R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Illinois FFA youth leaders recognized

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Pictured in the FFA “Shed” on the Illinois State Fairgrounds are (from left) Emily Lesko, Sec. 8 president from Naperville, Elaan Bader, Sec. 15 president from Litchfield, and Elaina Allaman, Sec. 4 president from Monmouth. (Photo by Tim Alexander/for Chronicle Media)

Illinois First Lady invests in tomorrow’s ag leaders

SPRINGFIELD — Let’s start our ISF Ag Day roundup with one of the final events of the day: the highly anticipated Sale of Champions. After a spirited bidding war, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was edged out in the bidding for grand champion steer by none other than his wife, Illinois First Lady M.K. Pritzker. She offered a record bid of $105,000 for the steer, which was exhibited by Landry Freeman of Scott County.

“These exhibitors are the future of agriculture in our state and represent the best of the best,” said Jerry Costello II Illinois Department of Agriculture director. “The Sale of Champions is the cherry on top of the Illinois State Fair. To see our youth in agriculture rewarded for the work that they put into these animals is my favorite aspect of the Illinois State Fair.”

While the revenue goes to a variety of ag-related organizations and causes, grand champion exhibitors, along with reserve grand champion exhibitors, will receive a portion of the proceeds from the sale of their animal.  The exhibitors use the funds towards their college education or invest it back into projects for next year. Freeman’s grand champion steer was processed and donated to Central Illinois Foodbank. (Illinois e-News)


Pritzker signs ag education bill

The annual IDOA breakfast on the director’s lawn attracted hundreds of farmers and farm commodity group leaders to the state fair on Agriculture Day. During his remarks at the gathering, Pritzker promised to sign two ag-related bills into law later in the day.

True to his word, Pritzker approved House Bill 3218 and Senate Bill 1624, companion bills that add agricultural sciences as a course option for the elective category as part of required high school coursework for college admission. The measure was supported by teachers, FFA chapters, students and lawmakers concerned with Illinois carrying on its proud agricultural tradition.

“The study of agriculture is vitally important, and our curricula should reflect that,” said State Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago. “Its exclusion as an option of course study for admission did students who plan to one day work in the field a huge disservice. There a wide variety of subjects taught in agriculture, whether it be math, economics, biochemistry and more. I’m proud of the work done to expand studying options as every course should be considered equal for our students and their studies.”

The bills were introduced by State Rep. Nicholas Smith, D-Chicago, and State Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield. The law becomes effective on Jan. 1.


Peoria Ag Lab feted with bill signing

Many people know that the discovery of penicillin was made in the USDA “Ag Lab” in Peoria during World War II — but even more don’t. This milestone discovery was celebrated with Pritzker signing House Bill 1879, which designates penicillium rubens as the official state microbe of Illinois. The designation also celebrates Mary K. Hunt, the Peoria woman who brought a moldy cantaloupe to the Northern Regional Research Library — now known as the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research — which led to the discovery of penicillin.

“By making penicillium rubens our state microbe, we commemorate the contribution that Peoria made to worldwide health and medicine,” said State Sen. David Koehler (D-Peoria). “Nearly a century ago, our National Agriculture Utilization Laboratory discovered a microbe that has been saving lives from disease since — a historic feat worth recognizing and remembering.”


Illinois FFA youth leaders recognized

Illinois’ newest class of FFA state leaders were recognized and had seats on the dais during the ISF Ag Breakfast presentation. The 2021-22 leadership class includes state president Adam Loker; state vice president Jason Shaffer; Lauren Mohr, reporter; Gracie Murphy, secretary and Kara Freebairn, treasurer. The new officers, along with several 2021-22 section presidents and other Illinois FFA members later greeted fairgoers at Illinois FFA’s barn on Grandstand Avenue.


‘Fresh Roots’ Director’s Cup winners named

Recipients of Farm Credit Illinois’ 2021 Fresh Roots Director’s Cup awards were honored during Ag Day at the ISF. The award celebrates farmers up to age 40 or who are in their first decade of farming who commit to a brighter future for their farm family business and community. Director’s Cup Award winners for 2021 were Austin Ellison of Belleville (St. Clair County), Mitchell Hinds of Kenney (Macon County), Lydia and Adam Holste of Altamont (Effingham County), Jacob Strohbeck of Alton (Madison County), Elliott Uphoff of Shelbyville (Shelby County) and Michael Yoder of Hammond (Moultrie County). Each Freshroots Director’s Cup recipient receives a $5,000 cash award from Farm Credit Illinois.

Other outstanding Illinois farmers acknowledged on Ag Day included Juan and Dulce Credillo of Englewood (2021 Urban Ag Award), longtime ag educator Sue Schafer (Golden Owl Award), Anthony Pferschy of Kane County (Farmer-Veteran of the Year), the Jackson family of Jefferson County (4-H Family Spirit Award), Penny Lauritzen (Illinois Agri-Women Hall of Fame), the Frost Family (Illinois Beef Farm Family of the Year), Derek and Libby Ervin (Local Food Changemaker of the Year), Greg and Donna Walters (Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Lifetime Achievement Award), Cheryl DeMent of Kenney (Illinois Horsemen’s Council Ambassador Award), Barbara Clark (Chicago Farmers Plowman of the Year), Derek Martin of Logan County (STAR Farmer of the Year), the Dekalb Soil and Water Conservation District (STAR Licensee of the Year), Sarah Blount (STAR Partner of the Year), Ryan Phelps of Walker’s Bluff Winery (Viticulturist of the Year) and Doug Palm of Twelve Oaks Vineyard (Winemaker of the Year).

Congratulations to all of the Ag Day award recipients!


Illinois Farm Fact:

Over 350 Illinois farms were verbally acknowledged and celebrated as “centennial farms” by IDOA Director Jerry Costello II during the annual Ag Breakfast at the Illinois State Fair.