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New app Volume released, developed by U of I students

There's a new app that was just introduced called Volume, developed right here in C-U. Pretty cool, and here is some information from a release/submission of theirs:

As Champaign-Urbana settles back into summer in the coming weeks, the scenery will spruce up and free time will flow right back into your hands. What is a townie to do?

Whether you're at Jarling's, Destihl, Black Dog, or anywhere else, you're going to face a similar predicament: long lines, busy crowds, and waiting. Well now there is an app that can help you avoid those crowds and spend your time frolicking in summertime fun rather than waiting in line.

The app is called Volume and it lets you see how busy places in Champaign-Urbana are in real time. The app features coffee shops, restaurants, bars, libraries, and more! And it just launched on the Apple App Store (Android releasing in Mid-June).

Volume was created by U of I students to bring a new layer of information to the shopping experience of Champaign-Urbana. However you plan on spending your summer in Champaign-Urbana, checking Volume means opting out of long lines for fewer headaches and more summertime fun.

You can learn/read more about Volume at here. and if you're on an iPhone/own an iPhone, you can download Volume here.


Follow the Farmstead showcases local farms

On June 11th, Visit Champaign County will host Follow the Farmstead, an open house showcase event featuring six different area farms. The event is free, and takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Here's the scoop:

Join us for Follow the Farmstead! The second annual event will connect consumers to the farms that sustain us—locally and nationally.

CONNECT with the farming community at the second annual Follow the Farmstead­—an inspiring, family-friendly event dedicated to showcasing area farms.

EDUCATE—Learn what it takes to run a successful farm, both large and small. Get answers to questions, watch demonstrations, and interact with farmers, getting a true sense of Central Illinois farming.

ENGAGE with local farmers as they showcase high-tech equipment, farm animals and hands-on activities. This captivating event will highlight the many facets of farm life.


Agrible | 2021 S. First St., #110, Champaign

The focus of Agrible™ is to provide farmers and agricultural companies with easy-to-use and innovative products to improve production. Utilizing analytics tools, they deliver field-specific data and forecasts on yield, nitrogen, fieldwork recommendations, spraying conditions, potential pest problems, and more, to help with decision-making on the farm.

At this stop, visitors will be able to learn more about technology used to obtain data and how it is applied to help farmers make more informed decisions. Products that are offered by Agrible™will be explained and why they are significant to the success of farming. Learn more about UAV’s (Unmanned Ariel Vehicle), data collection technology and how this company impacts the future of agriculture.

Current customers of Agrible™include independent growers, software developers, soil test laboratories, crop consultants, insurance agencies, commodities companies, traders, and major ag chemical companies developing seed technologies and new production methods. Additionally, the company performs big data agronomic projects in over 80 countries.

Autumn Berry Inspired and Green Island Farm Collective | 2314 N. High Cross Rd., Urbana

Autumn Berry Inspired utilizes the fruit of an intentionally introduced exotic tree, the autumn olive, to make delicious food. The autumn olive has become a part of the rural landscape of Central Illinois, but many believe it is too aggressive and crowds out other species. The tree produces a small, red berry that mammals and birds love to eat, and they spread the autumn olive seeds far and wide. Autumn Berry Inspired has found a delicious way to control and utilize this plentiful resource: they harvest the tasty and highly nutritious berries, utilizing them for fruit leathers, jam and other delicious dishes.

Also on the 30 acre property, discover the Green Island Farm Collective, developing food for their enjoyment, food security and resilience. This group of six friends, with a fascination for plants and natural systems, came together to grow fresh produce and are guided by the principles of permaculture and sustainable land stewardship.

Barnhart Prairie Nature Preserve | 1413 E. Old Church Rd., Urbana

The Barnhart Prairie Restoration is a prairie reconstruction located about 2 miles south of Urbana in Champaign County. The Barnhart Family owns 91.9 acres or more and the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District owns 8.1 acres of this wonderful restoration. The prairie harbors numerous types of native plants and animals, with the greatest assortment of conservative plants found on the oldest restorations. A breeding population of the state-threatened Franklin’s ground squirrel occurs here, which qualifies the site as a nature preserve, At this stop, visitors will be able to tour the prairie and discover the history if the Barnhart family and their dedication to represent what land in the area of east-central Illinois might have looked like when the settlers came.

Birkey's Farm Store | 2202 S. High Cross Rd., Urbana

Tours from 9:00 a.m.–Noon

Birkey’s Farm Store serves Champaign County farmers providing service on Case IH and Case Construction equipment. Machinery is an important part of the agricultural industry to efficiently maintain farm ground and crops. At this stop, visitors will be able to see machinery up close and have the ability to learn more about modern farm equipment.

Birkey's has been in business for over 60 years with a focus on serving the agricultural community. They serve the Illinois communities of Annawan, Bloomington, Galesburg, Gibson City, Henry, Hoopeston, Macomb, Mattoon, Oakland, Polo, Prophetstown, Urbana, and Williamsport, IN. Birkey's also operates four Case Construction Equipment dealerships and their administrative offices are located in Champaign, IL.

Pheasant Ridge Farms of Urbana | 1128 County Road 1500 E., Urbana

Pheasant Ridge Farms (formerly BE Farms) specializes in sustainability, organic production, and land stewardship. They grow about 19 acres of Christmas trees and a couple of acres of organic (not certified) produce. They offer a CSA that starts June 19th and goes for 16 weeks. Their products can be found at the Tuesday market downtown Champaign and the Urbana Market at the Square on Saturdays, as well as market at the farm on Sundays, which is also their pick up day for the CSA. While on the farm, you can see the goats being raised as well as chickens who produce the eggs sold as part of the CSA.

University of Illinois Beef Farm | 4900 S. Race St., Urbana

Tours start on the hour at 9:00, 10:00 and 11:00 a.m. and at 1:00 p.m.

The University of Illinois Beef Farm practices the University mission through teaching, research, and outreach. With a large amount of Animal Science courses, the university utilizes the beef farm for their facility and livestock. Classes include: sheep production, beef production, working with farm animals, intro to animal sciences, and various animal evaluation classes; the U of I Beef Farm hires interns and student workers to gain experience while learning.

The beef farm is faculty driven, they develop the program and the beef farm implements the research. Most research is conducted in the areas of nutrition, livestock management and reproduction. Along with other key roles, the beef farm has one of the nation’s largest facilities to measure individual animal intake and has a state of the art metabolism research facility to measure rumen fermentation, digestibility and methane production. The beef farm supports outreach programs through Extension and hosts tours/meetings for industry relevant organizations to conduct applied research.

Image from Facebook.


Homemade ice cream for summer at Cafe&Co

Earlier this month, Bar M hosted an ice cream social, but the goodness did not stop there. Like last year, Cafeteria & Co. will be offering homemade ice cream throughout the summer. 

This stuff is truly homemade, you can tell from the soft yet rough texture and the incredible creaminess. I don't know if it is made in-house, but someone very close to here has created this frozen treat because it wouldn't survive a very long journey. 

Another tell that the batches are small and handcrafted is the flavor -- pictured is Huckleberry. Oh yeah, clearly there are no dyes or artificial colors added. Last year, I sampled such delights as honey-golden-raisin-walnut, cinnamon, and something else really odd in honor of Game of Thrones. They usually have an amazing vanilla and chocolate as well. 

They also offer it as affogato: an espresso shot poured over the ice cream, but usually the homemade quality means the soft scoops don't stand up to the heat of the coffee. Here's my favorite thing to do, though, when the ice cream and cookie flavors align: 2 gingersnaps (or snickerdoodles) at 75c each, and a bowl of ice cream. BAM! Homemade ice cream sandwich that is just the right size, for $3.50 + tax & tip. 

This article has been brought to you by the initiative for Jarling's alternatives, a cause I personally believed in even before they were bought & sold twice over. 


Tonight on SP Radio: Boswell Hutson + Eric Sirota

Every week, a man writes Opinion articles on this website. His name is Boswell Hutson. Who is he? What is he about? Tune in at 5:30 to find out.

Later in the show, Eric Sirota shares some of his poetry, which ranges in subject from Jewishness to the foreclosure crisis. 

Smile Politely Radio airs each Friday at 5:30 p.m. on WEFT 90.1 FM in Champaign and is available as a podcast the following week. You can find our past episodes here. You can subscribe on iTunes.


Mother Nature announces The Miseducation of Hip-Hop: Youth Workshop Series

If for some reason you've been living under a rock for the past year and haven't gotten familiar with Mother Nature, now is the time to do so. The hip-hop duo have brought a new buzz to Champaign-Urbana that hasn't been here for quite some time.

Outside of their musical contributions, however, Mother Nature also has a strong passion for community work, and have just announced their first ever Youth Workshop Series, which will be open to all kids aged 13-18.

From the Facebook Event


Event: The Miseducation of Hip-Hop
Location: The Independent Media Center
Dates: June 6th-June 10th 2016
Time: 2PM - 4PM
Ages: 13-18 yrs old


This workshop teaches the elements of Hip-Hop and applies it to our community as a vehicle for social justice, a resource for knowledge and a constant exchange of critical thought. We aim to organize, engage and explore the creative genius of our youth through Hip-Hop culture and its relationship to our past, present and future. This workshop is open to high school and middle school students, ages 13-18 year olds, inclusive of all backgrounds and experiences.

Each group of students will create a project that will serve as a solution and/or voice to the subject they felt most connected to. They will be given time to collaborate with professional artists, who will teach something they know. Mother Nature has a collective network of emcees, writers, DJ’s, dancers, painters, designers, educators, engineers and activists. We can facilitate students’ learning as they delve deeper into their own identities and produce fresh ideas to share with the collective through the use of media, instruments, technology, recording equipment, resource and professional expertise.

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Mother Nature, Inc. is a nonprofit organization. Mother Nature is being formed to provide community outreach grounded in HipHop scholarship and performance with a focus on the youth. We plan to offer workshops and activities centered around social and political issues to educate our generation on the pertinent matters that affect their daily lives. By putting these grand topics into the universal language of HipHop, youth and young adults alike are able to more easily connect to the policies and laws being implemented that affect them. All workshops will focus on a central theme accompanied by a creative activity related to the 5 elements of HipHop (emceeing, deejaying, graffiti, dance & knowledge).

The two founding members, both artist-educators are uniquely qualified to bring this vision into fruition. Shasta Mathews, holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Tierney Reed, holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Health Administration and Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Photo by Kelsey Greene


Champaign Park District announces Hessel Park improvements

If you've been around Hessel Park in Champaign recently, you may have noticed some new construction going on to expand where C-U's youngsters will be able to play. According to the Champaign Park District, the new playground construction is slated to be finished by the fall of 2016, and will not disrupt the current playground.

For more info, check out CPD's press release here:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Champaign Park District Begins  Hessel Park Playground Construction

Andrew Weiss

Champaign, IL - The Champaign Park District has begun construction on a new playground in Hessel Park. Construction is estimated to end by fall 2016 and will not disrupt activity at the existing playground, which was installed over 20 years ago.

The new playground will feature a toddler play area (ages 2-5), as well as an area designed for children ages 5-12 years. Play features include multiple slides, climbing structures, a 3-story tower, prism sun catchers, accessible merry-go-round, and Expression swings – a dual swing designed for parent and toddler. The playground surface will be poured in place rather than mulch, improving accessibility.

After construction has ended, the previous playground will be removed to make way for a new spray park to debut in summer 2017. The playground and surrounding pathways are budgeted at $400,000, with overall park renovations estimated to cost $1.2 million. Included in the next phase of construction for fall 2016 is the new, larger spray park and new restroom facilities.


Outhaus brings in family of artists

This Saturday, the Outhaus  in Urbana will be hosting a family affair: Don't Touch Me I Have Medicine. The children of Assisstant Professor of Art Education, Jorge Lucero, will be participating in a group show from 5-8 p.m. which is co-sponsored by the Art Education Department of the University of Illinois. 

Outhaus gallery owner, Bert Stabler, says although the opening is not affiliated with ICQI, the timing is intentional, as "one element of an event focused on art educators attending ICQI, but it is also open to the public." He also mentions that this is the second year in a row that the Outhaus has hosted an event during this conference, which you might remember

This year's event will be very similar, with a diverse audience of local artists and art-enthusiasts rubbing elbows with scholars from all around the world. Delicious Mediterranean food will be provided, and there will be musical performances by Sam Rocha and Walter Gershon.

Of course, the projects on display will be very different, and feature the works of Lucia, Mateo, Lucas, and Jorge Lucero, Jr. Their professor father remarks, "All of my kids have been immersed in the arts from a very young age--mostly through exposure (less through formal instruction)-- and they're showing some of their recent work...on the stage with the 'big kids'...thanks to the generous opportunity provided by the Outhaus." He continues, mentioning that since the work isn't intended for sale, "That's what is so special about the Outhaus and Bert and Katie in particular...It's not a gallery that works like that. At the same time, my kids like money so if someone were to offer them the right amount, they'd be willing to part with almost anything."

Stabler agrees, saying that "his kids make really beautiful work, so who knows? But there's no financial component envisioned to this project." And the facebook event describes the exhibition as "a cultural extravaganza spotlighting the inventive, fantastic, and mysterious artifacts" of the Lucero children. 

The Outhaus is located at 709 E. Sunnycrest Ave. in Urbana, and the event will run from 5-8 p.m. on Saturday, May 21st. 


The Land Connection announces Farm Fresh Now! series

If you're like me, then you don't now anything about anything. This is by and large a hindrance, but thanks to the people at The Land Connection, we need to live in fear no longer. Their Farm Fresh Now! program will provide recipes and nutritional information to shoppers at their Downtown Farmers' Market, which happens on Tuesdays, to make your experience more exact and (in my case) creative.

Check out the full press release below for more info: 


Vegetable Recipes and Nutrition Cards Coming to Champaign Farmers' Market

CHAMPAIGN, IL (May 2, 2016):The Land Connection will offer Downtown Champaign Farmers’ Market visitors recipe and nutritional information cards this year to encourage the purchase of unfamiliar market produce and learn more about its nutritional value.

As part of a new campaign to educate consumers about the benefits of specialty crops, The Land Connection is creating a new series of Farm Fresh Now recipe cards, featuring nutrition cards profiling a variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables. The campaign responds to the needs of Champaign residents, including those who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and is made possible by the 2016 Illinois Specialty Crop Block Grant.

“For many consumers, including many in Champaign who are currently underserved by the local food system, there’s a lack of knowledge about the large variety of nutritious crops produced locally by growers here in Central Illinois,” says Cara Cummings, Executive Director of The Land Connection.

“Our goal is to educate our community members so they can not only enjoy the benefits of a more varied diet, but also support the local economy by buying locally.”

Each card will feature an image of the featured vegetable on one side, with nutrition, seasonal availability, and usage information on the back. The cards will be given out free of charge to the public at The Land Connection Downtown Farmers’ Market in the parking lot north of the corner of Neil and Main streets in Downtown Champaign every Tuesday between 4 and 7 p.m.

The new recipe series will include even more fruits and vegetables found at the market, focusing specifically on produce that consumers tend to find intimidating.

About The Land Connection:

The Land Connection is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting farmland, training sustainable and organic farmers, and promoting a vibrant local food system.


Playing for Food: Eastern Illinois Food Bank Benefit

The Bow­Dacious String Band, C4A’s youth fiddle band, is chipping in to help the Eastern Illinois Food Bank get a strong start to the summer with a benefit event on Sunday, May 22. The kids in the band will be playing out of doors at the corner of Church and Neil Streets in Champaign, starting at 4 p.m. Starting at 4:30 p.m. and going until 6 p.m. there will be a community dance event at the Hyatt Place ballroom at 217 North Neil St. The event is open to the public; the price of admission is canned food or a cash donation for the food bank.

There will be live music by the Bow­Dacious String Band with help from alums, C4A faculty, and community friends.

Everyone is invited, and you don’t need experience dancing to enjoy this event because the very friendly and inclusive Neal Schlein will be on hand to teach everyone how the dances go.

The event is co­hosted the Community Center for the Arts (C4A) and Hyatt Place, with help from lots of musicians and volunteers. All proceeds from this event will benefit the Eastern Illinois Food Bank.

For updates, please visit our FaceBook event page.

Website: www.c­4a.org

Email: info@c­4a.org

Phone: 217.384.5150

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.