Locavore Farm in rural Grant Park lead the way for trendy ‘agritourism’ industry

The crisp cool evening was marred only by the smell of a large, lazy pig, but the kids didn’t seem to mind.

You could find them hanging over the bars of his pen staring at all his muddy glory, or on the other side of the farm peering through the fence to watch a rooster strut inside his coop.


Their parents watched them from the bonfire, eating grass-fed beef hamburgers, homemade potato chips and drinking apple cider sangrias. An indie rock band played on a grassy hill, and others threw bags and wandered the 4,000-square-foot garden.

Oktoberfest at Locavore Farm felt more like a well put together family reunion than a 500-person festival — and that’s kind of the point.

“We were drawn to the lost art of sitting around the table with family and with friends,” owner Rachael Jones said. “People step into wide open spaces and they’re around people they know and strangers, around food and music and drink. They begin to detach from the manufactured life, the hamster wheel.”

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Autism in reel life

In just more than a week, ABC is premiering “The Good Doctor,” a show which follows a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome joining a prestigious hospital’s surgical unit.


The show is a latest in a pattern that’s been emerging in the last few years, a stark shift in how people with autism and other disabilities are portrayed in the media, compared to old favorites such as “Forest Gump,” “I am Sam” and “Rain Man.” While those are critically acclaimed, Academy-Award winning films, it’s impossible to divorce these characters from the disability that defines them.

It’s important for [people with autism] to see characters in media that have autism, to see how it’s portrayed … to see that it’s just one of their personality traits.

But there’s a new model for writing characters with autism spectrum disorder — characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts — seen most recently in Netflix’s “Atypical” (released earlier this month) and the newest “Power Rangers” film (released in March). (If you’re wondering, the Blue Ranger mentions briefly in one scene he has autism.)

Autism is just one aspect of these well-rounded characters. They also fall in love, succeed or struggle with their school work, have friendships and, occasionally, even fight crime.

“It’s important for [people with autism] to see characters in media that have autism, to see how it’s portrayed,” said Jenna Varley, a 24-year-old from Kankakee who has lived with the label of autism her whole life. “To see that it’s just one of their personality traits.”

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A forced adoption, a reunion with Mom

It was a hot day, almost reaching 100 degrees, when 17-year-old Theresa Benoit Ciaccio walked herself into St. Vincent’s Hospital for Unwed Mothers in the summer of 1945.

Now 88, the Bourbonnais resident still recalls that being pregnant and unmarried from a large Catholic family meant keeping her baby was not an option.

Ciaccio and the father of her unborn child tried to marry; they even made it to the church before her brother and father stopped the ceremony.


“We were kids, I was a kid,” Ciaccio recalled. “No job and too young, they said. I did the best I could. I didn’t have a husband so I didn’t think I could raise him.”

At seven months pregnant, she was sent to St. Vincent’s, an orphanage and hospital where girls often put their babies up for adoption in those days.

Her dad drove with her, but wouldn’t go in.

“I walked into the hospital myself with my suitcase,” Ciaccio said. “Just walked in. Kind of crazy. Kind of scary.”

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What a Manteno church is doing to help a Syrian crisis

They’ll probably never meet.
Even if they could, they don’t speak the same language, eat the same food or pray to the same God.



But for a couple dozen church members from the Manteno Church of the Nazarene, and about 60 Syrian refugees in a north Chicago neighborhood, that doesn’t really matter.

About 7 p.m. on Friday, Fadia Mabus, her 5-year-old son, Sam, of Bourbonnais, and friend, Emily Linton, of Bradley, carried trash bags filled with hand-knitted scarves and hats for refugees who are living through their first Midwest winter. Prayers still were echoing as they walked up through the halls of the Muslim Community Center in Chicago, into a room easily 70 degrees; everyone was wearing winter coats.

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Kankakee museum searches for stories of families that immigrated here

“Que es lo que mas le gusta de vivir en Kankakee?” Lorenia Lara asked the gathering of about 10 on the fourth floor of the Kankakee Public Library last Thursday night. “What do you like best about living here?”


“Kankakee has been good to me,” Jose Martinez replied. Martinez, of Limestone, and one of the four owners of Martinez Tacos, immigrated from Mexico in his 20s, found a job and raised his family here. He picked up English and construction skills on the job, burrowing 25 feet under the ground in many local subdivisions to lay plumbing lines.

The next question — about difficulties living in Kankakee — garnered other responses.

“I came and it was cold and I was pregnant,” recalled Angelica Martinez, of Kankakee. “I was closed in at home and couldn’t work or do anything. If you’re not used to that, it’s really ugly.”

The group, speaking in their native language, quickly began reminiscing as old friends do — about when Martinez Tacos in Kankakee was one of the first Hispanic restaurants or grocery stores in the area and how teenagers used to walk with their dates by the train depot.

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