Crop Cycle

crop cycle save the date-page-001

The Illinois Organic Growers Association will be hosting a bike-to-farm tour event this fall in Champaign County. Take a ride through 7 organic farms and experience the beautiful views of the countryside, enjoy fresh food and meet the farmers behind it all. Increasing your knowledge about organic and sustainable agricultural practices is just another added benefit. Mark your calendar and bring the whole family. Registration and details coming soon.



Don’t Miss Out on the 2015 Value-Added Producer Grant!

The USDA Value-Added Producer Grant Program expects to announce a call for applications this April!  This is a great opportunity to plan a value-added business or to help fund early stage working capital expenses.   Grants of up to $75,000 for business planning and up to $200,000 for working capital were made last year.


“Value-added” is defined quite generously by the USDA.   Not only does it mean changing the physical state of your raw product, but it can mean the fact that you are marketing and branding your fresh product as local, or by your means of production, such as organically grown, or by physical segregation of your raw product, such as non-GMO corn.   Projects producing renewable energy from one’s  raw products might also be considered value-added.

This year is one of the best years to apply.   More projects will be funded this year than usual due an exceptionally large pool of funding – $41M nationally.  And a new consideration for military veterans is expected in the announcement.  Beginning farmers, minority farmers, or women-owned farming businesses might be eligible for extra points in the scoring of applications.

The application is long and detailed, requiring much thought and planning.

There is a 50% matching funds requirement.  So please, investigate this program now at  to find out if it can help you achieve your business goals.  Start on your application even before the federal announcement, if it is not already out.  Use last year’s application toolkit. Once the program is announced this year, applications will be due in only 60 days.

The growing season is upon us.  But don’t miss at least considering this opportunity.

Use free Grants Advising made available through the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.   Contact Deirdre Birmingham at  or 608-219-4279.  Deirdre is also an organic apple grower and has used this program herself. You are welcome to be on her email list of funding program announcements so that you know what’s out there!

Grow some Grain, Save some Seeds, Be a part of the Movement.

growing grainYou can be a part of an effort to increase the diversity, resilience and flavor of our local food system!

The Normal Seed Library and Grand Prairie Grain Guild are looking for a few good gardeners and farmers to help grow out rare seeds.   This growing season is their first opportunity to start variety trials and grow out a diverse mix of open pollinated plants to increase their supply of seeds.

University Extension Educator Bill Davison is heading up this project and has purchased 25 different types of wheat, 6 dry beans and 12 different types of colorful dry corn.  The corn consists of old varieties of flour, flint, and dent corn that is meant to be ground and used as flour and eaten as cornbread, grits or polenta.  Many of these seeds have come from USDA seed banks and they are extremely rare and in very limited supply.  He has some packets with 20 wheat seeds in them!  The goal of this project is to multiply those seeds.  You do not have to have any experience growing grain to be a part of this project.  There are many advantages to starting with gardens and small plots on farms and ongoing support will be provided to teach you how to grow and manage these plantings.  These are seeds that need to be planted in April and May and depending on the variety and type of plant they will be harvested between July and October.  Each person will only get a small amount of seed that can be planted in a very small space.  For example 20 wheat seeds will plant 10 row feet. Dry beans can also be planted in very small spaces.  Corn needs a little more space and we will be looking for people with more room to grow out the corn.  Anyone with a plot 10 feet by 10 feet or larger can grow enough corn to ensure good pollination.

The goal of this project is to evaluate different varieties and find the ones that perform best in our area.  Once they learn which ones perform best, they will focus on increasing the supply of those seeds and sharing them through the seed library and grain guild networks.  There will be a couple of organized seed cleaning days in the fall to clean the seed and prepare for the next season.  To register for this project please take this short survey

To learn more, contact Bill Davison,