BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Illinois State Fair visitors will have the unique opportunity to get to know the people who grow their food during Meet the Farmer sessions taking place each day of the fair.
Starting Friday, Aug. 13, farmers from across the state will visit the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s (IDOA) booth to share their stories. Presentations will take place at 12:30 p.m. and highlight the diversity of Illinois agriculture.
“From corn and soybeans to livestock and value-added products like jellies and jams, there is a wide variety of food grown right here in our state,” said Illinois Farm Bureau Associate Director of Food Systems Development Raghela Scavuzzo.
“We’re excited for our farmers to not only talk about their involvement in agriculture, but also for them to answer questions from visitors who are wondering where their food comes from and want to know how it’s grown,” Scavuzzo said.
The lineup of farms and organizations scheduled to present within the IDOA tent include:
- Friday, Aug. 13 – Rolling Lawns Farm
- Farm owner and operator Michael Turley is proud to continue his family’s commitment to producing quality milk at Rolling Lawns Farm, located 45 miles east of St. Louis in Greenville. The Bond County farm has been cared for by four generations and expanded into new markets along the way. Today, Rolling Lawns Farm bottles and sells milk at retail locations from Springfield to Carbondale and in the greater St. Louis area. The farm also recently debuted ice cream at The Milk House in Greenville.
- Saturday, Aug. 14 – Jill’s Sweet Potatoes
- Jill Uken’s entrepreneurial spirit and interest in growing sweet potatoes led her to start her own business in the Mahomet area. While the 16-year-old Champaign County farmer’s efforts originally stemmed from a project for her high school FFA program nearly a year and a half ago, Jill’s Sweet Potatoes has taken root and now includes more than 500 sweet potato plants grown on less than one acre.
- Sunday, Aug. 15 – Growing Healthy Veterans
- Since 2016, Growing Healthy Veterans (GHV) has helped veterans heal from the traumas of war through horticulture therapy. Participants have opportunities to learn about sustainable growing practices, which enhance their mental and physical health, along with their overall wellness. Veterans also have the chance to explore different ag careers while building connections within their communities.
- Monday, Aug. 16 – McNitt Growers
- Andy McNitt owns and operates the Jackson County greenhouse. In addition to selling strawberry plugs to farms across the country, he also enjoys welcoming customers to their retail location where visitors can purchase a variety of spring bedding plants and flowers from April to May.
- Tuesday, Aug. 17 – Knob Hill Livestock
- Third-generation farmers, Landon and Jamie Kirby along with Landon’s sister and brother-in-law, Natasha and Adam Bacon, raise 70 Hampshire ewes on the family farm in Menard County. Knob Hill Livestock specializes in locally raised, all-natural farm fresh lamb.
- Wednesday, Aug. 18 – Heap’s Giant Pumpkin Farm
- Known for their signature giant pumpkins, Heap’s Giant Pumpkin Farm in Minooka (Kendall County) is open to visitors for fall family fun each year. Since 2001, Kaylee and Kevin Heap have continued to grow their operation into an agritourism destination.
- Thursday, Aug. 19 – Joy Lane Produce
- Joy Lane Produce is a hydroponic greenhouse in West Salem, Illinois. The farm is owned and operated by Heather and Andrew Spray. The couple specializes in growing different varieties of lettuce and leafy greens, which are grown year-round.
- Friday, Aug. 20 – Coop Family Farm
- Doug Coop found his way back to the family farm after transitioning from active duty to the U.S. Army reserves in 2009. While his role was initially a supportive one on the farm, he has since retired from the Army and transitioned to overseeing the family’s corn and soybean operation in Morgan County.
- Saturday, Aug. 21 – Raines Honey Farm
- Phillip and Sharon Raines have raised bees on their family farm near Davis for the past twenty years. In addition to caring for more than 350 hives, the pair also collects 350 to 499 gallons of honey from their bees and travels with them to California for almond pollination and parts of northern Illinois for orchard pollination each year. They also make and sell beeswax products, including candles, soap, lotion and lip balm.
Fairgoers can also enjoy refreshing snacks, such as watermelon, corn and apple cider slushies, while listening to the Meet the Farmer presentations. The Illinois Specialty Growers Association (ISGA) will be selling these and other Illinois-grown foods inside the IDOA tent.
“Food is something that connects all of us,” said Scavuzzo, who also serves as the executive director for the ISGA. “Whether you grew up in a rural or urban community, I invite you to stop by and listen to the unique stories of these Illinois farmers.”
— Illinois Farm Bureau
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