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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.

Coming to an Illinois Farmers' Market Near You in 2018...

sarah@thelandconnection.org's picture

...but wait, we're still enjoying the 2017 season, isn't next year a ways off? Farmers and market managers will immediately tell you, no. The next season feels like it will start about 5 minutes after the last, and this time around we're very excited for that. Thanks to the tireless work of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (plus Illinois farmers and local food advocates who have been lobbying our state representatives) there are two big reasons to get excited for the 2018 farmers' market season in Illinois. 

This summer two major pieces of legislation were signed that will improve access to local food at farmers' markets in Illinois, making it easier and more affordable for farmers to sell more of their product directly to the consumer and reducing food waste in the process.

Raise your Cup (and Fork)

I've been spending much of my time preparing for Sunday's Artisan Cup & Fork Fundraiser and Chef Competition.  I'm very excited about the event!  It's going to be a fabulous time; however, it sure would have been easier if we had just rented out a ballroom at a hotel and ordered catering.  So, why didn't we?  Because honoring and celebrating those who play such a vital and active role in our local food movement is important to us ... and those people are worth the extra effort.

Our work at The Land Connection revolves around farmers and the work they do.  A community can't have a local food movement without local food -- and that means there must be farmers willing and able to grow that food.  We all need to let our local farmers know how important what they do is to us.

We also need people to help us learn how to use all that wonderful local, seasonal, food.  Our chefs help showcase just how fantastic local food can look, smell and taste.  They inspire us with every meal.  We need to make sure they have access to the best local ingredients so they can continue to dazzle our palates.

Fighting the Foes and Folly of Farming

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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 nicole@thelandconnection.org.

By: Ann Swanson, Hendrick House Food Service

Growing in fall is so much easier than growing in the spring. There are usually less bugs, the days are shorter so the weeds have slowed their growth and the temperatures are usually cooler. Except for this week where temperatures will reach back into the 90’s. Yuck!

We had a couple hiccups while trying to get our fall crops in the ground.

Knowing the Source of Your Produce: Growing Your Own Garden

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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 nicole@thelandconnection.org.

By: Sally Writes

Knowing the origin of your food is essential, especially when it comes to your produce. It is only when you have this knowledge that you can be sure you are consuming quality fruits and vegetables. The local farmers' market is full of amazing local fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, and more! Local farmers are often happy to share their growing methods with you. Even when you are aware of the details surrounding the growing methods of your produce, you may still desire to have control over these growing methods. One way to have total control over your fruits and vegetables is to grow your own. When you plant your own garden, you create the shortest distance from farm to table, you get to select the materials used in the growing process, and you get to watch your plants morph from seed to food.

Interested in growing your own produce? Here are several tips for creating a sustainable and healthy garden in your own backyard.

The Greatest Midwest Food Town

Joanna Strauss's picture

We are so lucky. This was my thought on a recent Saturday that perfectly illustrated just how fortunate we who live near such amazing local food really are.

On Saturday, September 9 Champaign Urbana was officially honored by Midwest Living magazine with their "Greatest Midwest Food Town" award for their 2017 Food Edition. Midwest Living Magazine staff arranged for a series of fun, engaging events throughout the day to highlight this distinction and many of the incredible local restaurants, breweries, chefs, and markets we have.  I started my Saturday as I often do, with a trip to the Urbana Farmer's Market but this market had a special welcome from Midwest Living with a band and surprise swing dancing flash mob from the Illini Swing Society. It really was slightly magical, walking amongst the aisles of fresh produce, with glipses of people dancing and upbeat music wafting through the air, people running into one another, bits of conversation floating around, kids chirping out cute things to adoring parents, the weather in the perfect upper sixties/low seventies with absolutely no humidity. Midwest Living magazine coundn't have picked a better day to visit our twin cities and check us out. 

Flowers and Nature and Bonsais, Oh My!

Chicago Botanic Gardens is a wonderfully beautiful place to visit – 26 gardens including a waterfall garden, loads of prairie, and acres and acres of water. But did you know they also offer educational opportunities?

Our friends at Chicago Botanic Gardens talk about the challenges of city gardening and practical solutions.

Making Ends Meet

While urban farmers realize some benefits from their city location (access to markets, customers), they also have a particular challenge of limited space and actual soil in which to grow. How can urban farmers take advantage of their unique location while facing the challenges of their situation head-on to maximize the short growing season here in northern Illinois? The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest department offers training in some solutions. 

Farming Foibles: Let There be Sun [or Not]

I love our renewables.  I love the $18.54 utility bill we receive 7-8 months of the year (darn those Ameren line fees!) when we are pushing more power back onto the grid than we are using.  Considering we charge 2 electric cars regularly, this is a real achievement.  We have both solar and small wind, but the solar has been the winner by far for us.   A lack of moving parts makes everything substantially easier.  I think the wind part may fall into the foible category!

We have 12 kW of solar, installed at two different times in two different ways.  The first 6 kW was installed in June, 2012 on 2 poles mounted in the yard with an inverter in the basement.  The second 6 kW was installed in November of 2015 onto our newly constructed "solar shed."  Those panels use micro-inverters, making them much easier to hook up.  Ben did pretty much all of the work himself on the second set, though I did convince him to hire a few helpers to heave the panels up onto the roof and hold them in place while he attached them.  I assisted with shed design and ciphering with Ben on how to run the wiring into the shed.

Uff da, Duluth!

Mallory Krieger's picture

Last week, I travelled to Duluth, Minnesota for the summer meeting of the Farm Beginnings Collaborative. This 1,400 mile 4 day trip was my first excursion into the far north of the country and I found it fascinating. The lands were flat, forested, and full of lakes, and the people were warm and welcoming. It called to mind the many many summer evenings spent with my grandmother in her kitchen in the plains of Ohio listening to "A Prairie Home Companion." So, in honor of Garrison Keillor... it's been a quiet week in Duluth, my new town, out on the edge of Lake Superior...

The journey began with the typical early morning departure for the 9.5 hour drive north. I arrived on Wednesday evening at the Radisson hotel, a circular building with a rotating restaurant called the JJ Astor on the 16th floor. For my first evening in Duluth, I was free to explore the city so my traveling companion (Aunt Gretchen) and I sojourned to the Canal Park district to seek evening sustenance. Having found it at a fine Asian bistro, we retired to the hotel to rest for the next long day ahead.

Market Halftime Report

sarah@thelandconnection.org's picture

13 weeks down, 11 to go. We've hit the halfway point of Season 3 at the Champaign Farmers' Market, and I'm just going to cut to the chase and say the season has surpassed all expectations. I'll be honest, last year was a struggle. Attendance was down a little from the first season, a few new vendors who started the season full of excitement, didn't finish out the summer with us. To top it all off, the weather did not make it easy on us, and the mere hint of rain seemed to scare off all the shoppers, even if that hint was over at 10 in the morning. So I started off Season 3 full of hope, but not without apprehension.

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