News & Views – Bruce Johnson’s Weekly Stephenson County Farm Bureau Update

bruce-johnsonI attended the annual meeting of the Northwest Illinois Development Alliance on January 26, and one of the presentations addressed an initiative to create a refreshed image and brand for Freeport and Stephenson County. John Harris from a5 Inc. shared the proposed concept that is being replicated in McHenry and Lake Counties among other entities, which involves identifying core strengths and positive characteristics of the targeted area in an effort to redefine and upgrade its image and marketability. This process is gaining traction in Freeport and has caught the attention of some younger residents who are eager to create a new identity for the broader community. We have undeniably suffered from a severe case of negative outlook fostered by many who choose to primarily look on the dark side, but I am anxious to align myself with others who truly love this community and county and want to see them flourish and grow. I look forward to learning more about the work of a5 and what this project can mean for our area, and I hope that we can build strong support to move it forward. Freeport and Stephenson County have much to offer if we’re all on board with the concept of better days ahead!

Taking root
The Stephenson County Soil and Water Conservation District annual tree sale is underway for 2016. Each year the District sells bare root tree, evergreen and shrub seedlings to increase efforts to provide energy conservation and/or habitat cover for wildlife. These plants are for conservation purposes only, not to be used as ornamentals or for landscaping. Deadline to order is March 14, and again this year you will find larger trees on the order form. Trees are sold in bundle sizes of 10, 25 and 100 with prices ranging from $12 to $450 for the different species and sizes. Evergreens available include Frasier Fir, Concolor Fir, Balsam Fir, Red Pine, White Pine, Colorado Blue Spruce, Norway Spruce, White Spruce and American Arborvitae. Deciduous trees include Black Cherry, Black Walnut, Burr Oak, Northern Red Oak, Pin Oak, White Oak, Swamp White Oak, Red Maple and Sugar Maple. New this year is Bitternut Hickory. Shrubs available include Hazelnut, Redosier Dogwood, Silky Dogwood, American Plum and Highbush Cranberry. Additional items for sale include marking flags, Plantskydd Animal Repellent, tree mats, tree tubes and stakes, bat houses, blue bird houses and wood duck houses.

Tree order pick-up is scheduled for Thursday, April 14 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Stephenson County Fairgrounds. A reminder postcard will be sent to confirm the pick-up date, time and location. Order forms can be picked up at the District office or printed from the SWCD website, www.stephensonswcd.org. Orders and payment must be mailed or dropped off at the Stephenson SWCD office at 1620 S. Galena Avenue in Freeport.
Here, fishy fishy!

The Stephenson SWCD spring fish sale is also underway. Fish that can be ordered include channel catfish, albino catfish, largemouth bass, hybrid sunfish, redear sunfish, bluegill, black crappies, fat head minnows, and grass carp. The various species can be ordered for stocking new and existing ponds. Grass carp orders must be placed by Tuesday April 5, and orders for all other species by Friday April 15 with delivery at the USDA/SWCD office parking lot at 11 a.m. on Monday April 25. Order forms can be picked up at the District office or printed from the SWCD website, www.stephensonswcd.org. Orders and payment must be mailed or dropped off at the Stephenson SWCD office at 1620 S. Galena Avenue, Freeport IL.

Trip updates
Both of our Washington D.C. trips are now full, and reservations are flowing in for our two Railroads of New England Fall Explorer trips in September-October. Details are available at www.stephensoncfb.org or at the Farm Bureau office.

Activity continues to be brisk for our local bus trips as we finalize details for a few remaining outings. We will have confirmation of our Cubs/Brewers baseball game next week (anticipated to be Friday July 22), and we are finalizing details for our June 6-8 Shipshewana Amish Country trip (already sold out, just putting on the finishing touches). Calls are coming in for our Fair Oaks Farms trip on August 20, and we look for a good response for our Hawkeye Ag Tour June 9-10. Check out the details online or give us a call at (815) 232-3186 for more information.

Welcome Chase!
Our Farm Bureau family has grown again as SCFB director Greg Kent and his wife Jamie welcomed Chase Wildon Kent to the world on January 24. Chase weighed in at 8 pounds 14 ounces and was warmly greeted by his charming big sister Charlie. Congratulations to the proud parents and the entire family!

More celebrity nonsense
It has become so frustrating to see celebrities posting their personal online videos and blogs touting uninformed and misleading perspectives on our food supply and farming practices. The latest rambling comes from actress Suzanne Somers, who posted an attack on our food supply that was purely an organic sales pitch filled with baseless claims that all non-organic food is loaded with chemicals and hormones. Her responses to Facebook posts further highlight her ignorance and confusion, and the removal of any contrasting views from the site shows her lack of willingness to discuss the matter rationally – she only wants to hang out with her cheerleaders. Those engaged in the process of diffusing misinformation and false claims regarding agricultural practices are ready to have a reasonable and civil dialogue with those in opposition, but we have to choose our battles and recognize those situations where views are unlikely to be swayed. It won’t be easy or fun, but hopefully reasonable people will see through the veils of misleading views and allow the truth to rise to the surface.

Bruce Johnson is the manager of the Stephenson County Farm Bureau.

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