Twilight Series meeting highlights innovative farming methods in southern Ill.

Twilight farmers meeting highlights innovative farming methods.
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 10:22 PM CDT
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COBDEN, Ill. (KFVS) - From hydroponics to plasticulture, one Heartland farm is finding innovative ways to put food on the table.

As more than 40 people toured the greenhouses at Bass Farms in Cobden, Illinois on Monday, May 16, they learned a unique way the farm grows its tomatoes.

Owner of Bass Farms Bill Bass grows multiple different tomatoes, all controlled by a hydroponic system.

But what does this mean?

According to the USDA National Agricultural Library, hydroponics is the technique of growing plants using a water-based nutrient solution rather than soil, and can include an aggregate substrate, or growing media, such as vermiculite, coconut coir, or perlite. Hydroponic production systems are used by small farmers, hobbyists and commercial enterprises.

“You’re growing it in the soil, that’s media you’re giving it. You’re in a greenhouse, so you’re controlling the water and everything else to it,” Bill Bass, owner of Bass Farms, said. “And you just monitor what you’re doing, hence it works out pretty nice. Plus it’s a month or two before anybody else has tomatoes, that’s really the big thing.”

Bass is teaching both experienced farmers and local consumers about this unique way he grows his produce, which is all a part of the University of Illinois Extension Twilight Series.

“With these Twilight meetings, we like to focus on kind of two different components,” said U of I Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms educator Bronwyn Aly. “The production side of whatever crop were highlighting and also the marketing side.”

This is the first of four meetings this year. According to leaders with the office, they try and highlight what’s in season.

“In the first part of May, a lot of our strawberry producers are picking ripe fruit daily right now,” Aly said.

Bass also has a very unique way of growing his strawberries. If you go out on his farm, you’ll notice the berries planted in plastic.

“We started growing strawberries on plastic because the berry eats much better, it tastes so much better, really that’s the main reason,” Bass said. “Maybe it’s not as cheap, but we like this culture as far as eating and handling the berry.”

The Twilight Series has been going on since 2014.

There are three more this summer across southern Illinois, on June 12 at Burnt Hill Cattle Co., on July 17 at Riverside Mercantile Store and on August 21 at The Patch.