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Prairie Bounty of Illinois,
a directory of direct-from-the-farm sellers, farmers markets and agritourism businesses, is available online at www.specialtygrowers.org/prairie-bounty.html.

Provided by the Illinois Farm Bureau® and the Illinois Specialty Growers Association, the directory contains contact information and locations for more than 900 individual growers of fruits, vegetables and herbs throughout Illinois. The directory also provides consumers with farms’ contact information, products available, method of sale, and a complete list of all community farmers markets and agritourism businesses in Illinois, searchable by city, county or zip code.

The directory is constantly updated as growers add their names and markets to the system. Growers interested in adding their names and businesses to Prairie Bounty of Illinois may contact Diane Handley at 309-557-3662 or via e-mail at dhandley@ilfb.org, or may visit the Illinois Specialty Growers website at www.specialtygrowers.org for additional instructions on how to register.

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Plant a pollinator pocket: Create a pollinator-friendly garden

URBANA, Ill. - Just imagine your dining table without the delectable fruits of apples, blueberries, cherries, and peaches or the versatile almond or pumpkin. Flowering plants and their associated pollinators are responsible for an estimated one out of every four mouthfuls of food and beverage. Unfortunately pollinators are in perilous decline, reported a University of Illinois Extension educator.

Pollinators include butterflies, moths, beetles, hummingbirds, bats, flies, and wasps. In North America, 99 percent of pollinators are insects and, of those, most are bees.

“The causes of pollinator decline include a combination of habitat loss, infectious disease, and pesticide misuse; however, the implications ripple through our native areas and crop lands,” said Sandra Mason. “Not only does pollinator decline affect our food production, but pollinators also sustain plant communities by pollinating native plants that provide food, nesting, and shelter for wildlife.

“Yet gardeners can be a positive influence on pollinator populations and diversity if we all do our part to plant pollinator-friendly gardens,” she added. 

A “pollinator-friendly garden is also a people-friendly garden,” as we enjoy many of the same plants, Mason noted. “We just need to add a few elements to provide pollinators with food, water, shelter, and a nice place to raise the ‘kids’,” she said.

Mason provided a few of the basics for a pollinator-friendly garden.

Food for pollinators is generally provided by flower nectar and pollen; however, some pollinators such as butterflies need specific plants such as milkweeds for monarchs to serve as food for caterpillars. To attract particular pollinators, conduct additional research to determine their needs during each of their life stages.

Good pollinator plants include asters, beebalm, native roses, Joe Pye weed, purple coneflower, great blue lobelia, white indigo, lead plant, blazing stars, beard tongue, bellflowers, hollyhocks, monkshood, snapdragons, sunflowers, foxglove, mints, butterfly weed, goldenrod, larkspur, milkweeds, herbs, and many more “bee-utiful” flowers.

When possible choose native plants and not cultivars of native plants. Ornamental changes within cultivated plants may not provide the necessary attributes of a good pollinator flower. Exotic plants such as butterfly bush can provide food for bees and butterflies but cannot sustain the complete life cycle of pollinator insects. In addition, native plants provide food for a greater diversity of pollinators.

Plant masses of similar flowers and design areas to have flowers blooming all season. Aim for a variety of flowers blooming at once. Add easy-to-grow annual seeds such as zinnia and sunflower to existing perennial flower gardens to support flower diversity.

Convert a section of your lawn to a “Pollinator Pocket,” a suggested planting plan developed by Mason, Master Gardeners, and Master Naturalists. Designs are developed for an approximately 5-foot by 5-foot space and include options for a variety of sun, shade and moisture conditions. Check out “Pollinator Pockets” at http://web.extension.illinois.edu//cfiv/pollinators/ for designs and additional pollinator information. 

Allow spaces between masses of flowers to provide shelter from wind and cold. Leave dead stems over the winter to provide shelter and nesting areas.

Limit, or better yet, eliminate pesticide use. Plants tolerate some leaf damage without affecting plant health. Learn to live with some plant damage. Check with your local U of I Extension office for plant problem diagnostics and least toxic options. To find the office nearest you, go to http://web.extension.illinois.edu/state/index.html.

“If you are worried about luring something into your garden that can sting, keep in mind bees are not bullies looking for a fight,” Mason said. “A happy bee is like a gardener in a garden center, focused on each flower.”

 

USDA Provides One-Time Extension of Deadline to Update Base Acres or Yield History for ARC/PLC Programs

According to the press release issued by the USDA Office of Communications, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 “that a one-time extension will be provided to producers for the new safety-net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill, known as Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC). The final day to update yield history or reallocate base acres has been extended one additional month, from Feb. 27, 2015 until March 31, 2015. The final day for farm owners and producers to choose ARC or PLC coverage also remains March 31, 2015.”  For more information, visit your local Farm Service Agency county office.


Key Dates for Farm Programs

USDA announced key dates for farm owners and producers to keep in mind regarding the new 2014 Farm Bill established programs, Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC).  The new programs, designed to help producers better manage risk, usher in one of the most significant reforms to U.S. farm programs in decades.  Farmers may begin visiting their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices in Freeport, IL if they want to update their yield history and/or reallocate base acres, the first step before choosing which new program best serves their risk management needs. Letters sent this summer enabled farm owners and producers to analyze their crop planting history in order to decide whether to keep their base acres or reallocate them according to recent plantings

Dates associated with ARC and PLC that farm owners and producers need to know:

·         Sept. 29, 2014 to Feb. 27, 2015: Land owners may visit their Freeport Farm Service Agency office to update yield history and/or reallocate base acres.  (Must bring completed PLC Yield worksheet to the meeting.)

·         Nov. 17, 2014 to March 31, 2015: Producers make a one-time election of either ARC or PLC for the 2014 through 2018 crop years.

·         Mid-April 2015 through summer 2015: Producers sign contracts for 2014 and 2015 crop years.

·         October 2015: Payments for 2014 crop year, if needed.  

USDA helped create online tools to assist in the decision process, allowing farm owners and producers to enter information about their operation and see projections that show what ARC and/or PLC will mean for them under possible future scenarios.  The new tools are now available at www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc.    Farm owners and producers can access the online resources from the convenience of their home computer or mobile device at any time.

Additional decision assistance is available at farmdoc: http://farmbilltoolbox.farmdoc.illinois.edu/ and Agriculture Policy Analysis System (APAS): http://fsa.usapas.com/

 








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