Top of the Morning, April 23, 2019

The kids from JENNIFER WHERLEY's agriculture class at Mahomet-Seymour High School were back in our building last week, producing radio commercials to spread the word about the school's one-of-a-kind Ag Supply store.

The ads will air Friday through May 3 on WDWS 1400-AM and WHMS 97.5-FM. They're definitely worth a listen.

Demand grows for marijuana-cultivation courses

CHICAGO (AP) — More colleges are beginning to offer classes in growing and handling marijuana as demand for such skills from growers and dispensaries increases.

Colleges and universities in Illinois are noticing the benefits of preparing students for the industry but that there are restrictions on how fast the schools can offer new programming, the Chicago Tribune reported.

St. Matthew Lutheran's Sola Gratia Farm is sowing the seeds of grace

Between a church, day care center, a retirement home and a large grocery store, Sola Gratia grows 125 varieties of more than 50 different crops — all following organic methods.

Sola Gratia Farm is at 2200 S. Philo Road in Urbana, a ministry of St. Matthew Lutheran Church.

Top of the Morning, April 15, 2019

News-Gazette Media reporter Ben Zigterman does much more than just cover local businesses. He's also our go-to source when it comes to reporting on agriculture in East Central Illinois.

Good thing the city slicker — Zigterman grew up in the western Chicago suburbs and attended the University of Chicago — is a quick learner.

Food historian has many kernels of knowledge on corn's role in history

URBANA — Usually, when food historian Cynthia Clampitt gives her talk about the history of corn, she has to explain why.

Not so at last week's lecture at the University of Illinois, whose researchers started the conversation around hybridization of corn, developed "super sweet" corn and started the Morrow Plots, the oldest experimental crop field in the country.

Sadorus farm takes second place in National Corn Yield Contest

SADORUS — Last year, the average corn farm in the U.S. produced a yield of 176 bushels an acre.

Jerry Reinhart nearly doubled that on his farm near Sadorus, reaching 345.63 bushels per acre on a 2-acre section.

With a yield that high, Reinhart and his son Keith placed second in one of the National Corn Yield Contest categories, AA non-irrigated.

Just Askin' | Midwestern floods

Q: How have the recent Midwestern floods affected area farmers?

A: Not much, for several reasons, National Weather Service Meteorologist Chris Geelhart said.

"The rivers in your part of the state really don't connect to the Mississippi until a lot further down," he said.

Q&A with new Illinois ag director: ‘I have the ability to talk the language’

When he was in the Illinois Senate, John Sullivan was the only farmer there and became the de facto spokesman for ag.

Now he's Gov. J.B. Pritzker's new director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, overseeing everything from meat inspections to medical cannabis.

Bad weather last fall left farmers with lots to do ahead of spring

With lousy weather last fall, local farmers are expecting a busy spring.

"With the cold weather and rains last fall, a lot of the prep work that we normally do didn't get done," said Steve Stierwalt, who farms near Sadorus. "Farmers are going to be a little more anxious to get to the fields to catch up."

UI earns $5 million federal grant to expand project combining ag, tech

URBANA — Computer scientists and plant biologists combined their talents to create an elaborate computer model showing how soybean plants respond to higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.