New season, new ventures for community gardens

DeKALB – DeKalb County Community Gardens will hold the first meeting of the 2014 season at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 4, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 158 N. Fourth St. in DeKalb.

Jo Cessna, healthy culinary instructor with KishHealth System, will present a program on early spring greens, and the organizational meeting will begin about 6:30 p.m.

DCCG expanded in its first two years, and now oversees community and school gardens at nearly 40 different locations across the county, from Genoa to Sandwich and Somonauk. The organization raised and donated more than 16,000 pounds of fresh vegetables last year. The food raised is donated to food pantries, senior citizen facilities, community meal sites, and Voluntary Action Center. DCCG has also developed more than 60 countywide partnerships.

Future meetings in 2014 will be held on the first Monday of each month. Each month, Cessna will open the meeting with an educational program about vegetables in season that month, with demonstrations and tastings.

Growing up on a farm in Maple Park, Cessna realized as a child her passion was food. In 2008, she became certified by the School of Natural Cookery in Boulder, Colo., where she developed her interest in using natural, locally-grown ingredients.

Dan Kenney, founder, president and executive director of DCCG, said the community gardens plan new projects in 2014, including a community orchard and “food forest.” The addition of fruit and nut trees and berry bushes to the community gardens will allow the group to provide fresh fruit as well as the vegetables it already provides.

DCCG will work with youth from DeKalb High School and volunteers from Northern Illinois University to create the edible parks, among the first food forests and community orchards in Illinois.  

The DCCG is also starting a seed library in partnership with the DeKalb and Sycamore public libraries, and plans to offer educational workshops throughout the county on such topics as seed saving, wild edibles, basic gardening skills, and tree grafting. DCCG is also offering permaculture design consultations, edible landscape design work and consultation, and other garden-related services to create a sustainable stream of cash revenue.

“We need volunteers for tasks in the garden and outside the garden,” Kenney said. “We hope people come out to learn all of the ways they can be involved with DCCG.”

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