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What's new at the Champaign Farmers' Market this season?'s picture

It's a gorgeous sunny day outside, and this afternoon I took a walk over by the Market site to enjoy a little fresh air. It's doesn't quite look like Market season yet (we need a little more green on the trees for that), but it felt warmer on February 26 than at some of those late-season markets last October!

Right now it's hardcore planning season: fundraising so that we can continue to offer SNAP incentives and afford equipment and Market staff, planning fun promotional events to help get the community excited for Market season, and mapping out logistics, programming, and advertising. Applications have been rolling in from returning favorite vendors and a couple of new farms already. And the most important part of Market planning season is coming up with ways to get more people to buy our fresh offerings. That's why we're all here, right? 

Indiana Small Farms Conference

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From March 1st to 3rd, farmers, educators, industry experts, and agricultural organizations and vendors will descend on Danville, IN to display and discuss their miniature model farms that have been brought to life with exacting detail, hand-painted accents, and handcrafted charm. Countless hours have been spent building miniature barns, housing 1:50 scale hand-carved cows, pigs, sheep, and horses, set in the midst of rolling astroturf hills and rows of mini corn. White-lacquered, distressed balsa wood fences abut jewelry-wire electric fences creating a visual dichotomy of pasture and homestead that is both functional and visually appealing. The grain silos made out of modified soup cans, the paper-mache rocks, and the twig trees with plastic, cotton-candy canopies all sing together in these operatic dioramas of agrarian whimsy.


Farming Foibles: Recycling

I've been doing a lot of cleaning around the house lately, and I found my soap box!  Wahoo!  I'm going to clamber up on top of it today and talk about an item that is near and dear to my heart -- recycling -- or perhaps, more specifically, how NOT to recycle.

I live "in the country," which means we don't have curbside recycling.  If we want to recycle, we have to put some significant effort into it.  We installed a large shelving unit outside our mudroom door in the garage where we save up items to recycle for our periodic trips to Illini Recycling.  Unfortunately, they no longer accept glass (and never accepted Styrofoam), so we have a few other places we have to take things.  The transfer station on North Lincoln will take glass.  Dart/Solo Cup will accept your clean Styrofoam to recycle (thanks guys!).  

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day! It may not seem like it, but Valentine’s Day is all about agriculture. Who do you think grows all those bouquets of flowers? Who grows and produces the ingredients for your baked goodies, chocolates, and fancy dinners? Farmers! We collaborated with artist Norbert Nebusz to make some Valentines for you to print out and give to the farmer in your life!






Regenerative Organic: What Would Rudolf Steiner Do?

Regenerative Organic: What would Rudolf Steiner Do?

When it comes to Regenerative Agriculture, I find myself wondering, “What would Rudolf Steiner do?” Back in 1924, Rudolf Steiner was one of the first to come up with an idea for alternative agriculture. His idea for biodynamic agriculture was to look at a farm like a living organism.1 This idea and certification was a response to the deteriorating health of soil, crops, and livestock from the overuse of chemical fertilizers. While the efficacy of the science behind biodynamics has been debated due to the mysticism aspect and lack of scientific evidence, the philosophy of restoring, maintaining and enhancing ecological harmony through farming has lived on through this practice, as well as derivative practices. Most known of these practices is organic farming.

Heirloom, Organic, and Heritage, Oh my! - An Interview with Jill Brockman-Cummings

tobrien's picture

As all of us at The Land Connection are gearing up for our 2nd Annual Organic Grain Conference & Trade Show on February 1st here in Champaign, I thought it was only fitting to feature organic grains in this week's blog. I found out about The Mill at Janie’s Farm this past fall and was incredibly impressed and inspired by what they were embarking on, namely stone-milling locally grown organic grain and heritage and heirloom wheat for local and regional consumption. I emailed back and forth with Jill Brockman-Cummings, the Mill Manager at The Mill at Janie’s Farm in Askum, IL to learn more about The Mill at Janie’s Farm and Janie’s Farm Organics, and this is what I found out.

How long has Janie’s Farm been growing organic grains?
Janie's Farm Organics has been growing certified organic grains since 2005. Harold Wilken started with 30 acres, and now Janie's Farm Organics farms over 2300 acres organically.

What crops are grown organically on the Farm?
Crops grown organically on the farm include: wheat, oats, rye, corn, soybeans, popcorn, black beans, and hay.

2017 Champaign Farmers Market Annual Report's picture

It feels like only yesterday we were shivering our way through the final weeks of the market season. Braving the cold and rain together to provide October produce to a very encouraging number of late-season shoppers who came out to support their local farmers. Yet here we are, nearly halfway through the off-season, with applications opening up soon and planning for our fourth season underway. 

Two weeks ago I had the chance to speak at the Illinois Specialty Crops Conference in Springfield about the steady success of our SNAP matching program, but there's so much more to share that we're proud of after this critical third season. Outside of our SNAP program success, here are my top three highlights:

Farming Foibles: Liquid Black Gold

I'm home today, recovering from something nasty, and watching the snow blowing across our yard and turning into drifts.  So, in an effort to cast my mind back to a warmer place, I want to use today's blog post as an opportunity to educate you about Balsamic Vinegar -- the real liquid black gold from Modena, Italy.   When we were in Italy in 2014, we toured several Acetaia -- places where balsamic vinegar is made.  And, I do mean made, not manufactured.  The process to make "Traditional" balsamic vinegar is a complex and time consuming one, and  is generally undertaken at a household/extended family level.  I found the entire process absolutely fascinating ... and the taste testing was amazing! 

The first thing we learned is the general process for making grape must.  Must is the end product of cooking down grapes of one of two varieties (Trebbiano or Lambrusco), which must be grown in the Modena region.   The grapes are cooked over low heat until they lose about 50% of their liquid.  Once this is done, the must is transferred to storage containers where it sits for some time (up to several years) before being added into production.  Must is the only ingredient in traditional balsamic vinegar.

New Year’s Resolutions at TLC

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Every January 1, people across the world reflect on the closing year and vision a better, more productive, healthy future. It is the time for New Year’s resolutions.


New Year’s resolutions, boiled down, are simply goals set at a specific time of year. Goal setting is a process I teach to our Farm Beginnings students; we work to clarify values, and set realistic and measurable goals to help fulfil the values held most dear. Today, I undertake the task of setting realistic, measurable goals for our work at The Land Connection in 2018.



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