Spring is here… the season of rebirth, renewal and rejuvenation. It is a time of new beginnings, and after the last year of COVID, that is something from which all of us will benefit. In that spirit, we thought a focus on local agriculture—the many farm-fresh bounties of our rich Midwestern soil—would make for a fun and timely edition.
All winter long, Illinois farmers have been anxiously awaiting planting season, busily preparing for that first pass in the fields. Slow-moving farm equipment will soon be sharing space on our roadways as they gear up to tend another cycle of life.
Even as central Illinois is surrounded by millions of acres of farmland, we often fail to appreciate the year-long practices and extraordinarily hard work of the growers who bring food to our plates. I am continually amazed at their wide-ranging skillset: the specialized knowledge of plant life and chemicals, the technical and mechanical know-how, the marketing and merchandising wizardry—not to mention the gut instincts and practical experience that cannot be taught in a classroom.
Farming is not so much a job, as a way of life. It encompasses work in plant genetics and physiology, meteorology and soil science. It involves not just biology and chemistry, but economics, ecology and technology. And with so many associated variables, no two days are ever the same.
As the farm-to-table movement continues to grow, it connects local restaurants and specialty shops to the hundreds of farms, from large to small, that dot our region. Today’s consumers are much better educated about how their food and lifestyle choices affect their health, and this issue is filled with stories of entrepreneurs who have started new businesses or adjusted their career paths as a result—alongside families who have been tending the land for generations.
More women are coming into agriculture, and the younger generation is discovering fulfillment in rural living and farming careers. This diversification bodes well for the future. Even the pandemic—as challenging as it has been—has opened the door to new opportunities. As the buds of spring burst forth with new life and we look forward to being outdoors once again, let us not forget the farmers toiling in the fields for our collective benefit. Spring is here, and it’s quite literally a breath of fresh air! PM