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RIDGE FARM – Organizers have high hopes for turning around an annual festival in Ridge Farm.
"We're changing a lot," said committee member Wanda Richardson, who is in charge of vendors. "I've sent out e-mails and letters to get food and arts and crafts vendors, but we'll take everything from Tupperware to flea market. We want to fill up the park."
SPRINGFIELD – In response to this year's drought and the ever-increasing residential and commercial demand for fresh water, Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Monday ordered a statewide water supply study that will likely focus first on East Central Illinois.
"It is critical for Illinois to get ahead of the curve when it comes to water supply planning," Blagojevich stated in a written release. "Last summer's drought demonstrated to us that careful management of our water must be a priority so we always have enough supply for people to drink and use, for our industries like agriculture, and for our fish and wildlife habitats."
When the trees are bare and the fields down to corn stubble, you can see a lot during the winter in East Central Illinois.
What was otherwise hidden in ravines, fields or wooded groves during the spring and summer is often more visible now: a rusted bus circa 1970; a vintage stove turned on its side; an oil drum; a pile of mattresses.
Corn is the new king when it comes to heating stoves.
It appears that every manufacturer of corn-fueled stoves in the United States and Canada is facing a backlog of orders because of the huge demand. Both manufacturers and dealers seem to have been caught by surprise by the wave of consumer interest.
Dateline: Pesotum, 1966.
"Oil Strike Believed to be Producer" read a headline in The News-Gazette. A few months later: "S. Champaign, N. Douglas County Oil Boom Predicted."
Well, Champaign is no Houston. The boom never came.
But the prospectors are back.
In China, space is tight.
So if a farm can't expand outward by buying more open land, then why not build upward?
RANTOUL – The past year wasn't good for Rantoul residents seeking jobs, selling homes or working in retail stores.
But 2005 proved to be a boom year for Rantoul area farmers.
Argentine ants slipped into the country around 1891 at New Orleans, maybe in the soil of ship ballast or on a load of coffee or sugar cane, and quickly spread through the U.S. Southwest and California.
Today, they're what University of Illinois Professor Andy Suarez describes as a huge agricultural problem, although you don't hear as much about them as their relative the fire ant, another foreign invader.
Giant grasses that, when burned, help fuel power plants. Vitamin-rich grain, created during ethanol production, that nourishes livestock. Animal identification systems that one day could help track the spread of animal diseases.
Through the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research (or C-FAR), state money has funded such research in recent years.
CHAMPAIGN – A Skokie developer and University of Illinois alumnus will move and renovate a historic farmhouse on campus.
Terraco Inc., which won a state award last year for preserving a historic train station in Skokie, plans to move the former poultry manager's house to a lot in Urbana and possibly rent it to UI students.