Tomorrow is Learn About Composting Day! Composting is an Earth-friendly way to reduce, reuse, and recycle… all in one! It is a natural process that involves the decomposition of waste materials. The decomposition results in rich, fertile compost, which serves as food for the soil, plants, and microorganisms in the ground. It increases the soil’s fertility and water-holding capacity, which supports the growth of plants. And the best part about composting is that YOU can do it in your home!

CompostCycleTo start a compost pile, simply collect vegetable scraps, grains and pastas, fruit rinds and peels, breads and cereals, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, egg shells, paper napkins, and other carbon or nitrogen materials. Carbon and nitrogen are fundamental in composting because bacteria and fungi oxidize the carbon (digest it) and ingest the nitrogen to make proteins. In other words, the carbon acts as food for the microorganisms, and the nitrogen serves as its digestive enzymes. The waste products that make up a compost pile consist of carbon or nitrogen. When adding to the pile, though, one wants a balance of the two, with more carbon materials than nitrogen. The following table outlines which materials consist of carbon and nitrogen to make the process simpler.




table scraps


 add with dry carbon items
fruit & vegetable scraps


 add with dry carbon items


 best when crushed


 leaves break down faster when shredded
grass clippings


 add in thin layers so they don’t mat into clumps
garden plants

 use disease-free plants only
lawn & garden weeds


 only use weeds which have not gone to seed
shrub prunings


 woody prunings are slow to break down
straw or hay


 straw is best; hay (with seeds) is less ideal
green comfrey leaves


 excellent compost   ‘activator’
pine needles


 acidic; use in moderate amounts
flowers, cuttings


 chop up any long woody stems
seaweed and kelp


 apply in thin layers; good source for trace minerals
wood ash


 only use ash from clean materials; sprinkle lightly
chicken manure


 excellent compost   ‘activator’
coffee grounds


 filters may also be included
tea leaves


 loose or in bags


 avoid using glossy paper and colored inks
shredded paper


 avoid using glossy paper and colored inks


 shred material to avoid matting
corn cobs, stalks


 slow to decompose; best if chopped up
dryer lint


 best if from natural fibers
sawdust pellets


 high carbon levels;   add in layers to avoid clumping
wood chips / pellets


 high carbon levels;   use sparingly

While there are a number of materials that can go into a compost pile, one should be aware of what should not go in it. Do not include meat, bones, fish scraps, perennial weeds, or diseased plants. These items will lead to a foul smell and/or large pests. If the compost is going to be used to grow food crops, pet manure should also not be included in the compost. and are two wonderful websites with tips and tricks to composting, including the table above.

Composting is a natural process. To start the process, layer leaves, grass clippings, weeds, kitchen scraps, and topsoil into a compost container or on the ground. If you use a container, make sure it has a tight-fitting lid and is easy to clean. After the pile is layered, water the mixture if it is dry. In order for the microorganisms to begin decomposing the materials, the mixture needs to be moist. If it is too dry, they will become inactive, and the process will cease. If the mixture gets too wet, add leaves. Too wet of a mixture will result in a sour smell. Once a season, the pile should be turned to increase the rate of decomposition.

This natural process helps the environment in a number of ways. It reduces the garbage output to landfills. According to, “More food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in municipal solid waste (MSW). In 2010 alone, more than 34 million tons of food waste was generated, with only three percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting.”

Food_In_Landfills_GraphRotten food produces methane in landfills. Methane is a greenhouse gas with a significant global warming potential, nearly 21 times that of carbon dioxide. By decreasing the amount of food waste that goes to landfills, we reduce the amount of methane produced. Composting also improves sanitation, reduces the use of pesticides and fertilizers, and it aids in the restoration of natural land.

With all the benefits of composting, one might wonder what the catch is? Will the compost pile smell? Will it attract raccoons or other pests? What about fruit flies or gnats? Too much nitrogen in the compost pile can produce a foul smell. However, there is a simple solution. Do not put bones or meat scraps into the compost pile. If it still begins to smell, simply add more carbon items, like leaves, grass clippings, or mulch to neutralize the odors. See the table above for more carbon materials. As for large and small pests, again, do not include meat scraps or bones in the pile. Enclose the pile in a container with a tight-fitting lid, and cover the entire pile with leaves or grass clippings. Begin a compost pile today. REDUCE the amount of food wastes. REUSE that waste in the compost pile to RECYCLE it into fertile compost, which will support and nurture plant growth.

MeganQuigleyMegan Quigley
University of St. Francis


I know for the vast majority of Americans, corn-based ethanol seems like a new thing.  It’s not.

In fact, the first cars made by Henry Ford ran on a corn alcohol fuel.  Though we didn’t call it ethanol back then, it wasn’t that dissimilar to the fuels we’re blending with gasoline today.  And if it existed way back then, why aren’t we using more of it now, you ask?  Well, it has to do with the civil war and President Lincoln’s need to make money to finance the war.  Listen to Mike Rowe tell you how – he’s more interesting than me anyway.

Mike Rowe




So America moved toward petroleum based fuels because they were cheaper.  This brings us to about 1974 when a series of oil embargos by OPEC caused gasoline disruptions that resulted in higher prices, long lines and long waits at the pumps, and gasoline rationing by the government.

In order to alleviate those issues, American’s asked for alternatives to gasoline and farmers delivered with corn-based ethanol – then called gasohol – because we already understood it to be an effective fuel.

Specifically in Illinois, four ethanol plants started producing corn-based ethanol in the late 1970s and Illinois led the nation in ethanol production until the late 1990s.  During this time, ethanol was blended up to ten percent with gasoline.  Ethanol further infiltrated the marketplace when Chicago adopted ethanol is an important way to clean the air around the city in the 1990s.

And then September 11, 2001.  The country was again in an uproar.  We wanted answers.  We wanted security.  We wanted energy independence from our enemies in the Middle East.

The government responded with the Renewable Fuels Standard.  The legislation mandated the use of domestic, renewable fuels on an incremental basis so that over time, our reliance on foreign oil would diminish.  The added benefits were cleaner air, less impact on the environment, and boost to rural economies all over the country.

Which brings us to today.  The Renewable Fuels Standards is under attack.  Somehow ethanol became the devil instead of the savior it was about ten years ago.  We’ve lost the perspective and the history.  We aren’t learning from the past.

Corn-based ethanol isn’t the only answer, but it is an important answer.  Going backwards to rely on petroleum based fuels won’t move our country forward.  Moving towards electric is expensive and burns coal which isn’t renewable or it forces more nuclear energy.

Perspective is an interesting thing.  I encourage you today to think through our history, learn from the past, and re-evaluate ethanol.

Loos_DaveDave Loos
ICGA/ICMB Ethanol Guru


Grillin Apron**CONGRATS ENTRY #56, DAVE H.**

I love summer.  I love the smell of fresh-cut hay.  I love that when I get off work I still have plenty of daylight to spend time outside with my daughter going on bike rides, checking out bugs and playing on the swing set.  I love sitting in the middle of the lake with a fishing pole in my hand and jumping in to the water to cool myself off when I just can’t take the heat any longer.  And I really love cooking supper on the grill.  You can bet if it’s a nice day (and sometimes even when it’s not!) you can find me grilling something up for my family to eat.

It certainly makes sense then that I also love the month of May.   To me, May means the beginning of summer and summer equates all of the above, especially grilling.  That’s probably why May is also National Barbeque Month!

Because of my love for May and all things that scream summer, and this weekend (Memorial Day) being one of the most well-known weekends for barbequing, we are giving away a barbeque set (use it to cook up your own DaBurger!) to one lucky reader!

Entry is easy, just click on the Rafflecopter link below and it will take you to an entry form.  Contest ends May 28th.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Becky FinfrockBecky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant


Nothing says spring quite like strawberries. Strawberries are a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals that are essential to a healthy immune system. Aside from health benefits, strawberries are a great source of ag-tourism! May 20th is officially known as “Pick Strawberries Day!”


California is the leader in commercial strawberry production.  With over 80% of the nation’s strawberries grown there, California has the ideal growing conditions for strawberries to be produced there all year long.  You-pick strawberry fields can be found in many states.  April is the peak month for you-pick farms located in Florida, Texas, and other southern states.  Late May to early June is then the prime time for mid-south/Midwestern states.  Probably why May 20th is the perfect day to go and pick some strawberries!

There are two major types of strawberries. June bearing is the most popular.  These are the big, sweet strawberries that most of us eat.  They are harvested late May to mid-June in most areas. June bearing strawberries are perfect for making jams, jellies, or for freezing.  Most strawberry festivals are centered around the June bearing crop, like the California Strawberry Festival which takes place May 18-19th!

Ever bearing strawberries are the second most popular variety.  These are the smaller berries that are produced all season long.  These strawberries are good for home gardens; however they do not produce as sweet a strawberry as the June Bearing plants.

If you choose to spend a day at a you-pick strawberry patch, here are some things you need to know:

-Always select plum, firm, and fully red berries.

-Grasp the stem as twist as you pull the berries off the plant with a twisting motion.

–  Avoid leaving them in your bucket too long, as they will start to shrivel quickly if they are left in the sun.

–  Be sure give them a rinse before eating, to ensure all dirt and dust is removed.

Plow Creek Farm in Tiskilwa Illinois is a highly recommended destination for you-pick strawberries.  Located about 2 hours from Chicago, and an hour and a half from the Bloomington Normal Area, it’s the perfect distance for a fun family day.  When you’ve finished picking, here’s a recipe for strawberry shortcake to put your new fruit to good use!

cakeStrawberry Short Cake

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Whipped cream
  • 1-1/2 quarts fresh or frozen strawberries, sliced


-In a bowl, cream sugar and shortening. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Combine dry ingredients and add alternately with milk to the creamed mixture. Spread in a greased 9-in. square baking pan. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

-Cut into nine servings. Split each serving horizontally and fill with whipped cream and strawberries. Replace top of cake; garnish with more berries and a dollop of whipped cream. Serve immediately.

Yield: 9 servings.

Leslie AnnisLeslie Annis
Illinois State University Student


In the second installment of a two-part series, Julie Gunlock of the Independent Women’s Forum discusses the anti-pesticide agenda. She looks at the group makeup of this movement and the motivations thereof, along with the reasons that their stories receive coverage in the media.

Julie argues that the modern news cycle favors anti-pesticide hysteria rather than science and fact. She suggests that scare tactics play well to the media, which are geared towards making stories out of scary sounding studies whose news cycle ends before the studies are ultimately proven incorrect. She suggests that the NGO tactics are particularly geared towards mothers, while the ultimate agenda is the enactment of regulations based on that fear.

Rick Eberstadt
Green State TV


The 2013 season normal cornbelters logounofficially began last Thursday, May 9 with our “Education Day” exhibition game.  Despite the wet weather, we defeated the Joliet Slammers 5-0 in front of over 3,300 fans at The Corn Crib!  While we open the regular season on the road this Friday in Evansville, IN, we will play our first regular season home game at the ballpark on Tuesday, May 21 at 7 p.m. against the Windy City ThunderBolts (“CEFCU Opening Night”).  Our opening home stand runs from May 21 through Sunday, May 26.  Please visit for game times, tickets and upcoming promotions.

In my last post, I mentioned what a busy off-season it has been for us, and the “change is good!” mentality we have adopted for this season.  Since then, we have continued adjusting our roster, and we have made yet another NEW announcement!  That is, our corporate partnership with Miller Brewing Company and Ra-Jac Distributing Company.  Leinenkugel's LodgeAs a result of that partnership, we have added the “Leinenkugel Lodge” and “Miller Lite Lounge” to The Corn Crib!  The “Leinenkugel Lodge” is located on the first-base side of the concourse behind section 102, and it will be available to all fans 21 and older.  The “Miller Lite Lounge” is located in luxury suite #211 (formerly the “President’s Suite”), and it will be available for all corporate partners, full season ticket holders and host families 21 and older.  Some of the Miller Brewing Company products to be offered at the ballpark this season include:  Miller Lite, Miller High Life, Third Shift, Redd’s Apple Ale, Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat, Leinenkugel Canoe Paddler, Leinenkugel Berry Weiss and Heineken.  Plus, all nine “Miller Thirst Quenching Thursdays” will feature $1 Miller High Life drafts!  We are confident our fans will notice all of the changes we have made for this season.  More importantly, we are confident they will benefit from those changes!

Whenever I get excited about all the new aspects of CornBelters baseball this season, I am also reminded of our original mission statement:

It is our mission to be the number one summer sports entertainment choice in Illinois.  We will achieve this by building trust with our fans and partners, providing professional baseball, superb customer service and a fun and affordable experience every time they come to the ballpark.

Over the past three seasons, we have come a long way by consistently keeping this statement in mind.  Although we have adopted a “change is good!” mentality for this season, some aspects of CornBelters baseball will never change!  This season we will continue to build upon the fantastic relationships with our fans and partners, our team will be more competitive in the Frontier League and we will once again provide outstanding customer service, FUN and affordability.  I assure you we will not rest until it is clear to all we are the number one summer sports entertainment choice in Illinois.

If you have yet to secure your tickets for our opening home stand, please do so TODAY.  They start at only $5 each!  Tickets can be purchased in-person at the Mid-Illini Credit Union Box Office, or by phone at (309) 454-2255 (BALL), during normal business hours.  They can also be purchased online anytime by visiting  I look forward to seeing you at The Corn Crib soon!

kylekregerKyle Kreger
General Manager, Normal CornBelters


Just in time for grilling season, you will start seeing some changes to how meat at the grocery store is labeled. The USDA has approved this new labeling system (created by NCBA and the National Pork Board) that aims to make meat perusing in the store easier for customers. For the past 40 years or so, meat labels have been anatomically based- describing where that cut is located on the animal’s body. So, for those customers that didn’t grow up on a livestock farm or enroll in a meat science class in college, how does knowing where a cut of meat came from help them know what they are getting or how to cook it?

The new labeling system will identify species, whether the meat is from the chuck, loin, rib or round, the retail cut name, and provide cooking instructions to the buyer. The biggest change is expected to be in pork chop labeling. Thanks to modern pork production methods, trichinosis is no longer a problem so the cooking temperature of pork was lowered in 2011. This means pork chops can be cooked similar to steaks now, so they will be naming different pork loin cuts more similarly to beef steak cuts (i.e. ribeye, sirloin, New York, etc.) Hopefully, this information will be helpful to customers when browsing meat at the grocery store.


This article explains in greater detail the changes that we can expect to see on meat labels:

I think this is a good idea based on consumer research done by the National Pork Board and the NCBA Beef Checkoff program. As we learn more and more about what our urban consumers are not understanding and the importance of communicating with all of our customers, it is changes like this that are going to help everyone be on the same page. We should start seeing label changes this summer, so it will be interesting to see everyone’s reaction to it!


Rosalie Sanderson
Membership Administrative Assistant