National Agriculture Week

National Agriculture Week is an opportunity to celebrate all the farmers, farmworkers, ranchers, fishers, foresters, and other agricultural workers for all they do to put food on our tables and support our economy. 

  • Illinois is the #1 soybean producing state in the country.
  • 15% of all U.S. soybeans are produced in Illinois.
  • Illinois is the #2 corn producing state in the country.
  • 13% of our country’s supply of corn is grown on Illinois farms.
  • Crop land makes up 76% of Illinois.

Illinois agriculture goes far beyond corn and soybeans. Illinois has good soil and a favorable climate, among other factors, making the state a top grower of several specialty crops as well. Many people don’t realize that foods like pumpkins, peaches, apples, grapes, horseradish and melons are grown on Illinois farmland. In fact, more than 64 vegetables and 15 fruit and nut crops are grown in Illinois and produce nearly $500 million in sales for farmers. 

llinois encompasses over 55,000 square miles, and from Rockford south to Cairo, there are climate differences in various areas of the state year-round. Illinois is a top five state when it comes to agricultural receipts, and knowing the different growing seasons is key for residents planting small gardens to large scale crop fields and everything in between.

Typical outdoor growing seasons range from 160 days a year in the far north around Rockford, to 190 days in the far southern areas of the state. Southern Illinois’ longer growing season means that crops there can be started two weeks earlier than crops in Central Illinois, and they can typically harvest for two weeks longer. Northern Illinois has a shorter growing season, and crops there are often planted two weeks later than those in Central Illinois.

Planting dates are determined by the first and last frost dates where you grow, and how much time it takes for a crop to mature. Always check the plant tag, seed packet or seed bag instructions for the recommended date. Cool season vegetables grow and develop best in the temperatures of early spring or fall. Some cool season crops can withstand frost without being damaged, and some are even improved by experiencing a light frost. Examples of these types of vegetables are carrots, kale, turnips and radishes. Warm season vegetables do not grow well in lower temperatures and must be planted well after the average last frost date. Examples of these vegetables are tomatoes, squash and peppers.

In Southern Illinois, the average frost-free date is between April 1-10, and the first frost average is October 21-30. In Central Illinois, the average first frost-free date is between April 11-30, and the first frost range is October 11-20. And in Northern Illinois, the average first frost-free date is May 1-10, and the first frost is much earlier, from September 21-30. The University of Illinois Extension has some great online resources, including planting guides and tips here illinois_planting_guide_2022.02.02.pdf.