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Harold Wilken named Sustainable Farmer-of- the-Year


A central Illinois farmer is this year's Sustainable Agriculture Award winner in Illinois. Harold Wilken farms more than 2,000 acres near Danforth in Iroquois County.

He started as a conventional farmer but has been farming organically for eleven years now. Wilken says he still rotates corn, beans, and wheat or oats. But, he mixes it up. Some years the corn is popcorn. The beans may be black turtle beans or clear-hilum beans for tofu.

"We use small grains, legumes, and corn. We confuse the pests. Because in a corn and soybean rotation or corn on corn, they pretty well know what the pattern is."

Wheat may go in the spring or the fall. He also uses pumpkins and ancient grains to fill out the mix of crops.
He says it takes more marketing and business work to farm organic and find outlets for his crops, but it's also less expensive to produce the raw crop than it is for conventional farmers.

"They're talkin about 400 to 500 dollars an acre just in the input costs like the nitrogen, herbicide, and insecticide, those kinds of things that we don't use. We're somewhere between a third to a half on input costs."

And he says prices for some of his crops exceed those of corn and feed beans. His fuel costs are higher than conventional farmers though, because he's making more trips through the fields.

He says the non-monetary benefits of organic farming are the most important to him. More eyes and hands are needed on a diverse, organic operation and Wilken says he has brought in his son and nephew in, who would not be farming if he had a conventional operation.

94.1 WGFA

  • Parent Category: News

Vermilion County continues flood damage assessments …

Damage assessments continue across East Central Illinois and Western Indiana following the recent flooding. Governor Bruce Rauner added Iroquois, Vermilion and nine other counties Tuesday to the list of those declared a state disaster area.

The governor made a stop in Watseka to thank first-responders and community leaders. He emphasized the need to make sure damage assessments are documented.
Watseka Mayor Bob Harwood told WGFA News debris removal started yesterday and will continue until the mess is cleaned up.

Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer is also emphasizing documentation of damages to seek reimbursement. The Mayor said heavy flood waters rolled through both the Harrison Park and Ellsworth Park areas but Danville was lucky. 'Eisenhauer reported very little damage. Both Harrison Park and Ellsworth Park remain closed to the general public.

The Department of Natural Resources has reopened the Kankakee River after closing the waterway last week due to high water.

94.1 WGFA

  • Parent Category: News

Iroquois, Vermilion Counties added to state disaster areas

Governor Bruce Rauner (Tuesday) announced 11 more counties have been added to the state disaster declaration because of recent flooding. Included are Iroquois and Vermilion. The announcement brings to 23 the total number of counties that are now included in the disaster declaration.

Rauner drew applause from citizens in Watseka when he announced Iroquois County is now included in the disaster declaration.

''The impacts of this flood event have been felt in many communities across the state,'' said Governor Rauner.

''We're continuing to provide personnel and resources communities need as they battle flood waters and begin their recovery process,'' added the Governor.
The governor urged local officials to document the damages.

The state declaration makes a wide variety of state resources available that can help communities respond and recover from flooding. The resources include trucks, inmate crews, pumps and other assistance to help communities protect public health and safety.

As flood waters recede, local emergency management agencies are beginning to collect damage information from citizens and units of local government. If the initial information shows losses that may meet thresholds for a federal disaster declaration, the state could request additional assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

94.1 WGFA

  • Parent Category: News

Watseka Fire answers call to house fire

An overloaded electrical outlet triggered a house fire in Watseka New Year's Eve.

Damage was limited to the kitchen in the 500-block of N. 4th Street, where Fire Chief Dave Mayotte said electric heaters being used to heat the house was too much of a load on the electric system. Mayotte said the home's furnace was not operating because of the flood.

No injury was reported. Firemen spent about four hours at the scene.

94.1 WGFA

  • Parent Category: News

Watseka issues Disaster Emergency Proclamation

                           ---2nd time in six months  ---

The flooding in the city of Watseka has again prompted a Local Disaster Emergency Proclamation.  The flooded conditions is affecting homes, businesses and infrastructure in the city.  Mayor Bob Harwood, in issuing the emergency call, said residents have been displaced from homes, businesses are forced to close, and city resources are nearly overwhelmed.  Local resources will be in jeopardy in another 1-2 days.

The proclamation has been forwarded to Iroquois County officials.  The county would have to follow through, issuing its own proclation and then forward the request to the state of Illinois.

94.1 WGFA