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NRCS Help For Cook County Urban Farms

Champaign, IL October 10, 2017— Urban agriculture is growing and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can help Cook County farmers conserve and improve natural resources on their farm.  Ivan Dozier, Illinois NRCS State Conservationist explains, “Urban farms are valuable resources for neighborhoods and the people who live in them. NRCS can assist these producers with conservation solutions and offer financial assistance to install conservation practices such as hoop houses, or what NRCS calls a high tunnel, or to plant pollinator species or cover crops.”  The urban landscape has many challenges for growing healthy food.  NRCS can help with financial and technical assistance to manage natural resources like soil, water, and plants that can improve the crops urban farms grow. Financial assistance from NRCS is provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).  Individual growers or groups can apply to receive EQIP financial assistance ...

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Illinois Specialty Grower Survey Under Way

University of Illinois Extension is surveying Illinois fruit and vegetable growers to assess research needs for vegetable, high tunnel and fruit production. The survey will remain open through the end of October.

The survey was compiled by U of I Extension specialists Elizabeth Wahle, Nathan Johanning and Bronwyn Aly. By prioritizing and focusing on specific areas identified by specialty growers and industry professionals, the U of I can work with the industry to target research needs.

To provide input, click here.

Farm and Food Bytes

Soy-based tires hit the road (FarmWeekNow). Tires made of rubber containing soybean oil will be available from Goodyear. Through the support of the Soybean Checkoff, Goodyear unveiled its new Assurance WeatherReady tires for passenger vehicles at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur. The new soy-based tires, offered in a wide range of sizes that fit more than three-quarters of cars, minivans and sports utility vehicles, hit the road this month. Goodyear researchers found that soy oil keeps rubber more viable at lower temperatures. Governor signs law addressing ag teacher shortage (Kay Shipman, FarmWeek). A newly created state task force soon will study the challenges that have Illinois high schools scrambling to find and retain agriculture teachers. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed SB 1991, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, and Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign. Illinois Farm Bureau® supported the legislation. The state agriculture education task force will recommend ways to recruit and retain ag teach ...

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2016-2017 Annual Foundation Report

The 2016-2017 Foundation Annual Report is now available.  Click here to read.

Ag Lit Bit by Diane Merrion

aMAZE-ing Ag!  Corn and Cubs are not the most likely topics to combine, but this combination is proving to be a huge hit at a corn maze in Illinois.  Ever since I read the articles about local corn mazes, I just couldn’t stop myself from investigating if this could possibly involve another career in ag.  The answer is a resounding YES!  In fact, corn mazes have become such a popular supplemental income option for farmers that there are now businesses that exist solely to help farmers build and run mazes. A few I ran across include Corn Mazes, Maze Play, Precision Mazes and The MAiZE.  There are a few basic steps to creating the end product which include the use of technology. One example of the process is described as follows. GPS tracking is used to create a path for the corn maze to be cut. It starts by creating a grid plot, either on graph paper or digitally. Then a vehicle is fitted with a GPS tracking device which is driven around the land where ...

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Manifolds, Manolos & Bona Heinsohn

Let me tell you a story about my blue-eyed girl’s blue-eyed rabbit.  A little over a month ago we brought home this teeny-tiny New Holland Lop bunny.  He’s nothing but ears and a fluffy tail.  In a flurry of activity, we bought a hutch (we couldn’t find our old one), food, water bottle, and shavings.  Everything you’d need to bring a bunny home.  About a week later, we bought him a litter box since bunnies supposedly can be litter box trained.  Our blue-eyed bunny decided that the litter box is just not for him and instead opted to use it as his new bed and proceeded to sleep in it.  So, we bought a second litter box thinking that he could sleep in one and use the second one for its intended purposes.  Negative.  He naps in one then moves to the other.  You can guess what he does in the remaining corners of his hutch.  What you’d might have guessed about me by this time is that I’m a little picky about things.&nbs ...

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Ag in the Classsroom Grants now open for 2017-18

P R E S S   R E L E A S E   Bloomington—The Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program and the IAA Foundation, along with the Illinois Farm Bureau® are pleased to announce our 2017-2018 Classroom grants.  Teachers are urged to apply for these (up to) $300 classroom grants to incorporate new and exciting agriculture related topics into their existing classrooms.   Additionally, six other special book grants are available for teachers to easily incorporate lessons tied to the Common Core Learning Standards, into their existing Language Arts and Social Studies curriculum.  “Our teacher grants are an added bonus for teachers looking to incorporate new and creative ideas into their classrooms during these financially challenging, school funding times,” said Kevin Daugherty, Education Director Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom.  Teachers are urged to contact their local agriculture literacy coordinator for ideas and assistance in applying fo ...

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Downwind by Bob Rohrer, CAE, FBCM, Manager

My First “Ride”  Most Americans hold great nostalgia about the first car they owned.  Your first “ride” usually wasn’t the best, flashiest, nicest, or coolest. Many times, it reflected a piece of one’s personality: “how fast it would go, how cheap it was, how great it cornered, how practical it was, how ugly it was, how many times it broke down, how many people could fit in it, etc.” Perhaps it was a true “classic”…a Gremlin, A big boat, a Ford Pinto, a Chevy Chevette, a VW bug, a station wagon, or the a perfect color for a rattletrap.  That first ride provided a great feeling of independence; you didn’t have to ask your parents to borrow the car any longer! Prior to my “first ride”, I was fortunate to have access to farm vehicles of various types and sizes. I remember the Farmer’s (my father) 1976 F 100 Ford pickup truck that my brothers and I borrowed for several years. This truck was really attractiv ...

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Expanded Menu: New Sectors Adding Fresh Produce Choices

Three new ways for consumers to buy fresh foods highlighted at Chicago food show. By Kay Shipman, FarmWeek Legislative Affairs Editor Consumers buying fresh produce and other healthy foods from more businesses will continue finding new options, according to an industry panel at the United Fresh Market Expo in Chicago’s McCormick Place. The panelists, representing convenience stores, drug stores and a meal kit delivery service, discussed consumers’ desire for convenient fresh foods. Convenience stores Jeff Lenard, a vice president with the National Association of Convenience Stores, noted his members’ 154,000 stores conduct 160 million transactions daily. Fresh foods, only 21 percent of in-store sales, accounted more than one third of the profits, according to Lenard. “Fresh is where the action is happening inside our stores,” he said. “There is demand for healthy.” His association and the United Fresh Produce Association are working to increase fresh produc ...

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If we don't count horses, do horses count?

It is easy to overlook horses in the agricultural landscape now that we don't depend on them for power, but their importance remains. The American Horse Council (AHC) is taking a national survey of the economic impact of U.S. horses in which Illinois will participate as a focus state. Horse owners have until July 17 to participate. Why is it important to participate? Horses are big creatures – it’s hard to hide a horse. Yet as an agriculturally important economic entity, horses are essentially hidden. It is easy to overlook horses in the agricultural landscape now that we don’t depend on them for power. Horses are unique among large farm animals in that they routinely reside in the suburbs and even in cities. Horses may be the only large farm animal an average American ever encounters, thus horses act to bridge a widening gap between the nonfarm life and agriculture. But since they are not used for food or fiber, horses do not funnel through a common marketplace where they can be ...

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