April Fool's Snowstorm, Women Farmers and Local Events

April Fool's Snowstorm

As a farmer I'm super interested in the weather and climate where I grow my flowers: Central IL. Technically speaking Champaign-Urbana is in USDA plant hardiness zone 5b (click HERE for more info on USDA zones and find yours!). We moved here from Ames, IA, (zone 5a) and, even though we are just one zone warmer, the growing season here is at least a month longer!  So the April snow we got was a surprising start to the month.  Easter snowstorms have occurred in the past, but the cold temperatures on April 2nd were unusually cold even for us.  Check out the statistics from NOAA HERE and scroll to the bottom of the page for Easter records. Mother Nature never fails to surprise and I find the opportunity to organize, plan and write while we wait for Spring! As for the long term forecast, it looks to be wetter than normal out to June and cooler than normal for the next month.  

Seed Starting Tips

I'd love to share some of my tips with you! No matter what type of seed you are starting (veggie, flower, herb, etc.) you need to find out what conditions are necessary for germination. If a seed needs warmth, put a heating pad on low under the tray or, better yet, buy a seedling heat mat, which puts out the right amount of heat for a whole tray. Once the seeds germinate, get them under the lights! Consistent light, 1-2 inches above the sprouted seed is needed for about 14-18 hours per day. Installing a timer on the lights is helpful. Check out the tips to the right and have fun!

*See this list of helpful articles on seed starting.
*use fresh seed; old seed isn't as reliable for germination.
*use sterile seed starting mix, not soil from your garden.
*start seeds according to your last frost date
*harden your seedling off before putting them in the ground
*protect tender seedlings with coffee cans, milk jugs or juice containers cut in half
*keep a record of which seeds you started and when
*save your seeds for next year!

Women and Minorities: Farming, STEM and beyond

The number of women farmers tripled from 1978-2007 according to a study done by the USDA. Before 1978 gender information about farmers was not collected by the USDA. These numbers, and the others in the study, are encouraging but women operators still only account for 14% (in 2012) of farms in the US.  Blackhispanicasianamerican indian and women account for about 20% of principal farm operators in the US. The links for each group lead to a fact sheet about what each group grows and where they farm (info is change from 2007-2012).  I think these statistics reflect the current socially accepted, and acceptable, roles in our country for these groups. A look at STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) will show the same trend in statistics. One of my goals as a farmer and a teacher is to encourage diversity in farming and STEM, as well as bring awareness and education about inequalities in our society in general. Always learning and growing, I look forward to exploring more about gender, race, equality and privilege as related to farming in this space. Comments or questions? Email me at

Life with Plants

I'm planning a series of classes about herbs this summer for those who are interested in plants and how we can include them in our life through diet, medicine, spiritual practice and gardening. Stay tuned for more info! For now, you can check out my online Apothecary for some of the products I make with local herbs and beeswax from our farm. 
Old Town Flowers online Apothecary

Upcoming events

The Boneyard Arts Festival is coming up! Many events in C-U and surrounding areas from April 12-15th.  More info HERE on FB and HERE.

Food Evolution Screening (narrated by Neil de Grasse Tyson) --- Boardman Art Theater, Sunday April 8th, 1-4:30pm. Presented by Champaign County Farm Bureau. FREE! Reserve a spot HERE. Following the screening will be a panel discussion (with Q & A) consisting of area farmers, scientist and nutritionist.

If you have an event you'd like me to list, let me know!

Joan Jach