Even before your feet hit the floor in the morning, an industry we all take for granted becomes part of your day.  The sheets on your bed, the eggs on your plate, the milk in your glass, and the clothes on your back are all made possible through agriculture.  As you make your way down the hall to the shower room even the floor you walk on and the doors you open are part of an agricultural process.  You turn on the water, and you get in.  Did you know that your soap, shampoo, conditioner, and even the towel and washcloths you use are pieces of agriculture?  By the time you style your hair, brush your teeth, apply your makeup, and start your car, you have already used hundreds of modern agricultural products.

As you drive down the freeway to your destination, you rush past crowded shopping centers, restaurants, bus stops, subway stations, small businesses, and crowded streets.  Suddenly as you enter the dreaded traffic jam, you realize that the American population is growing at an excessive rate compared to when you first started your job a few years ago.  In fact, the United States Census Bureau estimates that the world population will grow between 50 million and 80 million people every year for the next 40 years (www.census.gov).  Scientists are already working to provide the ever growing population with enough food, clothing, and modern agricultural products, without having to take up more land.  Through genetic engineering, scientists are able to chemically and physically enhance plant seeds to produce higher yields and prevent insect damage.  This process is intended to increase crop production on existing farmland, and to provide more food for the large population of America. 

I’ll bet you have even seen agricultural businesses close to your community.  Some of these are agricultural cooperatives.  If you use these cooperatives, you not only have a say in their products, prices, and leadership, but you also give back to your community.  In return, agricultural cooperatives give back to the community too.  If they receive business, it draws consumers to your town and can also benefit other businesses your community has.  In Pleasant Hill, our local agricultural cooperative is FS.  FS gives back to our community by hosting an annual Field Day with our FFA members.  They inform us about new farming methods, growing processes, agricultural threats, and influences in Pleasant Hill.  We utilize this information to help us not only with agricultural assignments but also with FFA events and fundraisers. 

So the real question here is: “Where would you be without agriculture?”  Without agriculture you would be inconvenienced, naked, malnourished, unprotected, and most importantly, hungry.  The cotton that provided you with your sheets, your clothes, your towels, and your washcloths wouldn’t be processed into these everyday items.  The eggs and milk you had for breakfast wouldn’t be available without the chickens that produced the eggs and the dairy cattle that produced the milk.  The floorboards under your carpet and the doors made of wood in your home wouldn’t be accessible without the agricultural process of forestry.  The consumables such as your soap, shampoo, conditioner, hair products, toothpaste, and makeup would also be diminished because they are byproducts of plants, another important agricultural method.  And finally, the gas used to operate your car is made possible by distilling corn and soybeans into fuel.

As you can see, if agriculture wasn’t available, life would be greatly affected.  Everyday tasks wouldn’t be possible.  So the next time you wake up, eat breakfast, walk down the hallway in your house, shower, get ready for work, and head out into the every growing world, remember what it takes to give you the necessities you need to live life to its fullest.

Keirra DeCamp
2011 GROWMARK Essay Contest Winner


The Corn Crib – by definition in the agriculture world, it is a bin or ventilated building for storing unhusked ears of corn. (There is actually a Corn Crib Restaurant in Christiana, PA., Shelby IA., Middlebury, IN., Corning, KS., just to name a few… my knowledge of this is a credit Google, Twitter searches, and Facebook places!) In the lovely Bloomington-Normal, however, the Corn Crib is home to the Normal CornBelters, a professional baseball team and one of 12 members of the independent Frontier League.

This multi-purpose facility not only houses the CornBelters games, player clubhouses, and front office staff, but it also hosts local college and high school baseball, softball, and soccer games. In fact, beginning this fall through 2015, the Corn Crib will host the IHSA Class 1A Boys Soccer State Finals. Going back to baseball, this beautiful, brand new stadium will also host the 2012 Frontier League All-Star Game, which is quite an honor! As a member of the front office staff, I can tell you we are very proud, and excited to host other events at our ballpark – don’t get me wrong, baseball is awesome, but it’s a great feeling knowing that we can bring fun events to fans of other sports, other age groups, and non-sports fans (i.e. when we bring some sweet concerts here this summer!).

So now you’re thinking, ‘Great, it’s called the Corn Crib. People play and watch sports and concerts. Fabulous.’ (insert sarcastic voice here) While this is all true, let me explain how it all ties in and is possibly the most theme-oriented ballpark in all the land. (I say all the land, which is probably an exaggeration, but Ballpark Digest did say, “It is the corniest ballpark in the independent leagues — which is saying a whole lot…. This is perhaps the most integrated deal with a sponsor that we’ve ever seen.”  The deal they are referring to is the partnership with Illinois Corn Farmers.)

Let me bring some truth to my claim – we have corn everywhere: players walk through rows of corn in just behind the center field wall when they make their way to the field, pictures of corn and fun facts are on banners that have been wrapped around giant posts along the concourse, corn tassels and silk are pictured in a lot of our signage around the ballpark, our main logo is an ear of corn, team merchandise features images of corn, we sell corn on the cob in the concessions, and our mascot’s name is Corny! Yes, his “dreadlocks” are supposed to be corn tassels too and we call him a “Cornisaurus”. Even our ticket packages have a corn theme: The Husker (24 games); ¼ Ear (12 games); The Kernel (6 games).

You can see that we’ve got the administrative details ”corn-ified”, the stadium “corn-ified”, but what about the players? Lucky for us, some of our players grew up on farms or in farming communities and so they know all about corn! Texan and left-handed pitcher, Donald Furrow, has some first-hand knowledge of corn, which he talked about in a recent article for the Illinois Ag Mag, an agricultural magazine for kids. Furrow explained that “corn is the single most important agricultural product in the world and is in most of the meals you eat. The healthier you eat and the less junk food and sweets that you put into your mouth, the better your body and mind will perform in sports and in the classroom. If you only eat junk, your muscles won’t grow, your bones won’t be strong, your vision won’t be sharp and your brain function won’t be up to speed.”

Needless to say, the Corn Crib is not just a clever name that was chosen because there are lots of corn fields around… no sir, that name just scratches the surface of how “corn-y” this beautiful ballpark really is!

If you haven’t witnessed it already, my hope is that you get a chance to experience the Corn Crib! Even if you wouldn’t enjoy the baseball game, our games are all about entertainment – fans participate in on-field contests between innings, our Fun Crew is always running a promotion for the fans, and various free activities are available throughout the concourse including face painting, bounce houses, Discovery Museum craft tables, and opportunities for kids to run the bases after the games (Tuesdays) and get player autographs (Sundays)! If that still doesn’t spark your interest, I hope you consider checking out a Heartland Community College baseball, softball, or soccer game, the IHSA Boys 1A Soccer State Finals games, or upcoming concerts! (Stay tuned for those details and dates!)

Ashlynne Solvie
Public/Media Relations Manager
Normal CornBelters


Did you know that today is National Prime Rib day?  I’m guessing it’s not a holiday that is recognized on your desk calendar, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate it just the same.

The prime rib roast is a cut of beef from the rib section, which is one of the eight primal cuts of beef.  When the bones are removed and sliced, rib eye steaks remain.  Because of the excellent marbling in the meat of this cut, it is loaded with flavor and remains tender during cooking.

To be a true “prime rib”, the meat has to be from USDA prime grade beef, which can be hard to come by in your local grocery store.  But the name stands out regardless of the grade.  So if you can’t find a prime cut, don’t worry, you can use a choice cut as well.

After selecting the cut, it’s time to cook.  The traditional preparation for a prime rib roast is to rub the outside with seasonings and slow-roast with dry heat.  When cooking ribeye steaks there are more options, but if you want the best steak you can get, grilling is the preferred method.

The tender juiciness of a prime rib is incomparable.  When you take that first bite, you’ll know why it’s called prime.

What is your favorite way to prepare prime rib?  Are you a traditionalist?  Do you smoke it first?  Or do you prefer to slice it up and have rib eye steaks?

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant
Beef Lover


spring field tractor

This photo courtesy of Len Corzine in Assumption, IL who says, “We are 25% planted on corn but we are having limited field days due to rain.  We may not turn a wheel until next week.  The ground is working better than it has in recent memory.  Near perfect seedbed with one pass.  This means we are getting corn planted with less than 1 gallon of diesel per acre.  The general public needs to know how our efficiencies continue to improve with new technology!”


I do not own a pair of boots.  Nor do I rise with the sun and work well into the evening when the work is finished.  However, I do feel a connection to agriculture. 

Some might find this hard to believe since I was born and raised in a suburb outside of Chicago, but I have always had an interest in the environment.  Growing up in the suburbs, my education never included classes about agriculture.  Although we did have our basic science classes and the ability to take a cooking class in high school, the focus was never on where this food actually came from.  So, during my senior year of high school, I decided that I would tailor my education to what I was actually interested in, the environment. 

When I was accepted to the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, I enrolled under environmental economics and policy.  Beginning here, my friends and family couldn’t really see the importance of this topic.  Halfway through my sophomore year, I began to notice a pattern in my classes.  Professors would jokingly note how the classes seemed to be divided into two groups: kids from Chicago suburbs and everyone else.  This oversimplification began to intrigue me and helped me realize that I was not on the correct career path.  With my suburban background, my interest in both agriculture and the environment could help bridge a gap between these two “groups”. 

I decided to switch my major to Agricultural Communications.  Now, once my friends and family heard the term “agriculture” in my major, they became even more confused.  To them, agriculture is an entirely different world; one they feel absolutely no connection with.  I had a similar view for some time but the more I learned about the environment, the more I realized how agriculture plays such a large role. 

Agriculture to me does not just mean planting crops and raising cattle.  It does not just mean driving tractors and plowing fields.  I see agriculture as part of a larger process.  Without the environment there is no agriculture and vice versa.  For those who might be skeptical, farmers definitely understand the importance of weather on their crops. 

I would like eliminate these two “groups” and generate a better understanding for everyone involved.  I want people like my family and friends to be curious about where their food comes from and what processes are involved.  Just as well, I want those from rural backgrounds to understand the lifestyle suburbanites such as me grow up in. 

Agriculture is everything. 

Ashley LaVela
University of Illinois Ag Communications student


Some people may not realize this, but both the Illinois Corn Growers Association Board of Directors and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board of Directors are composed of volunteers.

Our farmers are investing in the future of their business and ensuring there is a business climate that promotes agriculture by volunteering on our boards.  They are leaving behind their farms, their livestock, their wives and families to spend countless days per year together working for the benefit of corn farmers everywhere.

They are not paid by a company for the time they spend with us, because they have no company to be paid by.  They are just themselves, small businessmen who chose both a business and a lifestyle, and when they come to the Illinois Corn home office for a meeting they leave behind cows to feed, machinery to fix, and marketing decisions to be made.

Some of them come knowing very little about international markets, how crop insurance really works, or what’s going on in Washington, DC.  But they learn.  They sign up to have their inboxes filled with emails and to spend countless nights reading reports and fact sheets about these and hundreds of other topics.

Our board members see the future of their industry and make decisions that they feel will make it better.  They develop camaraderie because it’s a tough business with a gamble to be made, but they leave the office knowing they have just made the best decisions they could for their children and grandchildren.

ICMB and ICGA board members are volunteers and on this Volunteer Recognition Day, I want to let them all know how much we appreciate them.  They are full of enthusiasm and spunk, they offer friendship when warranted, and they understand how to get down to business.  We understand their sacrifice and we appreciate every minute they give to the industry we are trying to serve.

I love corn farmers.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


Have you ever wondered why your dog walks in a circle before it lies down? Or why some cats can play too rough and bite your hands? Or why when you take a pig out of a group, they all seem to fight again once you put them back together? As an animal science major at Illinois State University, I have had the opportunity to take a Behavior of Domestic Animals class this semester. I think this information that any pet owner or livestock farmer should have in order to better understand and communicate with their animals!

To address the previous questions, dogs circle before they lie down because their wild ancestors would lie down in the grass. The circling beforehand would pack the grass so that they would have a flat spot to lie on. This behavior continues in dogs today even though they often already have a flat surface to lie on.

Has your dog ever tried to lick your face? Many people see this as a sign of affection, which still has not been ruled out. When they are young, however, puppies lick their mother’s face in order to stimulate her to regurgitate food for them. It is possible that they are just looking for you to give them a taste of your last meal!

If you have a cat that plays particularly rough, it may be because they were raised as a single kitten (without their littermates).

These single kittens never learn to play fight with their littermates and consequently never learn to inhibit their bites. The same concept applies to dairy bulls, which are notoriously more aggressive than other bulls. Most dairy bulls are raised in solitude, so they never learn the consequences of their charges. When raised with other bulls, a charge usually results in some sort of retaliation, so those bulls think twice before charging someone. Bulls raised alone, however, have no inhibitions about being aggressive towards others.

Pigs (like most other species) establish a “pecking order” within their groups. When a pig is removed from a group and placed back with that group a few days later, sometimes the pigs will fight in order to reestablish that pig’s rank. It is the job of the subordinate pigs to remember who is above them; the dominant pigs simply know they are dominant; they do not seem to recognize the ranking of the rest of the pigs. If it is a dominant pig that has been removed, there is less of a chance of fighting when it is replaced because the other pigs will remember that dominant pig. If it is a subordinate pig, however, the pigs above it will not remember that pig and establish dominance over it once again.

Another interesting study that I found discovered a correlation between the placement of the circle of hair on a cow’s face and aggression. If the circle of hair was located right in the center of the face, between the eyes, the cow was fairly docile. If the circle of hair was off-centered on the head, that cow was more aggressive.

Studies are also being conducted on humans to see if the placement of the circle of hair on the back of our heads has any correlation with behavioral issues.

These behaviors, along with countless others, are often overlooked or misunderstood by people. Pay attention to your animals, and if you are ever wondering why they are doing something, do a little research!  There have been thousands of studies on animal behavior, so look into it, and get to know your animals a little bit better!

Rosie Sanderson
Illinois State University student


As a young boy growing up in mid-century Kansas I remember Paul Harvey on the radio with “The Rest of the Story…”.  When it comes to renewable ethanol and the “food vs. fuel” debate it is time for “the rest of the story”.

USA Today, no fan of ethanol, noted in its March 18 article, “Hunger, despair for millions” that “The farm value of food – what goes to the farmer – is about 19% of the cost in the U.S., according to the U.S Department of Agriculture.  The rest goes to labor, packaging, transportation, energy and corporate profits.”  USA Today goes on to take a swipe at corn demand for ethanol causing higher farm prices but clearly by their own admission 81% of the cost of food comes from beyond the farm.  Given the great recession, labor costs have barely nudged but packaging and transportation costs are functions of energy costs.  The average cost of crude oil in 2009 was $53.48 per barrel and as of April 5, 2011 the price for the U.S. benchmark crude oil is $108.14 per barrel, over two times as high.  Clearly energy costs have doubled and their impact on packaging and transportation have been significant – just check the fuel surcharge rates instituted by freight haulers.

And what about corporate profits?  One vocal opponent of ethanol is Kraft Foods.  Why, because it has removed the financial advantage from taxpayer-subsidized grain prices they enjoyed for decades.  You see farmer innovation and genetic improvements allowed the supply of grain to rise much faster than demand for decades after World War II.  To keep farmers planting and from going broke the USDA implemented its “loan” program which essentially guaranteed the farmer a minimum price sufficient to keep him barely in business.  Because of the oversupply condition, this minimum price paid to the farmer was generally above the market price.  Essentially this difference was paid by the American taxpayer with the benefit of low, subsidized, market prices going to the grain buyer, in this case a company like Kraft Foods.  But don’t worry too much for them, their gross profit margin last year, the difference between what they sold their products for and what it cost to produce them, was 34.8%.  That is nearly double what the farmer received for his grain, not his profit margin as he has production costs too.

So the next time you go to the store and experience sticker shock, think about the 81% that goes to companies beyond the farmer and the 34.8% gross profit margin.  Big Oil and Big Food have a vested interest in deflecting consumer angst elsewhere and small ethanol is an easy target.  Eliminating ethanol will have little impact on consumer food prices but replacing that ethanol with one million barrels per day of imported gasoline will make $108 per barrel look cheap.  To say nothing of the havoc it will create for Rural America.  The next time you hear about “food vs. fuel” remember “The Rest of the Story….”

Ronald H. Miller is Managing Director and co-founder of Prisma Advisors, LLC, a management advisory firm specializing in biofuels and biotechnology.  Miller has four decades experience in the energy sector including being President and CEO of a Fortune 1000 producer of biofuels and food products from agricultural feedstocks.