Illinois Humanities program scheduled in Cobden

Seeding Change looks at future of farming, rural communities

In recent decades, farming across Illinois has evolved dramatically in the face of technological, environmental and economic change. 

An upcoming evening of food, music and conversation which is planned in Cobden will offer those who attend an opportunity to discuss possible future developments in agriculture and their potential impacts upon rural communities in Illinois.

Seeding Change? The Future of Our Farms and Communities is planned from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21 at The Old Feed Store in downtown Cobden.

The event is free and open to the public. Organizers noted that capacity is limited and advance RSVP is required. Walk-ins will be accepted only if space is available.

Those who would like to attend can RSVP by going to or by contacting Simon Nyi at or 312-422-5586.

Those who may require a sign interpreter or any other arrangements to fully participate in the program, can contact at least 72 hours in advance of the event. For more information, call 312-422-5580.

Seeding Change is an Illinois Humanities series that is scheduled to travel to Greenville on Aug. 19, Shelbyville on Aug. 20 and Cobden on Aug. 21.

Illinois Humanities explained on its website that the series is designed “to gather people to talk about the future of agriculture and rural Illinois communities.”  Each program also is scheduled to include a meal and local entertainment.

Illinois Humanities works to build dialogue across all sectors of society to examine issues important to democracy in the focus areas of public policy, media and journalism, business and art. 

Seeding Change will focus on such questions as:

What are some of the most significant opportunities and challenges facing small farms and industrial agriculture in our state at present?

How might ongoing technological innovation benefit small farmers as well as industrial agriculture?

How can agricultural producers achieve a healthy combination of profitability and ecological stewardship? How might that combination contribute toward the long-term economic and cultural viability of local communities?

Speakers at the program in Cobden are scheduled to include Simon King, Michael Plumer and Wayne Sirles.

Simon King grew up on a farm in rural Michigan and is now the director of the Carnegie Mellon University Design Center, a new interdisciplinary space that connects students and faculty from across campus through design.

Prior to Carnegie Mellon, Simon was a design director and business lead at IDEO in Chicago, where he led the studio’s interaction design discipline. 

During eight years at IDEO, his work spanned diverse mediums and audiences including medical imaging equipment, vehicle HMI platforms, personal health apps and financial planning tools.

Drawing on his firsthand experience with both farming and design, he’ll talk about how technological innovation might shape the future of small farms and industrial agriculture alike and perhaps combine some of the positive attributes of different approaches to farming.

Plumer and Sirles will respond to Simon’s presentation from a regional perspective and share thoughts about how potential agricultural shifts could affect area communities in the coming years.

Michael Plumer is a consultant on conservation agriculture who has conducted programming in the United States and in more than 15 other countries.

A University of Illinois Extension educator in agriculture and natural resources for 34 years, Plumer was the coordinator of the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices from 2010 to 2014. 

He has worked with the Illinois and National Corn Growers organizations, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, and the National Soil Health Initiative, and has been a cover crop advisor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

He has extensive experience in research and programming pertaining to no-till agriculture, conservation tillage, cover crop management practices and watershed water quality issues. 

He completed a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a master’s degree in plant and soil science at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 

He was elected to the University of Illinois chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta, an agriculture honor society.

Wayne Sirles is vice president of Rendleman Orchards in Alto Pass.

Afterward, a free meal highlighting locally grown and prepared food will be served. The evening will end with a musical performance.

The Gazette-Democrat

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Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158

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