chloe-scroggins
Author

Chloe Scroggins | Columnist

Chloe Scroggins was a Mail Correspondent covering the Olympia communities, and is now the Mail Agriculture Columnist. She is from Danvers, Illinois, and is currently attending Southern Illinois University to study Ag Communications.

 


Caring for Your Garden in the Summer Heat
Farm News

Caring for Your Garden in the Summer Heat

First let’s talk about vegetables. According to Kathy LaLiberte from Gardeners.com, “Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, corn, melons, and squash actually need at least a month of 80 to 90 degree weather to develop a flavorful and abundant crop.” Kathy continues to explain how these crops are “sun worshippers”, and as long as they do not run out of water, they will be good in the heat. These plants that love the heat do need lots of water while they are growing, so it is important to pay attention to their hydration levels when there is a lack of rainfall.   READ MORE...

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The Importance of Crop Scouting a Field

The Importance of Crop Scouting a Field

Jeff Grampp is a salesman for United Prairie, a full-service agriculture retail company here in Central Illinois. He explains the importance of crop scouting. “The benefit of crop scouting is staying ahead of any problems that the crop may have. Preventative is usually a lot better than curative,” Grampp says. He attempts to look at each customer’s fields a minimum of three times before the crop is out in the fall. Grampp continued, “If you know you have a problem field, you want to visit it more often.”

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Agriculture and the Fourth of July

Agriculture and the Fourth of July

The largest way that agriculture connects to the Fourth of July is through cookouts, barbeques, and picnics. 61% of Americans will celebrate the holiday with a cookout, picnic, or barbeque. The Fourth of July is the most popular holiday to celebrate by having a barbeque (picnic or cookout).  Barbeques have been a tradition at the White House since Thomas Jefferson’s presidency. Another interesting fact about the White House’s barbeque celebration is that President Lyndon B. Johnson hosted the first White House Barbeque to have Texas-style ribs, according to RFD-TV. 

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Dairy Farms in Central Illinois

Dairy Farms in Central Illinois

Jessy Yancey from the Illinois Farm Bureau Partners provides many facts about dairy farming in Illinois. Yancey states that Illinois ranks 20th in milk production in the United States, producing roughly 21 billion gallons of milk every year. Some of the facts that Yancey states are practical tips to be used with dairy products. For example, fresh milk will stay fresh longer by adding a pinch of salt to each quart of milk. Other facts are just for fun. Yancey says, “A cow will produce an average of 6.3 gallons of milk each day. That’s more than 2,300 gallons each year!” Also stated, “More than 1,000 new dairy products are introduced each year.”

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Standards Apply for Organic Farming

Standards Apply for Organic Farming

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), producing organically has been a practice by farmers since the late 1940s. There was organic farming before, but in the late 1940s is when farming organically was done with the intention of choosing to grow organic. The definition of organic is not cut and dry because there are organic products in both the crop and livestock industry. The USDA explains, “Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods.”

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June Agriculture Happenings

June Agriculture Happenings

Every situation varies, but many farmers plan out how they will control weeds and pests, along with providing the crops with needed supplements, before they even begin planting. This gives the farmers a head start on knowing costs they should account for and allows them to plan better. For example, planted corn wants (and needs) extra nitrogen. Adding this after the crop is emerging from the ground is called sidedress. Some people put nitrogen on before they plant, some in the fall season, some different combinations… There are many ways to do it and each farmer does what works best for their operation. 

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Vilsack Announces Transformation of Food System

Vilsack Announces Transformation of Food System

During Vilsack’s speech, he explained that the USDA will put nearly $3 billion into grants, loan guarantees, and many programs to transform the U.S. food system. Jim Wiesemeyer, a writer for AgWeb.com, explained how the USDA will break up the funding. $650 million in funding and loan assistance will go to meat and poultry processing projects. That includes $250 million that will help entrepreneurs who have trouble getting credit. An additional $100 million will go towards training meat processing workers. Another $600 million is intended to improve food supply chain infrastructure. This includes cold storage and refrigerated trucks, outside of meat and processing. 

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Agriculture Activities for the Summer

Agriculture Activities for the Summer

First, you could grow a container garden. Growing food in containers is a great way to have a small, easy to manage garden that teaches about food production and basic plant care. Small and mini vegetable varieties are perfect for a container garden. Mini zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and bush pea plants are good options for containers. Before even starting the garden, seed germination would be a fun and practical task to do as an activity, then transplant into the containers for your container garden. Seed germination can be done by placing a damp paper towel on a plate, spreading plant seeds on the towel, then placing a second damp paper towel on top of the seeds. You will want to ensure that the paper towels stay moist for 5 to 7 days and that you are checking the seeds daily for sprouts.  

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Wine Country in Your Own Backyard

Wine Country in Your Own Backyard

Mackinaw Valley Winery has about 20 different wines featured in their tasting room. As a guest, you may sample 3 complimentary tastings, then tastings are $1 each after 3 samples. Their wine list features red, white, and blush wines. All of their wines are made at the winery from French American Hybrid grapes and some native varietals from their vineyard. Wine is sold by the glass or bottle to enjoy in their tasting room or to take back home. They always offer a case discount of 10 percent. 

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Agritourism in Central Illinois

Agritourism in Central Illinois

Agritourism is not only beneficial for business and enjoyment purposes, but it is great for providing agricultural knowledge to community members and visitors. Many agritourism locations in our area offer field trips for schools to take and learn more about their operation. In addition, often part of the experience at an agritourism location is intended to educate visitors about what the operation does and sometimes even about that area of agriculture in general. The knowledge provided draws attraction to the location and helps to maintain agricultural land. Agritourism provides the opportunity to increase support for the agriculture community. 

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Ukrainian Agriculture Update

Ukrainian Agriculture Update

Ordoñez (npr.org) states that Ukraine’s Ministry of Agriculture currently says that 30% of the country’s farmland is occupied by Russian troops or is unsafe for Ukrainian farmers to be in. This means that out of their usual 70% of the country’s land that is typically used for agriculture, only 49% of the country’s land is currently available to use. On top of that issue, Ukraine’s export routes are blocked. Russia has blocked ships from departing, leaving grain stuck in makeshift silos across Ukraine. The Ukrainian Government is working to help with global needs by trying to expand export routes via trains and small ports along the Danube River. However, the additional routes simply can not make up for the amount of goods they would be able to export out of the blocked ports. To add to the difficulties they are already facing, gas prices continue to rise and farmers are struggling to find fertilizer to help grow their crops. Ordoñez (npr.org) reported that Sergii Leshchenko, who is a senior advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, stated that Ukrainian farmers are going to have much less to harvest this year. Leshchenko continued to say that it is important to [have a harvest] that at least covers Ukraine’s internal needs. 

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Hydroponics: Growing Without Soil

Hydroponics: Growing Without Soil

Hydroponics systems are made up of basic components that are not difficult to set up. There are a variety of different hydroponic systems you can use, but the simplest of at home systems fall into a category called “Deep Water Culture”. The University of Minnesota Extension describes a simple deep water culture set-up as, “Plants are grown in net pots that sit in a styrofoam lid, and the roots hang down into a bucket of water.” This type of system is the most common for small-scale growers, is the least expensive, and is the easiest to maintain. 

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Starting Your Own Composting System

Starting Your Own Composting System

The basics you need to start composting are browns, greens, and water. Browns are materials such as dead leaves, branches, twigs, coffee filters, and egg shells. Browns provide the pile with carbon-rich matter. The bulkiness of these materials will allow oxygen to penetrate and nourish the organisms that reside in the compost pile. The secret to a healthy compost pile is the carbon to nitrogen ratio that you provide. The nitrogen part of the pile comes from the “greens” you add. Greens include materials such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and green leaves. The nitrogen ingredients for the pile, which are protein-rich matter, provide the pile with raw materials for making enzymes. A good rule of thumb for the bin or pile is to use one-third green material and two-thirds brown material. You should alternate your layers for best results. If your pile starts to have a foul odor, try adding more carbon (brown) material. Lastly, you will need to add water for moisture to help break down the organic matter. A general rule for adding water would be to add water every three to seven days, but this is really dependent on the conditions that your compost pile faces. 

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Dates to Know for Gardeners in Planting Season

Dates to Know for Gardeners in Planting Season

Vegetable; Hardiness; Planting Period Asparagus; Hardy; March 15th - April 15th Bean, bush, lima; Very Tender; May 10th - June 15th Broccoli; Half-hardy; April 10th - July 15th Carrot; Half-hardy; April 10th - July 15th Cauliflower; Half-hardy; July 10th - 20th Cucumber; Very Tender; May 20th - June 15th Lettuce, leaf; Half-hardy; March 25th - May 15th Peas; Half-hardy; April 10th - May 1st Pepper; Very Tender; May 10th - June 1st Potato; Half-hardy; April 1st - 15th Pumpkin; Very Tender; May 20th - June 10th Radish (spring); Half-hardy; April 5th - June 1st Rhubarb; Hardy; March 25th - May 15th Spinach; Hardy; March 25th - April 15th Sweet Potato; Very Tender; May 10th - June 1st Tomato; Very Tender; May 10th - June 1st

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Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month

Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month

Many invasive pests and diseases are what Bond and Sequeira call “natural hitchhikers”. This phrase is used because it is easy for people to unintentionally move the pests and diseases to new areas. Moving them introduces them to an area where they are nonnative. One example of how this could happen would be a situation where they are hiding in untreated firewood. They could also attach themselves to outdoor gear and vehicles and be unintentionally moved to an unwanted place. The pests may also be transported unintentionally through agricultural materials such as soil, homegrown produce, seeds, and plants. 

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Transportation of Agricultural Goods

Transportation of Agricultural Goods

Trucks are utilized if there is no water access, no good railway system, or to travel shorter distances (around 500 miles or less). Trucks are the primary way to move grain from production sites. Railways are utilized where there is no good waterway system as well. Trains are the smarter option economically compared to trucks because of the efficiency of how much product you can pull with the amount of fuel used. Rail cars have a capacity of about 5,200 cubic feet or 223,000 pounds (111.5 tons). Nationally, railways account for about 33% of corn and 60% of wheat shipped. These percentages translate to 11.3% of total grain production in the United States. Lastly, barges are a low cost option that are utilized frequently, especially in the grain industry. Four of the top ten barge companies are owned by grain companies. Those companies are ADM, Conagra, Cargill, and Bunge. Barges today are used for low-value, high bulk items. A barge can hold up to 1,750 tons of cargo. Illinois is in the top 5 of barge transportation nationally. 

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2022 USDA Farm Acreage Estimates

2022 USDA Farm Acreage Estimates

The United States Department of Agriculture chief economist, Seth Meyer, explained that high prices are supporting the slight increase in combined acreage of corn, soybeans, and wheat planted compared to 2021. For reference, the predicted total acreage of the three crops combined is 228 million acres for 2022. In 2021 that value was 227.3 million acres. However, when looking at just corn and soybeans combined, the total is 0.6 million less acres planted than 2021. The 2021 planting season set the record high for combined acres of corn and soybeans at 180.6 million acres. 

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Innovative Technology in Agriculture

Innovative Technology in Agriculture

However, many agricultural companies have made large strides in their technology to help combat the challenges that agriculture faces. Older companies have found solutions before, but understand that they have to keep finding new solutions as technology adapts. New companies have come into play, and they have the same goal of finding new solutions as the older companies do. 

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How Farmers Prepare for Planting

How Farmers Prepare for Planting

Farmers will also hook up pieces of equipment to each other and make sure that everything is calibrated. Once their equipment is ready to go, they will be able to get out into the field once the opportunity arises, which could very likely be a short window of time. A safety check is also a very important step that farmers do before planting. They want to check that all lights and other safety systems are working properly. 

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Fast Facts and National Agriculture Day

Fast Facts and National Agriculture Day

On March 22nd, the Agriculture Council of America (ACA) is hosting a virtual Ag Day event along with events held in Washington, D.C. ACA will bring college students to the capital to virtually deliver the message of Ag Day to Capitol Hill. On both Monday, March 21st and Tuesday, March 22nd, there will be an exhibit on the National Mall near the Smithsonian Metro that showcases modern agriculture. According to the ACA, “At this hands-on display of modern equipment and technology, you will learn how the latest ag equipment, crop inputs, data, and technology are working together to drive agriculture’s tradition of producing more with less.” On March 21st, in Washington, D.C., there will also be an Ag & Food Policy Summit presented by Agri-Pulse and a Celebration of Agriculture Reception. On March 22nd, there will be a Declaration Event in D.C. and the Virtual Ag Day Celebration from 10 to 11 a.m. central time. You can register for the virtual celebration by visiting www.agday.org/2022events, then finding the Ag Day Virtual Celebration information in the middle of the page, then clicking “Here” where it says “Register Here”. Clicking that link will send you to the zoom meeting sign up page for the event. 

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Ukraine-Russia Conflict & Agriculture

Ukraine-Russia Conflict & Agriculture

If the tension between Russia and Ukraine leads to any disruptions in trade, the effects could be felt globally. This year, Ukraine is predicted to account for 19% of rapeseed, 18% of barley, 16% of corn, and 12% of wheat exports. Most of their exports are shipped in the fall, with the exception of sunflower seed oil being shipped mostly year-round. If spring planting is disrupted, major concerns will arise. If the tensions turn for the worse, it will likely cause a spike up in agricultural commodity prices because of how large of a wheat producer Ukraine is. The length of the spike would most likely be determined by how long the potential conflict would last. 

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Starting Your Garden Indoors

Starting Your Garden Indoors

Starting with seeds is more cost effective and it is easier to have a larger selection. Using seeds allows you to be picky, giving you the chance to easily choose exactly what variety of each plant that you want to grow. You not only get the chance to be extra picky about the variety you choose, but you can be extra picky about what plants you will put into your garden. You can choose the strongest plants for your garden because you will know which ones have the best growth rate. While there are many great reasons to start your plants from seeds, we all know that it is possible to see challenges from this method. The best way to combat most challenges is to start your plants in an indoor environment and give them a good chance before transplanting outdoors. Growing indoors is specifically important for warm season plants. However, it can be beneficial for cold season plants as well to ensure they are able to reach their full potential in their short window of ideal outside time. 

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Upcoming National FFA Week

Upcoming National FFA Week

Throughout the week, the National FFA dedicates three of the days as special days. First is Tuesday, February 22nd, which is Alumni Day. The purpose of Alumni Day is to “celebrate the key role FFA Alumni and Supports play in student and chapter success”. Thursday, February 24th is Give FFA Day. The National FFA encourages giving to FFA to support students and chapters. The organization is very beneficial to the students involved. They help students grow their leadership skills, professionalism, and communication while giving those students a community environment to thrive in. The last day specifically dedicated to something is Friday, February 25th. Friday is Wear Blue Day, where people are encouraged to wear blue to show FFA pride. 

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Farming Through the Snowstorm

Farming Through the Snowstorm

Snow helps to provide moisture for growing crops. Although there are no crops planted now, as the snow melts the moisture makes its way down into the soil. The soil will store the moisture and have it ready to help growing crops. Also, the snow on top of the ground can help preserve the moisture that is already there. Snow will also insulate dormant crops such as wheat. During the really cold temperatures, especially at night, the snow will help to protect dormant crops. Snowflakes have a trace amount of nitrogen in them. So, the snow can help put a little bit of nitrogen into the ground, which will help growing crops in the spring. Especially with the prices of nitrogen right now, any bit can help! A farmer can help to stop the issue of snow drifting onto the roads if they have a no till operation. No till fields provide a bit of a barrier for the blowing snow. Snow can actually be considered valuable in many field situations for farmers. 

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Illinois continues to battle nutrient pollution

Illinois continues to battle nutrient pollution

This year, Illinois lawmakers are considering how to best direct state resources to help reduce nutrient runoff, particularly in the agriculture sector and suburban sewage runoff.

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Precision Planting Winter Conference 2022

Precision Planting Winter Conference 2022

Winter Conference means more to the Precision Planting team than just showcasing their new products. Huber explained that while one of their goals for the conference is to showcase new products, it is more important to them to show growers where Precision Planting is going and where they believe there is opportunity for return on investment for growers. “That’s what really gets us excited at the end of the day,” Huber stated. At the Tremont location, they rotated 3 groups of 80 attendees per day through 4 different sessions. Huber said that many great conversations took place.

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How Livestock Stays Warm During Winter

How Livestock Stays Warm During Winter

1. Making sure that the animals have enough food is important because food provides them with energy needed to stay warm. The most heat that will be provided from food occurs a few hours after eating, so if animals are fed at night before bed it helps them stay warm throughout the night. In addition to having intentional feeding patterns and increasing the amount of food, it is beneficial to add more protein into the animal’s diet to keep them warm. 

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Different Types of Farms

Different Types of Farms

The first group is Small Family Farms. In this category, the farm has a GCFI (gross cash farm income) of less than $350,000. In the Small Family Farms group, you will find Retirement Farms, Off-Farm Occupation, and Farming-Occupation Farms. Retirement Farms have a principal operator that is officially retired; however, they continue to farm on a small scale. The Off-Farm Occupation group is a small farm whose principal operator has a primary occupation outside of their farm. The Off-Farm Occupation group also includes operators who do not consider themselves in the labor force. The last group within Small Family Farms is Farming-Occupation Farms. These are small farms with a principal operator who has a primary occupation of farming. There are two further classifications within this group, which are Low-Sales Farms and Moderate-Sales Farms. Low-Sales Farms have a GCFI of less than $150,000 and Moderate-Sales Farms have a GCFI of between $150,000 and $349,999. Small farms make up 90% of all U.S. farms. 

Farm News  |  
Precision Planting Winter Conference

Precision Planting Winter Conference

At Winter Conference you will learn about topics from three categories: hearing from AgTech Creators, eliminating challenges, and you will be given the chance to connect with other growers. Both engineers and agronomists will discuss their focus on helping farmers improve their operations. When you learn about eliminating challenges, you will learn strategies and techniques to be used on the farm. There are demonstrations of the newest Precision Planting technologies, so you can see first hand how a product will work and could fit into your farm. Last, but definitely not least, connecting with other growers is arguably the best part of the conference. You can learn about what other people are doing on their farms and what experiences they may have had with certain Precision Planting technologies. You will also have the opportunity to talk to Precision Planting employees and dealers for further questions or conversation. 

Best of 2021  |  
Bob Stroud

Bob Stroud

Stroud became a volunteer firefighter because he believed it was something he could do to benefit the community. His dad was also a volunteer fireman and EMT for Armington Fire and Rescue, which influenced Stroud’s decision. He joined the Armington department in February 1989, which means his career as a volunteer firefighter has been 32 years long so far. When Stroud is not fighting fires, you can find him farming or golfing. Farming is his full-time job and he golfs in his spare time.

Best of 2021  |  
The End of an Era

The End of an Era

Cheek has strong ties to Atlanta, she is fourth generation in the city. She attended Atlanta High School and has three siblings. Her parents are E.W. Baldwin and Lena Marie Zimmerman, her siblings include two older sisters and one younger brother. Cheek was very involved in high school, especially with chorus. 

Best of 2021  |  
Danvers Town Band

Danvers Town Band

Currently there are 45 members in the band, and about 40 play at concerts. Bill Preller is the conductor and Argo is the President. Both Preller and Argo have held their positions for over 30 years. This is a large number of members for a town band. Anybody can join the band; you don’t have to be from Danvers. Any age is welcome to join. They have members from grade school age to members who have played for 50 years. There is a wide range of talent- members can be just learning music, have advanced music skills, or anywhere in between. Argo explained that there are three rules for band members, which break down to “have fun and play whatever you can!”

Best of 2021  |  
Michael Kemp

Michael Kemp

Kemp grew up in a police family, his father was a police officer. “I grew up as many police officer’s kids do, looking up to him and wanting to emulate him,” stated Kemp. The bond between the police families he grew up with still holds strong today. This, along with a genuine care for public safety, is what really pushed him to become a police officer. Kemp’s genuine care for public safety is shown through his presence in the community. In the morning, all of the elementary kids start smiling when they see Officer Kemp holding the door open for them and greeting them into the building. Kemp explained, “By being a police officer, you are frequently the one there to demonstrate compassion and significantly impact a person’s life in their time of need.” Kemp said the connection with the students at a young age has helped the department with many interactions with the community’s youth. He stated that this is the most rewarding part of his job. 

Best of 2021  |  
Danvers Township Library

Danvers Township Library

For younger age groups there is story class time the third Tuesday of every month at the library. The activity is geared towards kids in preschool, kids not in preschool yet, or homeschoolers. The library also has annual summer reading programs. For adults they hold a monthly craft activity. Director Lori Priebe stated, “Every month is a different scene. This week is making paper flowers for flower pots with a machine.” Last month the group used the library’s embroidery machine to make Easter themed kitchen towels. The adult activities are never a charge and the materials are provided. 

Best of 2021  |  
Warriors Hike To Prevent Veteran Suicides

Warriors Hike To Prevent Veteran Suicides

The Irreverent Warriors of Hopedale are a branch of the main organization to help Veterans in our community. They have the same goals and mission as the whole Irreverent Warriors organization. The Irreverent Warriors, a nonprofit organization, was founded in 2015. The Irreverent Warriors of Hopedale started in January of 2020 with the official transition from the Major Reid Nannen Memorial Ruck March. 

Best of 2021  |  
Hopedale Rescue Squad

Hopedale Rescue Squad

The state of Illinois requires EMTs to have 60 hours of continuing education classes over a four year time frame. The Hopedale Rescue Squad hosts continuing education classes to allow their team and others in the area to complete the necessary hours. Brian Reed and Emily Smith are the lead instructors for the class. There is one two hour class each month about various topics. Emily Smith creates the presentation for the class and they will also have guest speakers present. January’s topic was on human trafficking and February’s was about anhydrous emergencies. When discussing the topics covered in class Brian Reed stated, “We may go weeks without seeing a certain type of call, so it is good to have these continuing education classes to stay up to date.” The classes are held primarily for the Hopedale Rescue Squad, but anybody around is invited. Reed also stated, “2020 really didn’t have a whole lot of hours available. So, in 2021 we have decided to open our classes up to anyone that wants to come. It has worked out pretty well.”

Best of 2021  |  
Willis Snowmobile Museum

Willis Snowmobile Museum

When you take a trip to the museum to see the snowmobiles and talk with the Willis family, you will learn more about snowmobiles/sleds than you could ever imagine. The creator of a popular YouTube channel “At Your Leisure” took a trip to the Willis Snowmobile Museum and published a great video about the museum. The video gives viewers a look into what you might find at the museum, shows discussions with both generations of Willis’, and will give you a glimpse into information you might learn if you take a visit. When snowmobiles first became popular, there was no consensus on what a snowmobile should look like. So, you will find lots of unique machines that have many different qualities. The video can be found on the “At Your Leisure” YouTube Channel, and is named “Willis Snowmobile Museum 2020”.

Best of 2021  |  
CORE of McLean

CORE of McLean

One way CORE works to make McLean a better place is through their main fundraiser, which is an annual 6.6k run/walk on Route 66 from Funks Grove to McLean. The event is called “Get Your 6.6 on Route 66!” The fundraiser started in 2014 and has grown into a very popular event. In 2019, they had nearly 250 participants. They are planning on having the fundraiser in person again this year on Saturday, August 28th, with registration opening on June 1st. Another fundraiser CORE hosts is an annual adopt-a-pot program. Local businesses and community members sponsor pots of flowers that decorate and brighten up the McLean town square all spring and summer. All funds that CORE raises are used for community projects. A few other projects the organization has completed or are working on include: a mural on a historic building, three new welcome signs, and a new park. They are planning on raising funds for the park partly through offering personalized engraving of stepping stones for the park.

Best of 2021  |  
Church Celebrates 150 Year Anniversary

Church Celebrates 150 Year Anniversary

Ebenezer United Methodist Church has a Chimes Choir, which was described as “a joy for a lot of occasions”. The church will also have Sunday School, when there are kids in attendance there. They partnered this week with McLean Methodist Church and McLean Christian Church to have Vacation Bible School. There was singing, crafts, and more at VBS. Ebenezer Church of Mclean hosts events year-round for members of the community. In February there is a country breakfast, for Easter they hold a children’s Easter egg hunt and a breakfast before the Easter church service, in July there is an ice cream social, in August there is a church service at Funk’s Grove, in September they have a hot dog roast, in November they plan a Thanksgiving dinner the Sunday before the holiday, and December is a month that has lots of activities to choose from. 

Best of 2021  |  
OHS Adds Chicken Coop in Honor of Local Farmer

OHS Adds Chicken Coop in Honor of Local Farmer

There are 14 hens in the coop currently. All of them have individual personalities and names, here is a list of some of the names: Cinnamon, Big Mamma, Illini, Cruella, Luna, Chase, Angel, Taffy, Cherry, and Rocky. The group of hens do not lay many eggs yet, but some of them laid their first eggs this week. Between the 14, there are three different breeds that are known for their good egg production. The three breeds are Barred Rocks, Easter Eggers, and Cinnamon Queen. At peak production, each hen will lay about 5 eggs per week. 

Best of 2021  |  
Waynesville's Gingerbread Park

Waynesville's Gingerbread Park

The park is named “Gingerbread Park” because the majority of the playground equipment was purchased by the Waynesville Women’s Club gingerbread cookie fundraiser profits. These profits have also helped restore the park pavilion, picnic tables, benches, flags, basketball court, and flowerpots. The money also goes to numerous other projects around the city to better Waynesville. Sherie Ross is a prominent member of the Waynesville Women’s Club. She stated, “In the late 1970's Waynesville Women's Club started making and decorating homemade Gingerbread Cookies and selling them at the Apple and Pork Festival in Clinton each year. This yearly fundraiser has become quite popular and the proceeds benefit the community of Waynesville. Our cookies have contributed over $105,000 into Waynesville in the past 40 plus years!” It is clear that the Waynesville Women’s Club exceeds their goal of community service. A few other projects they have invested their time and money into are helping buy new equipment for the Waynesville Township Fire Department, “Shelter In Place” meals last spring, and candy and prizes for the annual Easter Egg Hunt.

Best of 2021  |  
Leann's Something For You

Leann's Something For You

The items that Boyd finds are a wide variety that could include vintage, unique, new, or lightly used items. You can be sure you will find something new and special when you look at her shop. The price range for the items is more pricey, but the quality is worth the cost. If you are interested in buying an item from the shop Boyd does live auctions, upload auctions, and sellings through her eBay store. New items are added weekly. To receive any items you have purchased, Boyd will try to combine shipping prices with a multi-item order. She is also willing to ship worldwide, as long as the customer covers the cost of shipping.

Best of 2021  |  
Arcadia Arcade Museum

Arcadia Arcade Museum

Since his high school days, Yates' collection of arcade games has grown to about 1,500 games. He originally opened the arcade with games that were his favorites, but then transitioned to what is more popular. When asked about what the popular games are, he stated, “The favorite games are different for different people. Kids seem to like driving, racing, or target shooting games, while adults like to play the old school, classic games. There is also another group of people that only come to play pinball.” A few of the many games at Arcadia are Space Invaders, Major Havoc, and JOUST pinball. About half of the visitors of the playable arcade museum come from places outside of the Bloomington-Normal area, including neighboring states. 

Best of 2021  |  
Earlybird Grain and Fertilizer

Earlybird Grain and Fertilizer

Earlybird Grain and Fertilizer of Stanford provides custom applications, seed sales, crop scouting, and other goods. The chemical and fertilizer application is where the business sees the most sales, it is the biggest part of the business. The applications are made custom to each customer and can be chosen from dry and liquid fertilizers, chemicals, insecticides, anhydrous ammonia, and lime. They offer airplane spraying services and Variable Rate Technology. Some of the other goods available at Earlybird are gravel, dirt, softener salt, lawn fertilizer, and more! If you are interested in pricing for any goods available at Earlybird, call (309) 379-3021 for more information.

Best of 2021  |  
Ag Input Concerns

Ag Input Concerns

One major input concern is the price of fertilizer. High natural gas prices indicate a higher heating and electricity bill this winter. The high natural gas prices affect fertilizer companies because some companies are not willing to pay the costs needed to continue production like normal with the amount they have to pay for natural gas. In Europe, natural gas prices have increased by almost 6 times higher. When natural gas accounts for around 85% of the production cost of ammonia, you can see where the high natural gas prices have become an issue. Ammonia is a key ingredient in many fertilizers. Keith Good from the University of Illinois reported that nitrogen-based fertilizers have become more expensive due to high natural gas prices which have impacted the price of ammonia and urea prices in the United States. Ammonia and urea prices have roughly tripled from last year, according to Good. The USDA estimates that out of 90 million acres of corn, 3 million acres will switch to soybeans for next year due to nitrogen levels. With the increase in cost of nitrogen, corn and soybeans could be close to equally as profitable for next year. There is plenty of fertilizer available to anyone willing to pay the price, but when the prices are so high it leaves farmers to consider what they can afford to do for next year.

Best of 2021  |  
Taylor Nowaskie

Taylor Nowaskie

Here is a breakdown of how Nowaskie performed in her three main sports this past school year. This was her third year of varsity basketball, and she ended the 14-game season as a first team all-conference selection. She averaged 21 points a game, with a single game best of 33 points at Rantoul High School. She scored 294 total points for the year. Nowaskie also marked 21 assists and 49 steals on the season. During the shortened volleyball season, she tallied 11 aces with 83 total service points. She also had 54 digs. Standing at 5 feet 9 inches, Nowaskie got 12 solo blocks and 9 assisted blocks. She paired her blocking with 31 total kills. Finally, during her track and field season, she competed in four different events. Her main event is long jump, where her all-time personal record is 16 feet 2 ¾ inches. For running, Nowaskie competed in the 200m, 4 by 200m relay, and the 4 by 100m relay.

Best of 2021  |  
Kennedy Smith

Kennedy Smith

Not only did Kennedy dedicate her time to the programs she was playing for, but she dedicated her time to the middle school softball program. During the fall season, her off-season, Smith would help coach the middle school players. “It truly opened my eyes to the game in such a different way. I am forever grateful for Coach Darrell allowing me to help coach the past 3 years!” Smith stated. Because of COVID restrictions on high school sports, she wasn’t able to make the typical transition of middle school softball to basketball. The basketball team wasn’t even sure if they were going to get their season together. However, the season was able to happen and Smith faced some adversity during the brief, five week season. She was quarantined due to a close contact COVID case. She explained, “The best part of basketball would have to be coming back from being quarantined and still being able to jump back in with my team and play a game my first day back.” 

Farm News  |  
Christmas Tree Farms

Christmas Tree Farms

Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Washington are the top Christmas tree producing states in the country, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. Michigan is ranked third for production, but they grow the largest variety of Christmas trees out of any state. Although those states rank in the top 6 in the country, it is important to note that all states in the United States grow real Christmas trees. The first Christmas tree lot for retail was started by Mark Carr in New York in 1851. The average growing time for each individual tree is 7 years, but it can take up to 15 years for a tree to grow. 

Farm News  |  
Progressive Ag Services

Progressive Ag Services

Before Matt Boudeman began Progressive Ag Services in 2014, he was working in ag retail. Matt described that he has always had a passion for helping farmers make better decisions. He stated, “I felt like where I was at in retail, I only had a certain group of people that I could work with. I had to stay within my sales region. I wanted to get back to the farm and thought that starting my own business and working with any grower that I wanted to work with would make me happier in the long run.” Before Paul joined Progressive Ag Services in 2015, he was working for Ag-Land FS. Paul explained why he decided to join Matt and co-own the company; “The prospects of self-employment were really intriguing. I was very interested in the opportunity to build something from the ground up.” Tyler being hired as their first full-time employee is just one major indicator of how much the company has grown since 2014. Tyler decided to join the team as a full-time employee because “it wasn’t just the products and services that they provide, but more importantly the focus on customer profitability and solution-based consulting.” He continued, “They are building a very successful business and it was a team that I definitely wanted to be a part of.” 

Farm News  |  
Dairy Industry Exports

Dairy Industry Exports

From 2000 through 2018, the amount of milk that each American drank dropped by 26%. Smaller farms were in trouble because of the growing popularity of large firms (like Walmart) opening up their own farms to produce their own dairy products. Prices for producers were rising before 2020, which shrunk farmer’s profit gap smaller and smaller. All of these factors were apparent before March of 2020, when COVID hit. Then, dairy farmers went through increased struggle. Milk prices had to be lowered to encourage buyer demand to go up. Products had to be thrown away or dumped because there was a lack of transport to get them to places to sell before they spoiled. More factors played into this tough time for dairy farmers too. Thankfully, the dairy industry is back on the upswing in exports and has the chance to break export records. 

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