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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2009

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DECATUR, ILLINOIS

From farm to market Association. Jacket: It might not look like It’s also in food prodcorn, but Tate & Lyle is workucts such as oil, maring with DuPont to garine, salad dressing, develop a new chocolate and flour. line of cornBut take a look based material around where you to replace live. Soybeans are petroleumToothpaste: The use of corn used in soap, based prodand soy-based products doesn’t stop in the dining shampoo, paint, ucts. room. Corn products are found after meals for such crayons and ink. tasks as brushing our teeth. On the cover of this section, a Corn and soybeans are used in prodfarmer is holding a ucts all around us and not just the ones basket full of we eat. products that use The corn commonly seen in what he grows. It has fields around the area is that can be used in clothing that use body lotion, a soy candle, soaked and milled, separating renewable products including corn instead a coat, a cup, peanut butdifferent parts of it to make of petroleum-based ingredients. ter, soy cleaning into various products. Corn Research at Tate & Lyle has prodstarch, cooking oil, sweeteners, helped make it so people don’t ucts, Soy high fructose corn syrup, cereeven have to go to a farm to walk Splencleanal, beverages and fuel are just a through corn. Some carpeting, da, ing prodfew on a list of products that including Dupont’s Sorona line, syrup, ucts: use corn. makes use of corn sugar. toothClean One bushel of corn Corn and soybeans are used in paste up any provides 31.5 pounds of different ways in these products and spills at home starch, 33 pounds of and others like them. wine. with soysweetener or 2.8 gallons Take Most based Soy of ethanol, according to toothof those cleaning candle: information from the paste prodproducts Fresh-smelling breath Illinois Farm Bureau’s as an ucts on develisn’t the only thing natAg in the Classroom examsome oped in ural ingredients can program. That’s in addiple. It level have Decatur. help with. These cantion to 13.5 pounds of conDecatur It’s safer dles use soybeans gluten feed, 2.6 pounds tains connecfor chilwith scents mixed of gluten meal and 1.5 sorbitol, tions. For dren and such as pumpkin to pounds of corn oil. which is example, alike. While they’re pets desirable arooffer Decatur-based Archer produced the soy edible, it’s not recommas. Daniels Corn from the cleaning mended anybody actualMidcup: corn sugar products are ly try eating them. land Thirsty? dextrose from SoyWorld Co. Add and used in USA, a Decaturis a top producer Splenda toothpaste that started in based company of ethanol and cofyour to as a low-calorie, Veronica Lee’s garage. They makes the fee or tea in this cornwater-soluble offer a natural and safe ingredients based cup, and you’ll be bulking agent. alternative to more comused in many Body using an all-natural The uses are mon household cleaners. of the food lotion: assortment of products. continuing to Splenda, the no-calorie products Natural broaden sweetenfound in grobody and interest in alternative products er, is a cery stores. lotion is continues to & Tate Soybeans a way to increase, all Lyle are used in a freshen the while crevariety of up and helping creation. ways as well. make ate more Work Peanut butter: Their main use of markets for continues One does not use is in liverenewfarmers. As in Tate & expect to find stock feed, as able remore products Lyle’s corn and soybean approximately sources Splenda: are developed, products in foods Decatur 94 percent of at the Developed Decatur will such as peanut research soybeans go same in Tate & Lyle’s Decatur research continue to hold butter. But the labs. A parttoward feeding livetime. its claim as the labs, this no-calorie sweetener is crops are used nership with stock, according to Agribusiness Capto make so much now among the most popular DuPont is the Illinois Soybean ital of the World. more. and recognizable substitutes. aimed at developing material

Everyone can enjoy Farm Progress Show The Farm Progress Show offers more than just what would interest farmers. Like the agriculture industry it showcases, attendees should be able to find plenty of things they run across on a daily basis. If nothing else, show manager Matt Jungmann had an agreeable answer when asked at a recent Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce event if nonfarmers should have an interest in attending the Farm Progress Show. “Anybody who has had anything to eat is involved in agriculture,” Jungmann said. A lot of the focus at the event next week at Progress City USA will be on major money-making crops such as corn and soybeans. But every day, especially here in the Decatur area, we’re impacted by at least some aspect of agriculture as products are moved from farm to market, which is the focus of this section. Those directly involved in agriculture are trying in one way or another to find and carve out their niche markets.

CHRIS LUSVARDI Some have been quite successful at doing so. It takes more than what first meets the eye to take crops from the farm fields around us and turn them into what we eat and use around the house. Transportation is a key factor in making it all happen. Archer Daniels Midland Co., for example, has a world-leading agricultural transportation system that provides it the flexibility to move products throughout the process of getting them from farm to market. ADM owns and operates more than 20,900 rail cars, 1,350 tractor trailers, 2,150 barges, 58 tow boats and 29

line boats to move its products on a global scale. The depth of the industry goes beyond what is happening at leaders such as ADM and Tate & Lyle. The agriculture industry is changing around us. New products are being developed making use of crops in ways that most of us never before thought possible. A push is on to make the environment cleaner and use more renewable energy sources. Farm Progress Show host Richland Community College is at the center of many of those changes, working to train workers to make renewable energy practical. In the days to come, we’ll look more closely at the return of the Farm Progress Show to Decatur for a third run. For now, in this section our focus is on agriculture in Central Illinois and some of the ways all of us encounter it on a daily basis as products go from farm to market. Chris Lusvardi covers business and agriculture for the Herald & Review. clusvardi@herald-review.com|421-7972

Cruising ELDORADO For generations of Decaturarea residents, those two words come packed with memories of nights spent driving up and down the road, stopping only when you came across someone you knew — or wanted to know. Cruising Eldorado was part of growing up and the Herald & Review would like you to share your memories about the people, the places and the experience, with our readers. Send them to Scott Perry via e-mail at sperry@heraldreview.com; by fax at 421-7965; by mail at Box 311, Decatur, IL 62525; or go to www.herald-review.com. Submitted items must be 300 words or fewer and need to include a daytime phone number. The deadline to submit your Cruising Eldorado memories is Friday, Sept. 4. Pictures are welcome.

Colorful memories The Herald & Review now offers couples the option of running their wedding and engagement photos in color. Call 421-6979 for details.


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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2009

DECATUR, ILLINOIS

FARM PROGRESS 3

Richland biofuels program may bring global recognition Facility expansions preparing students for area of growing demand By CHRIS LUSVARDI H&R Staff Writer

DECATUR — Richland Community College is preparing to bring its biofuels program on the road. The college began using a mobile biofuels lab earlier this summer and plans to use the trailer as a way to educate its students and the public about the expanding uses of bioenergy. It will be used to conduct seminars in Richland’s display at the Farm Progress Show and was at the State Fair each day during its 10-day run this month. “This is a great chance for students to learn about biodiesel production and future technology,” said Terry Robinson, Richland dean of continuing and professional education. “We’re starting off here.” The lab is part of Richland’s growing bioenergy program, which started last year. Robinson describes it as still in its infancy. “This is an exciting piece of technology to build our program on,” said Doug Brauer, Richland’s vice president of economic development and innovative workforce solutions. The program is expanding in part due to more than $300,000 in funds U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Rock Island, helped to secure. Brauer said the college wanted to do more with the money than just what could be offered inside a building. “We’re just on the cusp for excit-

Herald & Review/Kelly J. Huff

David Bowman, Richland Community College’s biofuels program coordinator, demonstrates the brewing process to Terry Robinson, Richland’s dean of Continuing and Professional Education and Engineering Technology, in the mobile biofuels lab which will be on display at the Farm Progress Show.

ing things for the area,” Brauer said. “We’re getting to where we are able to draw global attention.” Program development was one of the ways the funds could be used, Brauer said.

The skills students learn in the bioenergy program translate to a broad range of career possibilities, Brauer said. Richland has about 130 students between its agriculture and horticulture programs, Brauer said.

Degrees are offered in engineering, with specialties in biofuels and bioprocessing, Brauer said. “The skills are portable to a variety of industries,” Brauer said. “It makes the students very adaptable.

They’re not tied to that degree and what that says you can do.” Richland is trying to be sensitive to the changing work force needs of the community, Robinson said. “We want to prepare students for careers that are going to exist in the future,” Robinson said. “Until students see it, they can’t visualize what kind of careers are out there.” A wealth of job possibilities exist for students as companies try to make the community an attractive place to come, said David Bowman, the school’s biofuels program coordinator. “With retirements, they can’t satisfy their needs internally,” Bowman said. “We need to create students at the right time for the right jobs.” Richland has production capability inside the mobile lab and classrooms within the Dwayne O. Andreas Agribusiness Education Center. A machine inside the biofuels lab can produce up to 55 gallons of biodiesel a day, Bowman said. A similar machine inside the mobile lab can produce 25 gallons, he said. “You don’t just put one of these in your backyard,” Bowman said. “Across the street (at Archer Daniels Midland Co.) is one of the most efficient ethanol plants in the U.S. That’s our goal here.” The program attempts to operate efficiently by making use of materials and skills from other areas of the college, including using vegetable oil from the cafeteria for biodiesel production, Bowman said. The technology is moving beyond its original sources.

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Van Horn helps farmers get most out of the field Company that is owned by employees is rare in industry By CHRIS LUSVARDI H&R Staff Writer

CERRO GORDO — In 37 years working for Van Horn, Inc., Roger Oliver has seen the agriculture industry undergo many changes. Yields continue to improve due to enhanced technology in everything from the machines farmers use to the seed that goes into the ground, Oliver said. With the improvements being made, Oliver expects that 200bushel-per-acre yields for corn soon will be common. “Technology in the seed selling today is far and away the biggest improvement,” said Oliver, the company’s president. Van Horn’s goal, as it has been for 75 years, is to give its customers the best and most cost-effective technology available in the products it sells, Oliver said. It has a line of products that includes corn and soybean seeds, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers and liquid nitrogen. “We feel good that what we do is the most cost-effective to raise a good crop, and the crop is profitable for the farmer,” Oliver said. The company started in 1934 as a family-owned business near Cerro Gordo. The Van Horn family sold the business in 1974, and it has been entirely employee-owned since then. Employee-owned companies such as Van Horn are rare in the industry, Oliver said. “I now use it as a recruiting tool to get new people,” Oliver said. “They feel like they own the company and are able to provide input to have control of their destiny.” Not every decision is made with a poll of employees, but management keeps them informed of what’s happening, Oliver said. The company began expanding to other locations in 1993 and now has seven locations that form a circle

Herald & Review photos/Kelly J. Huff

Roger Oliver, president of Van Horn Inc., checks the progress on an ear of corn near the company’s Cerro Gordo headquarters. BELOW LEFT: Mike Comerford, a Van Horn employee for 31 years, fills portable tanks with anhydrous ammonia. BELOW RIGHT: Tom Tohill, a 33-year Van Horn employee, monitors the filling of a truck with herbicide. The focus of the company is to provide services locally, with the heaviest target base within a 15-mile radius of each plant, Oliver said. For farmers, the rural neighborhoodlike locations make it easy to find what they need. “It’s only five miles away from my house, so it’s convenient,” said farmer Mat Muirheid, who lives in nearby Oakley Township. “If I have a part broken or if I run out of something and need extra, I can run over there and get it.” that serves customers in more than 10 counties around

the Decatur area. In addition to the original Cerro Gordo

plant, Van Horn now has operations in Warrensburg,

Dewitt, Findlay, Bethany, Sullivan and Macon.

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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2009

VAN HORN

FARM PROGRESS 5

‘We feel good that what we do is the most cost effective to raise a good crop, and the crop is profitable for the farmer.’

Continued from Page 4 Saving on input costs is crucial for farmers’ bottom lines. “Everything’s going up,” Muirheid said. “That’s why we spend time in the winter looking at budgets. You can never stick to a budget 100 percent. It’s like owning a house. You don’t know FOOD when your DRIVE washer and dryer is going Van Horn Inc. is holdto go out. You ing a food drive through hope it lasts, the end of September. but you don’t Collection bins will be know.” placed at each of its Buying in seven locations. larger quantiThe food collected ties helps, will benefit local food Muirheid said. pantries to help fill their Oliver also said shelves. the technology The company plans improvements on making a $2,000 can help farmmatch for the food colers control how lected. much product, such as fertilizer, is applied in each field. “Fertilizer can be applied more efficiently with the right placement and a more targeted application,” Oliver said. Muirheid said he and his dad, George, don’t have the mapping capability yet to vary rates within the same field, but the rate at which they apply fertilizer can change from field to field. Van Horn depends on loyal customers, such as the Muirheids, as the number of farmers dwindles. Its customer service sets it apart, Oliver said.

DECATUR, ILLINOIS

Roger Oliver, Van Horn president Test plots in fields just to the north of the Cerro Gordo plant give the company visibility for Farm Progress Show visitors coming on a main artery from the east on Illinois 32. The plots allow for Van Horn employees to see how the different seed varieties perform and base their recommendations partially on that firsthand knowledge. As Van Horn moves toward its next

major anniversary, Oliver expects the challenge will be how well bigger machinery is able to cover more acres. Farms are getting bigger, he said. “Nobody knows what direction it’s going to go,” Oliver said. “It’s changed so much in the 30-plus years I’ve been here.” clusvardi@herald-review.com|421-7972

Herald & Review/Kelly J. Huff

David Bowman, Richland Community College’s biofuels program coordinator, discusses the college’s purchase of a biofuel unit that can produce up to 55 gallons of alternative fuel a day.

RICHLAND Continued from Page 3

Herald & Review/Kelly J. Huff

Roger Oliver, president of Van Horn, takes inventory of a line of grass seeds and fertilizer the company sells.

An aerial photo of Van Horn Inc. from the 1960s.

“It’s more than just corn,” Robinson said. “Now is the time to think about other alternatives.” Research is being done on cellulosic ethanol, and algae is gaining momentum, Bowman said. The goal is to reduce the world’s carbon footprint as the supply of fossil fuel is predicted to be out by 2050, Bowman said. “Alcohol is almost unlimited,” Bowman said. “It’s changing faster than we know. It’s wake-up time. We’re not going to make it to 2050.” Richland now has a variety of alternative energy sources on its campus. A turbine that stretches more than 150 feet into the air was built in early August and will power the new Center for Sustainability and Innovation. If enough electricity is generated, it will be used throughout the campus, said Greg Florian, Richland’s vice president of finance. “It’s a great visual,” Florian said. “Part of it is a statement: We need to pay more attention to being sustainable.” Having the turbine on campus could be the basis for developing a wind energy training program, Florian said. “It’s technology that is here,” Florian said. “It’s viable.”

Noncredit offerings Richland Community College is offering the following classes for the first time this fall. n Understanding fuel alcohol n Making fuel alcohol: How to do it n Co-products from making fuel alcohol n Using alcohol as fuel n The business of fuel alcohol n Fueling a revolution n Biomass fundamentals For more information about these classes and others related to bioenergy, contact biofuels program coordinator David Bowman at 875-7211 ext. 207.

Another alternative energy source, biomass, is being grown and researched in fields on the campus. About the only thing left is solar power. “Solar is the last frontier for Richland,” Bowman said. All of the work being done should benefit the Decatur community in the future. “Decatur will be a better place if we’re relying on bioenergy rather than on fossil fuel,” Bowman said. “The world’s changing.” clusvardi@herald-review.com|421-7972


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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2009

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Keeping alive the animal farm Sullivan couple finds niche raising antibiotic- and hormone-free livestock By ALLISON COPENBARGER H&R Staff Writer

SULLIVAN — Erica and Jamie Lehman’s backgrounds were a match made in livestock-raising heaven. Erica’s family raised beef cattle for more than 30 years, and Jamie is a veterinarian. So it came as no surprise when the rural Sullivan couple began Lehman Farm Meats, growing antibiotic- and hormone-free beef and pork products.

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Dr. Jamie Lehman pours extra feed into a feed pan for his sow and her piglets at Lehman Farms near Sullivan.

Herald & Review photos/Kelly J. Huff

Dr. Jamie Lehman and his wife, Erica, and children, Rhett and Ellie, take a stroll through the pasture to check on some newborn calves. Because of the size of their operation, the Lehmans are focusing on raising antibiotic- and hormone-free livestock.

‘It really bums me out. You used to see all sorts of animals, and now, livestock is dwindling.’ Erica Lehman


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DECATUR, ILLINOIS

FARM PROGRESS 7

LIVESTOCK

Erica Lehman and her daughter Ellie, stroll through the pasture to check on some newborn calves. Lehman grew up raising cattle on a family farm.

Continued from Page 6 “It’s just how I grew up,” Erica said. “People either love it or hate it, and I really enjoyed it. It was something I was interested in continuing.” The Lehmans’ animals, unlike some others’ animals that claim to be hormonefree, are completely free of antibiotics from birth. They say their small, 18-acre farm allows them to give full attention to each of their animals and sell directly to local customers. “There’s no way we could sell on the large scale,” Jamie said. “So we decided to focus on the antibiotic- and hormone-free niche market.” Jamie, a veterinarian for 20 years, said their meat is not necessarily better than others, just different. “It’s pretty good meat,” he said. “But we’re not saying it’s any safer just because it’s antibiotic-free. Some people just like to know where their meat comes from.” Erica said the diminishing number of animal farms breaks her heart. “It really bums me out,” she said. “You used to see all sorts of animals, and now,

Herald & Review photos/Kelly J. Huff

livestock is dwindling.” Erica and Jamie began selling their meats at farmers markets last year, hoping

to do four or five per week. They found, though, that the markets were more work than they had thought.

Rhett Lehman, 3, fills a bucket with corn to be fed to a mother pig who is nursing piglets at the family farm.

“We really scaled back since last year,” she said. “The markets are a lot of work, and you never know how much you’re going to need. It’s such a guessing game.” Vada Wond, who organizes a farmers market for City Centre Decatur, said having Lehman Farm Meats participating adds variety to the event. “They’re a nice addition,” Wond said. “They bring a lot of people down here. It’s good meat, too.” Along with his own practice, Jamie is heading up the Vet Tech program at Parkland College, and Erica stays home with their 3-year-old and 8-month-old children. With their busy schedules, they say having the business on the side is a lot of work. “It’s a challenge, a ton of work and a very slow process,” Jamie said. “I’m not going to say I’ve never thought about stopping, but we really enjoy it.” The Lehmans plan on selling at the farmers market

‘It’s just how I grew up. People either love it or hate it, and I really enjoyed it. It was something I was interested in continuing.’ Erica Lehman in Decatur through late September. Their beef and pork products also are available at Huddie’s Goodies in Sullivan or by phone at 728-2451 and can be delivered.

They sell whole, half or individual cuts of beef and various pork products. Staff Writer Chris Lusvardi contributed to this report. hrnews@herald-review.com


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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2009

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From a little stress, something great grows Long Creek Vineyards has big vision from its little grapes By TONY REID H&R Staff Writer

LONG CREEK — To make a grapevine love you, you’ve got to hurt it. They’ve got this breed of tough love down to a fine art at Long Creek Vineyards in Long Creek, where viniculturist Jody Fisher says only the grapes of wrath await those who make wine vines too comfortable. “If the vines don’t believe they are under stress, they won’t produce the grapes we need,” said Fisher, 45. “When we first planted our vines, we had to physically twist them, make them think they were hurt. MORE You’ve got INFO to make them think The Long they are Creek Vineyards going to winery is open 4 die.” to 8 p.m. Fridays, The noon to 7 p.m. desire to Saturdays and seed an noon to 5 p.m. uncertain Sundays. Call future 521-6297 or with offgo to longcreek spring vineyards.com. prompts The wines also the sufferare sold at The ing vines Decanter in to bring downtown forth their Decatur and gratuitous served at the grape Beach House bounty, restaurant and and skilled Sliderz in winemakDecatur. ers can go on fooling the vines season after season; some of the oldest grapevines in the world have known histories dating back 400 years. Poor soil is another plus, and a tall order to find in a Central Illinois covered in rich, black prairie. Happily for the Long Creek Vineyards, the glacier that pressed most of this area as flat as an ironing board came to a screeching halt at their 25-acre site, leaving the well-drained vineyard hilly and salted with glacially deposited rocks, boulders and gravel. Ground like that is the kiss of death for corn and beans but ideal for grapevines that expect the worst from life and like to go drilling for water with root systems that punch down 30 feet. The proof of all this environmental pudding is in the drinking, and no one can doubt that Long Creek ferments results.

Herald & Review/Kelly J. Huff

Grapes grow at Long Creek Vineyard in Long Creek.

Herald & Review photos/Stephen Haas

TOP: Jody Fisher tops off a barrel of wine at Long Creek Vineyards in Long Creek. BELOW RIGHT: Wine bottles are displayed at the vineyard. LOWER RIGHT: Terri and Jody Fisher pose for a portrait among some of the arbors at the business they created. The vineyard’s precise rows march over 4½ acres and produce 10 kinds of wine that cover a broad palate: everything from Chambourcin, “black cherry and chocolate with hints of smoked bacon,” to La Cin, “bold but fruity, hints of strawberry but with a meaty backbone,” according to their information guide. The wines also have racked up a string of medals at both the Illinois State Fair and, for winegrowers, the more prestigious Indy International Wine Competition, organized by Purdue University, a major center of North American wine-growing knowledge. Jody Fisher founded Long Creek Vineyards in 2004 with his wife, Terri, and they run the business with help from her brother, Brad Warnick, and his wife, Laura, and Terri’s parents, Jacki and Gary Warnick, who used to raise cattle on that brutally tough vineyard soil. “Now if you had told me 20 years ago I would one day have my own vineyard, I would not have believed it, no way,” said Terri Fisher, 46. “But Jody and I have enjoyed drinking wines for close to 20 years, and I guess it just kind of evolved.” What got the cork rolling,

besides lots of cooperative family members, was moving into a circa 1886 house in Blue Mound in 1999 that had four grapevines in the backyard dating back to the days before Prohibition. “So the first year we’re there we had 800 pounds of grapes and they’re not jelly grapes,” Jody Fisher said. “So it was like, ‘Well, we’re wine-drinkers and these are wine grapes,’ so we decided we’re going to make wine.” Which they did, getting occasional help from their four daughters to do the treading in big buckets, and investing in some amateur equipment that managed to produce a drinkable result. “It was good,” Fisher recalled. “It wasn’t like California or French wines, but it was OK. And it was enough for us to know that ‘Wait a minute, we can do this.’ ” They’ve since moved to a custom-built house and winery on the vineyard grounds where their wine is aged in oak barrels downstairs. They’ve built sales and interest through hard work and their great-tasting products. They run the winery like a full-time business, even though neither Fisher can be

there all the time: He holds down a day job as a projects

estimator for King-Lar, and she is trust operations officer in

the wealth management division of Soy Capital Bank. They plan to expand their acres under cultivation and one day build a tasting room overlooking a scenic pond at the foot of their vineyards, which will be a perfect location to host weddings and other happy events. It’s all part of a carefully mapped-out path to the time when the couple can raise their glasses in salute to making the Long Creek Vineyards their full-time occupation. Like making great wine, however, building the business can’t be hurried, especially in the midst of a recession. “We have a lot of hopes and dreams, but it just takes time,” Terri Fisher said. “Getting the market built up, getting the product built up, all the equipment, getting everything that is needed, it is just a lot of time, and money.” But as a means for winning friends and influencing people, it’s hard to top the effects of mankind’s favorite social lubricant for the last 8,000 years. The vineyard has established various wine clubs that host regular meetings and activities and offer thirsty participants deals on wine and even the chance to adopt one of those long-suffering vines. And Long Creek’s marketing efforts couldn’t come at a better time, despite the dregs of economic gloom and doom. With a rising tide of studies and reports toasting the health benefits of drinking wine in moderation, record numbers of Americans are flocking to take their medicine. “What’s happened in the last 10 years is a 1,000 percent increase in U.S. wine consumption,” Jody Fisher said. The number of wineries in Illinois has gone from 12 in 1997 to more than 70. The state ranks in the top 12 wine-producing states, with 450 vineyards and a direct economic impact of $283 million annually. Customers are seeking out local wines, said Jay Emrich, one of the owners of the Decanter, 215 N. Main St. in Decatur. The Decanter is one of the places that wines from

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DECATUR, ILLINOIS

FARM PROGRESS 9

Teutopolis-based flour milling company expanding Kentucky plant will process 60% of wheat grown in that state

W H E AT FA C T S 1. Americans consume 137 pounds of flour per person per year. 2. In 2008, the milling industry produced 40 billion pounds of flour. 3. Idaho is the largest producer of hard white wheat. Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and North Dakota produce most of the hard and soft red wheat, although wheat is grown in 42 states. 4. A bushel of wheat produces 42 pounds of white flour or 60 pounds of whole wheat flour. 5. A bushel of wheat weighs 60 pounds. 6. Most varieties of wheat grow

By PHIL JACOBS For the Herald & Review

TEUTOPOLIS — Most of the flour that goes into Girl Scout cookies and DuncanHines cake mixes is processed by Teutopolisbased Siemer Milling Co., which has been processing flour in the town for more than 125 years. Rick Siemer, the fourth generation of Siemer millers, has stood since 1986 at the helm of the company, which has since built an even larger mill in Hopkinsville, Ky. It recently announced plans to expand its Kentucky facility. “We pride ourselves on buying all of our wheat from local and area farmers, both here and in Kentucky,” Siemer said. “So when you buy a box of Girl Scout Cookies or a DuncanHeinz cake mix you are helping by supporting the people who grow the soft and hard red wheat that eventually becomes the flour that goes into these products.” The company opened for business Nov. 6, 1882, as Hope Mills, Uptmor and Siemer, Proprietors. By 1906, Joseph Siemer and his son, Clemens J., bought out Uptmor’s interest and changed the name to the Siemer Milling Co. Siemer Milling’s combined operations now employ 135 people, who process 15 million bushels of locally grown wheat each year with a current market value of more than $100 million. They process 185,000 tons of wheat products annually, including flour, bran and wheat germ. Siemer announced in March that construction has begun at its Hopkinsville mill that when finished will more than double the original daily output. “The contractor is just now erecting forms and will soon begin pouring concrete,” Siemer said. “The weather is always a factor at

Photos for the Herald & Review/Phil Jacobs

Lab tech Daphne Gullett analyzes samples from every load of flour that leaves the Siemer Milling Co.

One room in the mill is filled with these large wooden sifters that move continuously in all directions. this time of year.” Economic development officials in that area welcomed the expansion plans. “Siemer Milling Company has been a vital ‘value added’ partner to the agricultural community of HopkinsvilleChristian County for the last 14 years,” said Lee Conrad, acting director of the Hopkinsville-Christian County Economic Development Council. “They have helped create more than 1,100 jobs in the state. The expansion will allow the company to purchase an additional 3.5 million bushels of soft wheat from our farm-

ers, and the significance of that cannot be overstated.” The company originally built the mill in 1995 and nearly doubled its output in 2005. When completed, the plant will process nearly 60 percent of all the wheat grown in Kentucky. Prior to the expansion, the Hopkinsville facility was the larger of the two mills Siemer owns. It also leases a mill in Kentucky which adds to its output capacity. “We have been running the Hopkinsville plant at capacity for some time now,” Siemer said. “And with some of our

customers expanding along with other opportunities in the flour business, we decided it was time to expand again.” He said that the design of the new facility leaves room for further growth. The project is expected to be completed in April. Siemer said the industry has witnessed the loss of thousands of mills in the last 100 years. “A century ago, we had 12,000 mills in the U.S.,” Siemer said. “Today, that figure has dwindled to less than 200.” Milling was for a time the largest industry in the country in terms of sales, Siemer said. “Until 60 years ago, millers tried to get all they could from the kernel and sold the product in 25-pound bags as all-purpose family flour,” Siemer said. “By 1930, most of the flour produced in the country was used in the home. Today, only 2 percent of what we produce goes into family flour, and the rest is sold to large corporate customers.” Today, millers no longer try to extract everything the wheat kernel has to offer. Instead, they remove all of the bran and germ, except when they are milling whole wheat flour, using a process

called extraction. Most bread flours, all-purpose flours, as well as highgluten professional bread flours, are milled from the endosperm, the largest part of the kernel. The rest of the bran and germ are sold off as constituents for animal feed. While most milling companies are prospering, Siemer sees bumps in the road ahead. “Ninety percent of our corn, and 70 percent of our soybeans have been genetically modified to improve yields and make them resistant to weed killers, for example,” Siemer said. “In

3 to 4 feet tall, but some varieties grow as tall as 7 feet. 7. There are six classes of wheat: hard red winter, hard red spring, soft red winter, Durham, hard white and soft white. 8. The United States is the largest exporter of wheat. 9. In 2007, the world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third-largest crop after maize at 784 million tons and rice at 651 million tons. 10. The best flour for bread making is milled from hard spring wheat with a protein level of 12 percent to 15 percent. the case of wheat, zero percent has been modified.” Something needs to be done to improve the wheat, Siemer said. Otherwise, farmers might decide to convert wheat acres to corn or soybeans. “If that happens, we might be faced, at some point, with having to import more wheat, which would drive up the price and make us more dependent on the world market,” Siemer said. “The answer is to make wheat growing a profitable enterprise for our wheat farmers.” pjacobs837@yahoo.com


10 FARM PROGRESS

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2009

www.herald-review.com

DECATUR, ILLINOIS

Christmas in full bloom Jacobs nurtures December’s most important tree year-round By CHRIS LUSVARDI H&R Staff Writer

ARGENTA — Christmas doesn’t come until December, but farmer Mike Jacobs spends most of the year preparing for it. Jacobs harvests crops that, unlike Central Illinois mainstays corn and soybeans, weren’t as susceptible to this year’s wet spring. So when Christmas time rolls around this year, Jacobs is confident he will have an abundant supRELATED ply of trees for VIDEO: www.herald- customers to review.com choose from at Glenview Christmas Trees and Greenery, 9480 Caleb Road in rural Argenta. “A lot of families come here who have started a tradition,” Jacobs said. “Now these kids are bringing their own kids out. We probably have 1,500 to 2,000 families come out who have a pretty good tradition going.” Customers come out starting around Thanksgiving and going until the weekend before Christmas, Jacobs said. They come to choose their trees and pick up gifts from Del’s Popcorn Express in Mount Zion, which Jacobs also owns along with his wife, Trudy. “The ones who have been coming here for a while know where they want to go before they get here,” Jacobs said. Operating a Christmas tree farm, however, takes more work than just a month late in the fall. The trees grow only at one time during the year, starting in late April and for most of May, Jacobs said. Then for

Herald & Review/Lisa Morrison

Mike Jacobs walks among the trees at Glenview Tree Farm. It has been a good season so far for the trees with little insect or fungus problems. Jacobs is also hoping to find a buyer interested in taking over the farm.

By the numbers 429 Christmas tree farms in Illinois, placing it 14th in the United States. 2,164 Christmas tree farms in Pennsylvania, the most in the country. 6.4 million trees grown in Oregon, the top-producing state. 144,000 trees in Illinois, which ranks 16th. 450,000 acres of land planted with Christmas trees nationwide. 6,355 acres planted in Illinois. Source: U.S. Census of Agriculture

several weeks in June leading up to the 4th of July, Jacobs brings in a crew of high schoolers to help shear the trees. “A lot of them don’t like to get hot and sweaty,” Jacobs said. “It takes a certain individual.” He’s relied on other farmer friends for help outside in the fall, but isn’t sure how much they will be able to assist

with a later than usual harvest predicted. Even if weather conditions are less than ideal, Jacobs still offers plenty of trees to choose from on a farm where his mother grew up. Fields spread on a hilly landscape about a mile deep offer trees in various stages of growth surrounded by flatter land containing corn and soybeans. “You’ve always got several

fields to fall back on,” Jacobs said. “Rain every few days doesn’t bother us. It’s totally different than grain farming. We’ve had great growth and color this year.” There have only been a few years Jacobs remembers in which he’s lost most of the seedlings that were planted. Jacobs is not alone in harvesting Christmas trees. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports nearly 21 million Christmas trees harvested nationwide at a value of $399 million. Illinois’ crop was worth $7.6 million. They’re grown in all 50 states, and Macon County ranks at the top of Illinois counties in the number of trees harvested with more than 13,000. Christmas trees have been sold commercially in the United States since 1850. The trees at Glenview can

be used not only for holiday decorating purposes, but Jacobs said some are used for landscaping purposes. Because it requires more work and heavier equipment to dig up a tree for landscaping, Jacobs charges more for those trees. Selling trees for landscaping purposes does help get some cash flow in the spring, which would otherwise be a slow time of year, Jacobs said. Jacobs started running the tree farm in 1980. “I was young and ambitious out of college,” he said. “I wasn’t interested in livestock. I started planting every year, and the next thing I know, I’ve been doing it 30 years.” With both his businesses well established but requiring a lot of work, Jacobs has explored selling the farm operation. Like many farmers these days, Jacobs’ children aren’t interested in taking over, so he knows he doesn’t need to hold onto the farm for them when the right opportunity to sell comes along. But he’s watched other tree farms stop operations and hopes the same fate doesn’t someday come to his. For the time being, Jacobs plans on juggling his time between Glenview and Del’s. “It’s stressful if you let too much stack up,” Jacobs said. “I really enjoy planting things and watching them grow. I have a big list of customers I enjoy seeing every year.” clusvardi@herald-review.com|421-7972

VINEYARD Continued from Page 8 Long Creek Vineyards can be purchased. “They want to take a bottle of wine back home,” Emrich said of customers who come from out of town. “They pick out something from a local place. Others come in asking specifically for Illinois wine or from a specific winery like Long Creek.” Wineries such as Long Creek Vineyards help create an interest in the industry, and the area could benefit from a wine trail such as in Southern Illinois, said Mike Delaney, another of the Decanter’s owners. Jody Fisher said people have also discovered that there is a wine out there for every occasion and it’s the perfect accompaniment to one of America’s other favorite activities: eating. “People who don’t have a wine with their evening meal just don’t know what they are missing,” he added. “It wakes your taste buds up to where you can appreciate what food really tastes like.” The wines that bathe those taste buds have to be a feast in themselves, and getting the strange alchemy right is what makes winemaking such a fascinating business, according to his wife. “Making a wine you are proud of is a mixture of art and chemistry,” Terri Fisher said. “It’s lots of work but it’s also a form of artistic expression.” Staff Writer Chris Lusvardi contributed to this report. treid@herald-review.com|421-7977


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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26, 2009

DECATUR, ILLINOIS

FARM PROGRESS 11

Growing into a full-time farm If you go

Planting a few seeds on five acres didn’t keep up with demand for J&W Produce

DIRECTIONS: Take U.S. 51 one mile south of Pana to County Road 100 North. Turn left, go a quarter-mile. ON THE WEB: jnwproducepatch.com CALL: 562-7062 HOURS: Mid-June through October 31, 7 days a week

By PHIL JACOBS For the Herald & Review

PANA — Customers of J&W Produce in rural Pana buy what they need and leave their money in an unattended can on a table. “We have always used the honor system,” said owner Joe Weishaar, who operates the business with help from his wife, Wendy, daughters Savannah, 10, and Amanda, 19, and son, Zach 22, of Springfield. Joe and Wendy Weishaar grew up on farms near DeKalb, but eventually, like the words of an old bluegrass song, “...(they) left the plow in the field and went to look for jobs in town.” Joe took a job with Effingham Equity, and Wendy eventually went into property management. But, in time, they missed the rural life they had known since childhood. So, in 2001, they became poster people for the old axiom that you can take the boy out of the country but not the country out of the boy, or the girl for that matter. They bought the patch north of Pana and moved back to the bucolic lifestyle of their youth.

Photos for the Herald & Review/Phil Jacobs

Joe Weishaar has grown J&W Produce, along with his wife, Wendy, from five acres to a 30-acre, full-time farm. They sell their produce at farmers’ markets in Springfield and Pana, as well as their home in Pana. “When I was still working and trying to get this business off the

J&W Produce uses an honor system to pay for produce, and they leave paper and pen in case customers want to leave a note or make a special request.

ground, I picked several bushels of sweet corn before I went to work and spread them out on a table in the front yard,” Joe Weishaar said. “Customers would come by during the day, take what they wanted and leave their money in the jar. All our produce is grown locally, and we guarantee its freshness.” The Weishaars began the business on a five-acre patch a halfmile north and a half-mile west of the Rosebud Cafe at U.S. 51 and Illinois 16. He added more fruits and vegetables as time permitted, but it soon became clear that he needed more room. “I wanted to add more berries, more corn, more tomatoes and fruit trees, and to do that, I realized I needed more acreage,” Joe Weishaar said. “So, in 2006, when I heard that a 30-acre patch, located a mile south of Pana, was going on the auction block, we went to the sale and bought it. In the three

years since, we’ve planted more of everything really, and even added an orchard with an assortment of apple and peach trees.” The business has now become a full-time job that takes Joe Weishaar to farmers markets in Springfield twice-a-week and Pana on Fridays. Besides picking produce for the markets, which takes a full day prior to each sale, they also have to supply the many customers who come to the house, such as Tom and Lorraine Jones of Pana. “We have been buying produce from Joe since he opened,” Tom Jones said. “We liked the sweet corn and tomatoes, of course, but we really liked the raspberries. My wife, Lorraine, has made a lot of wonderful jelly over the years.” Lorraine Jones acknowledged her jelly-making efforts. “It’s the best produce we’ve found, and it’s reasonably priced,” Lorraine Jones said. “We go there quite often for some things, but we

are now looking forward to the apples that will be ready later on in the season. We were eagerly awaiting his wonderful peaches, but the entire crop sold out in a couple of days, so we’re hoping Joe has a bigger crop next year.” Cindy Latonis of Pana agrees. “It’s excellent produce and it’s so convenient,” Latonis said. “I went to the farm a few days ago, and he didn’t have what I was looking for, so I left him a note with my name and number on the pad he provides for the convenience of his customers. He called me back later that day and said he would bring it to the next farmers’ market, which is just around the corner from the Pana News where I work. How’s that for convenience? Once he even brought the items to the newspaper.” The Weishaars built a large tool shed in 2007 that might one day become a store. “That’s all in the future, of course,” Joe Weishaar said. “But as we continue to add various items to the list of things we offer our customers, and as the two-and-one-half acre orchard reaches full production over the next couple of years, we are going to need room to deal with all of that and opening a store might be the answer.” In the fall, the family offers tours, bonfires, pick your own pumpkin and hay rides, and a corn maze may also soon make its way to the drawing board. “It’s a good life,” Joe Weishaar said, musing back over the years. “The best thing is, we have met a lot of wonderful people, some of whom have showed up out here to help us get a crop in.” pjacobs837@yahoo.com


Farm Progress Show Special Section  

Farm Progress Show Special Section