Napa Valley Watch Out

The Southern Illinoisan reported today that the U.S. Treasury Department just gave wine makers in Southern Illinois an important new marketing tool according to a news release from U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello's office.

The agency approved the petition of the Shawnee Hills American Viticultural Area which allows "vintners and consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of a wine made from grapes grown in a area to its geographic origin"

Parts of Williamson County are included in the 2,140 square mile area as are portions of Randolph, Jackson, Union, Alexander, Pulaski, Johnson, Williamson, Saline, Gallatin, Hardin and Pope counties.

The article didn't describe the boundaries, but a check of the Federal Register notice did.

The northern boundary of the AVA in Williamson County runs along Route 13 where it enters from Jackson County east to Interstate 57 in Marion, then down the interstate to Exit 45, then down Route 148 to Route 37, then down to Pulley's Mill and the South Fork of the Saline River. The boundary follows the river downstream to the Saline County.

Basically, the southwestern quarter of the county is in the designated area as well as the Lake of Egypt and Creal Springs area in the southeastern corner.

The designation was made according to several criteria, including historical evidence supporting the boundary, distinct geographic features, and that the area is locally and/or nationally known by its name. There are eight wineries with 51 vineyards in the Shawnee Hills AVA.

"This is an important distinction for winegrowers in Southern Illinois and the entire Illinois wine industry," said Costello in his news release. "The AVA designation will boost the popularity of Southern Illinois wines and help bring more tourists to our area."

With today's article I started looking around for what grape growers we had in Williamson County. This morning I caught up with Bill McCartney, executive director of the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association, while he was driving to a meeting.

His website lists four vineyards, with one at least using "winery" in its name:
  • Cana Vineyards, Inc.
  • Pecan Garden Vineyard
  • Richey Farm & Vineyard, and
  • Stone Hall Farms Vineyard & Winery

A fifth site, Naurie's Vineyard, wasn't listed, but was one of two I knew existed in the county. I've been told of another possible vineyard near Hurst but haven't found out any more about it.

Cana Vineyards off of Cana Church Rd, and Stone Hall Farms along Wolf Creek Roads are definitely in the designated area. Richey Farm & Vineyard off of Dykersburg Road is north of the Saline River and wouldn't be, though I assume Pecan Garden would be in the area, but don't know exactly though it has a Creal Springs post office box for a mailing address.

McCartney agreed with the Congressman about the impact the new designation will provide to the area's vineyards and wineries.

"It's really important when you start marketing that wine," explained Bill McCartney, who compared it with California wine makers marketing their product under the "Napa Valley" label.

Gear up for Agribition

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Preparations are well underway for the 36th annual Canadian Western Agribition (CWA) in Regina.

“It’s a huge machine that kicks into gear, and we are now gearing up,” said CWA General Manager Leon Brin.

“Right now we are into set-up mode. As we get closer and closer to the 20th, we bring more staff on. There are barns to be set up, the tradeshow component is established, there is lots of work to do,” said Brin.

“Thankfully, we are blessed with a staff that is highly experienced. Most of the people are into the double-digits in terms of how many years they’ve spent here. There aren’t too many surprises.”

By the numbers, the show is pretty impressive: 4,000 head of livestock, 186,000 square feet of tradeshow with 450 exhibitors, and over 140,000 people expected to go through the turnstiles during the run of Agribition.

The theme of this year’s show is “A World of Opportunity.” Brin says that theme will be demonstrated by the number of international guests.

“I think the international profile that Agribition has built for itself over the past few years is going to pay off this year. I think we are going to see a bigger number of international visitors. We are getting a lot of inquiries from around the world,” said Brin.

Brin says they won’t know what the actual number will be until the international guests arrive and register, but they know the importance of putting international buyers together with Western Canadian sellers.

“If you look at the beef sector, for example, recent developments have led the industry to understand that it has to diversify its marketing. You can’t just concentrate on one market,” Brin observed. “The beef industry is focused on marketing itself to international clients, and are looking to Agribition to do whatever we can to encourage [international] potential buyers to attend in order to make the connections with exporters.”

In 2005, 385 international guests representing 46 countries and 17 American states registered in the International Business Centre.

The full schedule of events for Agribition can be found at Agribition 2006 officially opens November 20 and runs until November 25 at Ipsco Place in Regina.

For more information, contact:

Leon Brin, General Manager
Canadian Western Agribition
Phone: (306) 924-9600

Heart health claim a boon for canola growers

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association (SCGA) is welcoming news of a powerful new tool to sell canola oil in one of the largest markets in the world.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) recently announced that canola oil can now bear a qualified health claim on its labelling.

Manufacturers can now use the following claim on their products:

Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 1.5 tablespoons of canola oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the unsaturated fat content in canola oil. To achieve this possible benefit, canola oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day.

While the claim may be “qualified,” SCGA Executive Director Judie Dyck doesn't think the impact will be.

“It is very exciting, because the U.S. is a big market for canola. We are going to have two more crushing plants in Yorkton, and we will want to be moving more canola oil south. Most of our oil that we crush here now is going into the U.S. marketplace. So when you are going into the market to promote canola oil, you can now include the qualified health claim,” explains Dyck.

As the largest generation in the history of the human race ages, the importance of a heart-healthy diet is becoming an evermore prominent consumer demand to which manufacturers are responding.

“Just look at some of the labelling that has occurred in the past few years,” says Dyck. “Cholesterol-free, trans fat-free – consumers are becoming more educated, and more people are reading the packaging and the labelling. As consumers become more aware, they will start recognizing that they have to eat healthily, and canola is the healthiest oil.”

At seven per cent, canola oil is lowest in saturated fats, and the health benefits of canola have been front and centre in past marketing efforts. However, the USFDA ruling lends credibility to the message.

“You now have an independent third party that is ratifying what [the canola industry] has been saying for years,” says Dyck.

The SCGA is hoping all of this will benefit the bottom line of producers.

“There are a lot of factors happening in canola, including the impact of biodiesel. A million metric tonnes of last year’s seed went to Europe for biodiesel. We want to make sure that both the food and fuel markets can be expanded, and we are starting to see the price improve for canola,” says Dyck.

Canola Council of Canada president Barb Isman likewise welcomes the USFDA’s stamp of approval.

“Canola oil is a good fat. We’ve said it all along, and now the USFDA agrees. Canola oil provides a simple and affordable way to improve heart health, and that’s great news. We’re hoping, as an industry, that the claim will encourage more food product designers and manufacturers to use canola oil rather than less healthy choices,” says Isman.

Health Canada does not have a similar health claim system, so the U.S. designation will hold no legal weight in this country. However, the USFDA qualified claim will still influence Canadian consumers, since it will likely appear in U.S. advertising or on products that are imported from the States.

Health Canada does approve the following statement regarding canola:

A healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats may reduce the risk of heart disease. Canola oil is low in saturated and trans fats.

For more information, contact:

Judie Dyck, Executive Director
Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association
Phone: (306) 668-2380

"Noses that know" turn in research on hog barns

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

For 700 days over the last two years, professional sniffers—also known as the “Nasal Rangers”—rode tall in their truck seats, testing the air and sniffing out potential problems with the intensive livestock operations near Good Spirit Lake and the surrounding communities. Their mission: to sniff out offensive odours that could be coming from the nearby operations, from as close as half a kilometre to as far away as six kilometres.

What the hired noses, as well as the other community residents asked to participate, found was that there was not much to smell. “This is a good news story,” says Don Walters with the Spirit Creek Watershed Monitoring Committee (SCWMC). “This is about good management, government and community groups forming regulations that are good for the environment and the rural economy. We can all work together.”

Walters should know about working together, after spending the last five years involved with the SCWMC. He says the committee was initially formed because residents were concerned about what hog barns operating in the area might bring with them. “Some of us weren’t in favour of hog barns at the start,” says Walters. “We knew nothing, though, and we learned a lot.”

Over the last five years, the SCWMC worked with residents, Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, and the barn owners to collect baseline data on their community before the barns even went into production. The SCWMC then monitored water and soil quality in the area surrounding the barns, testing for any contaminants and even just unpleasant smells. They hired “Nasal Rangers,” who, along with local residents, made up the sniff-test team. “They’d have to get up in the morning and calibrate their noses,” jokes Walters. “That creates the standard for odour monitoring.”

The SCWMC’s five-year report found that some odour was detected two per cent of the time. Out of that portion, 60 per cent of odours reported were rated as a level one or two on a scale of one to five, with one being the least offensive.

The monitoring also yielded some surprising – and important – results about local drinking water: it needed attention regardless of whether hog barns were established in the area. Before the operation began, residents were asked to test their drinking water, with the results staying confidential. “We realized there were some water concerns,” said Walters, “which is a good thing, because the people didn’t realize it themselves. They’d been drinking it for years.”

The SCWMC will continue to test the soil around the operations for the next six years. Walters says overly wet and rainy seasons over the last couple of years may have affected some of the testing they have been doing, so the group just wants to continue testing to make sure there are no adverse affects. Water testing at Good Spirit Creek (which feeds into Good Spirit Lake) will also continue.

As for the hog barns, Walters says, in the end, they have made the communities of Rama and Buchanan very happy. “We found it’s good for the rural economy, and people are happy working there. It kept people here and provided jobs.”

Walters says, besides the satisfaction of knowing their communities are working hand-in-hand with the barns to keep their environment clean, they have some home-grown information to go on. “This has given us some very good information that’s not from down south, or Denmark, or wherever.”

The local information also serves Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food. “Our livestock producers are good stewards of the environment and the report confirms this fact,” says Agriculture and Food Minister Mark Wartman. “Growing Saskatchewan’s livestock industry is key to stimulating the province’s rural economy.”

The full results and a copy of the report are available on the SCWMC website at

For more information, contact:

Don Walters
Spirit Creek Watershed Monitoring Committee
Phone: (306) 783-4828

Oil and water: do they mix?

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

An upcoming conference in Moose Jaw will investigate the connection between irrigation and bio-fuels. The 11th annual Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association (SIPA) conference on December 5 and 6 is expected to draw over 100 irrigators.

SIPA Chairman Roger Pederson says the showcase session is called “Bio-fuels and Irrigation: Oil and Water, Do They Mix?”

The session, moderated by agricultural commentator Kevin Hursh, will feature presentations from Lionel LaBelle of the Ethanol Development Council, Judie Dyck of the Biodiesel Development Task Force, John Ippolito from Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food and Keith Rueve from Pound-Maker AgVentures.

Pederson says the goal is to explore how irrigation and bio-fuels can complement one another.

“We think there is a good mix for irrigation with some of the bio-fuels,” says Pederson. “Under irrigation, production is much higher than on dry land, and our production on a year-to-year basis is pretty much assured, barring some catastrophe. So it makes the number of acres you need to draw from in order to support those plants less than what it would be in a dry-land situation.”

Pederson says there are also transportation advantages if the feedstock for a bio-fuel plant is being drawn from nearby irrigated land.

“With irrigation, you can get more of your product closer to the location of the plant. Transportation is a factor, and obviously, if you do not have to go so far away for the raw product to supply your plant, that should be an advantage. One of the reasons for this topic at the conference is to find out just what those advantages might be,” explains Pederson.

While the session is aimed at giving existing irrigators the opportunity to relate this seminar back to their own operations, Pederson says it would be of interest to a much broader audience.

“There have been a lot of meetings about biodiesel and ethanol, but I think none quite like this one. We hope that it will answer some specific questions for irrigation farmers, but it will be useful information whether you are a dry-land farmer or an irrigation farmer,” says Pederson.

Anyone interested in attending the conference can register online at, or call Sandra Bathgate at (306) 796-4420.

For more information, contact:

Roger Pederson, Chairman
Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association
Phone: (306) 867-8460

Saskatchewan goat breeders working to grow sector

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

As producers seek new and innovative ways to diversify, the Saskatchewan Goat Breeders Association invites them to “think goat.”

The association’s president is Guenette Bautz, who raises goats for both the meat and milk markets on her Country Log Ranch near Middle Lake in the Humboldt area.

“Saskatchewan is the perfect place to raise goats in terms of land base and cost of production,” says Bautz. “Goats are a good option for diversification.”

The goat industry has three main operation sectors: dairy, meat and mohair, which can add diversification to any agricultural operation.

Bautz and husband Ryan started with a grain and cattle operation. After much research, she concluded goats would be the perfect addition to their farm. Now, some six years later, she is the owner of approximately 130 breeding stock for meat production, and a further 50 animals that produce milk and associated products. In fact, the Country Log Ranch operates the only health-district-approved Category 2 goat milk dairy in Saskatchewan.

“We recognize the need for a processing plant to further develop the milk industry in our province. We are, therefore, currently investigating and submitting plans to expand our operation into a processing plant that would enable us to transform goats’ milk into other dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, butter and ice cream,” Bautz says.

She says consumers are attracted by the health benefits of goats’ milk, which is produced without any additives, hormones or stimulants. It has much lower lactose content than cows’ milk or human mothers’ milk, and is well-tolerated by those who suffer from certain intestinal disorders and infants whose digestive systems have not yet fully matured. Live animals are currently shipped out of province for finishing and processing, with meat distributed at the farm gate or through local stores.

According to the latest available Statistics Canada data, there are approximately 16,000 goats in the Saskatchewan herd. Because there are many hobbyists keeping only a few animals, it is difficult to estimate the total number of producers in the province.

For a milk producer, approximately 40 animals are required to start, with the herd growing to about 50 milking does if the producer wishes to make a living solely on the dairy side. The largest single meat herd in the province numbers some 400 goats. There are currently 63 members in the Saskatchewan Goat Breeders Association, and they are very willing to share what they have learned with producers who may be interested in getting into the sector.

Bautz describes the stock as “easy to manage and safe with kids,” making them a perfect alternative for any family farm. They are browsers of widely available natural pastures, feeding on grasses, leaves, brush and even bark. They also graze well alongside cattle.

On her operation, she has an unusual helper, a llama named “Peace.” “Not only does she herd them back from pasture, but she also patrols the perimeter of their enclosure like a sentry,” said Bautz. While dogs are commonly used to assist in herding, young llamas will bond with the goats and demonstrate strong protective instincts. “She is an effective deterrent to predators like coyotes,” Bautz adds.

Goat breeding offers a great opportunity for new producers to enter the business, with markets still being established in Canada and a shortage of supply to meet demand. Saskatchewan breeders are also members of the Canadian National Goat Breeders Association, which is building education resources for its members across the country, and implementing important initiatives such as on-farm food safety and a national traceability program.

Bautz will be showing her animals at Canadian Western Agribition, and says she looks forward to talking to interested producers about the Saskatchewan Goat Breeders Association and topics like dairy, meat and fibre production.

More information is available through the Bautz operation website,, and she welcomes customer and producer inquiries via her e-mail address,

For more information, contact:

Guenette Bautz
Phone: (306) 367-2404

Issues and action plans for rural women the focus of conference

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A series of meetings throughout Saskatchewan will culminate with the “Rural Women’s Policy Forum” November 24-26 in Muenster. The process began with a grant from Status of Women Canada to fund a project called “Empowering Rural Women’s Voices.” The program has been co-ordinated through the Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence at the University of Regina.

“The rural women's issues committee is a result of a seminar put on by the centre,” says policy analyst and committee member Joanne Havelock. “We had participated with other centres across Canada in a national study of women living in rural, remote and northern locations. So we decided to follow up the recommendations of that study, to see how they relate particularly to Saskatchewan.”

After an initial workshop in Young focusing on rural women's health issues, the participants expressed a desire to make that kind of opportunity available to other women across the province. Along with Havelock, they put together the committee and sought out the grant money to fund further activity. Starting about two years ago, the committee sponsored workshops in Nipawin, Swift Current, Carlyle, Unity and Christopher Lake.

“We’ve talked about what is affecting women's well-being, and that of their families and communities,” says Havelock. “It’s an evening and a day, and we start by asking participants what is the thing they’re most proud of accomplishing. It can range from putting nutritious meals on the table for the family, to running for council, to jumping off the high-diving board. The point is that women do a lot and accomplish a lot, and should be very proud of what they’ve done.”

The workshops seek to identify what issues are affecting the local community, and ask those attending to imagine a new vision of how things can change if that issue is resolved. The participants are challenged to generate action lists to move toward those new visions. Each workshop has attracted 15 to 25 women, from farms and small rural communities.

“Each workshop has its own individual report, which is available on our website,” says Havelock. “We will pull together a comprehensive report after the November forum.”

The Rural Women’s Policy Forum will be held at St. Peter’s College in Muenster, and remains open to registration. The agenda calls for sessions to be held on a variety of topics, such as Women and Leadership, Women in the Rural Economy, and Health Care. Havelock says organizers hope to see positive actions by participants to resolve issues in their communities when they return home.

The forum is free for participants, with mileage, food and accommodation all covered by the program grant. Registration information is available by calling Joanne Havelock at the Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence, (306) 585-5727.

For more information, contact:

Joanne Havelock
Phone: (306) 585-5727
Mobile: (306) 535-9570

So. Ill. Boat & Fishing Show Set for Feb. 2-4

From a WCTB News Release:

    A winter boat show will return to Southern Illinois next year with the development of the new Southern Illinois Boat & Fishing show slated for the first weekend in February.

    The Williamson County Tourism Bureau, in partnership with the Youth Outdoor Education Foundation, will sponsor the event at the Williamson County Pavilion behind the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.

    “It’s been a few years since we had a show like this in the region,” said Jon Musgrave, the new executive director of the Williamson County Tourism Bureau. “Last week the tourism board approved a pitch from the foundation to co-sponsor the show.”

    The board approved the proposal at their Nov. 15 meeting and organizers finalized the exact dates this week.

    “This is going to be a hard-core boat and fishing show for the sportsmen of Southern Illinois and families,” promised organizer Ron Allen with the education foundation.
    The show will be open to the public with free admission.

    Tentative hours are set for 4 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 2; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 4.

    Interested vendors can contact Allen by phone at 217-787-8862 or 217-725-7602, or by e-mail at Interested persons can also contact Musgrave at the Williamson County Tourism Bureau at 618-997-3690 or

Bed Tax Receipts Drop Slightly

Williamson County bed tax receipts dropped slightly in September according to figures received this week at the Williamson County Tourism Bureau.

The county levies a 5 percent bed tax which generated $58,230.20 owed by lodging operators in September. That's down about a half a percent.

By county ordinance the tourism bureau receives 40 percent of that amount, or $23,292.08 in the latest check, to support the bureau's operations. The remaining 60 percent goes to the Williamson County Events Commission to pay for the Williamson County Pavilion.

By comparison in 2006 the 2 percent bed tax for the tourism bureau generated 23,417.45, though at the time two motels were delinquent.

September's bed tax receipts are paid by the lodging operators to the county in October, and the county transfers the funds the following month to the tourism bureau and events commission.

CORRECTION - 12/19/06
I made a mistake in the calculations. Rather than a half a point decrease, September's motel receipts dropped 5.9 percent compared to August, but rose 5 percent from the previous September.

Miners Manager Named, Season Opens May 29

The Southern Illinois Miners named Mike Pinto as their new field manager Tuesday and announced that the first home game at the new Minors Stadium would take place on May 29, six days after the team's season opener in Sauget.

Pinto comes to the team after two seasons at the helm of the Sioux Falls Canaries of the American Association and three seasons of coaching with the Joliet Jackhammers of the Independent Northern League. Mike also coached two seasons at Oakton Community College.

During his first official day on the job, Pinto signed the first two players for the Miners:

  • Chris Hall, a 6' 3", 220 lb 3rd Baseman, played at Indiana State University and hit .350 his senior year with a .470 slugging percentage. He started his professional career in Shreveport, Louisiana in the Central League in 2004 where he hit .260. He then went with manager Terry Bevington to Edmonton in 2005 and hit .277 while setting a Northern League record for assists with 203 as the leagues best 3rd baseman. Although he hit .239 in 2006 for Sioux Falls, Chris hit .323 in the final month of the season while continuing his sparkling play at 3rd base. He also hit 19 doubles, had 4 home runs and 7 stolen bases.

  • Jose Torres, a 6', 195 lb left fielder, drafted in the 39th round by the Texas Rangers, split the 2006 season with the Lincoln Saltdogs and St. Paul Saints of the American Association, hitting a combined .247 with 6 home runs and 37 RBI along with having 6 outfield assists.

The team also released the 2007 season schedule. Pinto and the Miners will take the field for the first time on May 23 against the Gateway Grizzlies in Sauget, Illinois, and for the first time at home on May 29th against the Evansville Otters.

The schedule includes 51 home games during 11 home stands. The team plans to have fireworks displays after the first home game and all Friday home games.

Inaugural season tickets and Miners team merchandise can be purchased by calling the team office at 618-998-8499, stopping by the office in the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion, or on the team website:

'Color It Pink' at Artisans Shop

The Southern Illinoisan had a good story last week on the new exhibit at the Southern Illinois Artisans Shop at Rend Lake.

Thanks Stephanie at SITDO for the tip.

Marion Campground Opens

The Marion Campground and RV Park won't be finished until next spring, but the first campers arrive this weekend.

Advertised as the "premiere RV park in Southern Illinois" the developers plan on 58 full service sites and 27 pull-through sites.

When everything is finished, the park will include a convenience store, laundry and shower facilities, plus amenities such as satellite television and wireless internet available at each site.

The new park is located off of Seventh Street just north of Main Street east of Exit 53 on Interstate 57.

The website is easily remembered as

And The Name Is...

... the Southern Illinois Miners.
We wanted a name that the people of the region could identify with in a personal way. We think the miner was an excellent choice because he represents the many great qualities of people in Southern Illinois - hard working, honest, and dedicated," said Erik Haag, spokesman for the Southern Illinois Baseball Group.

"Throughout the history of this region many miners labored under less than ideal conditions in an effort to put food on the table and improve the lives of their families," Haag added. "We think the name also reflects the recent renaissance in mining in the area which will serve as an economic catalyst for the future."

The team's new website is Team merchandise is already available for sale at the team's kiosk in the mall. Merchandise and tickets can also be purchased online.

Next on the agenda will be the announcement of the coach and the first couple of players hired as well as the 2007 schedule.

Games begin in late May and run to early September.

Area Beatles Site Gets New Owner

Congrats to Sarah Morrison, the new owner of a Hard Day's Nite and a future Beatles shrine/museum(?) in Benton.

The bed and breakfast inn is the house formerly belonging to Louise Harrison, sister to the famed George Harrison who visited Benton and performed in the area prior to the Beatles invasion of America.

Today's Southern Illinois has the story.

First Day On The Job

The day started at 7:57 a.m. when I pulled into the Pavilion parking lot.

Almost 13 hours later it ended when I pulled out at 8:53 p.m.

Welcome to the life of the new executive director of the Williamson County Tourism Bureau, which would, uh, be me!

Actually, it was a very good day. Jeanette Sollami has been acting as interim director for the last two-and-a-half months will stay on for another couple of months to help with the transition.

The Williamson County Tourism Board held their annual Thanksgiving meeting for lunch with turkey and all the trimmings. Tonight for dinner Jeanette and I attended a meeting at Giant City Lodge where we had the family style chicken dinner.

Of course the meals did put us in a fowl mood.

Sorry, I've been making that lame joke all day. I hesitate to think how many times Jeanette has heard me use it.

Tonight's meeting dealt with the new Illinois Travel Guide with Joan Sharp, a representative of Madden Preprint Media on hand to highlight their offerings.

Had a chance to sit down and speak with Vickie Cummiskey, Harrisburg's new economic development director; Stephanie Rhodes, executive director of the Southern Illinois Tourism Development Office; Sheryl Durham, coordinator of the Illinois section of the Ohio River Scenic Byway; and Angelo and Janice Fiorino, owners of Murphysboro's Apple Tree Inn, which I learned tonight they purchased from Southern Illinois tourism pioneer Wayman Presley.

Earlier today the tourism board approved three main goals for me during the first year:

  • Bring the Williamson County Pavilion into the black (or at least very dark gray). We're close to breaking even, just not close enough some months.

  • Bring the website up-to-date and expand it.

  • Develop new attractions and events to expand Williamson County tourism.

I also made a short presentation on how we might go about accomplishing the third goal. Information on that will be announced next month, but I'll offer one hint now. We won't do it alone. It's going to require grassroots efforts.

In terms of the first goal the tourism board approved a proposal by Dwight Hoffard, John A. Logan College's representative on the board to co-sponsor a new late winter boat show the first weekend in March at the Pavilion.

I'll have more on the new Southern Illinois Boat & Fishing Show as details are announced. The Youth Outdoor Education Foundation will be the lead co-sponsor of the event.

The dates are March 3 and 4, which is the weekend after the Motorcycle Show (last weekend of February) and the weekend before the Home Builders Expo (the second weekend of March).

UPDATE: The newspapers have now covered the hiring. Cherri Flinn's for the Marion Daily Republican is here and Ashley Wiehle's for the Southern Illinoisan can be found here.

Few Hints Offered on Baseball Team Name

Today's Marion Daily Republican has two stories on the new Frontier League baseball team coming to Marion.

The first story covers the problems of all the rain is having on construction.
“We’re only getting two to three days a week of work because of the rain,” said Project Superintendent Pete Woolley, of Holland Construction Services. “We’ve been working Saturdays when it’s dry.”

The second story focuses on the team name.
Southern Illinois Baseball Group Spokesperson Erik Haag will be the first to admit that he has almost “spilled the beans” of the new minor league team’s name.

“We’ve been talking about it around the office so much, I’ve nearly let it slip at least once,” he said.

Officials from the Southern Illinois Baseball Group will reveal the new team name, logo and colors tomorrow at the center court of the Illinois Centre Mall at 6 p.m

New award recognizes province's best hog drivers

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The care and handling of animals beyond the farm gate is left in the hands of the transporter, who can significantly affect the health of the animals in their care. That’s why the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board (Sask Pork) and the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS) are teaming up to hand out the first ever Award of Distinction for Hog Transportation Handling.

“The transportation process is very stressful for livestock, and the truckers’ approach to animal handling makes all the difference,” says Harvey Wagner, Producer Services Manager with Sask Pork.

With consumers increasingly wanting assurance that the food they purchase and consume was raised and cared for in a humane manner, it is important that every step in the production process remains careful and connected. Truckers and transporters are a vital part of that link, since losses from inadequate care or handling can cost the industry millions of dollars each year.

The selection process for the award is dependent on nominees meeting the following criteria: the forms must meet the deadline; the nominee must have completed the pork industry Trucker Quality Assurance (TQA) program; and the nominee must be seen to be doing an exceptional job of transporting live hogs.

“It’s a seal of approval,” says Wagner. “People like to be recognized for doing a good job, and it’s time we gave out recognition for the transportation side.”

Nominations can come from people in all the stages of the pork production chain: producers, employees of producers or processors, receivers like plants or assembly yards and companies all deal with hog truckers and could know someone deserving of recognition.

“The trucker is an important part in the process for reducing stress on animals, and, as we do with everything, we ask that they keep the animals in mind. We want to single out the best of the best,” says Wagner.

Those who think they have a suitable candidate for the award can visit the Sask Pork ( or FACS ( websites to download an electronic nomination form, or contact the FACS office at (306) 244-7752 to make a nomination by phone. Wagner says they have already received a number of nominations, but since this is the first year for the award, “we’re looking for more.”

If you know a transporter who is deserving of the Award of Distinction for Hog Transportation Handling, hurry: the nomination deadline is Wednesday, November 15, 2006. The award will be presented on December 12, 2006 at the annual general meeting of FACS in Saskatoon.

For more information, contact:
Harvey Wagner, Producer Services Manager
Saskatchewan Pork Development Board
Phone: (306) 244-7752

Adele Buettner, Executive Director
Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 249-3227

Saskatchewan seed system goes international

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Farmers in eastern Europe will soon be planting their crops with made-in-Saskatchewan equipment and technology, thanks to a new partnership between Seed Hawk manufacturing of Langbank and Swedish manufacturer Vaderstad-Verken.

Seed Hawk is the creation of Pat Beaujot, an agronomist and farmer from the Langbank area. The company began in 1992 with an idea to improve seeding technology. Seed Hawk equipment is now at work on some 700 farms, primarily in Western Canada.

Seed Hawk had been selling the vast majority of its equipment on the prairies. Just a few units were heading for Europe – until the principals of Vaderstad-Verken came looking for new products.

“The owner came over to look at seeding equipment built in Western Canada,” said Beaujot. “They were starting to see some growth in eastern Europe, and they really didn’t have a product line for that market.” Vaderstad-Verken primarily served western European farmers, where average soil moisture is greater and field sizes are much smaller.

“It was flattering to hear that not only did they feel we had the best technology, but that we were the best company to deliver that technology,” said Beaujot.

The result was an agreement which saw Vaderstad-Verken purchase a 49-per-cent equity interest in Seed Hawk Inc. The capital will be used to dramatically expand the manufacturing plant near Langbank in order to create the capacity that the new eastern European market will demand. With Vaderstad-Verken’s significant distribution network, Beaujot is projecting sales growth of up to 300 per cent over the next two years.

Ground work has begun on the new manufacturing plant, with full construction scheduled during 2007. Seed Hawk will satisfy initial demand from its current facilities.

Seed Hawk currently employs 40 people, and Beaujot expects that workforce to increase by 20 to 30 more people during the next 16 months. The new relationship will also mean improvements to Seed Hawk’s seeders, because they will gain access to proprietary Vaderstad-Verken technology for variable rate seeding.

Beaujot and his partner Brian Dean will retain controlling interest in Seed Hawk and manage all manufacturing. The two will also continue handling distribution within Canada, while Vaderstad-Verken will be responsible for international marketing.

Vaderstad-Verken is a privately-owned company that employs 450 people at its 25,000-square-metre plant in Sweden. It has eight subsidiary companies distributing farm machinery throughout Europe.

For more information, contact:

Pat Beaujot, President
Seed Hawk Inc.
Phone: 1-800-667-4295

Producers encouraged to monitor stored grain

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The crop is in the bin, but the question that some Saskatchewan producers are dealing with is: What else is in there?

Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Crop Specialist Dale Risula says a number of conditions have combined to make stored grain monitoring more important than usual this year. Risula notes there have been reports of beetle infestations in stored grain from all over the province.

“The key is for farmers to harvest the grain dry, and to aerate it and try to get it below 15 degrees Celsius as quickly as possible, because, at that temperature, the grain beetles become inactive,” said Risula. “To ensure that they lessen the likelihood of infestation, they should clean bins thoroughly, avoid putting new grain on top of old grain, and make sure the area surrounding the storage bin is clean and free of any spilled grain on the ground.”

Beetles can also survive a winter under the bark of trees near a grain storage area, so spraying the trees with insecticide is another preventative option.

But the first line of defence is close monitoring, and Risula says temperature is a good indicator.

“Monitoring your grain is critical. Check it fairly frequently for any build up of heat. Temperature is really the key to know if anything is happening in the bin,” said Risula.

The most uncontrollable factor of farming – weather – was a big contributor to the increased prevalence of grain beetles this year.

“The major reason for it has been the fact that last fall and the fall before saw the harvest take place under fairly adverse condition – that being the excessive frost or rain – which resulted in a lot of grain being harvested under inappropriate moisture and temperature conditions,” said Risula.

“When it is harvested in that fashion and then not stored properly, it is subject to infestation of bugs and various grain beetles that feed on broken or whole kernels. The moisture and the heat migrate in a storage bin and accumulate in areas. Before you know it, you can have a situation where the grain begins to spoil fairly rapidly, and this is an ideal breeding ground for bugs,” said Risula.

This year’s harvest conditions are another factor.

“This summer, a lot of grains were harvested under hot temperatures and stored at too warm a temperature. The moisture content was okay, but the temperature was a factor, and that’s why the beetle activity was so high. Because there were so many bugs around (due to the conditions in previous years), a lot of grain was infested this fall,” said Risula.

With the market having no tolerance for grain beetles, producers have to deal with the issue. But Risula said the options become a bit more challenging when the beetles are already in the bin.

“There are only a few choices for farmers. They can treat chemically or culturally. All of the methods are slow, and all of them are incomplete in terms of their efficiency, except for one – the use of phostoxin. It is a fumigant that basically kills all of the bugs within the grain. However, the problem is that phostoxin requires a license to apply the product,” explained Risula.

Cultural controls include moving the grain with grain vacuums, cooling the grain below minus 20 degrees Celsius or heating it above 50 degrees Celsius. That requires a lot of time and effort on the farmer’s part, and is not always 100 per cent effective.

SAF has prepared a very thorough, useful guide to assist producers, entitled Detecting Insects in Stored Grain. It can be found in the “Crops” section of the SAF website at, or obtained by calling the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

For more information, contact:
Dale Risula, Integrated Cropping Management Systems Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 694-3714

Sheep Development Board Meeting Serves as Forum

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A diverse and international slate of speakers is set to be a part of the 2006 Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board (SSDB) annual meeting and seminar, taking place December 1 and 2 in Saskatoon.

Colleen Sawyer, Manager of Extension and Marketing for the SSDB, says one of the more anticipated discussions will be the Pasture Lambing Forum on the afternoon of December 1. “We’ll be talking about lowering costs and expanding your flock, and possibly how to change the time of year that producers lamb,” said Sawyer. “It’s going to be a real bonus to have people there who are presently doing it, so producers will have them present to ask questions and have discussions.”

The SSDB is still confirming some speakers and participants, but one returning presenter is Dr. Chris Clark with the University of Saskatchewan. Dr. Clark’s seminar on December 1 will discuss common sheep and lamb diseases, as well as effective treatments.

“He’s a very good presenter,” said Sawyer. “He’s got a very practical approach to veterinary care and he’s very straightforward.”

There will be opportunities to speak to each of the presenters throughout the meeting, but Sawyer says the best chance to ask an expert some questions or to have a good conversation will be at the Friday night social. “It’s a good opportunity to talk to our presenters, and a great opportunity to get to know other sheep producers from the province.”

The SSDB also holds its annual general meeting (AGM) on December 2. Sawyer says there are no pressing industry issues to discuss this year, because the sheep industry seems to be doing fairly well in Saskatchewan.

“Most people come to hear the reports,” Sawyer noted. “We report on the various programs we’re running and give an update on the whole year in the industry.”

Information and trade show booths will also be set up for both days of seminars and meetings. Custom Woolen Mills, a custom processor out of Carstairs, Alberta, will have a booth at the event, and several feed and mineral businesses will also be represented.

The meeting and seminars should be of interest to anyone having anything to do with the sheep industry, from feed and feed sales to veterinary supplies. Up to 100 people are expected to attend, but registration is still available, and can be arranged by calling the SSDB office at (306) 933-5200.

Registration for Friday, December 1, is $35, which covers the day’s seminars and lunch. Registration for Saturday, December 2, is $20, and also includes all seminars, the AGM and lunch. Registration for both days offers a price break: $50 for all of the activities.

A block of rooms at the host hotel, the Ramada Saskatoon, is reserved for the meeting, but attendees are advised to book the rooms early, as they will likely sell out.

For more information, contact:

Colleen Sawyer, Manager of Extension and Marketing
Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board
Phone: (306) 933-5200

Public Invited for Team Name Unveiling

Southern Illinois baseball fans will find out Thursday what the name will be for the new Frontier League team set to start play in Marion next spring.

Officials from the Southern Illinois Baseball Group will unveil the team name and logo at 6 p.m. this Thursday at the center court of the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.

Last week construction finally grew above the street level on Blue Heron Drive. Work is planned to continued over the winter.

For more pictures of the baseball stadium's construction check out the group's photo gallery.

Alton Tourism Finds Slots Off Riverboat

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Amanda St. Amand writes about Brett Stawar's job and work as president of the Alton Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Ask the man whose job is luring visitors to the Alton area what there is to do, and he recites a laundry list of events and attractions. Ask Missouri residents what there is in Alton, and they likely will say a casino.

Amand focuses on Stawar's efforts to develop and promote other sites in the northern St. Louis Metro-East area.

We've got some of the same issues here in Williamson County and Southern Illinois.

Fulton Co. Tourism Summit Offers Blueprint

Today's Canton Daily Ledger includes a story on last Friday's tourism summit for Fulton County, home of the celebrated Spoon River.

Participants listed to speakers, gathered in small groups and hashed out ideas for tourism branding and development.

Having read the story I'm not that impressed with the summit's results, but I recognize the need behind it. Local residents and businesses have to buy into the idea of tourism. It's also something that can't be implemented top-down. It has to have grassroots support if it is to stick and spread.

About a decade ago Hartzel Black, then of Southeastern Illinois College, helped coordinate a series of four-county meetings for the Saline, Gallatin, Hardin and Pope County areas. I took an active part in those meetings and helped draft the tourism development plan that was generated from the discussion at those meetings.

Regrettably, little of those plans ever took effect, though the state did finally purchase the Old Slave House three years later.

Hartzel left SIC for greener pastures and Pope County decided to join the Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau. Hardin County and Gallatin County remain unalighted and left out of the state's CVB program and Saline County loosely affiliated with Williamson in order to receive state help.

I found an article in Google's cache of stories from The Daily Register that outlines the history of "Tourism Promotion Activity Since the 1920s" that mentions some of the problems that had to be overcome.

Airline Named for Marion - Chicago Flights

The long-awaited news that commercial air passenger service from Marion to Carbondale would resume is old news to us here in Southern Illinois, but it's made the Chicago Tribune now, so it must be real.

Seriously, the free publicity in the Tribune will trump the entire marketing budget for the Williamson County Airport Authority spends to promote flights to St. Louis, and soon, Chicago.

Although the new flights won't be non-stop to Chicago, Airport Manager Doug Kimmel has said publicly in the past he believes ridership will grow to a level that makes non-stop flights feasible.

Airport leaders made the official announcement this afternoon. I'm certain more details will be in tomorrow's Southern.

Air Midwest joins American Connection in offering flights out of Marion, the only airport in Southern Illinois with scheduled commercial air service.

There's only one detail unclear. The newspaper stories all described the name as Air Midwest, but the company's news release says Air Midwest will operate the flights under the name Mesa Airlines.

"4-H Month honours organization's contributions

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

November has been designated as “4-H Month” in Saskatchewan to acknowledge and honour the contributions of an organization that has helped generation after generation of youths become outstanding citizens.

“We’re really proud of the young people who develop life and leadership skills through their involvement with this program, and we want to share that pride,” said Stan Figley, Saskatchewan 4-H Council President.

The designation of 4-H Month has come at the national level, as well as the provincial level here in Saskatchewan, where 4-H has played an important role in youth development for almost 90 years.

The organization’s roots in Saskatchewan go back to 1917, with gardening and grain clubs in Colgate, Tantallon and Dubuc. It has evolved since then to include a wide variety of interests, from livestock, light horse and pets to hobbies and life skills such as woodworking, photography, crafts and cooking.

Today, there are more than 230 clubs across the province, with approximately 3,700 4-H members and 1,100 adult volunteers.

In order to recognize 4-H Month, local clubs will engage in a variety of activities, including setting up community and school displays, visiting nursing homes, hosting colouring contests, conducting school presentations and much more.

“We see it as an opportunity for 4-H clubs and the 4-H organization to celebrate 4-H and promote it among their communities – promoting the benefits of 4-H and increasing awareness for the organization,” said Kim Minogue, the Regional 4-H Specialist for northeastern Saskatchewan.

Minogue herself grew up in the 4-H system, then decided to get more involved at the provincial council level. “I was a member for six years in the light horse project with the 4-H club in Kyle,” she said.

Her experiences in the organization have been nothing but positive. “Young people who join a 4-H club can look forward to learning more about a project topic of their choice, developing lifelong friendships, having fun and gaining valuable life skills,” she said.

“The goal of 4-H is definitely to strengthen the skills of our youth enrolled in the organization and to develop their leadership skills,” Minogue added. “We try to achieve that through our motto, which is ‘Learn to do by doing.’ Definitely we stress the development of leadership skills.”

No matter what the interests of its members are, the 4-H program’s main goal is fostering positive personal development in youth. Club members complete one or more of 27 project possibilities, manage their own club affairs, including holding all of the executive positions, and take part in a wide range of 4-H activities, from camps to inter-provincial travel exchanges.

To become a 4-H member, a youth must be between six and 21 years of age. Those interested in learning more about the organization or how to join can call the provincial 4-H office at (306) 933-7727, or visit the Saskatchewan 4-H website at to find contact information for clubs and regional specialists in their area.

For more information, contact:

Kim Minogue, North East Regional Specialist
Saskatchewan 4-H Council
Phone: (306) 933-7727

"Grazing school" brings in forage and pasture experts

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The “2006 Manitoba Grazing School” conference taking place just over the border offers a great opportunity for Saskatchewan cattle producers to network with their colleagues in the livestock industry and hear from some of the foremost experts in the field of forage and pasture management.

The formal part of the program will take place November 28-30 at the Keystone Centre in Brandon, Manitoba. It is sponsored by the Manitoba Forage Council, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI), and participating agri-businesses.

Pam Iwanchysko, a forage specialist with MAFRI, is the chair of the program committee for the conference. She says that the organizers have been overwhelmed by the ongoing popularity of the Grazing School seminar.

“We started this concept in 1997, so we’ve been going nine years strong now. We had a small conference, it was just a bunch of forage specialists who got together and thought that we should have a provincial conference that focuses on grazing and pasture management, because there was a definite need for it in the province. We’ve had a lot of conferences specifically focused on livestock production, but nothing on forage production,” Iwanchysko said.

“When we first started it, we thought it would last a couple of years, then the popularity would start to die off and we’d quit. Well, it hasn’t died off yet, and we still get phenomenal response from producers. We always get positive comments in regards to our evaluations, and it’s just grown and grown and grown.”

Iwanchysko points out that the Grazing School generally draws around 400 people every year, from across the prairies and even from the northern United States. “I’d say around 20 per cent of our attendance is from Saskatchewan, which is terrific,” she noted.

Iwanchysko feels that much of the conference’s popularity is due to two main factors. First, the seminar offers delegates a lot for a very reasonable registration fee. There are notable keynote speakers, expert presentations on leading-edge research, break-out sessions for producers to network and learn from one another’s experiences, a trade-show with numerous agri-businesses, a very popular banquet and other social functions.

Second, conference organizers always strive to select topics that are relevant to what’s going on in the industry that particular year, so delegates are always hearing something new in areas that are emerging and becoming increasingly important to their operations. As a result, many producers return to the seminar year after year, which is a positive indication of its value.

“Our keynote speaker this year is Dr. Anibal Pordomingo, who is coming all the way from Argentina to speak about producing forage-finished beef,” said Iwanchysko. The practice used to be popular in Canada decades ago, but producers shifted over time to mostly grain-finishing cattle. Now, new research has begun to reveal that there may be health and medical benefits to forage-finished beef, which is generating renewed interest in the approach.

“The Manitoba Forage Council has just finished going over an analysis of producing forage-finished beef in Manitoba. So we’re kind of promoting that it can be done here on the prairies. It’s not something that is out of reach for us,” Iwanchysko said.

Among the numerous other topics featured on the program are fertility management in forages and pastures, getting the most out of native pastureland, seeding cropland into forages, and integrating livestock into a zero-till cropping program.

Registration for the Manitoba Grazing School is $150. Producers, agri-business entrepreneurs, academics or anyone else interested in learning more about the conference can visit the Manitoba Forage Council website at or call the agency at (204) 482-6315.

For more information, contact:

Pam Iwanchysko, Farm Production Extension – Forages
Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives
Phone: (204) 648-3965

Patience pays off for Christmas tree growers

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

When you are a child, the wait for Christmas seems endless, but the payoff of that moment when you spot the beautifully wrapped gifts under tree makes the wait worth it.

For Saskatchewan Christmas tree growers, that payoff will come this year.

Bob Mason, the President of the Saskatchewan Christmas Tree Growers Association, says it has been a good couple of years for growers.

“The Christmas tree crop looks excellent this year,” he stated. “We’ve had two good growing seasons in a row. Survival was good for the young ones, and the growth on the older ones that we are shearing and sculpting into Christmas trees was excellent these past two years.”

Mason says good moisture levels were the key, and that translates into a better product.

“Last winter was not hard on the trees, but mostly just having good moisture conditions made the difference,” he explained. “If the trees get lots of moisture, they will do well. What happens with more moisture is thicker growth, so that you get a thicker looking tree when it is sheared. Also, if there is enough moisture, they retain their needles better, which also makes for a better looking tree.”

That doesn’t just mean a better tree on the lot – it means a better tree in your house.

“If a tree goes into the fall moist, like it is, they keep their needles better in that time from when they are cut and when they are put in the house,” Mason noted.

Mason says trees are planted every year so there is a harvest every year, but there is long wait between planting and that magic moment on Christmas day.

“It takes eight to 14 years to grow a Christmas tree, depending on the species. A pine tree with the long needles could be ready in seven years, but fir trees, even though they are native to Saskatchewan, grow slowly and can take up to 14 years to get a good tree,” he stated.

With that kind of time and input cost commitment, Mason says having two good years in a row is boost for the industry as a whole.

“The industry is small. We are just kind of getting our feet on the ground. Having two good years helps the industry…because [growers] can see more success early on,” said Mason.

There are 25 members of the Christmas Tree Growers Association, including five Alberta members. Currently, Saskatchewan is producing approximately 12,000 trees per year.

For more information, contact:

Bob Mason, President, Saskatchewan Christmas Tree Growers Association
Phone: (306) 544-2734

Grain Millers harvest showdown fills up Yorkton

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The weekend of November 9-11 will really test Yorkton’s capacity. The 18th annual Harvest Showdown – sponsored this year by Grain Millers Canada – is on at the same time that the city will be hosting the World Junior “A” Hockey Challenge.

Don Kunkel with the Yorkton Exhibition Association says they’re up for the challenge. “It’s quite a unique thing to have these events on at the same time,” he said. “We had to give up our rodeo, but the weekend we’ll have should more than make up for that.”

Although hockey players will take the place of ropers and riders in the arena, the other agricultural events taking place elsewhere on the exhibition grounds are front and centre at this year’s Harvest Showdown. Events include the Futurity Heifer and Pen of Bulls Shows; the auctioneer competition; stock dog competitions; and the largest grain and forage show in western Canada.

“The grain and forage show is one of the biggest parts of our event, and I think that’s a large part of why Grain Millers came on as our title sponsor,” said Kunkel. “It takes up the whole lobby of the Gallagher Centre, which if you’ve been here to see after our renovations, is quite a lot of area.”

If livestock is what you need to see, Kunkel says the sheep show is very strong this year, and the commercial cattle show is getting bigger, as well. There are also expanded education forums throughout the event, including presentations by the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and animal health professionals.

Another favourite, returning portion of the Harvest Showdown is the trade show, household arts competition and rodeo fashion show.

Admission to the Grain Millers Harvest Showdown is free, which gives you access to the livestock and grain shows, the competitions and the trade show. Entertainment events running each night from Wednesday, November 8 to Saturday, November 11 will charge a ticket fee. Tyler Lewis, Saskatchewan’s own Canadian Idol favourite, will perform on Thursday, November 9.

Kunkel says in a normal year, about 12,000 to 15,000 people come through the doors at the Harvest Showdown, but with the hockey on as well, they are anticipating up to 20,000 people to go through the site over the three days.

As a result, Kunkel noted that accommodations in Yorkton are also going quickly. “Book early, that’s all I can say!”

For more information, contact:

Don Kunkel
Yorkton Exhibition Association
Phone: (306) 783-4800
Week of November 6, 2006

Organic Connections for the whole food chain

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

If you’re thinking about going organic, are already there, or just want to learn about the organic food industry, the Organic Connections 2006 conference and trade show in Saskatoon is the place to be.

Conference President Debbie Miller says they expect about 500 conference delegates to attend again, based on numbers from the 2004 conference.

“Our goal is to try and connect all of the different people within the organic sector – to connect consumers to some of the producers, producers to some of the retailers, to some of the processors to some of the grocery traders. Our goal is to bring them all together,” Miller said.

The conference is held every second year in Saskatoon, rotating in order to give other prairie provinces the chance to host similar gatherings in the other years. The conference attracts a majority of participants from across western Canada, but Miller notes they have registrations from every province in the country, as well as one from Nepal.

Miller says they organized this year’s conference around three central themes—production, marketing and healthy living—with concurrent sessions for each happening throughout all three days.

The production sessions should hold something for everyone. “We try to strike a balance between basic information for producers who are just thinking about organic farming, who want to know about things like weed control and green manure, and we also have some more advanced and diverse production sessions,” Miller stated.

The marketing stream of the conference is devoted to helping producers find value and new or alternative markets for organic products. “For example, we’ve got a chef coming in to talk about marketing products to restaurants,” said Miller. “It’s about learning to shorten the link between farms and end users.”

Part of the emphasis on healthy living will include a presentation from Amy Jo Ehman, a journalist and writer from within the province who dedicated a year of her life to exclusively eating the foods of Saskatchewan.

Other speakers leading the plenary sessions feature a diverse set of backgrounds, with topics ranging from sustainability research to niche marketing and value-added food processing.

Planned social activities include a murder mystery night in partnership with Saskatoon’s Off Broadway, and an Organic Celebration night at the Western Development Museum, complete with organic food, beer and wine.

“This idea of celebration runs throughout,” said Miller. “Celebrating organic food and the people who produce it – celebrating the farmers. Fun is a really big part of this conference.”

Organic Connections takes place November 12-14 at TCU Place in Saskatoon. Registration for the full three-day conference, trade show and program is $371 per person, with various options for partial attendance also available. Registration forms can be downloaded at Trade show booths are sold out.

For more information, contact:

Barbara Willick, Conference Organizer
Organic Connections
Phone: (306) 226-4501

State Eyes Free Internet at Rest Stops

State officials announced last week they are considering plans to make the interstate rest stops Internet hotspots.

Under the plans, still in the earliest stages, the state would offer free Internet service for travelers at the rest stops.

I thought IDOT Spokesman Matt Vanover's comment was appropriate for Williamson County.

Vanover said it could be particularly useful for motorists and truckers who are traveling on long trips. Someone crossing into the state from Kentucky could stop at the Interstate 57 rest area across the Ohio River from Paducah and look up which hotels are up the road in cities like Marion or Mt. Vernon.

The state is trying to figure out how to do this without any cost to the state. Likely, a private firm would offer limited free service and charge for longer times online.

New Businesses Eye Marion's Main Street

WBVN Radio announced they're moving their new studio to downtown Marion Thursday to the old Tony's Steakhouse across from the Civic Center just off the square.

WBVN is the region's largest contemporary Christian radio station and produces a number of concerts at the Civic Center. Though it's not directly tourism-related it's a boost to downtown Marion.

Also coming downtown is another business in the old Stylart building next to City Hall. I've been told what the business is, but I can't tell because the person telling me didn't know of the new business owners were ready to announce.

That something is coming is not a secret. A large construction-size dumpster has been sitting on the sidewalk mirroring the dumpster across the square in front of the old Marion State and Savings Bank building while it goes through a complete renovation.

Already they've ripped out the fake walls and drop ceiling of the dress shop and apparently plan on keep the space open up to tin ceiling.

The third project is down West Main Street with a new retail establishment going into the old CVS drug store building next to Borowiak's supermarket.

And meanwhile city officials hope that there's a real live prospect interested in the old Marion Memorial Hospital building.

Two weeks ago at the city council meeting Mayor Bob Butler did some of the worst one-sided negotiating I've ever seen, as he managed to get all five council members to say on the record what their bottom price would be to sell the building.

This is the type of negotiating usually done in closed session. It was pretty obvious the mayor was trying to send a very strong hint to someone.

New Log Cabin Opens in Williamson

I missed it last month, but Lynn and Jan Bush held an open house on Oct. 22, for their new Devil's Kitchen Cabins off of Grassy Road near Devil's Kitchen Lake.

The only have one pine log cabin but plan to build more on their wooded 80 acre tract. "Premier outdoor lodging," they promise, "deep in the woods of Southern Illinois.

I checked out their website at and they are already booked for much of November. Way to go!

Besides hunting and fishing at the nearby lakes and hunt clubs, their location near puts them near Giant City Lodge and State Park and the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail.

Note: The picture above shows the cabin just before all the work on the site was complete in August. If the time stamp is correct then it was also taken on my birthday.

New Blog on the Street


For reasons that will become clear in the next few weeks I've decided to start this blog to cover the changes and happenings in the tourism industry of Southern Illinois, particularly Williamson County, where I live.

I've long been active in tourism development efforts, most particularly with the Old Slave House near Equality. For the latest updates check out a few of my recent posts on the house.

Much of what I've done falls under the category of heritage tourism, but I also was one of the original board members of the River-to-River Trail Society when it organized back in the early 1990s.

About that same I also published The Goshen Traveler in 1991 and early 1992. It was a monthly tourism newspaper that serviced the southern 15 counties of Illinois.

There's a lot going on right now in the region, but we're just scratching the surface of all that can be done here.

Meanwhile, check out the Williamson County Tourism Bureau's new website at
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