Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Great Lakes & Upper South in the News: "Inside The Indiana Megadairy Making Coca-Cola's New Milk" from NPR

Great Lakes & Upper South in the News: "Inside The Indiana Megadairy Making Coca-Cola's New Milk" from NPR

Coca-Cola got a lot of attention in November when it announced that it was going into the milk business. Not just any milk, mind you: nutritious, reformulated supermilk.

It also invited ridicule. "It's like they got Frankenstein to lactate," scoffed Stephen Colbert on his show. "If this product doesn't work out, they can always re-introduce Milk Classic."

In fact, the idea for New Milk didn't come from Coca-Cola at all. It emerged from a huge, high-tech dairy farm in Indiana.

That dairy, called Fair Oaks Farms, doubles as America's one and only dairy theme park, a bit of Americana that interrupts a monotonous stretch of Interstate 65 between Chicago and Indianapolis.

It grabs the attention of drivers with a series of tank trucks parked broadside like billboards in fields beside the highway. Painted on the tanks are cryptic messages: "We Dairy You To Exit 200." Then: "We Double Dairy You." The final tank truck has two huge fiberglass cows mounted on top of it.

The pitch may be goofy, but the farm is serious business. It's one of the biggest and most sophisticated dairies in the country, and it is home to 37,000 cows, divided among 11 different milking operations.

The visitors center offers a cheerful picture of milk production. The most startling touch: a small amphitheater where visitors can watch, through a floor-to-ceiling glass wall, as cows give birth.

Then it's off to the working part of the farm aboard a small bus. The bus rolls right down the middle of a barn that's almost 500 yards long, past about 1,000 cows that are eating, standing around, and lying in stalls on beds of sand.

There's also a stop at the "milking parlor," where visitors watch from a balcony as cows, one by one, step onto an enormous rotating turntable to be milked. Sensors identify each cow, and computers record how much milk she's producing.

"Take a look! They're calm, cool and collected, exactly the way the farmers want them to be," says my tour guide, Terry Tracy.

This is the frontier of dairying. In fact, the people who run this place are so ambitious, they're ready to change milk itself.

Coca-Cola is now a partner in this venture, but the idea began years ago, when two of the founders of Fair Oaks, Mike and Sue McCloskey, were running a big dairy operation in New Mexico. They ran into a problem with bad water, and had to buy some expensive membranes to filter out impurities.

Sue McCloskey says they started thinking about what those filters might accomplish with milk: "Is there something else we can do with this milk that will give it a premium value that we're not thinking about?"

They realized that the filters could separate raw milk into its different parts, such as protein, lactose, minerals and water. Perhaps they could put those parts back together in different proportions, altering milk's time-honored recipe.

"I remember sitting down with Mike, and we were talking about this," McCloskey says. "And I told him, 'Listen, if you could make a milk for me, as a woman, where I could get all of my calcium and a bunch of my protein in one glass or serving — holy mackerel, that would be the most awesome thing!' "

They did, in fact, create a kind of milk with extra protein and calcium but no lactose. The H-E-B supermarket chain in Texas sells it as Mootopia. It tastes like a slightly thicker, richer version of milk.

Now the idea is going national, propelled by the immense marketing and logistical muscle of Coca-Cola. The beverage giant has joined forces with Fair Oaks Farms and Select Milk Producers, the cooperative that the McCloskeys founded in 1994. They created a venture called Fairlife to produce a new line of milk-derived beverages. The first product, which is similar to Mootopia, will arrive in the dairy sections of supermarkets in January.

Link:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/12/25/372664332/inside-the-indiana-megadairy-making-coca-colas-new-milk

Great Lakes & Upper South in the News: "$88M Capitol Welcome Center announced" from the Lansing State Journal

Great Lakes & Upper South in the News: "$88M Capitol Welcome Center announced" from the Lansing State Journal

"LANSING – By fall 2017, the Michigan Capitol building could see a new $88 million Welcome Center and a new park on its west lawn in what would be the biggest renovation to the statehouse and grounds in 22 years.

Under the plan announced Tuesday by the Michigan State Capitol Commission, all visitors to the Capitol — there are some 150,000 tourists and schoolchildren who come every year — will enter through the west side of the Capitol off North Walnut Street. They'll enter a new facility that will include a cafeteria, a large committee room, new "education briefing rooms" and enhanced security measures, according to a news release from the commission, which oversees the building.

The parking lot on the statehouse's west side will be moved underground and replaced by a park, as envisioned by the 135-year-old statehouse's architect, Elijah Myers.

"This planned welcome center will provide a better and more secure way for visitors to enter the building," Carol Viventi, co-chair of the commission, said in the news release.

Officials could break ground on the project as early as this summer.

The Welcome Center was originally discussed as part of the last major renovation to the Capitol, completed in 1992, but never happened.

The work can be funded now thanks to a new, $3 million annual budget established this year for Capitol renovations and upkeep. Before the law setting aside a portion of tobacco tax revenue was passed this summer, upkeep depended on the yearly whim of legislators.

With a yearly budget set, the commission can seek bonds through the Michigan Strategic Fund to be repaid with tobacco taxes, said John Truscott, a Lansing public relations executive and member of the commission.

The benefits of the Welcome Center are many, officials said.

The first is safety, Truscott said, because the Welcome Center will allow security officials to see everyone entering the building. In the event of an emergency, schoolchildren will have one area to regroup.

The Capitol is a remarkably accessible government building, and officials said it would remain so, even with the changes.

Another benefit: redirecting some of the visitor traffic will reduce wear-and-tear on the building, "which will help with preservation efforts," Gary Randall, commission co-chair, said in the release.

And the project "is the continuation of a plan that was developed 30 years ago, so it's exciting to see it moving ahead," said former Gov. John Engler, who led the state during the Capitol's last major renovation.

The state Capitol building opened on Jan. 1, 1879 and was built for $1.5 million. It was one of the first state capitols modeled after the U.S. Capitol and architect Myers went on to design capitol buildings for other states. Michigan's Capitol was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992, and the restoration completed that year won the nation's highest preservation award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation."

Link:
http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/capitol/2014/12/30/capitol-welcome-center-announced/21061125/

"LANSING – By fall 2017, the Michigan Capitol building could see a new $88 million Welcome Center and a new park on its west lawn in what would be the biggest renovation to the statehouse and grounds in 22 years.

Under the plan announced Tuesday by the Michigan State Capitol Commission, all visitors to the Capitol — there are some 150,000 tourists and schoolchildren who come every year — will enter through the west side of the Capitol off North Walnut Street. They'll enter a new facility that will include a cafeteria, a large committee room, new "education briefing rooms" and enhanced security measures, according to a news release from the commission, which oversees the building.

The parking lot on the statehouse's west side will be moved underground and replaced by a park, as envisioned by the 135-year-old statehouse's architect, Elijah Myers.

"This planned welcome center will provide a better and more secure way for visitors to enter the building," Carol Viventi, co-chair of the commission, said in the news release.

Officials could break ground on the project as early as this summer.

The Welcome Center was originally discussed as part of the last major renovation to the Capitol, completed in 1992, but never happened.

The work can be funded now thanks to a new, $3 million annual budget established this year for Capitol renovations and upkeep. Before the law setting aside a portion of tobacco tax revenue was passed this summer, upkeep depended on the yearly whim of legislators.

With a yearly budget set, the commission can seek bonds through the Michigan Strategic Fund to be repaid with tobacco taxes, said John Truscott, a Lansing public relations executive and member of the commission.

The benefits of the Welcome Center are many, officials said.

The first is safety, Truscott said, because the Welcome Center will allow security officials to see everyone entering the building. In the event of an emergency, schoolchildren will have one area to regroup.

The Capitol is a remarkably accessible government building, and officials said it would remain so, even with the changes.

Another benefit: redirecting some of the visitor traffic will reduce wear-and-tear on the building, "which will help with preservation efforts," Gary Randall, commission co-chair, said in the release.

And the project "is the continuation of a plan that was developed 30 years ago, so it's exciting to see it moving ahead," said former Gov. John Engler, who led the state during the Capitol's last major renovation.

The state Capitol building opened on Jan. 1, 1879 and was built for $1.5 million. It was one of the first state capitols modeled after the U.S. Capitol and architect Myers went on to design capitol buildings for other states. Michigan's Capitol was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992, and the restoration completed that year won the nation's highest preservation award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation."

Link:
http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/capitol/2014/12/30/capitol-welcome-center-announced/21061125/

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Destination of the Week: LaSalle County, IL-Streator

Destination of the Week: LaSalle County, IL-Streator 

Streator is a metropolis when compared to the small towns that surround it.  Also off by itself, for some it may not be worth the drive to visit.  If you do, check in advance for hours, etc. since the attractions are somewhat difficult to visit.  Drive east to see a sizable wind farm.

Map:


Address:
Streatorland Historical Society Museum – local history museum
306 South Vermillion Street, Streator, IL 61364
http://streatorlandmuseum.com/

Weber House & Garden – if it feels like you touring someone’s home, you are!  Call ahead and just enjoy the enthusiasm
1503 Baker Street, Streator, IL 61364
http://www.weberhouseandgarden.com/


Engle Lane Theatre – local theater troupe
1012 Columbus Road, Streator, IL 61364
http://www.englelane.org/


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Destination of the Week: LaSalle County, IL-Mendota

Destination of the Week: LaSalle County, IL-Mendota

The only LaSalle County town with Amtrak service, Mendota sits quietly off by itself in the northwest corner of the county.  Unfortunately I have not toured the museums myself, so please feel free to submit your photos!

Map:


Address:
Hume-Carnegie Museum – local history museum
901 Washington St., Mendota, IL 61342
http://www.mendotamuseums.org/HCMUS.htm

Union Depot Railroad Museum - small railroad museum
783 Main St., Mendota, IL  61342
http://www.mendotamuseums.org/UDRR.htm


Breaking the Prairie Farm Museum – a very small farm museum
684 8th St., Mendota, IL 61342
http://www.mendotamuseums.org/BPM.htm


Destination of the Week: LaSalle County, IL-Ottawa

Destination of the Week: LaSalle County, IL-Ottawa

Ottawa is just one of those little, very walkable, small towns.  Located near the center of LaSalle County the city probably has one of the largest downtowns of the entire county.  Currently the county seat the town was so important at one time that Lincoln debated in a nearby town square.  Nearby expressway access supports a number of economy hotels and restaurants.

Map:



Address:
Ottawa Historical and Scouting Heritage Museum – learn about the beginnings of scouting in America
1100 Canal St., Ottawa, IL 61350
https://www.facebook.com/OttawaHistoricalAndScoutingHeritageMuseum











Reddick Mansion Museum - a home tour worth the money, and then some!
100 West Lafayette Street, Ottawa, IL 61350
http://www.reddickmansion.org/














A Brush with History Public Art Murals – While shopping and touring downtown, look up to see some great public art pieces
Downtown Ottawa
http://pickusottawail.com/murals/


Buffalo Rock State Park – Includes an overlook high above the Illinois River
1300 North 27th Road, Ottawa, IL 61350
http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/i&m/east/buffalo/home.htm






Monday, December 15, 2014

Destination of the Week: LaSalle County, IL-LaSalle & Peru

Destination of the Week: LaSalle County, IL-LaSalle & Peru

LaSalle and Peru sit on a bluff, safely removed from the Illinois River.  Located near the intersection of two major expressways, a fan of chain restaurants or hotels will be right at home.  While the downtown areas do not scream “tourist friendly”, LaSalle does offer some nice time killers.  Elsewhere in LaSalle one can find the remains of its very wealthy past.  Check in advance tour and cruise hours since they are somewhat limited.

Map:




Address:
Hegeler Carus Mansion – tour a grand Second Empire mansion.
1307 7th Street, LaSalle, IL 61301
http://hegelercarus.org/


Stage 212/Robert D Manahan Center for the Performing Arts – year-around community theatre
700 First Street LaSalle, IL 61301
http://www.stage212.org/

LaSalle County Canal Boat & Lock 16 Visitors Center – Learn about the I&M Canal and its people.
754 First Street, LaSalle, IL 61301
http://www.lasallecanalboat.org/

LaSalle Canal Boat – Travel like the first US settlers to LaSalle County
754 First Street, LaSalle, IL 61301 (tickets sold at the visitor center.  Boats depart nearby)
http://www.lasallecanalboat.org/


LaSalle Speedway – Summer racing action
578 U.S. 6, LaSalle, IL 61301
http://lasallespeedway.com/