Value and added are two important words to any farming entrepreneur. Adding value to a product grown on a farm should at least add revenue to the operation. There is a wide array of value-added products being produced in the Peoria area.
Peoria and Pekin are fortunate to have value-added ethanol processing facilities. Instead of shipping the raw kernels of corn across the country or overseas, many kernels, harvested from 300,000 thousand acres of corn in the tri-county area, are shipped to local processors where our local employment force converts those kernels to a more valuable product, ethanol.
Some farmers are growing soybeans that have not been genetically modified, which basically means the soybean will not tolerate herbicide. A slightly higher price is paid to the farmer for growing these soybeans. Often times risk and reward are associated with each other, so with that higher price comes a demand for more intensive management and a risk of harvesting lower yields.
There are a few farmers in the area that produce vegetables to sell at farmers markets or market their produce directly from the field. You can find these garden-fresh products during the summer months at places such as the MetroCentre in Peoria and the farmers market along the Peoria riverfront. Some farmers will have certified, organic produce to meet the demand of consumers.
Soybean candles are another valued-added product. In fact, several entrepreneurs in Illinois and at least one in Peoria County (Soy Candles by Sharon in Glasford), pour the soybean wax into the jars, add scents and colors and market their own labeled product.
A few years ago a farm operation near Bartonville began a business named LHF Compost. This farm is mixing yard waste, pumpkin waste and cow manure from their dairy operation and composting the product to produce a high-quality soil that is rich in organic matter and nutrients. The product is called Better Earth and is available at several area retailers.
There are families in Peoria County that are raising sheep and using the wool to make socks, lap robes, comforters and other products made from the natural product. Lanolin, the oil in wool, can also be washed out and used in products such as soaps.
We have at least one vineyard and winery in Peoria County. Kickapoo Creek Winery is just west of the Farm Bureau Park at the Interstate 74 Kickapoo exit. In the last decade, vineyards and wineries have sprouted up all over Illinois. The last count was at 450 grape growers and 68 wineries. This industry has caught on in Illinois in large part due to extensive research in producing a grape that would withstand the cold Illinois climate and yet produce a quality wine. El Paso, Toulon and Mackinaw are home to additional vineyards in the surrounding area.
This is only touching the surface of value-added products being marketed in our area. The ideas are endless. IBI