Gardens is in its fifth growing season. In four short years it has increased from 11 garden sites, to over 50 garden sites all across DeKalb County. DCCG coordinates gardens at pre-schools, schools, senior living facilities, church, businesses, parks, low-income housing locations, and vacant lots. In its first four seasons DCCG has grown nearly 100,000 pounds of fresh, sustainably grown, food for people of the county who struggle with food insecurity. The gardens also offer an opportunity for individuals who are unemployed to grown their own food. DCCG offers mentoring to new gardeners, workshops, and health related fresh food learning experiences. Also classes in seed saving and composting.

“We invite any one to come out see our exceptional, locally grown mums, and enjoy fresh vegetables, and have fun on the farm.” Said Dan Kenney, Executive Director of DeKalb County Community Gardens.

For more information visit: www.dekalbgardens.org/walnutgrove, or call 815-793-0950.

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. 

Volunteer Spotlight – Michael Payne

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

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

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!

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

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Just a reminder if you would like a CSA sample box your payment needs to be made by midnight tonight. ... See MoreSee Less

Due to the great weather this season we can offer another week of CSA sample boxes. The box will contain Napa cabbage, radishes, carrots, and other surprises! The box will be delivered Friday, October 28th to your doorstep for $29.95. This is your chance to sample a box to help you decide if you would like to subscribe for the whole season next year or just monthly. By purchasing a Box of Hope you are supporting DCCG's programs. Payment for the box can be made at www.dekalbgardens.org, click on donate, enter $29.95, click on write a note - include your name and address. Questions call Dan Kenney at 815-793-0950.

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Due to the great weather this season we can offer another week of CSA sample boxes.
The box will contain Napa cabbage, radishes, carrots, and other surprises! The box will be delivered Friday, October 28th to your doorstep for $29.95. This is your chance to sample a box to help you decide if you would like to subscribe for the whole season next year or just monthly. By purchasing a Box of Hope you are supporting DCCG's programs. Payment for the box can be made at www.dekalbgardens.org, click on donate, enter $29.95, click on write a note - include your name and address. Questions call Dan Kenney at 815-793-0950.
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What a truly great team of workers we had today to plants all the material we got from Pizzo Nursery and Midwest Groundcovers.
Dana; Virginia; Olga (she and her husband had a generator there to keep our batteries charged); Lead Growers - Nathan, Heath, and Marc; Meghan and the students and assistants from Genoa/Kingston Schools. What a team!
They were able to get over half of the plants in the ground before the welcomed rain that's on the way.
We should be able to wrap it up on Thursday. Come on out if you'd like to help.
Thank you all!
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It is a beautiful autumn morning. Head out to the DCCG Walnut Grove Vocational Farm Oak Savannah Prairie, located along Wolf Road just before you get to Pearl Street, and be part of the restoration project. Volunteers are planting over 1,000 donated prairie plants this morning and tomorrow morning. THANK YOU to the Pizzo Prairie Restoration Company of Leland, and to the Midwest Ground Covers and Trading Company of Maple Park and Virgil! Community coming together to steward prairies for the next generation! Join the prairie restoration project, and be part of leaving a living legacy! Today and tomorrow, 9am to 12, or after, want to get them all planted before Wednesday's rain. Thank you, and please spread the news. ... 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!

Over 300 mums started at Walnut Grove Vocational Farm this weekend. Pre-order yo…

Over 300 mums started at Walnut Grove Vocational Farm this weekend. Pre-order your mums for the fall! Enjoy beautiful mums and support a initiative to provide outdoor agriculture experiences for individuals with special needs. Mums are $8.95 each or three for $25. We have lavender, yellow, gold, and pink. If you want to order yours send us a message via FB or through our website: www.dekalbgardens.org. A big thank you to Heather Edwards for her guidance and for being our greenhouse manager. Some of you may remember Heather from Ozzie’s greenhouse on Hinckley Road. Thank you Heather for helping the Walnut Grove Project. And thank you to all who order their locally raised mums this year from Walnut Grove!

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