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Laurie George
Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
University of Illinois Extension
4618 Broadway
Mt. Vernon, IL 62864
Phone: 618-242-0780
FAX: 618-242-0781



Registration is open for the 2017 Small Farms Winter Webinar Series!


University of Illinois Extension presents a weekly educational series for the small farm community. This series will provide practical knowledge on emerging topics which advance local food production in Illinois. These online presentations will give small farm producers a look at how leading practices in production, management, and marketing enable operations to improve profitability and sustainability. The complete list of topics and speakers is included below. Webinars will be held from noon -1:00 pm on Thursdays and are free.

Choose any number of the following webinars to attend when you register.

Topics include:

Jan. 19 - ABCs of Strawberry Plasticulture Production, Bronwyn Aly, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator - Growing strawberries in an annual production system (plasticulture) utilizes a different management strategy from the traditional perennial or matted row system.  This webinar will cover the basic concepts of strawberry plasticulture production including field preparation, planting, fertility & water management, winter & frost protection, equipment, etc.  While this type of production has high input costs and is more management intensive, the return on investment can be well worth the effort.  If you are interested in growing high quality, flavorful strawberries that ripen 2-4 weeks earlier than matted row strawberry patches, check out the ABCs of Strawberry Plasticulture Production webinar to see if it will work for you. 

Jan. 26 - Buying Hay: Quality vs. Cost, Jamie Washburn, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator - Buying hay is a necessity for most producers to support their livestock or horses through the winter.  It can also be a large expense and, at times, a challenge to find.  Learn what factors add up to good quality hay, ways to feed hay more efficiently and how to decide what quality of hay works for your operation.  

Feb. 2 - Slow Flowers: Small-Scale Cut Flower Production, Candice Hart, University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator - You’ve heard of the slow food movement but the slow flower movement is changing the way consumers think about cut flowers as well. Learn how to produce locally grown cut flowers that you can sell to local markets and florists from University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Candice Hart. We’ll cover the basics of cut flower production, emphasizing the flowers which are the most reliable to grow and that are in the most demand. 

Feb. 9 - Out with the Old: Pruning Old and Neglected Fruit Trees, Grant McCarty, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator - Maybe you inherited property with mature apple trees, or perhaps you have neglected your apple trees for a number of years. Whichever category you fall into, it’s not too late to get your trees on the path towards productive yields. This webinar will go into the decisions you need to make when it comes to getting mature apple trees back into shape over the next couple of years. Topics to be covered included when to let go of trees, marketing options for older varieties, basics of older prunings, disease/insect management, choices of tools, making the first cuts of a multi-year process, tracking down varieties, and apple tree grafting options. 

Feb. 16 - Small Commercial Microgreen Production, Zack Grant, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator - Microgreens are 1-3 week old nutrient packed greens typical grown in soilless media in 1020 flats. The new uptick in microgreen consumption is allowing some growers to realize gross revenues of $20-$30 per flat.  Learn the techniques for growing microgreens on a scale that could bring in a viable weekly income with a small production area. 

Feb. 23 - Food Safety Needs for Midwest Produce Growers, Dr. Angela Shaw, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Food Safety Specialist - Dr. Angela Shaw, Director of the North Central Regional Center for FSMA Training, Extension, and Technical Assistance will give an update on FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) and how it will impact produce growers both now and in the years to come.  She will introduce the work of the NCR FSMA Center and answer grower questions.

Mar. 2 - Growing Your Hobby Farm into a Business, Andy Larson, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator - Raising food plants and animals for personal and family use is fun, but as the scale of your hobby grows, so do the costs.  Sooner or later, you'll probably wonder whether you should be treating these pursuits as a business, but there is more to this decision than finding tax write-offs.  Do you have a feasible business model?  Do you have a viable marketplace?  Can you finance a farm startup?  Join Andy Larson to learn what it takes to be an agri-preneur and to treat your small-scale farm enterprise like a business.

Mar. 9 - Do Your Bees Have PMS (Parasitic Mite Syndrome)?, Doug Gucker, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator - Bee colony collapse is a problem for beekeepers. One of the large contributors to colony collapse is related to the introduction of bee mites and pests over the past 20 years. This webinar will focus on best management practices to reduce bee pests and the diseases they bring. It will stress: the warning signs of a bee pest problem, what to do to proactively reduce pest pressure in the hive and review tips on bee colony inspections.

Mar. 16 - Maximizing Windbreaks on Your Farm, David Shiley, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator - Whether you have an established windbreak or are planning a new one, there are ways to increase its function and value.  The primary function of a farmstead windbreak is to reduce the velocity of winter winds and reduce the impact of drifting snow.  This can result in a direct economic benefit through lower energy costs.  To help you achieve this primary goal, important design features will be presented.  There are also many other benefits that can be derived from a windbreak, such as wildlife habitat, food production, livestock protection, landscape aesthetics, and screening from noise and sound. The techniques and examples of plant species combinations to achieve these other goals will also be presented during the webinar.  

Mar. 23 - Benefits of Mulching Vegetables, James Theuri, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator - Mulching can be a an attractive and profitable addition to any vegetable garden.  Besides giving the garden a finished look, mulch can reduce the labor required for weeding, moderate soil temperatures, conserve water, and even improve yields.  This presentation will provide science-based data to support these points, and help growers make decisions on type, timing, and management of mulches in the vegetable garden.

Mar. 30 - Soil Management for High Tunnels, Nathan Johanning, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator - High tunnel production is very intensive and good soil management is a key aspect of maximizing production and crop health.  Soil management can impact nutrient uptake, crop rooting, pest management, and water availability for the crop.  Learn more about some specific considerations and techniques that can benefit your high tunnel production system.

The webinars can be accessed on-line from your personal computer. In case you cannot attend these dates, register anyway to view an archived, recorded version. Information will be provided via email (by the Monday after airing) for viewing at your convenience.

REGISTER HERE for whichever webinars you would like to attend.

To view archived recordings of past Illinois Small Farms and Local Foods webinars, please check out our YouTube channel:

Local Resources and Information

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Additional Topics

Beekeeping En Español Farmers' Market Beginning Farmers Food Safety Fruit Production Grants and Loans High Tunnels Livestock Local Foods Marketing and Economics Natural Resources Organics Tri-State Publication Archives U of I Research Centers Vegetable Production