February 2022 - 30

NOTES FROM THE FARM
New year sure to bring
some new opportunities
Jerry Mills presented with
excellence honor by ISGA
By VGN Staff
The Illinois Specialty Growers
Association recently presented its 2021
Award of Excellence to Jerry Mills,
long-time Vegetable Growers News
columnist.
Mills, founder of Mills Apple Farm,
started his journey in the specialty crop
industry in the 1970's when he began
selling apples on the family farm in
Madison County. The farm, situated
on 133 acres with 50 acres of orchard,
4,500 trees and 18 varieties of apples,
started as a pick-your-own orchard
but quickly evolved to offer additional
products.
Mills began pressing cider, which
It is not hard to lay a strip of flashing in a tire casing. Short wooden props a half
inch wider than the flashing hold the casing open. Roll up the flashing small
enough to fit inside the tire and thread it around the tire. Put the casing back on
the rim, insert the innertube and finish mounting the tire. Inflate the tube and
you're good to go. Photo: Jerry Mills
JERRY MILLS
Mills Apple Farm
jerry@millsapplefarm.com
Christmas trees. Not much changes
with Christmas trees.
Puncture proof lawn mower tires.
We have four zero-turn lawn mowers
that have 10 tubeless tires that always
seem to be going flat. Thorns are the
big culprits. Liquid leak plugger does
a reasonable job but there are still flat
Prospects for 2022: Like all farmers,
I believe this new year will be a good
one. It will give us an opportunity to
correct mistakes made last year and
move on to better crops, bigger sales
and happier lives. The big decisions
will be what to continue and what
needs to change, with an eye over our
shoulder looking at climate change.
For one thing, we had too many
apple trees to manage and could never
sell everything we produced. I have
already taken out one-third of the
Granny Smiths and many old Jonathan
trees. This winter another block that
was originally 800 trees will be reduced
to zero. It includes even more Jons.
I look at the new varieties and it's
almost overwhelming. Redder Fujis,
prettier Galas, newer 'crisps, different
flavors. What will gain enough
popularity to justify the commitment?
These are things to ponder this
winter as we work to prune runaway,
oversized trees.
Another challenge is dealing with
the new chemicals coming online.
Will they be more effective than
the old ones and can I justify the
inevitable higher prices for them? I
can remember so many that came and
went for one reason or another and yet
the old faithful products carry on.
All of this is going to require study,
attending as many conferences as
possible and reading publications such
as this one.
That is why I like fruit growing so
much better compared to growing
28 | VegetableGrowersNews.com
tires. The other day I noticed them
stored in the shed for the winter. All
but one has at least one flat tire.
The other day I was thinking about
Vietnam and how the Viet Cong
set spikes in jungle trails to cripple
people who walked those trails.
Their improved versions had buffalo
manure smeared on them that caused
serious infections. More devastating
to the locals than our troops. We wore
combat boots that had metal plates
built into the soles. Why not do that
with the lawn mower tires?
I ordered $200 worth of new tubes
for those tires. When they go flat,
we'll line the tires with aluminum
flashing and then install the tubes.
Flashing is easy to work with. We'll
cut it to the width of the flat part of
the tread and length equal to the tire
circumference and insert it between
the tube and tire. We may have to use
higher tire pressures to keep the tires
from distorting the metal, but I'll bet
it works.
On Jan. 6, I was honored to
receive the Illinois Specialty Grower's
Lifetime Achievement Award at the
Illinois Specialty Growers winter
conference. Not sure what I did to
earn it, but it is always nice to be
recognized. Only problem, it is a little
premature. I am still alive.
I was so looking forward to it and
the chance to see all of my friends, but
then came COVID-19. My children
talked me out of going, so we did it
virtually over the computer. VGN
" I couldn't have done it without the
family. The kids, my three sons, helped
me plant every treed on the farm and
they've been instrumental in keeping it
going, " said Mills.
As with many agritourism businesses,
growth meant diversification. More
crops were added for production,
including pumpkins, cherries,
blackberries, Christmas trees, peaches
and more apple varieties. The farm
faced hardship in May of 2014 when its
iconic red apple barn was destroyed by
fire, along with most of their equipment
and stored goods. This defining
moment paved the way forward as Mills
and his family rebuilt and expanded
into a bakery, produce area, meeting
room, and event space.
In 2004, Mills began to publish
his recurring " Notes from the Farm "
column for Vegetable Growers News
and Fruit Growers News in an effort
to spread more farm transparency.
His stories are described as relatable,
humorous, and full of tips and tricks.
" Jerry has shared the trials,
tribulations and celebrations of his
farm to the world for over 15 years, "
said Raghela Scavuzzo, ISGA executive
director. " These have served to teach
others what farming looks like, give
relatable information to other growers,
and help connect us all. His column has
reached people from across the country
on multiple platforms. His passion, love
and wisdom of the industry are why
led to the purchase of new equipment
and on-farm cold storage. The business
continued to grow and establish its
market with its now-famous apple pies,
still sold today.
To Mills, family and community are
what get him out of bed in the morning
and put a smile on his face.
we are awarding Jerry Mills the 2021
Award of Excellence. "
ISGA honors Ted Biernacki
Also honored with a 2021 Award of
Excellence by ISGA was the late Ted
Biernacki, founder and namesake of Ted's
Greenhouse Inc. in Tinley Park, Illinois.
Biernacki died in January 2021 at the
age of 91. Biernacki, a specialty crops
pioneer and WWII veteran, was what
some may call the " last of a breed. "
Biernacki grew up on a vegetable farm
in Michigan that started in 1926. He took
over the business in 1948 and started the
transition from produce to greenhouse
flowers and plants due to labor and
profitability constraints at the time.
" I knew I wanted to grow what the
people wanted and not just what they
needed. I want my customers to be able
to tell me what they are looking for,
and then we can find the perfect fit, "
Biernacki said.
In 1951, Biernacki was drafted into
the military and volunteered to be a
marine and attend school while the
business took a pause. After his service,
Biernacki returned reinvigorated. He
sold the Michigan land and bought 10
acres in the Chicago suburbs in 1958.
This is the business that he, alongside
his son Dan and daughter-in-law Karen,
grew into what is currently known as
Ted's Greenhouse.
Today, visitors can find over 100,000
square feet of undercover space with
warm, cool and overwintering houses
containing everything from flowers to
succulents to hanging baskets to cacti,
all grown from seed or cuttings.
Beyond being a pioneer and leader
in the greenhouse industry, Biernacki
was known for his service to the
community and commitment to the
industry. He served on the University
of Illinois Ag Council for 30 years. Even
after his retirement in 1995, Biernacki
could continue to be found around the
greenhouse giving advice and wisdom
to customers.
" Ted once said, 'I've been told that if
you love what you do, you never work
a day in your life. I guess I am one of
the lucky ones,' " Scavuzzo noted. " His
passion, knowledge and love for the
industry is greatly missed - there is no
one like Ted. It is our honor to remember
him this year and posthumously
award Ted Biernacki the 2021 Illinois
Specialty Growers Association Award of
Excellence. " VGN
http://www.VegetableGrowersNews.com

February 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of February 2022

February 2022 - 1
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https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/february-2024
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/vgn-digital-seed-guide-2024
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/january-2024
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/buyers-guide-2024
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/december-2023
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/november-2023
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/september-october-2023
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/july-august
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/may-june-2023
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/april-2023
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/march-2023
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/vgn-digital-seed-guide-2023
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/february-2023
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/january-2023
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/december-2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/buyers-guide-2023
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/november-2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/september-october-2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/august-2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/july-2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/june-2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/may-2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/march-2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/february-2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/seedguide-2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/buyersguide-2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/january-2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/december-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/november-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/october-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/september-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/august-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/july-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/june-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/may-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/april-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/march-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/february-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/seedguide-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/buyersguide-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/january-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/december-2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/november-2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/october-2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/september-2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/august-2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/july-2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/june-2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/may-2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/april-2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/march-2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/february-2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/buyersguide-2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/january-2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/december-2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/november-2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/october-2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/september-2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/august-2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/july-2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/june-2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/may-2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/april-2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/march-2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/february-2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/buyersguide-2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/greatamericanmediaservices/VGN/january-2019
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