You may or may not believe in global warming, but I don't think anyone can argue that our climate has been changing of late. Whether climate change can be attributed to Mother Nature or to man or a combination, there's no doubt change is occurring. What is normal? By my count, there have been at least three storms in December where thunder and lightning occurred. I also believe there were two days this month that we set record highs. Has that ever occurred? Flooding in December? When is the last time that occurred?
You've all heard the saying that if you don't like the weather in the Midwest, just wait a few days and it will change. So true.
As 2015 closes and 2016 breaks through, we're all wondering what's in store for this year. No doubt that soil moisture supplies have been recharged. We weren't all that short, as record rainfall in June and July more than filled the soil profile, although a very dry fall certainly removed quite a bit. The temperatures have been more than unusual, as winter wheat was still green and many cover crops and perennial grass and legume crops were still actively growing (as of Dec. 29).
Enough about the wacky weather, on to educational opportunities for this winter. This time of year is traditionally a time of refreshing and learning for many producers. The largest fruit and vegetable educational event in IL is the IL Specialty Crops, Agritourism and Organic Conference, to be held Jan. 7-8 in Springfield. There are separate tracks throughout both days for: fruits; vegetables; herbs; agritourism; organic; and emerging issues. Speakers from throughout the Midwest (University, farmer, agribusiness) will be featured. In addition a large trade show will be available. The day prior (Jan. 6) there are four pre conference workshops: Pumpkins; Small Fruits; Social Media; Legal Issues. The program is held at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield. Information and registration is available at: www.specialtygrowers.org If you're growing non traditional crops, this is a conference you need to attend.
There are a number of other educational offerings we have available this year and we've placed those on our website: web.extension.illinois.edu/abhps One of those is our beginning farmer series. We've designed this program to provide beginning and advanced growers more specific information to help them grow more efficiently. We'll be discussing just about every aspect of the operation, from seeding, fertility, pest management, harvest management, marketing, equipment and more. We invite anyone interested in improving their growing skills to attend, including home gardeners or commercial growers. Sessions will be held Thursday evenings, Jan. 21, Feb. 4, 18 and March 3, from 6pm-8:30pm. Cost is $40 for the series, you can attend one or all. Register on our web site.