The primogenitor for almost all of the world’s penicillin was found, by chance, on an overripe cantaloupe purchased at a Peoria grocery store.

The Ag Lab, as most area residents refer to the National Center for Agricultural Utilization, has been an innovation center in this community for almost three-quarters of a century.

From the mass production of penicillin to ethanol refinement to the development of super-absorbent starch, the discoveries and advancements made at the Peoria facility, the largest U.S. Department of Agriculture research lab in the country, would fill a book, maybe a bookshelf.


Not all the work that goes on at the lab makes headlines but the 80 Ph.D. scientists are regularly engaged in innovation--from finding new ways to combat mosquitoes and ticks to make better use of crops like corn and soybeans.

Over in Tremont, Precision Planting, now owned by AGCO, brings modern technology to the farm scene, improving efficiency and the ability of men and women that grow food to plan productively.

But as organic and sustainable farm practices expand, this region's ag front also involves finding ways to draw young people back into farming.

Organizations like the Land Connection help train individuals in resilient farming techniques.