September 29, 2017

Kishwaukee College is offering a new Horticulture class in Hydroponics that will begin in October. HOR 201 – Hydroponics will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, October 17 – December 15. Students can earn 1.5 credit hours and the instructor is Rich Alde.

Hydroponics is an agricultural system that uses nutrient-rich water instead of soil, usually in specially designed greenhouse environments. Because the process does not require natural precipitation or fertile land, it offers an efficient use of technology to grow crops. In some estimates, using Hydroponics utilizes 90% less space and 80% less water as the nutrient-rich water is usually re-used. Locally, there are two companies using Hydroponic agricultural methods, BrightFarms and Mighty Vine, both located in Rochelle.

The HOR 201 Hydroponics class will cover hydroponic systems and the respective set-ups for each system; nutrient solution preparation; various hydroponic techniques; plant culture and diseases possible in hydroponic agriculture; harvesting options; and an exploration of both commercial and home hydroponic systems.

For more information on the HOR 201 Hydroponics class, contact instructor Rich Alde at ralde@kish.edu  or at 815-234-8449.

Registration for classes that begin in the second half of the fall semester (October 16), is currently in progress at Kishwaukee College. For more information on enrollment and registration, contact Student Services at 815-825-9375 or email onestop@kish.edu.

Pictured is horticulture student Hannah Thompson, Rochelle, in the hydroponic area in a greenhouse on campus.

Categories: Horticulture
August 7, 2017

The Kishwaukee College Sustainable Horticulture class donated bushels of fresh vegetables to a local food pantry. The Sustainable Hort classes are offered in spring, summer and fall. Students get a hands-on experience with the campus vegetable garden, beehives, and bluebird nesting boxes. The vegetable harvest is donated to local charities with this year’s bounty going to N.I.C.E., a 15-church multi-denomination consortium located in Lee. The group’s food pantry is open on Saturdays from 8:15 – 11:00a.m.  and serves 30 – 50 area families per week. For more information on N.I.C.E. visit http://www.watermanumc.org/nice-center.html.  Pictured with a sampling of the fresh veggies are, L to R, Rich Alde, Horticulture faculty; Kim Rotella, Shabbona, Hort student; and Brian Byro, Malta, N.I.C.E. Board member.  The HORT 188 Sustainable Gardening III class will meet in Fall 2017 on Thursdays from 2 – 3:40p.m. from August 24 – October 13 and will cover harvest and overwintering. For more information on enrollment, contact the Student Services Office at 815-825-9375 or visit www.kish.edu. Registration is currently in progress.

Categories: Horticulture
February 22, 2017

Jason Toth goes to work every day in a little piece of paradise in the middle of Chicago: the Garfield Park Conservatory. Jason, an alum of the Kishwaukee College Horticulture Program, is a member of the horticulture staff at the Conservatory.

Jason’s path did not begin in horticulture. It began in music. The Michigan native pursued and completed a B.F.A. degree in Music – Double Bass Performance at Western Michigan University. “I decided to pursue horticulture as a career when I realized I had to make a second career move,” he explained. “After some soul searching, I realized that horticulture fit the bill for me, because it involved a unique combination of science, art, and working with my hands that was all in one package. Later on I discovered an appreciation for the public involvement that came with working for a park district.”

Having relocated to DeKalb, Jason chose Kishwaukee because it was only 20 minutes away and his program research showed that it was a competitive program. At Kish, Jason came to have an understanding of the breadth of fields and careers available in Horticulture. “Being able to see the Navy Pier Flower and Garden Show was the first insight I had as to the scope of the field, both within the city and beyond,” he said. “The hort program really made sure to expose students to the real job market with on-site trips and internships or job fairs.”

Jason studied Ornamental Horticulture – Greenhouse Management while a student, graduating with his A.A.S. degree in May 2012. “One of my favorite experiences at Kish was the tree walks Rich Alde would take us on for arboriculture classes, identifying trees in summer and winter,” he recalled. “And also my first time dabbling in floral arranging with Janet Gallagher. It turned out I wasn’t terrible at it! So when I was working a seasonal job with the Chicago Park District, before I worked with them full-time, I had a job as a florist. I truly made use of all skills that I learned from Kish.”

Jason also took advantage of the internship experiences available to students in the program.  He interned at Bonsai West in Littleton, Massachusetts, receiving a financial award from the Ruth Ashelford Pollock Horticulture Endowment, established specifically to give Horticulture students a variety of experiences in internships and field studies, both nationally and internationally. He said, “It was a great experience. I learned a unique skill that involved cultivating plants for art, which helped me with ornamental gardening.” 

After graduation, Jason landed a position at the Nicholas Conservatory in Rockford. He said, “I got that position through one of the hort department job fairs and I got my foot in the door to conservatory and greenhouse work.”  From there, he continued up the career ladder, landing at Garfield Park Conservatory, one of the largest and most beautiful conservatories in the country, one that is often referred to as "landscape art under glass."  Jason manages the facility on the weekends and maintains the Showhouse and the Urban Demonstration Garden.

He is enthusiastic about his position at Garfield. “I get to work with a varied and unique collection of plants, some especially old with their own history, and some that are especially rare,” he explained. “We get to use these plants to create great displays of art for the people of Chicago at Garfield.” Garfield Park Conservatory is free and is open every day of the year to allow more people access to nature’s art.

Looking back at his time at Kish, Jason recommends the program to anyone interested in horticulture. “One of the things I liked about Kish was the flexibility the staff has in matching each student’s ability level. I don’t feel as though students either felt held back or out of the pecking order. Teachers provided opportunities for those who wanted more,” he said. “Studying at Kish was a very comfortable experience.”

For more information on Horticulture at Kishwaukee College, visit www.kishwaukeecollege.edu or contact the Career Technologies division at 815-825-9303. For more information on the Garfield Park Conservatory, visit https://garfieldconservatory.org/

Pictured is Jason maintaining Garfield’s winter show, titled “Sky Forest!” The concept was developed by Matt Barrett, Deputy Director of Conservatories, and Jason designed and set up the plantings. The Garfield Park Conservatory’s spring show is titled “Spring Training” in honor of the Chicago Cubs.



Categories: Horticulture
December 15, 2016

Kishwaukee College has retained its designation as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP), an Audubon International program.  Rich Alde, Horticulture faculty, worked with the recertification review team in the summer on the College’s 120-acre campus.

Participation in ACSP is designed to help property managers plan, organize, implement, and document a comprehensive environmental management program and receive recognition for their efforts. To reach certification, a property must demonstrate that they are maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in a number of areas including: Environmental Planning, Wildlife & Habitat Management, Outreach and Education, Water, and Resource Management. Kishwaukee College was designated as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary in 2002. After designation, properties go through a recertification process every three years.

"Kishwaukee College has shown a strong commitment to its environmental program. They are to be commended for their efforts to provide a sanctuary for wildlife," said Tara Donadio, Director of Cooperative Sanctuary Programs at Audubon International.

By participating in the ACSP, the Kishwaukee College has been involved in projects that enhance habitat for wildlife and preserve natural resources for the benefit of the local community.  These projects include: conserving energy and reducing waste, utilizing integrated pest management techniques, naturalizing areas, and managing resources in an environmentally responsible manner.
"The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program benefits both people and wildlife," said Donadio.  "It's a great way for businesses and environmental organizations to work together to become better stewards of the land and natural resources."

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program provides information and guidance to help businesses and organizations preserve and enhance wildlife habitat, and protect natural resources. Businesses, schools, parks, and other properties from the United States, Africa, Australia, Canada, Central America, Europe, and Southeast Asia have also achieved certification in the program. In addition to colleges, Audubon International also includes programs for golf courses, hotels, communities, and new developments. 

For more information, contact Audubon International at 844-767-9051, acsp@auduboninternational.org or visit their website at www.auduboninternational.org.

For more information on Kishwaukee College, visit www.kishwaukeecollege.edu.

Pictured during the review visit in July are, L to R, Rich Alde, Horticulture faculty, showing one of the bluebird houses on campus to reviewers Mark Cinnamon and Scott Schirmer from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Categories: Horticulture
July 18, 2016

Jaymeson Wilcox played baseball in college for a year before joining the Army in 2003. “I love sports and being outside,” he said. This summer, the Kishwaukee College Horticulture student is spending every day outdoors at the baseball field. Jaymeson works with the grounds crew at Miller Stadium for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Jaymeson, a 2002 graduate of Oregon High School, still has a few classes to complete at Kishwaukee College to receive his Associate in Applied Science in Sports Turf Management.  He has been working at the ball park since March and plans to return next season. It is a work experience made all the more interesting because Jaymeson had never even heard of Sports Turf as a career until 2013.

“I wanted to be a cop like my Dad growing up,” he explained. “I never knew a career like this even was a choice. In 2013, I started working in Davis Junction under Jamey Young. That's really where my interest in turf really started.” He enrolled in Kishwaukee College and found the Horticulture faculty pointing him in the right direction to pursue his new found interest. “They have all been great,” he said. “If I need anything, I can call or text them and if I have questions about something they will help me out the best they can.”

This summer, Jaymeson is at Miller Stadium every day. The ballpark is relatively new, having opened in 2001, and boasts the only fan-shaped convertible roof among America’s baseball parks. The turf is “lo-mo Kentucky bluegrass” which is common in ballparks because it is denser and creates truer hops for a baseball in motion. The grounds crew consists of three full-time members and approximately 35 seasonal grounds crew members, which this year includes Jaymeson.

A typical game day begins early as the crew gets the field ready for play. “I help get the field ready for games – patch bullpens, home plate, and the baselines,” he said. “It is surprising just how much work goes into getting the field ready for a game. You always have to be thinking two steps ahead on game days and be ready for things to pop last minute. There is a lot of work being done to the field when the team is out of town, too, and also when we get the field ready for a concert when the team is on the road. And then, of course, what happens to the turf after a concert!”

Jaymeson enjoys his day-to-day work schedule. He said, “The best part is the people I work with. There is such a great group of people that work up here, it makes the days fun! We all work very well together.”

He plans to complete his degree at Kishwaukee and return to Milwaukee next season to work at Miller Stadium.  “This is a perfect fit for me and I really enjoy knowing I am giving kids, adults and, in this case, professional athletes, the best playing surface I can.”

There is one unique aspect to Jaymeson's position at Miller Park. Jaymeson stated, “I'm a Chicago Cubs fan. I have always been one. So it’s hard not to cheer for the Cubs when they are in town.”

Categories: Horticulture
November 9, 2016

Rochelle’s BrightFarms has a little Kish Shine

In the Kishwaukee College district, everyone gets pretty used to seeing acres of corn and soybeans. But stepping into BrightFarms in Rochelle is to encounter acres of every hue of green: varieties of romaine, arugula, spinach, and many more! Walk through another door and be awed by an acre of tomatoes, reaching upward to heights of over 20 feet. Helping with all the delicious splendor are two Kishwaukee College Horticulture Alums: Angela Lovelady and Bradley Simpson.

Overseeing acres of lettuce and other vegetables grown in efficient and organic hydroponic greenhouses using only the most sustainable methods is like a siren song to the horticulture professional. “When growing is what you do, this is truly exciting,” explained B.J. Miller, Production Supervisor with BrighFarms. “The BrightFarms greenhouse in Rochelle is a cutting edge start-up and it is great to be a part of it from the dirt lot it started out as to what you see now.” There are two other BrightFarms locations, one in Pennsylvania and another in Virginia.

The Rochelle location was breaking some new ground, however. The four-acre greenhouse was the first Midwestern venture for the company. The company policy is to document everything they did at the new location. They built on previous greenhouses but incorporated a few different methods as well. The team met daily to review what they had accomplished and then to write everything down for future BrightFarms’ start-ups.

Needing reliable help, B.J. sought out Kishwaukee College horticulture graduates: Angela Lovelady, Ashton, and Bradley Simpson, Rochelle. Angela works as a seeder: she runs clean, sterile seed boards through a series of equipment that fills thin rows with nutrient-dense soil and sows seed in each row. Each board of lettuce and herb greens is then cooled for a couple of days to promote germination. Angela loves the job. “It is so exciting to be part of something that is really revolutionary,” she said. “It is such a new idea in farming. I just love it.”

Once boards are filled with tender shoots, they are transferred to the greenhouse proper where they float their way, day-by-day, the football field length of the “growing fields.” Once the board completes the process and makes it to the opposite end from where they began, the greens are ready to be harvested.

The tomato greenhouse is a slightly different story. Rows of tomatoes in a multitude of varieties climb string trellises to the ceiling. The tomato plants are what is called “indeterminate,” meaning the plant will climb and grow as long as they are given space. BrightFarms planted the first tomato crops in early July and the first greens in the end of June and has already harvested several cycles of plants. In the controlled conditions the plants grow unimpeded and flourish. The tomatoes can grow 6 – 10 inches each week.

Bradley Simpson works with the tomatoes. On specialized platform carts, he prunes and cares for the crops, careful of the portable bee-boxes scattered throughout the rows. “Unlike lettuce, tomatoes need to be pollinated and that is where the bees come in,” Bradley stated. He loves the job and the possibilities. The May 2016 Hort graduate said, “It is such a unique growing style. I am building on everything I learned as a student at Kish and getting a lot of hands-on experience with beneficial insects. The company is growing, too, so I hope to be able to make a long-term career in the field and with BrightFarms.”

What keeps B.J., Bradley and Angela so energized is the innovative growing practices. B.J. explained, “Growing vegetables this way uses 90% less space than traditional farming methods and 80% less water. It is pesticide free, non-GMO [non-genetically modified organisms] and the produce is in the stores within 24-hours of harvest. The varieties of produce shipped from California or other places are chosen to withstand the long shipping process, not necessarily grown for the best flavor. We grow for flavor and freshness.”

Flavor, freshness – no wonder Kish alums Angela Lovelady and Bradley Simpson can’t stop their shining smiles!

Categories: Horticulture