From the monthly archives:

March, 2017

Ag Lit Bit by Diane Merrion

Spring Sounds After spending time at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show last month, my mind is exploding with the possibilities that exist to fill my garden this summer.  It was a wonderful departure from our snowy and rather cool March and great preparation for the sights, smells and sounds of spring.  Using bushel baskets for pots, cinder blocks for benches and large rocks for garden accents, the sights at the show makes me think outside of the box and realize the creativity involved in the horticulture industry. The smell of the tulips, roses and herbs in full bloom made me anxious for July and August when we will experience the same explosion of smells in our own backyards.  The only thing missing from the show was a sound I so enjoy, those of the returning birds to our area.  I recently was introduced to Paula Levy and Alyse Burman, co-owners of The Wildbird Shack, Ltd. located in Mt. Prospect.  The store sells feed/seed and a host of bird-related items and also has programs ...

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Congratulations - 2017 Cookfresh Community Garden Grant Recipients!

IDOA Now Accepting Specialty Crop Grant Proposals

Grant Application - Deadline April 28th

The Illinois Department of Agriculture has been allocated funds next federal fiscal year from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.  These funds will support projects that are intended to expand the availability of fresh, locally-grown produce and strengthen the competitiveness of the state’s specialty crop industry. Applications for funds are due April 28, 2017.  Program details and application available online at: or by calling (217)524-9129.

The USDA defines specialty crops as "fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruit, horticulture and nursery crops (including floricuture)."

On-the-Road Seminar: Motor Vehicle Regulations for Illinois Farmers

Trucking regulations are complicated, and farm exemptions compound that complexity.  Seems everyone has a different answer to your question.  We have worked with our friends at Will County Farm Bureau for members to attend a session to sort truth from conjecture and fact from rumor. Come join us at 6:00 pm at Will County Farm Bureau, 100 Manhatten Road in Joliet on March 30, 2017. The program is a two-hour seminar that focuses on trucking laws—both new and well-worn—specifically for farmers.  We’ll take a special look at the latest rules and you'll have the chance to ask those farm trucking questions for which for which answers are so elusive. Laws have been reshaped in the past 24 months with more changes scheduled for 2017!  Rules recently affected include:  the medical card, equipment inspection requirements, out-of-state CDL use, the USDOT Number, post-trip inspections, and something called the URS.  New for 2017 is the MSCR‑1, Process Agents and Electroni ...

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Farm Tours - Summer Teacher PD Conferences

The Cook County Farm Bureau Foundation will host two programs this summer, June 26-30, 2017 and July 11-14. 2017 for teachers.  Earning PDCH credit or Graduate Credit, educators will have the opportunity to explore the farm to table process through farm and agri-business tours.  Industry experts will round out this hands-on professional development experience which is meant to provide the educational tools to incorporate the topic of agriculture into existing curriculum.  To learn more or to register ($125), contact the Ag Literacy Coordinator at or by calling 708-354-3276.  Programs limited to 20 teachers.


Spring Planter/Container Workshop Series continues...3 new member greenhouse locations!

Downwind by Bob Rohrer, CAE, FBCM, Manager

“Sticks for Dinner? No. Thank you.” Today (2/16/17), as I write this month’s column, the local and national news is abuzz with the “Day without Immigrants” protests in which a number of restaurants and businesses across the country closed to demonstrate the importance of immigrant labor and immigrant people in the United States. Farming and agriculture in the United States depends on labor in order to provide food for this nation’s people…immigrant labor is an important part, especially in certain types of farms. What would happen if farmers decided to hold a similar event… a Day without Agriculture? What would that day look like? Would anyone care? Would anyone know? Would there be marches on Washington DC? Would there be Riots on the street? I don’t think so. Our food, fiber, and fuel system (fortunately) comes with plenty of bulk handling, warehouse storage, and freezer space…one day of “no farming/no agriculture” may have litt ...

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Manifolds, Manolos & Bona Heinsohn

Growing up, I was what you would call the misguided teen.  I wore my hair in my face.  Maybe I had one too many ear piercings.  And let’s not forget the attitude and the eye rolling!  As a teen looking to the future, I career jumped (in my head) a lot. My family was (and still is) in health care so obviously, I was going to be a doctor.  But I'm horrible at math. I loved books, so clearly, I'd be a writer.  But I had a deep-rooted love affair with commas.  To the point that no editor would ever think it’s cute or clever. Maybe I'd be a cop and investigate the crimes committed against in my community. But I'm afraid of the dark (just ask the corgi mix puppy we just house trained).  I was yearbook editor my senior year (despite my affinity for commas) so clearly, I'd go into the newspaper business. But despite my curiosity the newspaper business just wasn’t for me. I interned in radio, so I'd be a drive time host. But I hate mornings and I&rsquo ...

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Ag Lit Bit by Diane Merrion

For Sale I bet you have had occasion to spend some time on Craigslist or perusing your local Classified Ads to find a deal on a new table, chair, car or collectible.  If you’re like me you start with the Chicago listings and then fine tune it down to your local suburb or area.  If there is one couch, there are hundreds.  Same for most things I’ve searched.  We recently moved and experienced the mad rush when you list something for “FREE”.  Interesting experience and great way to reinforce the concept that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.  There are other classifieds to explore such as the ones in this monthly Cooperator, the classifieds in FarmWeek and hundreds of online forums.  I recently pulled out the FarmWeek classifieds and realized how stark the difference is between the ag-related “For Sale” listings and those in my local ads.  Angus crossbred heifers, hog feeders, bales of hay, wheat straw, used John D ...

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