A Publication of WTVP

Rise and Shine (It’s Farm & Garden time!)

by Mike Bailey |
Planting Sunset

Welcome back to Peoria Magazine’s Farm & Garden edition.

This is one of my favorite issues, as I’m something of a frustrated farmer wannabe. My mom’s side of the family has roots in the fields of western Illinois, so it’s blended into my DNA. And, of course, my wife and I already have tomato, zucchini, cucumber, onions, herb and even a few pumpkin plants in the ground that will produce far more fruit than we can ever consume. Y’all are welcome to it, if the rabbits don’t get to the heavenly playground I’ve provided for them first.

I do have another confession — this has become that kind of space — as I violated the sacred planting rule this year of “never before Mother’s Day.” Global warming is moving up the planting season, so I like to think of it as just being on top of things, staying ahead of the curve. Never mess with Mother Nature, but — fingers crossed, eyes closed — I’m confident we’ll be OK come harvest.

Meanwhile, I also dabble in landscape architecture, for better or worse, forever changing this or that as I putter around the yard. Truth is, I just like to be outside, which is why I took a largely inside job as a career. In any case, it takes a lot of patience — which I don’t have — to be a gardener, and a willingness to experiment, which I do own.

So yes, I’m just a bundle of contradictions, doc. Can you prescribe something for that?

There’s an idealized, even romantic notion of agriculture that seems stubbornly stuck in the public imagination — the Norman Rockwell/Grant Wood version of farm life, if you will. We may no longer think of farmers in their overalls walking behind their horses and plows, milking their cows by hand and plucking their eggs from underneath squawking chickens every morning, but it seems that some still fancy living off the land as something of a low-tech, kickback lifestyle. Not the case.

Oh, we do indulge in some nostalgia in this June issue, with stories on Eureka farmer Ron Underwood’s vintage collection of Farmall tractors and on the elaborate Corn Palace of early 20th century Peoria. But, in fact, farming today is a highly sophisticated operation, the place where science meets the soil between the use of drone and GPS technologies, precision agriculture practices, in-ground moisture, temperature and chemical sensors, and robotics. All of those advancements contribute to higher yields, less waste, greater food affordability and farmer profit, reduced environmental and ecological impact — less use of water, fertilizer, pesticides — and enhanced worker safety.

We explore all of that between stories about Brazilian entrepreneur Alexandre Chequim moving his DigiFarmz headquarters to Peoria, teen wunderkind Khushi Shah and her novel irrigation system, and Precision Planting’s meteoric growth and new facility in Morton.

We take you on a tour of the Heart of Illinois Wine Trail. (Yes, you can grow grapes in the cold-winter Midwest and turn them into some fine-tasting vino. Take that, California!) We venture up to Princeton’s Hornbaker Gardens, one of my favorite places in all the world.

Meanwhile, we introduce you to TADA and CEO Seshadri Guha’s work on getting the fat out of industrial supply chains, and — attention, farmers — how that might affect global climate change. We unveil a new section, Whatever Happened To …?, starting with the 1973 Peoria City Council. We bring a bit of Yellowstone to Peoria.

So, read Peoria Magazine, then go out and get your hands dirty. Enjoy.

Mike Bailey

Mike Bailey

is editor in chief of Peoria Magazine [email protected]