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Harvest 2021: The tale of 2 seasons

HERSCHER — Herscher-area farmer Matt Perrault was faced with the decision in September of which crop — corn or soybeans — should he harvest first?

“Do I chase the soybeans while the weather is good?” he asked himself. “Or do I go after the corn before it starts to fall down?”

Perrault went after the corn. He completed the corn harvest. That’s good.

The soybeans, however, are now another story.

With an estimated 300-350 acres to combine yet this fall, he is hopeful that there is a large enough window within the next several days that he can get his crop under roof.

Looking back only four to five weeks ago, this was something Perrault thought would have never been an issue in the 2021 harvest.

As farmers were speeding through their acreage in nearly record time, Mother Nature threw a curve ball and October — the month in which more Illinois crops are harvested than any other — became a month of inactivity.

Rain was followed by rain, which was followed by more rain, which was followed by yet even more rain.

In all, Kankakee County Farm Bureau Manager Chad Miller noted, there were only three to five days of actual harvest taking place within Kankakee County throughout the 31 days of October.

“Things were moving so quickly,” Mille said. “Farmers were ahead of the five-year harvest average until October came.”

In mid-September, the bulk of Kankakee County farmers were anticipating a harvest wrapped up before Halloween. Now, some are wondering if they will be eating Thanksgiving turkey in the cab of their combine.

Miller estimated that as of mid-week, 20 percent of Kankakee County’s corn harvest and perhaps 30 percent of the soybeans remain in the fields.

Those numbers largely mirror harvest throughout Illinois where 19 percent of corn remains unharvested and 25 percent of soybeans have yet to be combined, Miller said.

While these harvest issues may be the problem for area agriculture professionals, their success means plenty to Kankakee County economy.

According to farm bureau data, 17 percent of all the county’s economic output comes from agriculture. In addition, 72 percent of Kankakee County’s 432,997 acres is dedicated to farming.

One Kankakee-area farmer who managed to get the corn and soybeans out of the fields thus far is Jeff O’Connor. While O’Connor breathed a sigh of relief to have finished the harvest, he noted there is still much work to be done.

He said fertilizers must yet be applied to the soil this fall so spring planting can begin on time. He still has about 120 acres of double-cropped soybeans to harvest, but beans planted after the wheat harvest are always one of the final tasks to be completed.

O’Connor noted there has been one positive note to this foul-weather autumn. He joked about getting some at-home projects completed, such as the installation of a paver patio he began in early September.

He also noted he had an Illinois Soybean Association conference he had planned to attend in Las Vegas for the middle of November, but that conference will go on without him. Too much work yet to be tackled.

“It’s all part of the battle out there in a harvest. There is just very little that can be done when the weather doesn’t cooperate,” he said.

Miller’s chief concern now is the state of the corn stalk. The longer the dead stalk is forced to stand, the more likely it is to lay down and that situation presents an entirely new set of issues.

“It’s been tough. But it is the farmers’ way of life and they wouldn’t trade this life for anything,” he said.

Back in Herscher, Perrault may be willing to barter something for a stretch of seven to 10 days of warmer, dry weather.

He’s hopeful this weekend he’ll be back in his combine finishing those final 300-plus acres of soybeans.

“We were cruising at speeds we hadn’t been going at before early this harvest, but the wheels fell off the train. ... We went into this fall with this warm fuzzy feeling of a great crop and great prices, but there are always challenges.”

The Kankakee Public Library is hosting a vaccine clinic with the help of the Illinois Department of Public Health from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 10.

Limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine available for 5- to 11-year-olds

KANKAKEE — Following state and federal guidance, Kankakee County providers can now administer Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine to kids 5 to 11 years old.

The Illinois Department of Public Health adopted the recommendations Wednesday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved use of the vaccine in the age group Tuesday night and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use last week.

“In the clinical trials for the children, the vaccine for Pfizer was found to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in children 5 through 11 years old,” said Kankakee County Health Department administrator John Bevis.

He added that there are mild side effects that parents should research: a sore arm, redness and swelling, fatigue and headache.

“It’ll all be explained to them as they come through, just like they did when they got vaccinated themselves,” Bevis said.

The health department received word Wednesday it could begin rollout of the vaccine to 5- to 11-year-olds after IDPH’s announcement, Bevis said.

He believes the new vaccine eligibility age group will help combat the rise of coronavirus infections among children.

“Almost a third of our positive cases that we’re seeing on a day-to-day basis are younger than 18 years of age, so they’re definitely the population that seems to be catching it right now,” Bevis said. “They do seem to be more resilient health-wise, which is good. However, that doesn’t guarantee that everybody will be and they can still transmit it to older adults who could be suffering from comorbidity issues that would cause them to become seriously sick or die, which is why this is important.”

Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine is being manufactured and distributed separately than its vaccine for adults, which means the rollout process for pediatric vaccinations will look a lot like the early stages of distributing the vaccine supply for adults.

“We need everyone to realize it’s a smaller dose for this age group than the 12-and-ups got,” Bevis said. “It’s a third of the dose of an adult dose. And so as a result of that, it required different packaging, some different instructions and some training for individuals that maybe aren’t used to giving shots and vaccinations to quite that young of an age.”

The health department received 300 doses of the pediatric vaccine and is using them to host a clinic next Saturday, Nov. 13, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

To sign up, visit signupgenius.com/go/pedspfizernov13. As of Thursday morning, 80 kids were already signed up, Bevis said. No walk-ins will be accepted and each child needs an individual appointment.

Gov. JB Pritzker said last week the state expected to receive 306,000 doses for the initial rollout, with an additional 73,000 for Chicago and 100,000 for pharmacies.

Bevis said the Walgreens on Kennedy Drive is expected to get pediatric doses by Nov. 8 or 9, but he is not sure which other pharmacies, doctor’s offices and health centers will offer it because vaccinating young children can be a big undertaking.

“So the difference here with the pediatric vaccine is that some facilities may choose ... to not necessarily get the 5-to-11 vaccine, just because maybe they don’t have the ability to staff to deal with that smaller population,” he said.

He said one of the hospitals has indicated it will not currently offer the pediatric vaccine.

“Typically, you don’t take your child to the emergency room for a vaccine,” Bevis said.

The health department will order more vaccine as it becomes available, host more clinics and share information about providers on its social media, Bevis said.

Kankakee County is 44.3 percent vaccinated against COVID-19, according to IDPH as of Thursday. That’s 53.3 percent of people over 12, according to the CDC. There have been 48,736 people fully vaccinated and 100,164 doses administered in the county.

“It’s my hope that we will go over 50 [percent] as we go through the next few weeks with providing these children now a vaccination that was not available to them,” he said.

IDPH reports that 5,639 kids 12 to 17 in the county have been vaccinated, or 32.7 percent of the age group.

The county’s seven-day average vaccination rate has risen in the past week, possibly a response to newly approved booster shots becoming available.

Officials identify person who fell into Kankakee River

KANKAKEE — Kankakee Sheriff’s police have identified Robert L. Gaddis Jr. as the man who fell into the Kankakee River on Oct. 30.

The 60-year-old Gaddis fell into the river late morning last Saturday near Aroma Park, according to the sheriff’s department.

Officials said he was working on an irrigation system when the accident occurred.

The search continues in and around the river and river banks, using sonar and other technologies, officials said.

Officials ask that people keep an eye out in and around the river and to keep his family in their thoughts and prayers.