URBANA -- The Grow Springfield Community Gardening and Urban Farming Forum is planned from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Illinois Department of Agriculture in Springfield.

The workshop will serve as an opportunity for those who already manage or garden at community gardens or urban farms, or those who are interested in learning more, to meet and share best practices. Participants will hear from speakers from Columbia, Mo.; Peoria, Urbana, and Springfield.

This event is sponsored by the University of Illinois Extension in partnership with other Grow Springfield members, including Illinois Stewardship Alliance, genHkids, Springfield Urban League, Lincoln Land Community College, Springfield Community Federation, and Springfield Community Garden Family Fit Center.

A facilitated panel discussion will feature: Jessica Benassi, co-founder and president, Peoria Renaissance Park, Peoria; Cory Blackwell, Neighborhood Garden, Springfield; Billy Polansky, general manager, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, Columbia, Mo.; and Adam Saunders, public outreach coordinator, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, Columbia, Mo.

Lindsay Record, program director, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, will present the Springfield Urban Agriculture Plan update. A brief presentation regarding the Grow Springfield network and its role in increasing community gardens and urban agriculture throughout Springfield will take place during lunch.

The topics and speakers for the day’s two sessions will include:

Session 1

  • Using Gardening as a Tool to Enhance Community -- Jessica Benassi, co-founder and president; Per Ellingson, treasurer, community outreach/diversity committee and founding member; and Nick Viera, community outreach/diversity committee, Peoria Renaissance Park
  • Program Strategies to Help People Garden at Home and in Public Spaces: from Public Housing, to the subdivision, to the empty lot, to the school playground -- Billy Polansky, general manager, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture

Session 2

  • Soil Fertility for Urban Gardens -- Ashley Holmes, Urban Agriculture Research Lab, University of Illinois, Urbana
  • Urban Farming in Columbia, Mo.: An overview of type, management style, history, and the road ahead -- Adam Saunders, public outreach coordinator, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture

The registration fee is $20, which includes lunch and materials. For those who cost is prohibitive, there is an opportunity to attend at no charge.

Registration by Feb. 5 is required. To register, go to https://web.extension.illinois.edu/registration/?RegistrationID=11263. For more information, call 217-782-4617.

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Copy Editor

Dawn James is a Copy Editor for the JG-TC.

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