University of Illinois Extension is accepting applications to participate in the 2018 Master Gardener Training.   Master Gardeners are volunteers that have gone through an eleven-week horticulture training course led by University of Illinois Extension Educators.  Once training is complete, trainees participate in volunteer work before being designated as “University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners.”  Each county has a variety of volunteer opportunities such as answering home horticulture questions from the public, teaching young children how to garden, conducting public workshops, creating display gardens, working with local organizations, and more.

Master Gardener Training will be held in Rockford at Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden on Thursdays, beginning February 1, 2018. Classes will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every Thursday through April 12.  

Class topics include botany, soils and fertility, trees and shrubs, organic gardening, vegetables, fruits, insect identification and control, turf grass management, annuals & perennials, disease diagnosis and control, pesticide safety, and more.

Applications and registration must be completed before the start of classes along with a $175 registration fee. For more information or to register, visit or call the University of Illinois Extension Office at (815) 986-4357.

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please contact your local Extension office.

Master Gardener Program Seeks Applicants

“Considerations for First Time Cover Crop Adopters” Guidebook for Il Farmers

“Considerations for First Time Cover Crop Adopters” Guidebook is a new resource for Illinois farmers that introduce the most recent research and information on the best management practices for effectively incorporating a cover crop ahead of soybeans. The Guide outlines comprehensive tactics for cover crop use as part of a nutrient management strategy. Research results from planting to termination of cover crops are included.
With funding from the Illinois Nutrient Research & Education Council (NREC), researchers from the University of Illinois, Illinois State University and Purdue University have been studying the various variables involved in a successful cover crop program. Research efforts are supported by Dan Schaefer with Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association (IFCA) through a grant from NREC. This research has been performed at an on-farm, field-scale level and has shown – over multiple years – that a cereal rye cover crop ahead of soybeans has no detrimental impact on the soybean crop, and that the cover crop successfully scavenges nitrogen -- lowering the levels of N in field tiles.

As defined in the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, Illinois has a target of reducing nitrogen (N) losses by 410 million pounds and P losses by 38 million pounds by 2025. Cover crops are identified as an important tool in meeting that target. NREC’s investment in this research helps to support the collaboration across the agricultural industry, environmental groups, and engaged stakeholders.

The guide is available for download from the Illinois NREC website at . Printed copies can be requested by filling out the contact form on the website or emailing .


Buy Direct From the Farm

Prairie Bounty of Illinois, a directory of direct-from-the-farm sellers, farmers’ markets and agritourism businesses, is available online at

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. 

“Consumers are demanding more of the food they purchase.  They want to make that connection with the farmer and know who grew the food on their table,” said Jim Fraley, Manager of the Illinois Specialty Growers Association. 

This directory helps consumers do just that — support local farmers and buy farm-fresh produce and products at farms and farmers markets across the state.  Prairie Bounty has become a great source for retailers as well looking to find growers to provide product for restaurants, grocery stores, and schools, among others.

The directory is regularly 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 Jim Fraley at 309-557-3109 or via e-mail at, or may visit the Illinois Specialty Growers website at for additional instructions on how to register.

Master Gardeners are ready to answer your call 

University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners offer a free service answering garden questions at their Horticulture Help Desk.  The Help Desk is open 1:00-4:00pm, Monday thru Friday throughout the growing season (April – Sept.)

Master Gardeners research topics about insects, trees, shrubs, plants, vegetables, fruits, gardens, lawns, and more.  They provide research-based answers to questions, and take time to find the information you need for your specific circumstance.

The Master Gardeners can be reached by calling 815-544-3710 (Boone) and 815-986-4357 (Winnebago), emailing in your question to  or or by stopping at the office located at 205 Cadillac Court, Suite 3 in Belvidere or 1040 North Second Street in Rockford, IL.  Master Gardener volunteers will ask you diagnostic questions to understand your horticulture situation, then they will call you back after they have done their research.  They do not make house calls. 

Clients are encouraged to email or bring in photos or drop off samples of their troubled plants, trees, or shrubs.  Call for tips on how to collect samples.


The Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism, and Organic Conference (ISCAOC) will be held Jan. 10-12, 2018, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield. The conference, which features nearly 100 speakers and 60 trade show exhibitors, will again host four concurrent preconference workshops, general sessions, and breakout sessions aimed at helping Illinois specialty growers cultivate their operations.

Wednesday, Jan. 10, participants may attend one of the pre-conference workshops, including:  High Tunnels; Social Media and Marketing; Growing and Marketing Pumpkins; and Legal and Labor Issues for Specialty Crop Growers.

A special opportunity for farmers is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 10, as The University of Illinois Extension will conduct a full Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training Workshop. This workshop will satisfy the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule requirement which is mandated for all farms selling more than $500,000 in average annual produce sales. Farms must be in compliance by Jan. 26, 2018; the registration deadline for this event is Dec. 21, 2017.

Thursday, Jan. 11, the convention’s keynote speaker, Simon Huntley, Small Farm Central, will provide insight into ways farmers can focus on their consumers and promote stronger ties to your marketing efforts.

Participants also are invited to attend breakout sessions Thursday, Jan. 11 and Friday, Jan. 12 featuring:

•Agritourism and Marketing
•Organic Foods
•Emerging Issues and Opportunities

Following Thursday’s breakout sessions, the annual banquet will include a keynote speech titled, “What Works on Our Farm,” by Marty and Will Travis, Spence Farm, Fairbury. Their farm is the oldest family farm in Livingston County and was settled in 1830. It is a working small family farm managed today by the seventh and eighth generations.

The 29th annual Apple Cider Contest and 16th annual Hard Cider Contest will again be held in conjunction with the conference, with winners being announced during Thursday evening’s banquet. 

To receive registration materials or to obtain exhibitor information, please contact Charlene Blary at 309-557-2107 or Conference registration will be offered online. A detailed conference agenda, registration, and cider contest information can be viewed at

A block of rooms has been reserved at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at a rate of $98 per night. Please call the hotel directly at 217-529-7777 and ask for the Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism, and Organic Conference room block to make reservations at the conference rate.