Strengthening access to fresh, local, sustainably-grown organic food for people in need.

Concert will benefit DeKalb County Community Gardens’ efforts

To promote programs that increase public access to fresh food, the DeKalb County Community Gardens will hold its third annual “Make Our Garden Grow” benefit concert on Sunday, February 19th, 2017 at Northern Illinois University’s Boutell Memorial Concert Hall.

An afternoon of Broadway Music will showcase excellent local talent as well as raise funds to support the work of DeKalb County Community Gardens and their Walnut Grove Vocational Farm Program for youth with special needs.

This year the concert, arranged and directed by Eric Johnson, Director of Choral Music at NIU, will include the performing ensembles of DeKalb High School, DeKalb Festival Chorus, NIU chamber and concert choirs, and the NIU University chorus. The program will also include a performance by an ensemble from Stagecoach Players.

No tickets are necessary, and donations for DeKalb County Community Gardens will be taken at the door. Also this year there will be silent auction items available. The event is sponsored by Northern Illinois University School of Music, Tapa La Luna, Egyptian Theater, Epilepsy Council of DeKalb, and 3 Roses Realty.


Would YOU Like to Participate?

Walnut Grove Vocational Farm is now taking participant applications for the 2017 season. There will be three sessions throughout the year that involve different training. The individual must be 18 years or older. The participant will be responsible for their own transportation to and from WGVF. Below are descriptions about the training that will occur throughout the year. Click here for an Application (due by January 16, 2017). For questions, please contact Dan Kenney 815-793-0950.

Sow seeds in germination room/greenhouse
Fill pots/trays with media
Transplant plugs
Prune plants
Package plants for shipping
Sow seeds outside in vegetable garden
Plant vegetable plants in outdoor garden
Plant flower beds
Identify weeds and remove from vegetable and flower beds
Mulch beds
Care for chickens – feed, water, clean coop
Plant garlic bulbs
Prepare garlic for resale
Harvest and wash vegetables
Prepare CSA boxes
Plant fall bulbs
Mulch beds
Inventory product
Sanitize pots and flats

Box of Hope Vegetables 2017

You can help DCCG plant seeds of hope and provide wholesome, fresh vegetables for those who struggle with food insecurity in DeKalb County. You can support DCCG while also providing healthy, sustainably-grown fresh vegetables for your family at the same time.

Send us an email at

we will send your registration information.

Thank you for being part of the solution! Together we can end hunger in DeKalb County!

Waterman Lions donate to DeKalb County Community Gardens

14570387_1213217682085262_4008416166841523500_n1Shawn Blobaum, president of Waterman Lions Club, presented a check for $100 to Dan Kenney, 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 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

A BIG DAY at Walnut Grove Farm! Thank you DeKalb United Methodist Yout…

A BIG DAY yesterday at Walnut Grove Farm! Thank you DeKalb United Methodist Youth Mission Group, the Gracie Center, Meghan, Gavin, Heather, and others for helping. The fence is started, they painted the walls for our chicken coop on wheels, pulled weeds, and worked on the end of the greenhouse! Thank you everyone for your help.

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: 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!

DeKalb County Community Gardens © 2017

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