farmersmarketNow that spring is officially here and flowers are in full bloom, it is time to start thinking about where you can find and purchase local produce and goods. Illinois is known across the country for our agriculture, mainly corn, soybeans and wheat, but this state is also full of oats, fruits, vegetables and meats.

Luckily for Illinoisans, farmers’ markets can be found all across the state. Illinois is home to over 300 registered farmers’ markets and is a national leader in community-supported agriculture. Illinois ranked 3rd in the country for its number of farmers’ markets. In the past 20 years, the number of farmers’ markets jumped from 1,775 to over 8,000.

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March AOM Head ShotHow long have you been an artist or when did you start? Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion and if so, tell us about it?

I have been an artist for a long time. It’s always been personal to me. I didn’t start selling my work until last year. When I started to paint, the response I got was positive, and people started asking, “How much?” That was a question I never asked myself. But I have never created anything with profit in mind. The passion for me is the freedom I have when I create. It’s always been about freedom.

Illinois has been factored into your work in the past. What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you?

Chicago. Walking its streets offers poetry. I was amazed my first time in that city. I am from Rockford, which has a good art scene, but Chicago is a living canvas. The people, colors, language and movement imprinted on me. The state has history. It’s produced leaders and musical geniuses. I gather pieces of what I learn and try to apply it to my work.

What opportunities does Illinois present to local Illinois artists?March AOM Pic 4

The opportunity for an artist is only limited by what can be produced I think. The more I learn and better my skills, not just in paint but in other aspects of art, more opportunities become available. I was not expecting the doors to open the way they did, but I am very grateful.

What do you like about Illinois?

Illinois will always be home, although I could probably do without so much snow. If we could somehow blow some of it towards Wisconsin, that’d be great.

What is your favorite medium to work in?

I’m not sure yet. I have yet to crave something. So far, acrylic painting is what I prefer.

March AOM Pic 1Where can people view or purchase your work?

I have a website at, or you can always follow me on Facebook.

What artist inspires you and why?

My father is an artist. He has always made me challenge myself. He can do it all too, which makes me want to see how far I can take myself.

eggWith nicer weather on its way, many museums and park districts are preparing for larger crowds. Kids in Illinois will be able to choose from a variety of different indoor and outdoor activities this coming spring.

At the SciTech Museum in Aurora, there will be plenty of opportunities to explore and learn about science. The museum is partnering up with the Aurora Green Fest to celebrate Earth Hour on March 24 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. This event gives families a chance to explore exhibits, participate in yoga, meditation, craft projects and more – all for free.

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GlessnerHouseexteriorNestled in the Near South Side of Chicago, the Prairie Avenue Historic District contains one of the American architectural gems of the 19th century.

The John J. Glessner House was designed in 1885 by architect Henry Hobson Robinson and served as inspiration for renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In October 1970, the site was named a historic landmark, and on Jan. 7, 1976, it became a National Historic Landmark.

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In honor of the shortest month of the year, February’s park of the month is William G. Stratton State Park in Morris. At only 618 acres, the spot on the Illinois River is the smallest in the state park system.

While it may be small, the Northeastern Illinois state park is enjoyed by many people each year. It was initially constructed in 1959 to give boaters and anglers access to the Illinois River near Morris. While February generally feels more like winter than spring in Illinois, the park is also a great destination for warm-weather recreation.

The relatively small size and recent establishment of William G. Stratton State Park does not decrease its popularity. The park includes a large parking lot that can fit over 100 vehicles with boat trailers. Boaters have access to four public launching ramps for fishing, water-skiing or simply passing an afternoon on the water. There is also a jet ski launching area on the east side of the park. On shore, there are picnic facilities along the banks of the river as well as restrooms and access to drinking water.

During the summer and fall, Stratton State Park is a popular staging location for fishing and waterfowl hunting on the Illinois River. The area is heavily populated with ducks and geese and the river teems with sauger, striper, bass and crappie.

The park is bounded on the north by the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail, making it accessible to hikers, bicyclists, runners and snowmobilers via the 61-mile limestone path. Because it is a launching area for motorized watercraft, swimming and wading are prohibited in the area of the Illinois River adjacent to William G. Stratton State Park.

Small but with plenty to offer fishermen, hunters, boaters, jet skiers and water skiers in Northeastern Illinois, William G. Stratton State Park will soon be crowded with people enjoying the Illinois River. Call 815-942-0796 for more information to plan your excursion today.