May 23, 2013
Get your Partners fix in between issues by tuning in to “Town & Country Partners” on your radio.
The monthly eight-minute segment, which launched in March, airs during the “RFD Today” radio show. It features discussion on the farms, foods and finds featured in the magazine, such as an interview about the featured travel destination and a review of one of the seasonal recipes.
Listeners can hear “Town & Country Partners” on the fourth Friday of the month between 9:30 and 10 a.m. The next segment airs June 14 from 9:41-9:50 and features Dixon and the Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket giveaway.
Residents in 16 communities can listen to the show on their local RFD Radio Network affiliates, listed below.
- WKRO-AM 1490 Cairo – Alexander County
- WBYS-AM 1560 Canton – Fulton County
- WCAZ-AM 990 Carthage – Hancock County
- RJM-AM 1270 Charleston – Coles County
- WITY-AM 980 Danville – Vermillion County
- WNOI-FM 103.9 Flora – Clay County
- WEBQ-AM 1240 Harrisburg – Saline County
- WQQW-AM 1510 Highland – Madison County
- WHPO-FM 100.9 Hoopeston – Vermillion County
- WJBM-AM 1480 Jerseyville – Jersey County
- WKEI-AM 1450/104.3 Kewanee – Henry County
- WRAM-AM 1330 Monmouth – Warren County
- WVLN-AM 740 Olney – Richland County
- WBBA-FM 97.5 Pittsfield – Pike County
- WRHL-AM 1060 Rochelle – Ogle County
- WHCO-AM 1230 Sparta – Randolph County
You can also hear “RFD Today” on the Internet:
- Go to www.FarmWeekNow.com
- Click on “Radio”
- See the streaming and podcast menu on the lower lefthand side of your screen. Scroll down to the “RFD Today” episode on March 15. (The “Town & Country Partners” segment begins at 34 minutes.)
May 20, 2013
Juicy, ripe melons are a staple of summer. Whether you’re craving a pretty pink watermelon or refreshing cantaloupe, Illinois produces both types. Check out fun and interesting facts on melons below:
- Melons grow well in the sandy soil of the Illinois River Valley.
- Illinois River Valley melons begin to ripen in late June or early July, but peak season is mid-August through September.
- U.S. fresh market watermelon production totaled $520 million in 2012, followed by $325 million in cantaloupe production and almost $70 million for honeydew melons.
- Cantaloupe or muskmelon? People use these terms interchangeably, but technically muskmelons encompass more than just the cantaloupe variety of melons. In other words, all cantaloupes are muskmelons, but not all muskmelons are cantaloupes.
- Farmers in Illinois and Indiana combined grow more than 7,500 acres of watermelons.
- Americans eat more watermelon than any other melon variety.
- In 2009, Congress declared July National Watermelon Month.
- All melons contain high amounts of vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps boost your immune system.
Do all these melon facts make you crave this juicy summer fruit? Here are a few of our favorite melon recipes for honeydew, watermelon and cantaloupe.
Watermelon and Raspberry Sorbet
Three-Melon Fruit Salad with Honey-Lime-Mint Dressing
Watermelon Tomato Salad with Feta Cheese
Chilled Melon Soup
Watermelon Agua Fresca
Sources: Illiana Watermelon Association, National Agriculture Statistics Service
May 20, 2013
Aug. 6-7, 2013 at Lake Forest
For more than 90 years, Lake Forest American Legion Post 264 has presented Lake Forest Days in the community located about 30 minutes north of Chicago.
The festival opens on Tuesday from 6 to 11 p.m for family night, and the annual summer event officially kicks off with a parade on Wednesday morning, followed by a carnival in West Park. Guests can enjoy rides and games, along with fair food such as hamburgers, hot dogs and roasted corn. A raffle also gives lucky festival-goers the chance to win cash prizes.
For more information, visit post264.org or call (847) 234-9870 or (224) 715-3924.
May 20, 2013
Have a craving for pizza? Head to Al & Leda’s Pizzeria in the Northwestern Illinois town of Dixon, which has more than 50 years of spinning dough under its belt.
Owner Leda Bartolomei opened the Italian restaurant with her husband, Al, in 1960. Al died in 1988, but at 80 years old, Leda continues to work at the pizzeria four days a week with the help of her daughters, Linda Lanis and Bea Brown.
“Mom is friends with a lot of our customers because she’s been serving them for so many years,” Brown says. “We’ve been here so long; we’re almost like a landmark in Dixon.”
The simple brick building on West Everett Street may appear a little rough around the edges, but what the building lacks in style, the restaurant makes up for in flavor and creativity.
For example, take the restaurant’s Spaghetti Pizza. Leda Bartolomei created the signature item, a crispy-yet-chewy crust smothered in spaghetti noodles, marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese.
“My mom was the first person in this area to start serving spaghetti pizza,” Brown says. “It’s very filling.”
A trio of other unusual menu items includes BBQ Cheeseburger Pizza, Chicken Alfredo Pizza and the BLT Pizza, which has mozzarella cheese and bacon baked on the crust, lettuce and tomato toppings and comes with a side of mayo.
However, the restaurant’s offerings go well beyond pizza. Customers keep coming back for the pizzeria’s torpedoes and Italian cheeseburgers, Brown says.
“The torpedoes are long sandwiches layered with beef, pepperoni, salami, ham, cheese, pickles, onions, peppers and spaghetti sauce,” she explains. “And our Italian cheeseburgers are oven-baked and served on rectangle-shaped Italian bread.”
A huge variety of sandwiches and pasta dishes rounds out the menu, including lasagna, tortellini, ravioli, sausage burgers, ham and cheese sandwiches, and meatball and Italian beef sandwiches. Those looking to feed a crowd often opt for the Bucket of Spaghetti, which consists of four quarts of spaghetti, meatballs and two loaves of homemade bread for around $18.
“We’re a really casual place that’s great for families,” Brown says. “I’ve enjoyed working here because it’s nice to be around family members, and we’ve enjoyed being able to have the restaurant survive so many years.”
If You Go …
Al & Leda’s Pizzeria
Location: 325 West Everett St. in Dixon
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Sunday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Phone: (815) 284-3932
May 20, 2013
Enjoy the simple pleasure of fresh-from-the-bush raspberries, blackberries and blueberries this summer at You Pick Berries in Kingston.
The farm, located about 70 miles west of Chicago near Rockford, invites visitors to fill their baskets with as many berries as they can pick, based on availability. Blueberries will be in limited supply, due in part to last year’s drought.
The cash-only operation, open from 8 a.m. till sunset during harvest season, runs on a self-serve/honor system. Owner Christine Ewald sells the berries at a flat rate of $3 per pint.
For product availability, visit upberries.com.
May 20, 2013
After a coal processing facility in Atkinson closed in 1964, the land sat vacant for more than four decades. Now, Gob Hill in Northwestern Illinois has been developed into an ATV and dirt bike paradise.
Atkinson Motorsports Park bills itself as an ATV lover’s dream, full of trails, mud bogs and climbs. Riders can head to the top of the hill amid more than 200 acres dotted with lakes, hills and valleys, and experience open and unrestricted riding. The park features a stadium-style super-cross track, a motocross track and a kids-only riding area. A perimeter road with gorgeous scenery provides an option for more conservative riders, and the park welcomes overnighters with a campground for RVs and tents.
Learn more about the park at gobhill.com or by calling (309) 936-1200.
May 20, 2013
Though urban agriculture has sprouted as a popular trend in recent years, tracking its growth has proven difficult.
Researchers at the University of Illinois have broken through this challenge, developing a methodology used to quantify urban agriculture in Chicago by using a surprising tool: Google Earth.
The researchers used the geographical information program to examine urban gardening spots in the Windy City. They were able to narrow down which gardens actually produced food through the program-documented sites. The final estimate, published in October 2012, revealed 4,648 urban agriculture sites, with a production area of 264,181 square meters (2.85 million square feet).
The findings also show that garden concentration varied by neighborhoods, and the crops grown varied depending on the cultural groups in that area. Ultimately, the study suggested that both backyard gardens and vacant lot gardens contribute to Chicago’s total food production.
For more information on the study, visit sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016920461200237x.
May 20, 2013
If you haven’t spent a weekend in Dixon, consider adding it to your list of places to visit in 2013. Located in Northwestern Illinois along the Rock River, Dixon (population 16,000) is the seat of Lee County and the hometown of former President Ronald Reagan.
Known as the Jewel of the Sauk Valley, Dixon has a thriving Main Street organization working to revitalize its historic downtown. Established in 1830, Dixon has garnered the titles of official Petunia Capital of Illinois, as well as the Catfish Capital of Illinois, thanks to the Rock River’s reputation for great-tasting catfish.
Stop and Smell the Petunias
During the summer months, the streets of Dixon greet visitors with 30,000 pink petunias, planted each year by more than 200 volunteers. Every July, the Dixon Petunia Festival brings scores of tourists to the city for a week of concerts, competitions, pancake breakfasts, games, food vendors, a parade, carnival rides, a kids’ fishing derby and a 5K run/walk. Visitors can enter the festival grounds for free, though various activities have admission fees. The 2013 Dixon Petunia Festival takes place July 1-7.
Make sure to stop in the Dixon Welcome Center downtown for information on local historic sites and attractions, and visit the gift shop to pick up a bottle of Petunia Wine. An interactive exhibit also details the history of the Lincoln Highway, which runs through Dixon.
Love the outdoors? Dixon claims more parks per capita than any other city in the Midwest. Spend an afternoon at Lowell Park, a 200-acre picturesque green space with hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, a playground, ball diamond, boat ramps and the Lowell Park Nature Center, with exhibits on native plants, live animals and birds of prey.
Visit the blacksmith shop where John Deere developed his original self-scouring plow in 1837 at the John Deere Home & Historic Site in Grand Detour, just outside of Dixon.
Former President Ronald Reagan grew up in Dixon, and his childhood home on Hennepin Avenue gives visitors a peek at how he and his family lived in the 1920s. Take a guided tour of the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home & Visitors Center to discover little-known facts about Reagan, including how he worked as a lifeguard at Lowell Park and saved 77 lives from the Rock River.
Find even more interesting details about Dixon at the Dixon Historic Center, located in a former grade school attended by Reagan. It includes memorabilia from Reagan’s childhood, radio and movie career, presidency and personal life.
Dixon’s Victory Memorial Arch
You can’t miss Dixon’s Victory Memorial Arch upon entering the city. Located on Galena Avenue between Second and Third Streets, the arch was built in 1919 over the Lincoln Highway to celebrate the homecoming of soldiers from World War I. Though the town has rebuilt and moved it slightly over the years to accommodate widening of the street, the arch continues to greet travelers as it has for nearly a century. In 2009, history repeated itself as the Dixon Arch welcomed 85 soldiers home from deployment in Afghanistan.
Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home
Lowell Park & Nature Center
Dixon Petunia Festival
The Crawford House Inn
John Deere Home & Historic Site
Midway Drive-In Theater
Ronald Reagan Trail
The Next Picture Show Fine Arts Center
Plum Hollow Recreation Center
Lee County Courthouse
10 Places to Eat in Dixon
Alley Loop Saloon & Deli
Arthur’s Garden Deli
Basil Tree Ristorante
Galena Steak House
Spurgeon’s Bay Bar & Grill
Touch of Thai
May 20, 2013
After our wedding ceremony, we partied in the farm shop.
It was an easy reception site to book, but a near nightmare to prepare. We packed the place with more than 400 relatives and friends before the wrenches and arc welder moved back in. Guests enjoyed pulled pork barbecue sandwiches. They drank Pepsi from classic glass bottles chilled on ice in a livestock water tank. Kerosene lamps illuminated the tables.
My family remodeled the shop in the weeks (and days) before the wedding. Minutes after my Dad and a neighbor prepared the electrical outlets, we plugged in white lights. But the most exciting part was that Dad’s shop earned a concrete floor that summer – a big deal on the farm, where soil, gravel and grass dominate.
Fond memories flow from my family’s farm shops, such as fluid from a broken hydraulic line.
Certainly our wedding marked a major milestone in farm shop history. As a kid, I fetched tools for Dad and Grandpa in a farm shop. Learned to wind an unruly air hose. Developed a preference for country music from the ever-playing radio. Faced the startling air compressor. And solidified my inclination for self-sufficiency.
Yet the space provides more than memories and experiences. The farm shop remains one of our farm’s nerve centers, just as it was for earlier generations in my family.
In that shop, planters prepare for planting. Equipment receives general maintenance. Tractors undergo overhauls. To-do lists form. And farm partners and employees communicate. The parcel driver often drops packages at the shop door. Even the barn cats want to hang out there.
Well-equipped farm shops reduce costly downtime. Farm magazines highlight must-have shop tools like home magazines offer decorating ideas. So shop items surface on the Christmas lists of 80 percent of the men in my farming family.
A lifetime’s accumulation of wrenches and chains hang small to large. Nuts and bolts await use, sorted by size. Cordless drills and air impact wrenches make Grandpa’s collection of antique tools appear even more antiquated. So do battery-powered grease guns.
My family’s farm shop contains a wish list of more modern conveniences. But the shop can fit a headless combine with the grain tank extension folded down. (The head of a combine is the apparatus at the front of a combine that gathers the grain.) That’s opposite of my childhood, when most equipment outgrew the shop’s ceiling clearance and door widths at Grandpa’s farm. As a kid, I watched tractors and planters take their turns for maintenance in the barnyard space just outside his south shop door. My kids grab long-handled magnets and still find rusty nuts and bolts in that gravel.
Our farm’s other nerve center is the farmhouse office. Today, I know farmers who put their offices in their shops. They may add bathrooms and kitchenettes. In some, heated floors warm energy-efficient buildings. Taller ceilings and larger doors can make modern, high-horsepower tractors look small. Advancements improve metal fabrication and lubricant storage. And some put that deafening air compressor in a room of its own.
Sounds like a good place for a party.
May 20, 2013
June 22-23, 2013 in Galesburg
All aboard for Galesburg Railroad Days!
The presence of exceptional rail facilities in this Western Illinois town has greatly influenced its development as a commercial and industrial center for the state. The 36th annual event honors the city’s railroad heritage with a carnival, exhibits, a street fair, railroad tours, hobby train show and more.
Enjoy more than 40 events, mostly free, at this two-day celebration.
For more information, visit galesburgrailroaddays.org or call (309) 343-2485.
May 20, 2013
The U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) selected Katie Pratt of Dixon as one of just four winners nationwide to represent the Faces of Farming & Ranching program. Chosen from a pool of more than 100 farmer applicants from across the country, Pratt has been sharing her stories and experiences on a national stage.
So far, she has appeared on national television with Danny Boome of Food Network’s “Rescue Chef” to help decode food terms.
“I am excited to help consumers demystify some of today’s confusing food terms,” Pratt says. “I hope to show viewers that knowing more about how your food is grown and raised – whether it’s organic, local, conventionally raised, etc. – can help you better understand how to make healthy choices based on your own preferences.”
Pratt and her husband, Andy, grow corn and soybeans on a seventh-generation farm. (Related: Grain Storage Gains Momentum)
The Pratts welcome tour groups to their farm, and Katie serves as the Lee County Agriculture in the Classroom coordinator. She has also volunteered as a host and blogger spokeswoman for Illinois Farm Families and participated in USFRA Food Dialogues panel discussions designed to answer Americans’ questions about food and farming. The next food dialogue will take place June 19 at Kendall College in Chicago and will focus on information consumers look for when purchasing food.
For more about the program, visit fooddialogues.com/faces-of-farming-and-ranching.
May 20, 2013
July 19-21, 2013 in Altamont
Threshing is the process of separating the grain from a harvested plant. Each year, the Thresherman’s Association in Altamont holds an annual show to teach people about this farming method that uses old-fashioned machinery.
Held at the Effingham County Fairgrounds in Central Illinois, this unique small town event features an FFA petting zoo, lawn mower races, a model railroading show, a bluegrass show, draft horse pull and much more.
For more information, visit millroadthresherman.org.
May 20, 2013
Famous fried chicken. Macaroni and cheese. Fresh, homemade soups. Is your mouth watering yet? Well, you’re in luck!
We’ve partnered with the folks at Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket to give a $25 gift certificate to not one but four lucky Illinois Farm Bureau members.
Enter below by leaving a comment letting us know what you’d order at this Route 66 landmark. You can get bonus entries by liking us on Facebook, tweeting about the contest, liking the Chicken Basket on Facebook and sharing this post. (Please read the official rules for additional details.)
Winners will be announced at the end of the month. The contest begins June 1. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
May 20, 2013
Almost all of us make gifts from the heart – charitable donations. Generosity and benefitting a church or charity serve as primary motivations for making charitable donations of property or money. However, you can also receive potential federal income tax savings by making such gifts.
Most charitable giving, such as donations by check to your church or alma mater, is straightforward and easy to document for your tax records. However, some types of giving are a little more complex, and you may need more information about the gift’s tax consequences before you complete your donation. IRS Publication 526 on Charitable Contributions provides a wealth of information.
COUNTRY Financial does not give tax or legal advice. You should consult your tax adviser when planning and making your gifts from the heart.
Three Conditions for Deductibility
In order for your gift to be tax deductible, you must meet some basic requirements. First, the donation must be made to a charity that has 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization status or a religious organization. Most charities have information on their websites indicating whether they have tax-exempt status, or you can simply ask them.
Second, the donation must actually be a completed gift of property or cash. A pledge to pay is not a completed gift and, therefore, not tax-deductible.
Finally, you must be able to itemize your deductions in order to deduct charitable contributions. Generally, the deduction limitations are 50 percent of your adjusted gross income for cash contributions; 30 percent of your adjusted gross income for property contributions; and 20 percent of your adjusted gross income for appreciated capital gain assets, such as stock or real property.
Keep Good Records
You must be able to substantiate your gift to deduct it. The record of your gift should include the name of the charity, the date of the contribution and the amount of the contribution. Keep your bank or credit card statements if your gift was made using your debit or credit card.
Many charities and churches will provide donors with written acknowledgement of their gifts. Sometimes these letters come in January in preparation for tax-filing time. You should keep all letters for your records.
Consider Creative Ways to Give
You don’t need to make all of your gifts in cash. You can also donate gently used clothing and other useful household items to certain charities that have a need for these items. Just make sure you get a receipt for each item for your records. Also, you must attach IRS Form 8283 if your total noncash contributions exceed $500.
You may also donate real property, stocks, bonds and other types of investments, as well as life insurance policies on your own life. However, some of these types of property may have a capital gain or loss, so you should consult your tax adviser prior to making such a gift. Also, seniors over age 70 ½ have the opportunity to direct a tax-free distribution up to $100,000 from their individual retirement accounts to a public charity through the end of 2013.
More complex ways to give exist for high net-worth individuals, including qualified conservation easements, split interest trusts and charitable gift annuities. However, these techniques are complex and require detailed planning with an attorney or accountant.