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Serving: IL
tractor and planter in field of cover crops Austin Keating
COVER CROPS: Overwintering cover crops are used on 90% of 5-star fields in the Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources program.

Quick Take: Cover crops, county fairground grants, scholarships

More farmers use STAR conservation tool, researchers start paid cover crop trial, grants and scholarships awarded by Compeer and Farm Bureau.

More farmers using STAR conservation tool

Farmers and landowners in 70 Illinois counties and four other states are now using the Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources, or STAR, tool developed by the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The tool ranks conservation practices and tallies points toward them, landing farmers anywhere from 1 to 5 stars that can then be proudly displayed on signs along roads and shared with potential customers.

In 2019, there were 214 participants on 1,175 fields for a total of 83,592 acres in Illinois. In 2018, there were 180 participants on 438 fields, for a total of 27,418 acres in Illinois. For 5-star fields, 90% were planted under no-till or strip-till management and incorporated a winter-hardy cover crop.

Eric Rademacher, who farms in Gifford, Ill., has used the tool since 2017. “STAR is a way to confirm some of the practices we are implementing, and also see the other options out there. It’s great to have a standardized ranking of where you line up,” he says.

Participants complete a field form online that is scored by a local reviewer, usually the local SWCD office, which then assigns points for everything from cover crops planted, to kinds of fertilizer used for nutrient management at different points before and during the growing season, to various possible conservation practices used on that field to prevent runoff into nearby water sources.

Complete a field form at the STAR website. Paper field forms are also available for download from the site. Field forms for 2020 will be available starting July 1 through February.

Paid cover crop trial

Illinois farmers willing to participate in a paid cover crop demonstration trial are needed beginning this fall. Applications are now open, according to the Illinois Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program at University of Illinois.

Eight to 10 farmers willing to commit from 20 to 80 acres are needed for the trial. The entire field will be planted with corn or soybeans, and following harvest, half of the field will be planted with cover crops and the other half left fallow. Land that does not have a previous history of cover crop use is eligible. The project will last five years, and stipends for planting the cover crops will be provided each year.

Access to fields will be needed to collect samples and take measurements. For more information or to participate, email Doug Gucker, U of I Extension educator and Illinois SARE co-coordinator, at

Compeer Financial helps repair county fairgrounds

Compeer Financial’s Fund for Rural America recently awarded 62 grants to upgrade county fair facilities, totaling $180,000. A portion of that is going to 20 Illinois sites. The Farm Credit cooperative says it hopes to begin accepting applications again next March.

“While the status of summer activities at fairgrounds is still unknown due to COVID-19, we know our county fairs are still in need of building, equipment and grounds improvements,” says Karen Schieler, senior corporate giving specialist at Compeer Financial.

The 20 organizations in Compeer Financial’s territory in Illinois receiving support are:

  • Boone County Fair to rebuild the dairy wash rack
  • Henderson County Fair to rebuild the livestock barn
  • Henry County Fair to improve lighting in the primary show barn
  • Kankakee County Fair to install fans, shelving and lights in the 4-H and judging buildings
  • Kendall County Fair to renovate the men’s restroom
  • Knox County Fair to renovate the sheep barn
  • Lee County Fair to install a new ceiling in the main auditorium
  • Livingston County Ag Fair to make structural repairs on the show barn
  • Marshall-Putnam Fair to repair the roof of the arts hall
  • McDonough County 4-H Building to install new fencing in the horse arena
  • Ogle County Fair to add new pens in the sheep and goat barn
  • Rock Island County Fair to renovate four different restroom buildings
  • Sandwich Fair to make roofing repairs on the dairy building
  • Schuyler County Fair to do post replacements and electrical upgrades in the barns
  • Stephenson County Fair to improve ventilation in the beef barn and improve lighting in the dairy barn
  • Veterans Memorial Fair to remodel a women’s restroom
  • Warren County Fair to replace livestock pens
  • Western Illinois Fair to replace livestock pen gates and install new aluminum bleachers in the show arena
  • Whiteside County Fair to make repairs to windows in the beef, dairy and horse barns
  • Winnebago County Fair to improve electrical and roofing in the cattle barn

Compeer awards scholarships

Compeer Financial has awarded 120 graduating high school seniors with $1,500 educational scholarships. Many of these students are from Illinois. They were called over webcams for interviews amid the coronavirus shutdown. 

“We know the students in our communities are missing big milestones, and we want to encourage them the best we can,” says Karen Schieler, senior corporate giving specialist.

Scholarship recipients were chosen based on their academic achievement, essay writing and involvement in agricultural and community organizations. Scholarship winners from the Farm Credit cooperative region’s service area will be attending 42 different institutions, with 65% attending schools in Illinois, Minnesota or Wisconsin, and 20% starting their higher education at a community or technical college.

Here’s a list of the Illinois recipients:

  • Nicki Adolph, Mount Carroll
  • Andrew Bates, Gilson
  • Samantha Bohm, Walnut
  • Alexandra Buseski, Byron
  • Dale Cain, Rio
  • Katelin Donaldson, Colfax
  • Emma Eathington, Avon
  • Emma Frank, Rock Falls
  • Mia Freyermuth, Illinois City
  • Joshua Granger, Grant Park
  • Sheridan Hank, Aledo
  • Hannah Hartman, Fairbury
  • Emma Hawkinson, Galesburg
  • Julia Heller, Dixon
  • Kathleen Hopkins, Gilson
  • Samantha Kempel, Lena
  • Isabella Kostallari, Pearl City
  • Elizabeth Lilliman, Reynolds
  • Carlie Mettler, Quincy
  • Ashton Mills, Geneseo
  • Eli Mittermeyer, Loraine
  • Ashlyn Mool, Lexington
  • Lance Moritz, Streator
  • Dalton Moss, Fowler
  • Grace Sandrock, Sterling
  • Isaac Orns, Secor
  • Ross Purvis, Prophetstown
  • Addison Raber, Gridley
  • Emma Richardson, Capron
  • Madyson Rogers, Buckingham
  • Tessa Sargeant, Macomb
  • Morgan Schabacker, Rochelle
  • Bradleigh Schaefer, Cambridge
  • Lauren Saxe, Pittsfield
  • Christina Seiboldt, Victoria
  • Callie Shrimplin, West Brooklyn
  • Joshua Sims, Sheffield
  • Madison Soice, Heyworth
  • Nash Stoller, Gridley
  • Jarvis Williams, Chicago

IAA awards scholarships

In a time of uncertainty, students can count on support of scholarships for college tuition during the 2020-21 school year, courtesy of the Illinois Agricultural Association Foundation. 

As the charitable arm of the Illinois Farm Bureau, IAA awarded $114,000 to 72 students pursuing degrees in agriculture-related fields. Students are selected based on their academic achievements, leadership involvement, professional career goals and overall commitment to success.

“It is a privilege to invest in these students who represent a strong and vibrant agriculture future,” says Jennifer Smith, development manager at IAA Foundation.

Austin Schorfheide of Hoyleton was named the Illinois Farm Bureau Legacy of Leadership Scholarship recipient and received a $7,500 scholarship. IAA Foundation Top Scholars Miriam Hoffman of Earlville, Sophia Hortin of Fisher and Loren Koenigstein of Columbia each received a $5,000 award.

Other scholarships presented range in value from $1,000 to $3,000. A full listing of recipients can be found at Applications for the 2021-22 school year scholarships, as well as specific details and eligibility requirements, will be available on the IAA Foundation’s website beginning Dec. 1. 


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