There is no doubt that women have always been a part of agriculture- behind the scenes if nothing else. Today, however, women are becoming more and more visible on the forefront of agriculture managing companies, researching, working hands-on on the farm, promoting agriculture, and so much more! Within the different generations of my own family I can see these changes happening. My Grandma Linda has always been a part of the farm “behind the scenes” making sure the men all get fed, cleaning up for meetings or events held on our farm, and managing finances for her husband’s seed business. My mother plays an active role in the farming operation when she grew up on a dairy farm.

She milked cows and drove tractors every day just like the rest of her sisters. Today she helps on our farm by keeping computer records for the business and keeping track of the finances of the farm… all while running her own business and traveling the world! As the youngest generation of women in my family, I can see that my role on the farm has been much more hands on and I am pursuing a higher education than previous generations of women in my family. I grew up feeding cattle and pigs everyday, showing those animals during the summer fairs, and working farm equipment as needed. Today, I am completing my Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Animal Industry Management and plan on pursuing a career in Ag Literacy or Ag Communications.

These trends are common for most generations of women in farm families, and I would like to say “Way to go girls!” Here is a short video of some women in agriculture and their stories. Enjoy!

Rosie Sanderson
Illinois State University Student


It’s all about the cows when the early October mainstay of the Dairy Industry, World Dairy Expo, takes place in Madison, WI. 2,500 head of the world’s finest cows show up in Madison for the largest dairy show in the country. Along with this annual cow frenzy is an exceptional trade show where over 800 exhibitors display their goods and services to the some 65,000 attendees to the five day show.

The cows demand most of the attention in the ring and at the trade show. The “cow” is the emphasis whether it’s feed and silage quality, animal care, state of the art milking technology, or genetics. It amazes the novice and expert alike to see the wide array of goods dedicated to the cow and milk production.

Illinois Livestock Development Group and the Illinois Milk Producers’ Association have been exhibiting at World Dairy Expo the last five years. Each year seems to bring industry issues, topics and latest technology to the forefront for the industry to address in an open forum of leaders, attendees and producers.

This year was no exception. Pounds of milk produced, price paid per hundred, forage quality/availability, and technology were the leading discussions up for consideration. With Class III milk hovering in the $17 – $18 / hundred range, the price of feed becomes biggest factor in maintaining profits across the industry. Most concede that $20 milk is needed to compete with still elevated grain in the 6$ – 7$ per bushel equivalent price range.

New technology also demands a lot of discussion each year. This year, robotics was the primary focus as smaller producers struggle to maintain labor, performance, and profitability in a changing industry. Lely USA, DeLaval, and Westfalia/Surge all have an automatic robotic system that is becoming easier for producers to implement into their existing management and production plans. In essence, the cows decide when they need milked and the robot provides the service 24 hr a day. The producer can then focus on cow comfort, feed and management of the herd.

Another theme in the dairy technology discussion is manure and/or nutrient management. Methane digesters have taken over the discussion of the ultimate renewable energy COW POWER. This highly regarded technology continues to grow in acceptance and efficiency and affordability as it addresses environmental compliance for producers.

I enjoy representing the Illinois Livestock Development Group every year at this top notch event.  Not only does it keep me abreast of upcoming issues and innovations in the industry, but it helps me think through new themes and challenges that we might face as we continue to grow the industry in Illinois.  I love talking to dairy farmers from all over the country, and I’m always happy to find that Prairie Farms offers a market opportunity that continues to draw producers to the Illinois booth.  Of course, feed and water availability are key strengths of Illinois’ as well. 

World Dairy Expo serves as a forum for dairy producers, companies, organizations and other dairy enthusiasts to come together to compete, and to exchange ideas, knowledge, technology and commerce.  Illinois Livestock Development Group hopes to engage producers from Illinois and beyond to help them grow and expand their animal agriculture endeavors responsibly and profitably.  I happen to think the two are a great fit.

Nic Anderson
Livestock Development Group


Photography is a big part of my life…I don’t know everything but I know some of the key points that I feel are necessary in taking a good photograph.  And for Photographer Appreciation Month, I’d love to share a few pointers that can make you a better photographer.   Check back every Tuesday this month to learn something new!

Lighting is a big key to producing a quality photograph. The color, direction, quantity, and quality of the light you use determine how your photo subjects will appear. If you take pictures in a studio with artificial light sources, you can control your lighting; however, most of the agricultural pictures you take are shot outdoors. Daylight and sunlight are tricky to work with because they change hourly and with the weather, season, and location.

farm, soybeans, field, Illinois, photography, lighting, evening, farmerThis photo was taken at 7:45 am and I love the soft light.  The soybeans almost seem to be glowing!

Some people think that taking pictures during the middle of the day is the best time with the best lighting, but the morning and evening light will produce the nicest image. Strong, direct sunlight is difficult to work with because it produces dark, well-defined shadows as I’m sure some of you have experienced.  Also, a live subject will have to squint to see in direct sunlight making for a less desirable photo.

Taking pictures on a cloudy day is one of the best days because there will be no shadow. Next time you go out to take pictures, especially of people, I encourage you to use the morning and evening lighting and see if you can see a difference.

CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK:  Photograph someone on your farm prior to 9 am or after 5 pm.  Do you like the results? 

Upload your challenge photo to IL Corn’s Facebook page for a prize!  Farm challenge photos get better prizes than non-farm photos!

Illinois Corn Marketing Board InternJenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student


harvest, fall decorationsLooking for something fun to do with the whole family this fall? The central Illinois area has plenty to offer. Fall is the perfect season to visit the local pumpkin patch or apple orchard. Ackerman Farms and Tanners Orchard are the perfect places to begin a fall tradition with your family!

Halloween is right around the corner and Ackerman Farms in Morton, Illinois would be the perfect place to get your pumpkins! Not only do they have plenty of pumpkins, but this would be a one stop shop to get everything you need for fall. They have over 125 varieties of pumpkins and squash, 30 varieties of mums, 16 varieties of apples, Indian corn, corn stalks and straw bales. Not only do they provide a lot of different products, but they also offer weekend hayrack rides, school field trips and birthday parties.

Morton, which is the pumpkin capital of the world, is the perfect place for this charming pumpkin patch. If you don’t have the opportunity to visit the farm, you can find a gift store in downtown Morton.

Ackerman Farms has been in operation since the 1930’s and has been supplying Morton’s Libby plant with pumpkins since the 80’s. The farm has been a family operation since its beginning. If you need more information visit www.ackermanfarms.com

applesTanners Orchard is a Central Illinois tradition. Based on 80 acres in Speer, Illinois, Tanners has the largest variety of fresh picked apples in area. But it is so much more than an apple orchard. Tanners has a country themed amusement park complete with rides, pony rides and barrel trains for the kids, bale mazes, gem mining, a farm animal barn, and billy goat bridge, where actual billy goats walk back and forth above the crowds of people who walk below.

With all of these activities, you’re sure to get hungry. Make sure you visit the Apple Bin Bakery where cider, salsas, jams and butters, apple cider donuts, candles, children’s toys, Halloween and harvest decorations are just a few of the items sold there.


The roots of the Tanner family originally stem from Switzerland. Rudolph and Mina Tanner decided to travel to the “new world” for a fresh start. Here they purchased 80 acres in Speer, Illinois. Twenty acres were already planted as an apple orchard and eventually grew into what Tanners is known as today. Tanners was started in 1947 and has been a family tradition since the start. Today, it is run by the fourth generation of the Tanners. Tanners Orchard is a must for this fall! If you want to learn more, visit www.tannersorchard.com

Nichole Wright
ISU Student


Mr. P. K. Basu, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture for the Government of India, visited the Jeff Jarboe farm yesterday along with three other high level officials from the Government of India.

farm visit, indian officials, india, corn, farmer, tractor, wagon, grainThe Secretary and his colleagues were in search of a “typical” farming operation and were hoping to interact with local producers in the Paxton, Illinois area.

The Indian delegation was interested in understanding the role of new production technologies and seed technologies, as well as how the grain is stored after it is harvested. They were also very interested in learning more about the marketing techniques that producers use to market their crop throughout the year and the grain elevator’s role in the marketing of the grain.

The Secretary and his colleagues were shown tillage equipment, corn and soybean planters, tractors, and a combine.

Like most trade teams they found the combine of most interest and were given the opportunity to observe harvest, as well as how the grain is transported out of the field and to the bin for storage.

Most producers that I have met don’t think they do anything special in their daily lives. However, this delegation felt they observed something very special.

In addition, there was also another group from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. This group also desires a better understanding of agriculture and how to help develop linkages with the private sector.

This was a historical visit by many in the group as many have never been on a farm in the United States.

This particular visit is not unlike the other approximately 20 international visits per year that IL Corn hosts, visits with, or connects to local suppliers. IL Corn has a vested interest in improving market opportunities for IL corn farmers and visits from other countries like Mr. P. K. Basu and his colleagues are just one important way that we add value to your voice.

Phil Thornton
ICGA/ICMB Value Enhanced Project Director

See more photos from the tour here: photo album


Earlier today, the Columbia, Panama, and Korea Free Trade Agreements were passed out of the House Ways and Means committee The Columbia vote was 24-12; Panama vote was 32-3; and Korea vote was 31-5, all in favor. 

Illinois corn farmers appreciate House members’ recognition that every minute these Free Trade Agreements sit without decision is another minute that corn farmers go without vital market opportunities and American’s miss the benefits of increased economic growth.  Specifically, the Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) thanks Congressmen Schock and Roskam for their “yes” votes to pass these bills out of the House Ways and Means Committee.

“All three FTAs provide significant opportunities for U.S. agriculture by immediately eliminating import duties on the vast majority of U.S. agricultural commodities, such as corn and other coarse grains and co-products,” stated Paul Taylor, ICGA Export Committee Chair. 

Global trade is important to Illinois farmers. According to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, Illinois feed grain exports to all countries totaled $1.7 billion in 2009, while all ag product exports reached $5.5 billion.

According to government and industry estimates, the three FTAs will result in an additional $2.5 billion in additional sales and lead to the creation of over 20,000 jobs, which are critical to creating economic growth and employment for U.S. citizens.

“Each of these countries are important markets for U.S. coarse grains and co-products and the FTAs offer significant opportunities for growth,” said Taylor.

ICGA looks forward to working with other House and Senate members to continue the quick movement of all three Free Trade Agreements through Congress.


Photography is a big part of my life…I don’t know everything but I know some of the key points that I feel are necessary in taking a good photograph.  And for Photographer Appreciation Month, I’d love to share a few pointers that can make you a better photographer.   Check back every Tuesday this month to learn something new!

First, I’d like to share a composition rule of thumb: the Rule of Thirds. I first learned about this rule when I was a beginner in 4-H. 

NOTE: Some rules are meant to be broken and if you don’t follow the Rule of Thirds it doesn’t mean you’re going to produce a bad image!

The easiest way to look at the Rule of Thirds is to break down an image into thirds, vertically and horizontally so that you have 9 parts to your picture.

Next, when you look through your camera, mentally your picture into the Rule of Thirds. Position the main focus of your image to one of these four points where the lines intersect.

Basically what this rule is trying to get across is that you don’t want a ‘bull’s eye’ photograph where your subject is dead center in the middle of the frame. If you place your points of interest on the intersections or along the lines, your picture will become more balanced. I’ve been told that when a person is viewing an image their eye is automatically drawn to one of the four points rather than the center of the image.

In this photo, my subject is along one of the “thirds” lines while the apples are along another.  I’m hitting three out of four of those intersecting points making this a more visually appealing photo than if my subject were dead center!

Like I said earlier, this rule can be broken and may lead to some nice shots but it definitely is something to incorporate into your photography.

Sometimes I completely forget about the rule of thirds. If you do forget and end up with a “bull’s eye” image don’t hesitate to do little editing. With all of the editing software that is available you can always crop your picture to make it follow this rule.

CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK: Take a photo using the Rule of Thirds and take the same photo with your subject dead center.  Which one do you prefer? 

Upload your challenge photo to IL Corn’s Facebook page for a prize!  Farm challenge photos get better prizes than non-farm photos!

Illinois Corn Marketing Board InternJenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student


 We’re reminded of it every day when we tune into NPR on the way to work or turn on any media station at night. This omnipresent “elephant in the room” isn’t good for business, and it certainly isn’t good for morale. Michigan and Illinois alone have 11.2% and 9.2% unemployment, respectively.

How can we fix it? How can you and I make a difference?

The truth is, I don’t think we’ve ever really lost sight of how to apply our vast knowledge as a nation. As our economy shifts to a more global one, other countries advance and become more competitive. They see our industrialized success as an example and push us harder than ever before to keep our competitive edge.

Living in Michigan near auto industry capital, I see cars on a frequent basis proudly displaying bumper stickers that say “Out of a Job Yet? Stop Buying American.”

Whether meant to warn as a result of their current situation or not, these drivers offer a somber reminder and a reality. It really does matter, on a macro and micro economic scale, what products we buy and where they come from. This trend to buy American products continues to garner greater attention in mainstream society, but I feel we only pay attention to the origin of particular household products, such as t-shirts or new wrenches.

 So, let’s go back to the beginning. How do we fix our unemployment? I think the answer is twofold.

 First, as a society, I think we need to commit to not accepting skyrocketing unemployment. Just last week the USDA and the Obama Administration announced that they will be creating jobs now in rural America through various programs in 41 states.

Second, we need to continue take a serious look at where our products, especially fuel, come from. Ask yourself: Where were they made? What communities do they impact? Does the revenue from my purchase stay within my economy, or state, helping my neighbors, families and friends?  We don’t always have the ability to buy American-made products anymore, but we absolutely do have that option with fuel.

To celebrate Alternative Fuels Day today, I encourage you to look at the pump when you fill up to see how much biofuel is in your gasoline. That percentage, small or large, is the direct result of hard work from families throughout the Midwest.

A lot of people—politicians, business and industry leaders alike—think they know who or what to blame for the downslide or stagnation in our current economy. Whatever the cause, the solutions are clear.

We need to focus on viable, effective solutions to putting our ingenuity back to work through American made, American bought—biofuels.

Lauren Knapp
University of Michigan
Author of Fuel for Thought