YOU’RE A “REAL FARMER?!”

A mutual friend recently introduced me to someone I’ll call Jane. Jane is college-educated, holds a good job and seemed to be an all around intellectual individual. In the course of our conversation and in getting to know each other it came up that I was from a farm. She literally said to me, “Oh my gosh, YOU are an ACTUAL farmer?” I explained that no, I have a full-time job, but my Dad IS a farmer and yes, I do still help on the farm when he needs it and my time allows. His operation isn’t large enough to hire full-time farmhands… that’s why he had four kids of course, built in help!

Jane was so excited to meet an actual ‘farmer’, she had a lot of questions that I was happy to answer. Some of them seemed so silly to me that I had a hard time not rolling my eyes. But then I remembered: if we as individuals who KNOW the answers to the silly questions don’t take them seriously, then who will? The people who have an anti-ag agenda, that’s who. And trust me, they are out there scattering their false statements around like a manure spreader.

After a lengthy conversation, I think Jane has a better understanding of agriculture and what farming actually is all about. She had no clue that 94% of all farms are family owned. Instead, she thought that the majority were owned by corporate entities and they just hired people to work on the farms. I asked her why she thought that and she said one of the reasons was the signs in fields. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this. Those seed corn signs that are all over the countryside this time of year? Yeah, to those outside of the ag world, they think that displays ownership of the field.

I must admit there were a few of her questions that I couldn’t give a precise answer to. Like what exactly are in pesticides and how they are applied. I’m not a chemist, nor do I have an applicators license, so while I can give broad answers, I can’t give specific details. However, since I do also work in the ag industry, I told her that it would be easy for me to find the answers and would gladly do so for her if she would like me to.

I present this only as an example and a reminder of what the ag community needs to do. If urban folks that literally live in our own backyards are excited, impressed and shocked to meet an actual ‘farmer’ then we aren’t doing our jobs! For so long, farmers have belonged to an association thinking that the association would promote their industry for them. That worked for a while, but no more.

Non-farmers want to connect with farmers. They want to understand who you are, what you do and why you do it. If you don’t tell them, who will?

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

RON GRAY ELECTED SECRETARY OF U.S. GRAINS COUNCIL

"Ron Gray" Illinois Corn Farmer

Ron Gray, Claremont, IL corn farmer and Illinois Corn Marketing Board District XIII Director, was elected Secretary of the U.S. Grains Council today during their 51st Annual Board of Delegates Meeting this week.

Gray’s position as Secretary allows him to eventually become Chairman of the Council.

The U.S. Grains Council is a private, non-profit corporation that seeks to develop export markets for corn, barley, and grain sorghum.   The Council believes exports are vital to global economic development and to U.S. agriculture’s profitability.  It uses 10 international offices and programs in more than 50 countries to accomplish these goals. 

As an officer of the Council, Gray will have input into the development of export markets around the world and will help guide the organization to quickly and efficiently increase export market opportunities for Illinois corn farmers.  Illinois exports more than half of its corn crop annually.

The Illinois Corn Marketing Board is a major funder of the U.S. Grains Council, donating approximately $850,000 annually.

AG WEEK AT THE CORN CRIB

Last week, Illinois Corn, the CornBelters, and Bloomington-Normal celebrated Ag Week at the Normal, IL Corn Crib. The week featured theme nights celebrating Illinois commodities, special games in between innings, and farm equipment right outside the gate!

Monday was Illinois Corn Growers Association appreciation night. Illinois corn farmers were invited to come to the game at a discounted rate to see how IL Corn is using the team to educate fans about Illinois agriculture.

Tuesday was a celebration of pork with over 700 pork burgers sold. Sixty pig farmers were at the game, serving pork samples to spectators in attendance, mingling with the crowd, and answering questions about their farm. The Illinois Pork Producers Association sold t-shirts, “Peace, Love, Pork,” to fans with all sales benefitting local food pantries.

Beef Night was Wednesday night. Fans enjoyed beef brisket and kids enjoyed a special lasso-ing activity in the kids play area. Over 100 beef farmers were there, checking out the stadium and the ag education opportunities.

A special shout-out goes to Bloomington Meats who served flavored bratwursts on Tuesday night and juicy hamburgers on Wednesday night.

Thursday was Prairie Farms night, with representatives from Prairie Farms and Midwest Dairy Association in attendance. The first 1000 visitors received chocolate milk and fans enjoyed a milk chugging contest on the field.

The week ended with Friday night’s 4-H night. Livingston, McLean, Woodford, and LaSalle County 4-H chapters were represented and the 4-H pledge and Pledge of Allegiance were recited on the field. What an exciting day for 4-H education!

Ag Week was to promote agriculture as a primary industry in our state and reconnect ag with the non-farmers in our community. With that as a goal, Illinois Corn believes we have certainly provided an opportunity to learn more about where food comes from to the non-farm audience in Illinois.

HEAT ADVISORY DOESN’T STOP FARMERS

In Bloomington, IL today, the temperature hovered just below triple digits.  The “feels like” temperature approached 120 degrees.  Ninety percent of the worker bees in Bloomington hid in their cubicles with the a/c running full blast, only to dash to the comfort of their air conditioned cars at 5 pm.

Farmers didn’t.

All over Illinois today there were farmers taking care of their livestock.  Making sure water troughs were filled, fans were running, and sprinkler systems were operational was a priority.  The hogs and cattle that are residents of our great state may not have suffered in the heat as much as the farmers did, who continued to work hard while the rest of us sat in front of a computer to escape.

Is the farmer the only one toiling in the heat?  Most definitely not.  Construction workers, landscape artists, and millions of others are doing the same to serve the people in the communities around them.  You recognize them and you thank them – maybe not enough – but you do.

Of the farmer’s commitment to care for his animals, you throw stones.  You criticize his motives, his attachment to the lives in his care, and his judgment.  You attempt to tell him how to do his job.  You push for legislation that will ensure that he cannot care of these animals ever again, nor give the same commitment to his children.

Maybe today you can rethink the skepticism.  Maybe today you can believe that the farmer is committed to animal care, animal welfare, and animal safety.

Maybe today, from the comfort of your 74 degree cube, you can understand that the farmer cares for his animals before himself.

And you can thank him for the safest food products in the world.

EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED FROM RUNNING, I ALSO LEARNED FROM AGRICULTURE

Waking up at 5:45 a.m. is the norm for me to be out the door by 6:00 a.m. and start my day before the heat sets in. The result of what the season will bring is my motivation to continue working strong even when impediments occur. I lace up my shoes and head out the door with a positive attitude, because I know I need one in order to overcome my 10 mile training run.

Growing up on a farm surrounded by agriculture has taught me a lot about running.  The most important lesson I have learned is that hard work does pay off.  Throughout my life, I’ve seen failures and accomplishments.  Too much rain or a windstorm may damage the crops, but that is not always the case.  With determination and lessons learned, alternatives eventually will bring success as the expected result.

There are good runs and bad runs.  I can’t decide which one I will have before mile one.  However, I know that there is a lesson to be learned from every mile marker.  Sometimes I fall and need to get up to try again.  Scraped knees and palms are like downed crops in a perfect field.  You’re not able to correct the problem immediately, but you know the scratch is temporary. 

Most people who did not grow up in a rural area or around agriculture do not understand it.  Questions arise about the production of livestock, way of living, and the ultimate question of “why?”   While the answers seem very simple to those of us who have been around agriculture our entire lives, they are a mystery to others.

Running is not so different.  Non-running individuals don’t understand the reason behind the pain and training it takes to run a marathon, or the time commitment involved.  It takes motivation to put one foot in front of the other for those 10 miles, just as it takes motivation for farmers to plant rows of corn and soybeans for hundreds of acres.

Farmers and runners alike are highly motivated individuals. No one is telling them to wake up at 5:45 a.m., or asking them to keep working although it may be time for a ‘snack’ break.  I have learned to become motivated from growing up on a farm, and it has stuck with me through my double digit miles on a perfect day to sleep in.

Everything I learned from running, I also learned from agriculture. Running and agriculture have a lot in common, and the situations and lessons I was faced with on the farm have helped me to become a better person all around.  Running forces me to work hard with the limited energy I have, just as agriculture works with its limited resources.

“The answers to the big questions in running are the same as the answers to the big questions in life: do the best with what you’ve got.” – Anonymous

Abby Coers
University of Illinois Student

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO: GARDENS

If you haven’t been following along this summer for our ongoing photo contest on the IL Corn Facebook page, you have been missing out on some great agricultural pictures! This week’s theme was “Gardens” and Janet LaMere walked away with the most votes for her photo of her Rhode Island Reds in her garden.  Congratulations Janet!

 

Stay tuned all summer long for more contests and great pictures!

HERE’S THE POINT

We just had Holly Spangler guest post for us last week, and after reading her latest post we had put the spotlight on her again.

Show season is heating up, all across the Midwest and, honestly, across the better part of the rural U.S. countryside. The best cattle, lambs and pigs have been vigilantly selected. The careful feeding has commenced. The daily rinsing and grooming may have even already begun. Preview shows are about to be held, or have already been held.

But really, all that isn’t even the point. This is the point:

This is Campbell Martin, getting a last-minute bit of advice and a pep talk from his Uncle Nathan. Campbell was about to show a pig at his county fair a couple years ago, one of his first shows. Then, at this time last year, his uncle died of testicular cancer.

I think what strikes me so deeply about this photo is the number of times I’ve seen it play out in real life. How many of us have been on either the giving or the receiving end of that exact same talk? Campbell’s mom, Holly, shared this photo at the time of Nathan’s death, and it has clung to a corner of my mind ever since. Look at how that young man adored his uncle. “Some of the best times we had with him were in the barn,” Holly says.

This is what it’s all about. Families together, learning from each other and having a good time. If you think the point of showing livestock is to make money – and a lot of people do – let me just say, I think you are wrong. We all like to win, and I am absolutely among them. The livestock exhibition business is an industry unto itself.

But this right here? Time spent together, in a shared activity that engages multiple generations? This is a gift. We don’t recognize that enough in agriculture; that this thing we do with showing livestock gives us opportunities to spend time together that families outside our industry would kill for.

Holly Spangler
My Generation – The Blog