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Reciprocity... It's a tough nut to crack

Mallory Krieger's picture

This month I am taking a short break in my blog series “On-Farm Variety Trials” to share thoughts inspired by my weekend excursion to the Perennial Farm Gathering in Madison, Wisconsin.

Some call it permaculture, some call it woody perennial polyculture, some call it growing a grove! I call it inspiration! The Perennial Farm Gathering is an annual event for growers, enthusiasts, and activist who share a passion for perennializing the food system. The gathering is hosted by the Savanna Institute, a non-profit and friend of The Land Connection, who are working to develop paths for the planting, growth, and sale of perennial crops like chestnuts, hazelnuts, currents, and blackberries. Their ultimate goal is to convert much of midwestern american agriculture from annual monocrop corn/soybean rotation into perennial, highly diverse chestnut/hazelnut production. According to their co-founder Kevin Wolz, chestnuts are a high starch analogue of corn and hazelnuts are a high protein analogue of soybeans, perfect perennial replacements for the current cropping system!

Image credit: Savanna Institute

Would you drive a car blindfolded?

Jacquelyn Evers's picture

Have you ever thought about what scary things are lurking in your soil? Me neither… until I started working at The Land Connection. Soil is one of those topics that just keeps surfacing here. It comes up in emails, at meetings, in project conversations. It’s everywhere! Growing fruits and vegetables seemed like a pretty simple process to me. You find the soil, put the seed in the soil, your plant grows, you pick the fruit or vegetable, and you eat. Nothing complicated there, right? BUT a few months ago an article came across my email that talked about the importance of soil health and soil testing before starting a garden. This is something that never even crossed my mind. Today’s edition of Grow With Me is actually about growing! After reading this I hope you all will reconsider the process for planting your garden because if you wouldn’t drive a car blindfolded, why would you eat fruits and vegetables from mystery soil?

How the USDA has invested in TLC's picture

Back in September at the National Direct Ag Marketing summit, I got the chance to present a poster on TLC's work combining grants to bolster our farmers market and food access programming (more about that trip in a past blog entry). In a nutshell, our poster outlined how the Champaign Farmers Market has been able to bring together funding from the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program, and the Specialty Crop Block Grant (ISC--for Illinois Specialty Crop) in order to boost sales at the farmers market and strengthen our food access work in the community. These three USDA grant programs have done more than just make us learn an impressive number of acronyms--they've allowed us to support a wide range of programs by building the programs strategically so that they all bolster each other. 

My First Cup

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This week's blog entry is from a guest writer. Mark Cannon tells us about his experience competing for the first time at our Artisan Cup & Fork Chef Competition in September.
Mark Cannon, Pitmaster at Black Dog Smoke and Ale House, Urbana
I didn’t know what I was getting into when a coworker asked if I might be interested in cooking for an event at the Broadway Food Hall. I said yes primarily out of a desire to take part in something outside the walls of the restaurant – something extracurricular.  I had no idea what the event was.  I was put in touch with Taidghin O’Brien at The Land Connection and found that the event was the Third Annual Artisan Cup & Fork fundraiser.  I was not familiar with The Land Connection and had not been aware of The Artisan Cup & Fork in the two years prior.  I received some initial information about the event and did a little research to familiarize myself with the organization and the event itself.

The Chicken Tractor

Jacquelyn Evers's picture

When I first started at The Land Connection, we had an event on the calendar titled, “Chicken Tractors.” For weeks I thought this had to be an inside joke because I had never come across the term, but I didn’t say anything and knew the meaning would surface at some point. Sure enough, it did, and it turns out a chicken tractor is not a chicken on a tractor, a chicken driving a tractor, or even a tractor made of chickens. A chicken tractor is a chicken coop on wheels that moves around your pasture or backyard every day. It’s called a chicken tractor because the birds loosen up the top inch or so of earth underneath the moving coop... much like a regular tractor. This edition of Grow With Me is to help understand why chicken tractors can be an innovative solution to raising your chickens.

Should I squeeze your tomatoes?: What your vendors would like you to know's picture

The winding down of farmers market season always brings mixed emotions with it. On the one hand, it's getting colder and colder each week and we've been at it for 6 months, and in some ways, we're just ready to be done standing around a parking lot. On the other hand, though, we realize how much we're going to miss seeing each other (vendors, customers, volunteers, and staff) every week, and how much we're going to miss having ready access to this great food on a weekly basis. (Of course you can still get plenty of local food at Common Ground Food Co-op, the indoor Market in the Square in Urbana, Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery's The Real Stand, and other places, but still the offerings are a bit slimmer in winter). 

On Farm Variety Trials: Designing a Replicated Variety Trial

Mallory Krieger's picture

This is Part 4 of a multi-part series on On-Farm Variety Trials. Part 3: "Designing a Screening Trial" can be found here.

Last month, I outlined the design of a screening trial. In this installment, I will discuss the design of a replicated variety trial.

In contrast to screening trials, replicated variety trials can answer more complex questions like yield differences or disease resistance because their design controls for the effects of field variation. This type of trial accomplishes this by repeating or “replicating” the experiment multiple times in different locations, ensuring the results hold across space. Because of the more robust design, replicated variety trials are able to evaluate traits that are likely to be influenced by environmental factors, detect subtle differences between varieties, and obtain much more reliable information in comparison with a screening trial.

Jacob Goldstein - 14 Year Old Winning Farmer

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This week's blog entry is from a guest writer. Jacob Goldstein is a high school Freshman and supplied the lamb for the winning team at our Artisan Cup & Fork Chef Competition in September.
If you are interested in your article or blog entry being featured on the TLC blog, contact

By: Jacob Goldstein

Hi. My name is Jacob Goldstein, I’m 14 and I live with my family on our farm called Base Camp. I have three brothers (I’m the middle) and we all have our chores. Mine is all the animal and livestock care which I do every morning and night, 7 days a week before school and again before bed. It’s a lot of hard work and I love it a lot, but I’d really like to understand why morning comes earlier on the weekend.

Preservation Tips for the Bounty of the Fall Harvest

tobrien's picture

It’s that time of year when everyone seems to be inundated with fresh, local produce. The late summer / early fall harvest just seems to keep on going and going with this continued warm weather. It’s October and it’s 90° outside...I thought central Illinois already had its week-long second summer?!?! As farmers and gardeners continue to harvest and begin to pull plants for winter planting, it seems that I’m being buried in eggplant, peppers, squash, green tomatoes, and bunching greens (kale, chard, and collards). Last year I was too busy to process all of the produce I bought or was given, and a good amount ended up going to compost (enter ashamed emoji here) but this year is going to be different!


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