PROMOTE AG: DO IT YOUR WAY

I grew up on farm, rode in the combine, and showed livestock at the county fair. However, I had not participated in any agriculture classes until recently. If you asked me four years ago what I wanted to do after high school graduation my answer would be move to the city, and that is exactly what I did. However, after two years experience of the larger city and the lack of ‘farm kids’ surrounding me, I decided that was not for me and am now back to my roots of agriculture.

At the beginning of college, I enjoyed my area of study I chose but I wanted to be involved with agriculture, something I missed most when leaving for college. I did some research and I found the area of study perfect for what I have always wanted to do: Agricultural Communications. With this major I am able to communicate about agriculture through journalism and advertising.

Choosing Agriculture Communications opened many doors for choosing a career path. When thinking about agricultural careers, farming automatically comes to mind. Now this is the most logical answer for a career but we need to keep in mind how large the agriculture industry really is. Related to my experience, I found hundreds of career paths related to ag that one could take depending on the area of interest.

One particular path I am currently taking is within the communications field. This semester, I interned with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and had the opportunity to host a panel of three speakers: Dr. Janeen Salak-Johnson, Chuck Spencer, and Leon Corzine. All three individuals deal with different aspects of agriculture. The three agriculture advocates spoke about how they promote agriculture among others and the importance that agriculture has made in their lives.

Dr. Janeen Salak-Johnson is an Associate Professor of Animals Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Johnson is an agriculture advocate dealing with animal rights. An interesting story Dr. Johnson told was about her daughter. Her daughter is younger and wants to become vegetarian because she saw the “cute pig” in Charlotte’s Web. Dr. Johnson informed her daughter of the ag industry and animal rights among livestock and has influenced her daughter to continue eating bacon. Dr. Johnson reiterated the importance of educating people about animal rights correlating with agricultural needs.

Chuck Spencer is the Director of Government Affairs at GROWMARK. Spencer took the business path of agriculture. He manages state and federal legislative issues with GROWMARK. Previously in his agriculture history, he was the Director of National Affairs and Policy Development for the Farm Bureau. Lobbying at the capital is not always done by people who understand agriculture, and that is what Chuck reiterated several times. Voicing your opinion is a way to help the industry, and anyone can become involved. Any age group can lobby or speak about the ways of agriculture and each and every individual will help the government to understand the focus of ag.

Leon Corzine is a 5th generation farmer from Assumption, IL and also currently serving on the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. He recently served as President of the National Corn Growers Association, representing corn growers in America. Leon mentioned how social media is becoming an important tool to communicated and create awareness for agriculture. If you log in to your Facebook account, agriculture fan pages and groups are created almost daily. This is a small but effective way to promote and educate individuals about the necessity of agriculture. Within Leon’s previous job, he was able to represent agriculture to the nation. Leon is an agriculture advocate and a role model to many individuals who deal with agriculture, especially corn.

These three spoke on their focus of the agriculture industry. I learned so much about the different paths they took while realizing the importance of agriculture. It is interesting to hear the ways these individuals promote agriculture and how one could easily become involved.

After listening to the speakers and being motivated to promote ag, I encourage each of you to also get involved with agriculture. This could be joining an agriculture group or attending a panel of speakers. Whatever you do, remember the multiple opportunities and rewards that agriculture has to offer!

By: Abi Coers
ICGA/ICMB Intern

EPA: INMATES (INTERNS) RUNNING THE ASYLUM

Hello, my name is Becky and I’m a meat eater.

I can stand up and say that proudly, but why is it that some people try to denounce omnivorism like it’s something that should be part of a 12-step program?

The latest comes from the US EPA’s blog. The author, Nicole Reising, a sophomore intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection, extols her ‘knowledge’ in farming and how meat production is bad for the environment. Her reasonings are:

– Ethics against killing animals.
– Disliking the taste of meat.
– Air pollution due to dust and liquid manures.
– Rainforest erosion and destruction for pasture land.
– Water contamination due to animal waste.
– Grain and corn grown for animal feed instead of addressing world hunger.

Now I have no problem with someone choosing to be a vegetarian or vegan for personal reasons. I may not agree, but I can understand their choice. What I take issue with is the attempt to restrict animal production for food for those who choose to eat meat, especially when they are basing their decision on misinformation and outright falsehoods.

As far as Ms. Reising’s motives for becoming a vegetarian because of the negative environmental effects, well a little fact she seemed to overlook (that was put out by the EPA, the very organization she is blogging for!) is that the entire U.S. ag sector contributed only 6.4% of total U.S. green house gas (GHG) emissions in 2006. That includes meat production… and that 6.4% is for the ENTIRE U.S. ag sector! Additionally, conventional beef generates 40% LESS GHG emissions and uses 2/3’s less land than beef produced using organic and grass-fed production systems.

And for the argument of “Grain and corn grown for animal feed instead of addressing world hunger,” only 1% of all the corn grown in the U.S. is sweet corn to be consumed by humans. The rest of the corn is used for livestock feed, ethanol and other uses. We cannot grow crops in all areas (those areas are great for raising dairy and beef cattle though, which means we can get valuable protein feed from land that can only be used for growing grass and weeds). And in the areas we do grow corn, the quality is not always good enough to be consumed by humans. Thus, we are helping world hunger by feeding this grain to livestock and producing other uses for corn (corn starch, corn syrup, biodegradable plastic, etc.) to allow for more food products that are affordable.

I come from a family farm where we raise beef cattle as well as corn, soybeans and alfalfa and I’m not ashamed of that. We treat the land and animals with respect and love. I would wager a year’s salary that even though we are not vegetarians, we show more respect to animals AND the earth than those who choose not to consume meat. If you feel the same way, go comment on this blog and let your thoughts be heard.

By: Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

HARDWORKING & HOT

Farmers are hard working, farmers are dedicated, farmers are feeding the world, but farmers are also hot! This was the general theme for the Agriculture Awareness Day that I organized on the University of Illinois campus. As a social media intern for the Illinois Corn Growers Association, it was my pleasure to host this event in order to raise awareness for farmers and agriculture, especially to those outside of the agriculture world.
I took a fun and light-hearted approach to this event, naming it Farmers Are Hot Day. My goal was to get college students to stop by and play a few games of Cornhole (also known as bags) and talk to me, a farm kid, about agriculture. Participants also had the chance to pose for a picture to be entered in a “Hottest Farmer” contest. It was interesting to hear what everyone’s thoughts were on hot agriculture topics, especially ethanol, and be able to give my perspective.
In today’s ever-changing world it is important that farmers maintain their wholesome image, and that the family farm stay strong. This can only be done by farm kids such as myself; we need to spread the word and change the opinions of those with negative perceptions of agriculture and farmers! Through this event and my Facebook page I am trying to reach college students and put a fun, positive spin on agriculture, and hopefully, everyone will see just how “HOT” farmers really are!
By: Alyssa Eade
Become a fan of Farmers Are Hot! on Facebook at:

THE FEW, THE PASSIONATE, THE FARMER

People always ask me why I got involved in agriculture. I never really know how to answer. I don’t think that any number of words could accurately communicate my answer to this question.

I did not grow up on a farm, or even in a small town. I did not take agriculture classes in high school. All in all, I had an extremely limited agricultural background before I came to college.

But as soon as I became a part of the Department of Agriculture at Illinois State University, my mind was opened to an absolutely incredible industry. Transforming from a typical consumer to a part of this industry has been awe-inspiring. At times, it has also been extremely overwhelming. Agricultural workers have an unbelievable knowledge of the science and technology they use to feed us. Their countless hours of work are a testament to their dedication. Consumers truly do not realize the rich values and knowledge that are present in the agricultural community. In all honesty, I never really knew until I experienced it for myself.

This spring, I had the opportunity to participate in a really important internship. As a part of my internship, I was given the opportunity to organize an Agriculture Awareness Day. I had an amazing time organizing this event and participating in it. More importantly, it made me realize how much agriculture means to me.

Agriculture has helped shaped me into who I am today. It has turned me into a compassionate, hard-working, confident individual. I know that this would not have happened without the people I have encountered in college. Through agriculture, I have met businessmen, dedicated professors, scientists and communicators, among other things.

In an industry with so many unique individuals, it is hard to imagine that we have one thing in common- our passion. I am confident that I could switch my major an infinite number of times and never be a part of an industry as passionate as this one.

So why am I involved in agriculture? In short, it is because of the people. I am proud to be a part of the agricultural community, but above all, I admire the people who stand next to me. It is what keeps me going!

By: Kristin Apple
ICGA/ICMB Intern