Want to learn about Farm Families?

We’d like to share an opportunity for Chicago-area moms with you. Do you know teachers or moms who want to learn more about where their food comes from? We're looking for moms to be Field Moms - city moms who visit Illinois farms and share what they see.

This year's Field Moms will tour a wide variety of Illinois farms. They will meet farmers who raise beef cattle, dairy cows and pigs and grow corn, soybeans and canning vegetables. The Field Moms also will follow the growing cycle, from spring planting to fall harvest. After the tours, the moms will share their experiences on Attached is a PDF with additional program information.

We’re accepting online applications now through Jan. 20. You can find all the 2013 Field Mom information in the attachment and the application here:

Cook County teachers receive grants!

We are pleased to announce that Clay School in Chicago and St. Monica Academy in Chicago both received up to $250 grants from Illinois Ag in the Classroom for integrating new agriculture themed projects into their classrooms. Clay’s project was titled, “The Little Red Hen Comes to Chicago” and St. Monica’s program was, “Eggs to Chicks”. We also congratulate Palos Heights Elementary School on receiving the book grant containing the series of Livestock Readers for use in their 5th grade classrooms. Contact Diane Merrion, Ag Literacy Coordinator, to learn about the many free resources available from our office.

Retail Food Prices Decline Slightly in Fourth Quarter 2012

Shoppers paid a bit less for food at the grocery store during the fourth quarter of 2012, with some popular fruits and veggies showing a decline in retail price. Lower retail prices for Russet potatoes, bagged salad and apples, among other foods, resulted in a slight decrease in the latest American Farm Bureau Federation Quarterly Marketbasket Survey. 

The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $50.54, down $1.36 or about 3 percent compared to the third quarter of 2012. Of the 16 items surveyed, 10 decreased and six increased in average price compared to the prior quarter.

To see the full survey results, go to

Congratulations to the Winner of our Ag Adventures Year Long Contest!

Congratulations to Joyce Holste! She was the winner of our yearly drawing for an Agricultural products basket filled with all sorts of ag related goodies. She submitted an Ag Adventures Crossword Puzzle entry (located in our monthly Cooperator) every month for the year of 2012. You too can be a winner! All you have to do is complete the word search puzzle and entry form that is located on our Ag Adventures Page (in the Cooperator) every month all year long and you will be entered into our yearly drawing. Submit one entry a month and you will also be entered into our monthly drawing for 4 movie tickets. Good luck!



Ag in the Classroom visits Palatine Public Library

Over 50 parents and children participated in a dairy program hosted by Cook County Ag in the Classroom at the Palatine Public Library on December 28th.  After reading the book, Clarabelle by Cris Peterson, the children did some experiments with milk including making a milk "explosion" and making ice cream in a bag. Despite the cold weather outside, the cold ice cream was a big hit.  If your local library would like to host a free visit from Ag in the Classroom, contact us to select a date and topic.


Ag Lit Bit

I am confident 2013 will be a year filled with more new and exciting advancements in technology, but I challenge you to practice some ‘old fashioned’ living without the use of technology. Instead of waiting for National “Turn off the TV Week” (now known as “No Screen Week”) or “National School Lights Out Day” (now known as “Earth Hour”), pick your own time and day to walk away from technology.  One of the reasons our 4th Grade In-School visits remain so popular isn’t because of our high tech delivery, but due to the hands-on nature of our visits.  It isn’t often that children get to see and feel real corn and soybeans or play a matching game with actual farm seeds.  So much learning is computer-based that it’s nice to take a break from looking at a screen and actually seeing something in real life, such as straw, wheat and oats.   The same holds true for reading.  Now I admit I got ...

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Manifolds, Manolos and Manure

Looking back at 2012 through my New Year’s champagne-induced fuzz, I see another memorable year for the state and county. As Illinoisans we again made history, this time for electing a former lawmaker who was removed from the Illinois House after being indicting by the Feds for allegedly taking cash bribes.  Perhaps the Federal charges aren’t the shocking point.  Perhaps the shocking point is that Derrick Smith was in office for less than a year (yes, less than a year) before being brought up on charges by the Feds for offenses that happened while serving as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives (for less than a year).  Do note that Smith is innocent until proven guilty and is more than happy to proclaim is his innocence, how the government is persecuting him, and to compare himself to some mighty fine historical and biblical figures.   Speaking of the 2012 election, voters in the second Congressional District elected absentee incumbent lawmaker Jesse Jackson, ...

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Vienna Beef: a Chicago Agri-Business since 1893

Founded by Austria-Hungarian immigrants Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany, Vienna Beef has been a mainstay in Chicago since 1893.  Within a year of Vienna Beef’s premier to 27 million people at the World’s Columbian Exposition, an invention showcase, in Chicago, Reichel and Ladany opened their first store on Chicago’s near west side.  For years Vienna Beef flourished and soon replaced horse-drawn carriages with state-of-the-art motorized vehicles for deliveries. In the midst of the Great Depression, Vienna Beef hot dog carts sold hot dogs for a nickel.  This thriving group of vendors advertised their hot dogs as having “a salad on top” thus the famous Chicago-style hot dog was born.  As quick as Chicagoans’ love for hot dogs grew so did Vienna Beef’s business.  In the 1950’s food distributors in Indiana, Wisconsin and throughout Illinois began purchasing products from Vienna Beef.  At the same time Chicago’s hot dog stand busines ...

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History of Food: A Real Chicago Hot Dog

Born from hot dog vendors during the Great Depression, the “Chicago style” hotdog has been a mainstay of the Chicago community and hot dog aficionados, alike. A “Chicago-style” hot dog or Chicago dog is a steamed or water-simmered all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun sans ketchup.  Original hot dog vendors advertised their hot dogs as having “a salad on top.”  The interplay of crisp and soft of Chicago-style dogs is created by yellow mustard, bright green relish, fresh chopped onions, juicy red tomato wedges, a kosher-style pickle spear, a couple of short peppers and a dash of celery salt.   The “dragged through the garden” style preferred by hot dog enthusiasts is the same style promoted by Vienna Beef and Red Hot Chicago, Chicago’s two most prominent and historic hot dog manufacturers.  Popular Chicago-style hot dogs include Portillo’s, Superdawg, The Wieners Circle, and Fluky’s. True Chicago-style hot dogs do not ...

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Downwind by Bob Rohrer, CAE, FBCM, Manager (Technology Guru)

I am a technology dinosaur trying to evolve as I face extinction with the world changes around me. The image of a triceratops or Stegosaurus trying to operate a computer laptop comes to mind.(except I love meat…no plant eater here!) So maybe I'm a technology challenged, meat eating velociraptor. During the movie “Jurassic Park”, those velociraptors learned how to open doors but I bet they could not learn to operate a computer system. My office “way of life” is going extinct… bye, bye paper and pencil. When I was in grade school and junior high back in medieval times, penmanship was a part of one's grade. During those early school years, I found penmanship to be a “foreign language”. To say I had difficulty mastering it would be a massive understatement. Apparently, my writing “hand” was more of a writing “talon”.  I should have been practicing to be a doctor. I just did not find the skill of writing legibly to be important. T ...

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