KNOW YOUR GROWERS – JOIN THE ORGANIC FOOD CLUB!
Ed Kugler, founder of the Organic Teaching Garden, has lived in Highland Park since 1959. He was raised in a very conventional home on a very conventional diet. He joined the organic movement in 1971 while at Michigan State University, where he took hotel and restaurant management classes. At MSU, he was taught that the way something looked and tasted was more important than how it was grown and what ingredients it contained - something that struck Ed as completely wrong.
From that day forward, he embarked on a journey of self-education, learning as much as he could about industrial food processes, recycling / reuse and organic farming. In 1976 he traveled from coast to coast, clocking in over 5,000 miles, visiting 14 organic farms, 52 natural food stores, 37 natural food restaurants, 19 distributors and 13 co-operatives and attending many conventions and conferences in between.
His passion quickly turned into his vocation. In 1978, he became the only organic alfalfa sprout farmer supplying the South Water Market Food Distribution center, the largest in Chicago. Also, in that year he opened the Sprout Shop, in Highwood, the first organic/natural food buying club storefront with a menu of organic freshly prepared meals, sandwiches, juices and desserts. That same year, in June, the Ravinia Farmers Market started and he was a vendor fo3 years selling 10 varieties of sprouts making also sprout salads to go with dressing and a variety of delicious organic baked desserts.
From 1987-1989, he created and operated over 5 Natural Food Dance Festivals, the first non-smoking live music dance festival with local natural food restaurant vendors selling their menu offerings.
1988, he established the “Taste of Health” section as part of the Halsted Street Market Days, where he operated ten booths and represented multiple organic and natural food manufacturers where over 100,000 visitors sampled organic food products.
In 1988, he attended the Culinary World Olympics in Frankfurt, Germany to observe and document with video and pictures his friend Brother Ron Pickarski, and the American Natural Food Team. The team successfully won a Silver Medal in the Vegan Classification. As the team continued competing they did get gold in 1996 and branch marked the Olympics by that made it a requirement in the competition that all participants had to create a vegetarian cuisine.
In 1990 - 2004, he started his Consumer Direct Marketing Program of promoting organics at the James R. Thompson Center on the outside plaza. This annual event was called the Organic Farming and Food Festival. During the work week, this event was witnessed by over 10,000 people per day and had over 20 different vendors sampling and selling their products. During this time period in April, the Earth Day in Illinois celebrations were also created with similar vendor participation. In addition, his company sponsored the 20th Earth Day Anniversary Gala Dinner with Dennis Hayes, Founder of Earth Day and the 25th Earth Day Anniversary Gala Dinner with Senator Gaylord Nelson.
In 2005 – 2016, his marketing program had the Taste-A-Thon’s involved in nearly a dozen events each year traveling coast to coast with the following event varieties: The Harmony Festival, The Green Festival, Ultimate Women’s Expo and multiple vegetarian and vegan events.
In 2010 – present, he created the Organic Teaching Garden to educate students from Highland Park High School in the AP and Environmental science classes, approximately 200+ students each year. Their involvement is 4 to 5 times each year.
Since then, he has championed multiple organic food events at various farmer's markets, festivals, and schools all over Chicagoland, effectively reaching out to tens of thousands of community members.
Today, his goal remains to uphold an edible, organic landscape in his home to serve as an inspiration to members of surrounding communities to embark on their own journey to organic living.
Robert Boyce, owner of Natural Environments, got his start with mowing lawns and weeding gardens and eventually moved on to small planting jobs. Throughout high school and college, he worked at several Chicagoland nurseries and garden centers. After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Ornamental Horticulture from the University of Illinois - Champaign in 1982, he started Lakeside Marina and Natural Environments in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. In the early 1980's Boyce helped pioneer the art and science of native landscaping. As environmental awareness grew, Robert became an expert at prairie, wetland and woodland restoration, installation and maintenance. In 1990, he received his state licensure as a Registered Landscape Architect. In 2008, Robert purchased Lake Zurich Florist to expand into all aspects of the Green Industry.