Agronomist looks back on Urbana and Champaign County


By Dave Case

On Fertile Ground

Welcome to another edition of “On Fertile Ground,” your local source of timely homeowner, garden and agricultural articles for Champaign County.

I debated about what to write this month. Instead of writing about mowing your grass high, weeds or cicadas, I’m going to step back in time and reminisce. Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed looking back.

Disclaimer, many or most of you have lived here longer than me, so my intent is not to impress you with how far back I can remember, but more to talk about the things that have made an impression on me.

I moved here in June 1979 after I graduated college and started working at Champaign Landmark. I had never been here before and accepted a job here amongst the several offers I had as an Agronomist in 3 different states.

I came up for my interview and made a wrong turn and missed the turnoff from state Route 334 onto the old U.S. Route 68 and ended up coming into town via state Route 54 instead.

So, my first memory is of the old 68 that ended at County Line Road in what was my future father-in-law’s cornfield! When it finally went through, we lost our airplane runway.

I remember being impressed by the Champaign Landmark facility on Bloomfield and the grain silos and all the departments we had there. Grain, feed, petroleum, tires, farm equipment. Was a very busy place. Nothing like it exists like that anywhere anymore that I have seen.

I weighed their offer and accepted the job and had to find a place to live/rent. I looked at three places. One in Mechanicsburg that had steep steps to the upstairs apartment, the second was in Springhills and thought that was just too far away and remote and the third that I ultimately moved into was at the bottom of Dunovan’s Hill on Route 68. It had a steep driveway; I couldn’t get up in the winter and had to buy studded snow tires to make it.

I had my first Crabill’s Burger at the location where Lincoln and Main is now. I like it that they are still around and usually try to get a couple once a month. They are always busy.

I like it that Urbana is still about the same size in 2024 as it was in 1979. We’ve added a few new companies but not many new homes.

I like the rejuvenation our downtown is undergoing. Love the new businesses and the variety of stores.

I miss Urbana University. I got to attend a few Blue Knight games.

I miss the local banks like Citizens, Champaign and Perpetual but am thankful Peoples is still around.

I’m glad the Urbana Country Club is doing so well. I remember playing there many times as a 9-hole course.

I thought it was so neat and amazing and still do that Salem High School won the state basketball championship in 1960 and I knew a couple of the players.

I got inducted into Urbana Rotary in 1980 and we met at Millner’s on North Main Street, and I put my 25 cents on the tray, and they carried my food upstairs. I thought that was pretty cool.

I’ve always loved our local paper and miss the days when it was published 6 days a week but still like to read the local news, property transfers and the like.

I donated my first pint of blood for an injured co-worker at what is now East Lawn and Garden Center which was then the VFW. I donated 26 gallons before I had to stop but it was always neat when my name was in our paper.

I remember when we didn’t have a Simon Kenton Bike Trail but am so glad we have this amazing asset in our county, and we enjoy helping mow from County Line Road to Route 55 in the summer as part of volunteering for the Simon Kenton Pathfinders.

I love going through our Champaign County Historical Society Museum next to where Botkin’s Greenhouse was on East Lawn. I look around at all the impressive displays every time I go in there. Very interesting.

I’ve never been to a Shady Bowl race but it’s on my bucket list.

I’m not a fan of the solar panels in Adams Township.

I love going to our Gloria Theatre for movies and concerts. We are lucky to have this historic facility still in operation.

I’m glad that the bypass never got approved to go around Urbana. Yes, sometimes the traffic is a bit of a mess and there are sure lots of semi trucks that go around the square, but I still like it. I’ve enjoyed learning more about Simon Kenton.

If you’ve read this far, sorry for the length but promise I’ll get back on topic next month. I’ve had fun looking back at this great town and county.

Champaign County Ag Sector

Continuing with our “looking back” theme …

I moved here and started at Landmark because of the strong agriculture and am glad it’s still that way.

I remember when only Michael Farms had irrigation pivots and am impressed with how many we have now along the 68 corridor (Mad River Valley) and enjoy seeing them operate and love how they manage corners.

I remember the Ohio Grain Company and thought the bin on state Route 29 in Mechanicsburg was the biggest bin in the world.

I remember all the places in the county where we could get anhydrous ammonia. I think it was around eight locations.

I remember Ernie Asman’s place off Railroad Street, WR Grace off Miami Street, Smith Douglass on James and North 68, Sohigro/Terra on 235 and Catawba Station, and Cropmate off the Ludlow. I remember we had a Producers Livestock sale barn on West Light Street.

I toured CoOhio when it opened around 1980.

I remember fall and silage harvest was such a major deal with all the dairies we had, especially north of Urbana.

I remember most had six-row planters and now a 12-row is small.

I’ve always liked our fair and still think it’s the best around and like it’s still on Powell Avenue.

I remember Sanders Sales and Service in Urbana and Smith’s Farm Equipment in Westville.

I remember when no farmers had semi-trucks and their own sprayer; now virtually everyone does.

I remember scouting fields of corn that were planted to CornNuts. Never a big fan of eating them but loved to eat the white corn raw.

Now, keep the beneficial showers as our corn pollinates.

Till next month!

Question or comments? Email me at [email protected].

A graduate of the University of Kentucky, Dave Case majored in Agronomy and Ag Econ with an emphasis in Weed Science. Dave’s career spanned Champaign Landmark, Crow’s Hybrid Corn Company and 30 years with Bayer CropScience. In 2018, Case formed Case Ag Consulting LLC. He is a member of Alpha Gamma Rho Agricultural Fraternity. He is on the Board of Directors of the Agribusiness Association of Kentucky, Chairman of the Ohio AgriBusiness Association Educational Trust Foundation and Secretary of the Alpha Gamma Rho Alumni Board. He is on the Board of Directors of the Champaign Family YMCA, Champaign County Historical Society Agricultural Capital Campaign Committee and is a Trustee for the Champaign County Farm Bureau. Dave and his wife Dorothy live on a small farm south of Urbana where they raise goats, cattle, chickens and various crops and they donate all profits to Pancreatic Cancer Research. Dave can be reached at [email protected].

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