Farmers’ Markets Arrive in June

KimForColumnJune 3, 2015

by Kim Riedel
N•P Columnist

June is going to be great! I am thinking about going back out to some of the farmers markets as I did a handful of years ago when I had my worm farm, though this year I will be taking my plants that I have grown and some of my produce. Well, maybe I’ll even take some of my red worms as long as the days don’t get scorchingly hot enough to bake the worms like what happened last time.
Farmers markets are good for a community and a great place to incubate small businesses for producers. Besides the classes and workshops that I helped with through the MG program, the farmers markets were a great way to get the word out that I offered worm castings and live worms for fishing or for adding to the garden. Each market is unique…some are large, structured and more competitive, and some are more laid back. They are a good place for the smaller grower (anyone with a few acres and the ability to grow good crops) where there is minimal start up costs, little or no packaging, advertising or promotion costs, and immediate and direct feedback about price, quality, variety, preferences and ideas. Farmers may talk about their product and meet those who use their product, and the consumers may find out how the produce is grown–a win-win situation. Read More

Illinois Crop Report Looking Good So Far

HarveyMay 27, 2015

By Tyler Harvey
Mo-Do Farm Bureau Manager

It is that time again for the planters to be rolling and the crops to be emerging. We have been very fortunate in the last few weeks to have optimal planting weather. As of Sunday, May 24, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) had Illinois at 97 percent corn planted compared to a five year average of 93 percent planted by this date. Soybeans, meanwhile, came in at 69 percent planted compared to the five year average of 57 planted by this date. Corn and soybeans are also above the five year average for emergence with corn at 87 percent and soybeans at 38.
With the lack of rain and the cooler temperatures lately, the percentages will not move up as fast as most would like. However, overall this year is on track with the crop season last year. Driving between Tuscola and Sullivan and looking at various crops, this crop year is off to a great start. NASS has an updated crop report come out every Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. I expect the numbers in Illinois for corn emerging, soybeans planted, and soybeans emerging to change a good amount in the following days especially if we can get a nice steady rain over the crops. Illinois is still ahead of our neighbors to the east, Indiana, in planting both corn and soybeans, and Illinois is ahead of Iowa in corn planting and right behind with soybean planting.
In other news, this last week has been very busy on a legislative front. Read More

Understanding Illinois: The Looming Public Unions Strike

NowlanMay 27, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

From my distant vantage point, I foresee as inevitable a first-ever strike in July by state of Illinois public employee unions.
There is just no way to bridge a chasm wide as the Grand Canyon between feisty GOP governor Bruce Rauner, who is probably spoiling for a strike, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which is the lead union in negotiations with the state that are on-going to replace a contract that expires July 1.
I think Rauner wants to make a national name for himself as the governor who toppled the unions from their comfortable perches. He cannot do so in the union-friendly Democratic legislature so he will seek to break the backs of the unions via the collective bargaining process.
If successful, he would indeed become a national political figure. Read More

LTE: 5.27.15

Cherry Picking Scripture

There are a few scriptures in the Bible on homosexuality and hundreds on heterosexual relationships, marriage and behavior, yet some local churches strangely choose to cherry pick those scriptures that focus on homosexuals instead of the broader community of relationships within their own church. Why is that?
It seems bizarre that Jesus died on the cross so that a few people could turn that cross into a weapon against a few. Instead of using his life and sacrifice as a guide, they’ve turned their Bible into a sword. Instead of focusing on lending a helping hand to those in need, they choose to use divisive and destructive rhetoric that perpetuates hatred and animosity. Why is that? Read More

Understanding Illinois: Stop Kicking the Can Down the Road

NowlanMay 20, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest

There is no way to sugarcoat the bitter pill that Illinois taxpayers will have to swallow this summer if we are to put the state onto a path of long-term fiscal stability and predictability, characteristics that are critical to persuading business to locate and expand here.
As you have read, the Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that policymakers cannot wiggle out of responsibilities to meet state pension obligations that are underfunded to the tune of $100+ billion.
Illinois has started to fill that pension hole by appropriating $8 billion a year for that purpose, which is about $7 billion more than would be the annual cost if the state had a fully-funded pension system (on a $32 billion general funds budget). Read More

Growing Up in Sullivan: The Mulberry Tree and the Day of the Bumblebees

GintherMay 20, 2015

by Jerry Ginther
NP Columnist

Until recently I had never seen a mulberry bush, but just because I’d never seen one I hadn’t ruled out the possibility that they may exist. Having reasoned that they must truly exist, because a couple of children’s nursery rhymes specifically say “bush” instead of “tree”, I ventured to the internet to settle the conflict. There I found that in fact there is a variety called a bush. As a matter of fact, I found several varieties of mulberry trees and bushes. That said, I had one particular tree in mind. For several summer seasons in my early childhood, I spent quite a few days under a mulberry tree eating the berries. As I recall, they had to be fully, drop dead, ripe or they were a little sour to the taste. So, once one found a fully ripe one nothing else would do and you passed over any that were not fat and dark purple. Read More

Local Government Units Trying to Become Less Accountable, Less Transparent to Taxpayers

DeRossett2smMay 13, 2015

by Dennis DeRossett
Guest Columnist

As state government scurries to fill a projected $8 billion deficit in the 2016 fiscal year budget, it would seem to make sense to move beyond successful compromises and proven solutions already in place and instead focus on issues that truly have a significant impact on the state’s finances.
At least you would think so given the seriousness of the fiscal crisis.
But that’s not the case with some elected officials and local government lobbyists that represent the more than 7,000 taxpayer funded units of government in Illinois. Behind-the-scenes efforts are currently taking place that would reduce their obligation of accountability and transparency to taxpayers, all under the guise of the state’s financial crisis. It’s a “smoke-and-mirrors” attempt by local governments at a time of fiscal crisis where Illinois taxpayers would end up on the losing end. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Water, Water (not) Everywhere

NowlanMay 13, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

Illinois has been hemorrhaging residents to sunny California and the Southwest for decades. But today California lacks the natural infrastructure to support its nearly 40 million residents, most of whom live on the desert.
A study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration reports that California is probably in for a mega-drought that will last 30 or more years.
Will a reverse migration back to the water-rich Midwest unfold? Probably not right away, but it could in the decades to come, if we plan for it.
Just last year, 400,000 acres of California farmland were taken out of production, which represents in area more than twice my small Stark County, north of Peoria.
Always a big deal, water is becoming a really big deal now that it cannot be taken for granted.
And Illinois has a lot of water, an abundant supply until at least 2050, if it is well managed, according to Vern Knapp, the senior hydrologist at the Illinois State Water Survey at the University of Illinois.
The sources of our water in the state vary. Lake Michigan provides the lion’s share of the water used by the public in populous northeastern Illinois. Most of the rest of the water for central and northern Illinois comes from shallow underground aquifers. Read More

May is Here and So Are Hopes for a Great Gardening Year

KimForColumnMay 6, 2015

by Kim Riedel
N•P Columnist

At my annual plant exchange that took place this past weekend was a fellow garden enthusiast from Neoga who was full of gardening experience and information that was so interesting to me. I could have sat there for hours and just listened with thoughts going through my head of what I would love to accomplish in my own garden. Another fellow master gardener (from Coles) was also a participant and heard from one of her friends (an MG from Douglas) that there was a master gardener in Sullivan who dealt with raising worms. I was surprised to hear that because…that was me! I took her around and showed her the worm art on the walls and the buckets I had used to raise the worms. It was really exciting actually getting to know others that have the same interests that I have and swapping stories back and forth of experiences that we have had. Read More

LTE: Re: Mr Nowlan’s April 22, 2015, item about “Is America Becoming a Dependent Society?”

May 6, 2015

I have observed over the years that when one political party wants to curb these kinds of abuses by getting a handle on this out-of-control spending and trying effect legislation to help in this area, we see something happen. This political party gets severely demonized not only by the opposing political party, but by the media, Hollywood, and academia, all jumping in to call those trying to bring about positive change as heartless and haters of the poor and minorities, and on and on the heated rhetoric goes. Many people and families do need necessary help, and it’s great America can afford this as they most certainly should be helped. Read More