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Raise, Grow, Harvest, Eat, Repeat

A blog for growers, consumers, and backyard gardeners to grow, eat, and connect in the local food system.
Regional Issue

Farmers Market Series: Determining the Need

After visiting a number of farmers markets this past summer, you may find that you are now thinking about starting your own in your community. Many towns and civic groups want to start a farmers market. They see that it could spur economic development, provide community pride and awareness, bring attention to the local foods community, among many other things it can do. Starting a farme...

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PennyLateSummerFieldDays
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Late Summer Field Days: Recap

This year marks the third year that our offices have held the Late Summer Field Days. Each year since 2014, I have worked with a farmer in our area to showcase their farm and invite the general public out to visit. Unlike a farm tour, these field days have a set time and location. What I've enjoyed with these field days are the responses I get back from attendees: "I didn't know you could grow...

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Growing Great Garlic

Attending the Midwest Garlic Fest last weekend in Elizabeth, I was reminded yet again of the wide range of varieties grown in Northern Illinois. Many of these varieties are unique in their flavor and heat. Inevitably, I get the phone call in the spring asking if you can plant garlic now. Unfortunately, it is too late. While many other members of the Allium family (onions, leek, shallots) are plant...

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Tomato Hornworm
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Monthly Report- July 2017

Pest Update As you know, July was extremely wet for us in Northern Illinois. This caused a lot of serious problems for some growers due to the amount of rainwater that we got in fits and spurts. Typically in the growing season, we need 1-1.5 inches of water a week. If your plants received too much, they may have shown wilting symptoms, a physical response to too much ra...

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Monthly Report-June 2017

  Pest Update With rains and seasonal weather, disease has begun to creep in. In the last week, I've seen apple scab and in a new twist, scab on stone fruit. For apple scab, it's too late for sprays to be effective in controlling the disease and you are better off removing fruit that has fallen around the trees. Removal of fallen leaves is also recommended. I've...

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Summer Vegetable Garden: Top 10 for Beginners

Many backyard growers tend to know how to grow vegetables and what they need to do. Others may be intimidated by getting started. I had a question last week if it was too late to start summer vegetables. Starting a vegetable garden and container gardening is quite easy and if all goes according to plan with warm weather and necessary rain, you'll be on a path toward success in your first gard...

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AnthracnoseStrawberry

Berries and Brambles Series: Strawberry Pests

Now that you've got your strawberry system setup and are managing them, you may have diseases and insect pests to deal with. Strawberries tend to have many different diseases that target them. They can affect the fruit, leaves, stolons, and the roots of the plant. Insect pests on strawberries are those that may eat the leaves, fruits, and flowers. When dealing with what you suspect is either in...

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Cedar Apple Rust: What's on my apple tree

In the past couple of weeks, I've seen a lot of apple tree leaves showing the below symptoms:...

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The Mildews of Summer

Last summer, I focused on profiling tomato blights which you can still find here . As we've dealt with a rainy, colder June and now July so far, it may be that we start to see mildews particularly downy and powdery. Both of these mildews can cause problems for many plants but many times we only consider it targeting the cucurb...

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Squash Blossoms: Something Else You Aren't Eating

Continuing what has become a series of eating things on a vegetable plant you didn't know you could eat, I wanted to profile squash blossoms. In the last couple of growing seasons, I've seen squash blossoms show up at farmers market stands. While you might think that the grower is sacrificing the squash blossom and now means that he/she will not get a squash/zucchini, this is not the case. A sq...

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Eat Your NEW Greens: The Greens You Didn’t Know You Could Eat

We're at peak right now for the harvesting of cool season vegetables. These vegetable families include swiss chard, kale, cabbage, lettuce, kohlrabi, bok choy, spinach, and many others. When you hear about greens, many people think about the ones mentioned along with turnip and collards greens. These can be prolific producers depending on the season. But there are a number of other greens that...

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Save the Scapes!

If you've grown garlic before, a couple of weeks before harvest you'll start to see the stem growing. It will then curve like a tail as shown in the picture below. These are the garlic scapes and you should use them in your cooking!...

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Companion Planting: Anecdotal or Tried and Tested?

Companion planting is a management strategy of planting crops together. The idea is that each of the crops will benefit one another. Perhaps one repeals insects that attack another. Maybe one of the companions provides nutrients that the other plant can use. One plant could keep sun from the soil and impart weed management. In general, we hope that a companion planting will: manage inse...

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Tomatoes: Get Growing

Probably like me, you've been waiting for the end of May to get here. As we've patiently moved past Mother's Day and into mid-May, I've been looking at the 10 day forecast just hoping that we are finally past the last frost in the area so I can plant my tomato plants. With nightly temperatures in the 40s, it has not been ideal for tomatoes. Now though it looks like we are in the clear for plant...

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Pretzel City Kitchens: What It Is and How You Can Help

In the last couple of months, we have been ramping up work on the planned commercial kitchen in Freeport. You can read about some of our activities here in the Journal Standard . Two public meetings were held in Freeport in January. We also visited the FEED Kitchens in Madison. Now known as Pret...

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Backyard Grains Program: What to Expect

This past September (which seems like months ago), I had the opportunity to help thresh wheat that my friends had grown in their backyard. All of us had no experience threshing small scale wheat piles so it took a while. We tried the method of beating it against the side of a clean, metal trash can. We also tried cutting off the ends and utilizing a drill attachment. I, however, found the best met...

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Foodies and Farm Event

As fall comes in, you're probably done with your gardens and shutting them down. Perhaps you've spent all summer canning and preserving foods. Maybe you also planted some garlic recently. You also might be going to the farmers markets these last weeks and finally getting around to visiting the local orchards for their apples (and the apple cider donuts. It's okay. We eat them too). All of this...

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Cover Crops Week: Day 5- Mixtures and Wrap-Up

Today is our final post for Cover Crops Week. Hopefully you've gotten a great introduction to this topic and can see potential for adopting in your operation or even in your backyard. Before we get to our wrap-up, let's talk about cover crop mixtures. Cover crop mixtures are one of the newest topics within vegetable production for the last couple of years. It's quite common to combine t...

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Cover Crops Week: Day 4- Exit Strategies

Day 4- Exit Strategies When you choose a cover crop for your backyard or your operation, it's certainly important to know the features of it. Will it be good for weed control? Will it provide a quick start? How will it need to be seeded? Equally important is the exit strategy. How are you going to kill it so that you can plant your next crop? The exit strategies will prove to be the one...

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Cover Crops Week: Day 3- Leguminous

Today's topic is leguminous cover crops. Unlike the nonleguminous cover crops, these will actually sequester nitrogen into the soil. They are a great tool as they can be used in place of nitrogen fertilizers. These cover crops will also sometimes be used in conjunction with the fertilizer. For instance, white clover can add between 80-200 lbs of total N per acre. Knowing that and then factoring...

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Cover Crops Week: Day 2- Nonleguminous

Day 2 brings the overview on nonleguminous crops. When we think about the nonleguminous covers crops, their main quality is that they are not a nitrogen source. However, some grasses will sequester and "scavenge" for nitrogen at lower depths, bring up nitrogen that your next crop would not have been able to take up. Nonleguminous cover crops can be classified as grasses and brassicas. Let's tal...

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Cover Crops Week: Day 1-Introduction

I apologize for the delay in getting back into the blogosphere. As most of you have dealt with this fall, there is unevenness. Some weeks are still allowing for tomatoes and peppers to cling on. Then the first very, very light snow mixture occurred in Freeport on Saturday, October 4. This week has been more mild with temperatures in the 50s and 60s so perhaps there has been a recovery on the pa...

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Webinar Announced for the new Farmers Market Regulations

In June, Governor Quinn signed into law HB5657 which modifies some of the farmers' market rules and regulations. New regulations included future streamlining of farmers market rules statewide, require a vendor to state the address where the vendor's products are grown, cap the fee a county health department can charge for a vendor registering their cottage food law operation and many other new...

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More Local than Local? Community Food Systems

Recently I was giving an opportunity to speak to a group of community economic development educators and stakeholders at a conference in Dubuque, Iowa. I was part of a mobile bus tour along with UW and Iowa State Extension where we took a bus to Hook's Cheese ( http://www.hookscheese.com/ ), Driftless Market ( http...

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Pest of the Week-Squash Vine Borer

I had originally envisioned the pest of the week would be Tobacco/Tomato Hornworm but as luck would have it a different pest let it be known that it was his/her week instead. In the University of Illinois Demonstration Garden, Squash Vine Borer (SVB) made a pretty noticeable appearance. The video of this pest is on our facebook page (...

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