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Meet Your Meat

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In the new piece by journalist Barry Estabrook, he tells the tale of two beef producers. They're right across the valley from each other, but are worlds apart in their practices. Harris Ranch Beef Company has over 100,000 animals standing around in their manure, fed grain and antibiotics, with not a blade of grass (the proper food for ruminants like cattle) to be seen. Open Space Meats is a family ranch that raises 75 cattle on 1100 acres -- "doing what God intended a cow to do" -- roam around and eat grass. Thank goodness there are so many Central Illinois farm families raising their animals as Nature intended. They include the Morses of Trail's End Farm near Putnam, IL; Wettstein Organic Farm near Carlock, Organic Pastures near Eureka, Triple S Farms near Stewardson . . . and many more. In fact, it seems like every day I'm hearing of new farmers starting up with a few livestock -- many of them are the graduates of The Land Connection's Farmer Training Program, Central Illinois Farm Beginnings.

Full citations from Pesticide Facts flyer

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In chart and on chart spread:

1. Box Quote.
In 2008, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development and the U.N. Environment Program issued a paper ( called "Organic Agriculture and Food Security in Africa." It concludes: “Organic agriculture can increase agricultural productivity and can raise incomes with low-cost, locally available and appropriate technologies, without causing environmental damage. Furthermore, evidence shows that organic agriculture can build up natural resources, strengthen communities and improve human capacity, thus improving food security by addressing many different causal factors simultaneously ... Organic and near-organic agricultural methods and technologies are ideally suited for many poor, marginalized smallholder farmers in Africa, as they require minimal or no external inputs, use locally and naturally available materials to produce high-quality products, and encourage a whole systemic approach to farming that is more diverse and resistant to stress.
2. CO2 graphic courtesy of
Data and further information in “Organic Farming Combats Global Warming—Big Time”

In Chart:

    Local Food in Winter?

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    YES WE CAN . . .  find delicious local foods in the dead of winter! 

    Join our host, Celebrity Blogger and Economic Developer Marty Vanags, for a 5-course sit-down dinner prepared by Chef Josh Huddleston using ingredients from Central Illinois farms, perfectly paired with wines selected by Celebrity Sommelier Chris Koos.  Just $65 per person, with proceeds benefiting the Edible Economy Project.  Reserve your tickets TODAY by sending an email to  Payment can be made at the door. 


    Winter Local Food & Wine Pairing


    Feb. 24, Thurs, 7:00 - 9:30 p.m.


    Vrooman Mansion (701 East Taylor Street, Bloomington). 
    The Vrooman Mansion is nearly sold-out, but click here and get your name in now.

    Midwest Organic Conference

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    The Land Connection staff members, and many local farmers are heading up to LaCrosse Wisconsin today.  There, we will get together with over 2,500 other organic growers and supporters of organic agriculture from dozens of Midwest states and beyond, and participate in meetings, workshops, and the all-important conversations in hallways and in front of the bulletin boards.   If you have never been to the MOSES Organic Conference, it's hard to convey the atmosphere of comraderie that crosses all age, sex, and ethnic boundries.  It is a thrill to listen in on the conversations of young and experienced farmers, Amish and hipster farmers, men and women, black, white, and everything in between.  Check out the conference here, or catch the next bus, train, or carpool now!

    Changing Demographics are Changing Farmland

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    You never know who you're going to meet at a conference or field day or talk. At the Specialty Growers and Organic Conference, I got to catch up with many of our Central IL Farm Beginnings graduates and find out what they're doing and how things are going. But the most exciting recent random encounter happened at the talk I gave at the Fairbury Library this past Thursday evening. There was someone in the audience who looked vaguely familiar, but it wasn't until he introduced himself afterwards that I realized he was the father of a friend from high school (and also the guy who tuned all the pianos in the community). He and his wife had recently inherited 400 acres near Chatsworth, a few of which he is renting to South Pork Ranch, a nearby organic farm. But what about the rest of the acreage? A few days later, I had a brief conversation with Jeff Glazik, who farms organically nearby. (Find out more about Jeff's farm and the NRCS EQIP support for organic transition here.) The matchmaker in me kicked in, and I'm looking forward to introducing the experienced organic farmer and the new landowner. Together we'll see what options we might come up with for those 400 acres of fertile central IL soil.

    Farmland (and Farmhouse) Available

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    The "Route 24" corridor that runs like a narrow (2-lane) belt across the mid-section of Central Illinois is sprouting more and more organic acres. We recently spoke with a family near Forrest, IL and learned of a great opportunity for a beginning farmer. Available immediately is a two bedroom home with about 3 acres ready to be planted. The property also features a large building with a concrete floor and garage doors that could be used for packing vegetables, assembling beehives, or whatever you are interested in doing. An additional 4-5 acres is available across the road. The second property includes a barn, some fenced pasture, several sheds, and an area suitable for an orchard. If you'd like to know more, please email The Land Connection or call (217) 688-2570.

    Specialty Crop, Agritourism, and Organic Conference This Week

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    Even if you neglected to preregister, you can still head to Springfield this Wednesday, Thursday, and/or Friday to learn more about growing and marketing your fruits, vegetables, and other farm products. Four pre-conference workshops (concurrent) will be offered Wednesday, January 5, which will include “Pumpkin Production and Pest Management,” “High Tunnels: Tomatoes and More,” “Good Ag Practices: Making a Farm Plan and Becoming GAP Certified,” and “Expanding Farmers Market Opportunities.” On Thursday and Friday, January 6-7, the conference will kick off with an opening session entitled "Is Your Operation Market Ready? Understanding the Expanding Market for Local Foods" by Julie Fox, of Ohio State University. The remainder of the conference will include breakout sessions on fruits, vegetables, herbs, irrigation, agritourism/marketing, organics, and business management. The agritourism/marketing track will feature sessions on merchandising, sales, and website promotion; tourism programs and signage information; getting media savvy; agritourism liability insurance; and culinary agritourism. Organic Production joins the conference again this year with two concurrent tracks focusing on the following areas: integrated organic vegetable production systems, grain and livestock systems, fruit production, and cultural practices.

    Take the Local Thanksgiving Challenge

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    Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and many of us are already planning to travel in order to spend the holiday with friends, family, and loved ones. But just because you're going to rack up some miles doesn't mean your meal has to. In fact, this Thanksgiving, make sure that your food doesn't travel more miles than you do, by committing to find and cook with as many local ingredients as possible. Maybe it will be local sage from your own herb garden, or local sweet potatoes from your farmers market, or a local turkey from a nearby farm. (You can find turkey and other local holiday meats here.) You're not just doing something good for your environment and economy, you are treating yourself to the most delicious and nutritious food possible. Happy Holidays!

    Local Farmers to Join Panel following Living Downstream screening at Normal Theater

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    Some people feel depressed, even paralyzed, after learning about the multiple carcinogens we inhale with each breath, imbibe with each sip of water, and eat when we indulge in most foodstuffs. But there is hope! And when it comes to our food, that hope is embodied in local organic farmers who grow great food without applying poisons. As Sandra Steingraber wrote in the 2nd edition of Living Downstream:
    Agriculture is 6,000 years old. For 5,940 of those years, it was practiced organically. But 60 years—two generations—is still a long time in human terms. It is long enough for us, as a culture, to have lost entire skill sets. It is long enough for the barns that one held fertilizer-providing animals to collapse. It is long enough for a county’s entire fleet of hay balers to rust out, for local canneries to close up shop, and for knowledge about the weed-controlling abilities of sheep to slip away. It is long enough that the very idea of using chemicals linked to cancer to grow fruits and vegetables that we eat to prevent cancer no longer seems as bizarre as it might have to our ancestors. Rachel Carson, who wrote near the beginning of that 60-year expanse, once remarked how strange it was to live in an age where carcinogens were a basic element in our system of food production. It is still a strange notion. Our predicament, however, is hardly insoluble. In fact partial answers and outright solutions exist all around us…

    Steingraber and Science on Organic Ag Feeding the World

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    One of the oft-repeated criticisms of family organic farming is that family organic farmers “cannot feed the world.” The first response to this should be that chemical farming is not feeding the world, so it's a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. The next should be to look at serious peer-reviewed studies on the question of which kind of agriculture is more productive. In one of the outakes from Sandra Steingraber's recent interview on WGLT, she responds to the interviewer's comment that we need chemicals and GMOs to double ag production in order to feed the world's growing population (an almost verbatim echo of the Big Ag party line). Steingraber is correct when she says organic is just as productive as chemical ag. Not only that, but organic ag keeps people and communities healthier -- physically and economically. Industrial farming is chemical-dependent, relying on synthetic chemical fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. These are very expensive "inputs" for farmers -- economically and health-wise. Pesticides are “cides” -- they kill or sicken -- not only their intended target species, but also beneficial species, and the farmers, their families, and their neighbors.


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