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Changing Seasons

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This week's blog entry is from a guest writer. If you are interested in your article or blog entry being featured on the TLC blog, contact

Just of a bit of introduction of myself since this is my first blog for The Land Connection.

Kent Miles – Illinois Willows, a specialty cut flower grower located in western Champaign County. My professional background has always been in some form of Floriculture: floral designer, shop owner, fresh cut salesman (wholesale floral house) and cut flower grower. Growing up in a small town, I never imagined living in the country. In my youth, country folks were farmers and my high school classmates were all in the FFA. With my life now, I’m a country farmer growing flowers surrounded by corn and soybeans. I enjoy raising poultry as a hobby. 

Back in 1999, I bought 5 acres of a cornfield and that was the start of the farm. I kind of had a few ideas of how I wanted to lay out the farm. Windbreaks went in the first Spring with evergreen trees from the conservation department. Over the years beds have been added for cut flower production.

Thank you for a great season!'s picture

Yesterday I was talking with chatting with someone who had worked with farmers' market vendors in the past, and she leaned in at one point and said, "there are always a coupld who stir up trouble, though right?" Most market managers would probably wearily answer, "of course." And this isn't a knock on other markets; it's pretty inevitable that when you bring a whole bunch of people together who are all competing for the same batch of customers dollars in very close proximity of each other, there's probably going to be a little sniping here and there. We're all out there in the heat or the rain, in a business that can be very stressful and uncertain--it's not going to be all smiles and rainbows. But I was struck once again last night by how strongly I was able to answer "No" when talking about vendor squabbles this season.

New Farmer U

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by Irene Kaufman

Last weekend the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) hosted their New Farm U conference in Streator, Illinois. New Farmer U is a weekend long conference full of engaging speakers and networking opportunities for beginning farmers. The conference covered so many valuable topics, from financial advice to production techniques to law. Experts in their fields led 90 minute workshops and discussions, in addition to a panel with experienced farmers sharing their advice.

Although the conference was Friday through Sunday, I only attended the Saturday portion. Our Farmer Training Manager, Mallory Krieger gave an inspiring presentation on an introduction to Holistic Farm Management. She was also on the Farmer Insight Panel, “If I knew then what I know now.” Throughout the day I had the opportunity to listen to speakers on soil fertility with Grant McCarty with University of Illinois Extension and a discussion on Policy and Leadership with Rebecca Osland and Liz Moran-Stelk with Illinois Stewardship Alliance.

Farming Foibles: Baking as Memory

Certain baked items are forever associated with certain people in my mind -- gingerbread and my dad, Christmas coffee cake and my mom, Tiesen Arman and my Aunt Sue, peanut butter cups and my sister (though she no longer makes them -- she now makes almond cake, which I like much better).  I am lucky in many ways to come from a family that baked, not just on the holidays, but year-round.   My mom regularly baked bread from scratch -- one year she worked her way through the entire Beard on Bread book by James Beard.  I can still, somewhere in the distant echoes of my memory, smell the salt rising bread (take my advice, skip that recipe).   

The nondescript and somewhat tattered spiral bound pack of index cards in the photo is one of my most valued treasures.  In 1992, my mom wrote down all the favorite baking recipes (from both sides of the family), one recipe per card, and gave one to me and one to my sister.  She wrote down whose recipe it was, and sometimes some history behind it, if she knew.

The gingerbread recipe was always my dad's favorite.  We still make it for him on his birthday and sometimes just because.  It's a favorite of mine too.  It's not a standard gingerbread recipe, and (according to Ben) has some hints of boston brown bread in it. 

Shop Local for the Holidays

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By: Irene Kaufman, The Land Connection

Happy Thanksgiving!

This time of year has always been my favorite. The colorful leaves on the trees, the crisp Autumn air, and of course Thanksgiving! I usually like to wake up early and go on a walk outside before the chaos of cooking ensues. It gives me some time to quietly contemplate all that I am thankful for. I think there is an art to practicing gratefulness; it goes beyond reflection and into conscious actions.

Having moved to Champaign-Urbana just over a year ago, I find myself being thankful for such a welcoming community that has opened its arms to me. I have met wonderful people, and I think a way to “practice gratefulness” to this community is to support it directly.

What better time to purchase local goods than for a holiday feast?

Food Hub Hubbub's picture

Now that Market season has wrapped up, it's time for the annual barrage of "So what do you do with yourself now that the season's done?" The answer for all market managers is, of course, PLENTY. Analyzing the last season and planning, fundraising, getting ready for the next. But my work here at The Land Connection is more than the Market. I also work on creating new opportunities and sales outlets for local farmers, and increased access to local food for our whole community. 

My primary project right now is a Local Food Promotion Program planning project, where I'm working with a team of local farmers, chefs, and business experts to examine the possibility of building an aggregation and distribution network on the local food infrastructure that already exists in Champaign-Urbana, helping find ways to connect local institutions and restaurants with local farmers to get more local food into the system. We know the demand is out there, people want to eat local, and the ones who sell food want to capitalize on that market. What we want to do is make it easier to connect these different players, to ensure integrity on the local food scene.

Farming Foibles: Kittie Condo

If you spend any time worrying about outdoor cats and winter (and you should if you have neighborhood cats),  you may have seen various plans on the internet to take a large rubber tote and turn it into an insulated cat house.   If you've followed my blogs at all, you are aware that Fuzzy is an outdoor cat, so we take winter housing very seriously at our place.  You may also have come to the creeping realization that our Fuzz-bucket is a weeeee bit spoiled.  There will not be any repurposed rubber tote for her.  No, sir!  There is instead the stylish Kittie Condo.


We have set a place at our table for you, join us!

Mallory Krieger's picture

November 18th marks the start of the thirteenth year of Central Illinois Farm Beginnings. It is amazing to think that we have been training beginning farmers for so many years. To date, we have shepherded 199 beginning farmers through the business planning process! As always, our mission with Farm Beginnings is to provide new farmers with the business planning skills they need to launch financially viable farm businesses.

This year, Farm Beginnings is getting a facelift. As time has marched on, the needs of our students have evolved. Past students and current prospective students have told me that they need a more condensed, focused, and impactful course. I have worked hard this summer to reconfigure Farm Beginnings to meet these current needs.

Here are the changes:

Our Cup Runneth Over

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By: Irene Kaufman, The Land Connection

Last Sunday evening the Champaign City Center was transformed into an event that could rival any Food Network competition I’ve ever seen. 175 guests gathered to eat, drink, and celebrate local food while supporting The Land Connection.  Four teams, each comprised of a talented chef paired with local farmers and food producers, cooked up beautiful dishes for the judges and guests to try. While all were deliciously creative, only one could win.


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