SULLIVAN — A group of businesses in the Sullivan area is sponsoring a series of dinners featuring locally grown foods.
The "Farm to Fork" dinner series includes five-course meals on:
— Feb. 28 at the Factory Arts Studio in Sullivan.
— June 13 at the Great Pumpkin Patch southwest of Arthur.
— Sept. 21 on stage at The Little Theatre on the Square in Sullivan.
The meals are made up of foods grown or produced by local farms and prepared by chef Matt Tipton of Chef Tippy's in Sullivan.
Tickets for the first meal are $55 per person. Doors will open at 4:30 p.m. for light appetizers, with the first course served at 5:30 p.m. Seating for the first meal is limited to 60.
For more information, contact the Sullivan Chamber and Economic Development, 728-2684.
Cattle numbers at 60-year low
URBANA — Cattle numbers are the lowest they've been since 1952, and beef-cow numbers are at their lowest point since 1962, according to Purdue University Extension economist Chris Hurt.
The reasons: high feed and forage prices, persistent drought in the southern Plains and last year's widespread Midwestern drought.
"The 2012 drought was the primary driver of the decrease last year as it destroyed pastures and forage supplies and catapulted corn, sorghum and soybean meal prices," Hurt said in a release distributed by the University of Illinois.
The drought was the latest factor in the liquidation of cows that has been accelerating since 2007. The beef-cow herd has dropped by 11 percent in that time.
To turn the herd decline around, it will take more rain, more crop production and more pasture and forage production, Hurt said.
"Larger crop and forage production would increase availability and low- er prices of these critical feedstuffs," he said.
If crop and forage production returns to near normal, the cattle industry could enjoy multiple years of favorable returns and expansion, Hurt said.
But, he added, much of the nation has not yet returned to normal weather conditions.
Free class on wells offered
CHAMPAIGN — Area residents who want to know more about care and maintenance of wells can sign up for a free online class.
The class — offered by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership and the Illinois State Water Survey — includes 10 weekly lessons that are emailed to the student, as well as the chance to take part in monthly webinars.
Among other things, lessons cover:
— How groundwater moves into wells.
— How well water reaches the tap.
— How well water can get contaminated.
— How to maintain wells and pumps.
— How to test well water and fix quality problems.
— What to do in emergencies.
Those interested can get more information at http://www.privatewellclass.org .