Illinois corn farmers are writing a letter to Santa; what’s on our list?  Today we start with item one … upgraded locks and dams!  Thanks to Thomas Martin, SIU student, for this series focusing on IL Corn’s top priorities!

When I was a little kid we sang a Christmas song that went “over the river and through the woods.” As someone who loves driving and travel in general I especially enjoy the opportunity to observe highway phenomena like bridges, ferries, fords (the crossings – I drive a flex fuel Chevy!), etc. My friends often poke fun at my often ridiculous road trips and escapades in and around the Prairie State. Unfortunately all too often I find my adventures “over the river and through the woods” to be a little gut wrenching as those bridges over the river show their age and the ferries close down service. Not only that but our freight trains are running on old tracks and our highways have taken a beating. Not to mention the major trade issue we face with the crumbling locks and dams.

Don’t believe our infrastructure is falling behind? I personally welcome you to join me in a little trip around Illinois then! Let’s visit river bridges such as Brookport, Florence, Cairo and Chester. Let’s see the difficulty and dependence that communities like Cave-in-Rock, Meyer, Modoc, and Calhoun County have on ferries.  Let’s experience the sorry state of highways on state maintained frontage roads let alone our other highways and rural roads (Union County has some dandy drives).  Unfortunately I can’t as easily show you the sickening display that our river ways are in nor can I fully express the magnitude of such a problem as they are off the “beaten path”.

This past summer I got to travel over the river, through the woods right down to Panama and Colombia (the countries not the towns in Montgomery and Monroe Counties) where I got to observe something that seemed truly foreign to a young whipper snapper like me – infrastructure investment!  You might not have caught the gravity of that – Panama, is investing (putting in improvements for future gains) in their infrastructure. There they are adding in another lane to the Panama Canal. Soon enough travel will be even faster and trade far greater on the canal. Again you might not be picking up on this, soon one will be able to more efficiently travel 40 miles through the Panama Canal meanwhile our barges are stuck in lines with our outdated locks.

My friends, I don’t have to get on my soapbox (though it is a pastime for me) but we need to get serious about American excellence (yeah I’m definitely on the soapbox now). How are we going to make meaningful investment in the mid and long term? I remember as a kid getting to take barge tours through locks on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers and besides remembering how cool it was (plus the free soda and can cozies) I remember seeing leaks and large cracks on our locks. Is that what we expect to continue on for the future with? Outdated, crumbling infrastructure that is too limited to even allow for competitive trade?

This issue goes beyond our own state, this is a national issue with local, national and global consequences. Our waterways give farmers in Illinois a trade advantage when it comes to market access and the ability to export commodities. Our waterways also offer the most efficient means of transportation in both an economical sense as well as in a “carbon” sense as it requires far less fuel to move a pound of goods via barge than it does using rail or trucks.

We need adequate and modern river transportation, we need strong rail systems and we need sound bridges in order to facilitate transportation not only for agricultural commodities but also for our families as we travel “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house”.  It should go without saying, this Christmas we need to make sure that we “CC” our congressional representatives on our letters to Santa because we must keep up safe infrastructure here in the Midwest and across our country.

Thomas Martin
Southern Illinois University student
Agricultural Systems Major


If you’re looking for holiday recipes, Corn Corps is the place to be this week! We will be featuring a different recipe every day along with a farm story.

Life is funny sometimes. People grow and change causing a change in the family dynamic. My aunts, uncles and cousins were an essential component to my holiday festivities growing up. Our childhoods were simple. Grandma’s house was a safe haven of love and, of course, cookies. My cousins and I could not wait to spend time together and create new and exciting memories. Nowadays, our family has changed dramatically. We are not a single family, but rather a larger, more distanced version. We have all grown and moved to different parts of the country. Our childhood memories are now just ghosts that haunt our psyche.

Thinking back on the traditions that my family had, I could not identify anything specific. I did remember, however, a certain gingerbread house that my cousins, sister and I made as a gift for our grandparents. I will never forget making that monstrosity of candy, sprinkles, and icing. I even recall having Minnie and Mickey Mouse figurines attached to it. The house had to have someone living in it, right? My aunt had videotaped the entire thing and watching that tape now, I realize that those sticky little fingers that created our house were anything but sanitary. We cannot help but laugh when we think about it. When we presented our treasured ginger bread house to our grandparents, they, of course, loved it ginger bread cookies, candy, icingand were proud of it. Needless to say, our house ended up not being edible because it was so hard you could probably break your teeth by biting into it. To get it apart, we had to take a hammer to it. Part of me is glad that no one ate it.

Those memories will last a lifetime for all of us. Even though our family does not spend as much time with each other as we once did, I still cherish every minute of those innocent childhood endeavors. As we move closer to those holiday festivities that we all look forward to all year, take some time to think back on the simple things that make you, you. I may not see my family as much as I used to, but I still try to think about how important they are to me. Happy Holidays everyone and enjoy some gingerbread with your family this season.

GingerBread Cookies

• 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
• 1 stick butter or margarine, softened
• 2 large eggs
• 1/4 cup molasses
• 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
• 2 teaspoons ground ginger
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoon salt

Using an electric mixer at low speed, cream the sugar and butter until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs and molasses and mix until combined. Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and combine with a spoon or spatula.

Remove the dough from the bowl and wrap in plastic wrap; place in the refrigerator until firm, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes, until pliable. Take about 1/2 cup of dough at a time and roll onto a floured board until about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out with gingerbread boy and girl cookie cutters. You can re-roll the scraps.

Using a spatula, transfer the cookies from the board to the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes, until just beginning to brown at the edges. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Illinois State University agriculture studentKara Watson
Illinois State University student


If you’re looking for holiday recipes, Corn Corps is the place to be this week!  We will be featuring a different recipe every day along with a farm story.

Usually my mom is the cook of the house, but when making “Bagna Caulda” (pronounced bunya calda), it is my dad’s doings. Bagna Caulda is an Italian gravy served with vegetables and bread that my dad had when he was growing up. He grew up in a predominantly Italian town in northern Illinois and his mother, who is full blood Italian, would make Bagna for her family. In fact, my dad told me that he would have Bagna at family friend’s house growing up. Although my dad does not live in northern Illinois anymore, he has brought his traditions down to central Illinois and now my family serves Bagna Caulda for our family friends.

If I had to choose just one dish that I remember having every year during the holidays, it would be this one. Our home would fill up with this strong garlic and anchovy smell (see recipe at end of blog), and was actually quite potent if you were not familiar with the dish. But to me, this was the smell of DELICIOUS! Bagna Caulda is definitely an acquired taste, and I can remember first trying it and not really being fond of the taste. But my younger brother, Harrison, loved it so I felt pressured to love it as well. With time, though, I was asking for seconds and even thirds of Bagna. Now, when we invite friends over who have never had the dish, my family encourages them to “just try it” because no one really likes it the first time. And sure enough, when those same people come over again and find out Bagna is being served, excitement fills the room. I have had Bagna my entire life and my mouth still waters when Dad tells me we are having it.

Bagna Caulda, with such a rich taste, can only be eaten a few times a year. One of those guaranteed times are during the holidays. Going along with the rich taste, the smell of Bagna Caulda is one that stays in your nose for days and after eating it, one seems to take on the smell of garlic and anchovy. My dad says if you are going to eat Bagna Caulda, make sure your spouse does, too!

If I were to go a year of the holidays without eating Bagna Caulda, it would not feel right. When asked to write this blog about a family tradition, Bagna Caulda was the ONLY thing that came to mind. This tradition is one that was instilled in me by my parents, and I plan on doing the same thing when I have a family someday.

Bagna Caulda
(Serves 2-4 people, so double/triple the amounts as needed)

-1 stick of butter
-3 or 4 cloves of garlic-minced finely
-2 cans of anchovies
-1 pint of half and half
-Vegetables, bread, anything to dip in gravy

Melt butter in skillet. Add the garlic and anchovies. While the garlic and anchovies are cooking, smash down into the butter to make a paste. Cook until all ingredients are liquefied (blended together). Add half and half and simmer on low until it thickens. Should be a gravy-like texture. Serve hot and dip bread or vegetables in the gravy.

Enjoy and have a happy holiday!

Carly Holcomb
Ag. Communications & Leadership
Illinois State University


If you’re looking for holiday recipes, Corn Corps is the place to be this week!  We will be featuring a different recipe every day along with a farm story.

My Christmas day celebration has always included ‘the three musketeers” (my mom, dad, and me). On Christmas morning my family has always started off the holiday with a breakfast casserole. This breakfast casserole tradition started when my mom was little and has moved into our family Christmas tradition.

When I was too little to be given free reign in the kitchen I would get to help my mom crack eggs, open bags of cheese, and pour all of the ingredients into the pan. We’ve always done the preparation on Christmas Eve and then stick it in the oven Christmas morning. The rule has always been to get ready, eat, then open presents (I had to be ‘patient’). Of course when I was little, breakfast and getting ready was the LAST thing on my mind but as the years go by I look forward to eating the breakfast we all prepared before the hoorah of the presents. This is a family tradition that I plan to incorporate into my own family someday. Enjoy!

6 eggs slightly beaten

½ C. Mozzarella

½ C. Cheddar

2 C. Milk

1 T. Onion Flakes

1lb. Italian Sausage Browned & Drained

1 C. Bisquick

-Mix all and pour in lightly greased pan. Cover and fridge. Bake at 350F for 1 hour.

-Add grated potatoes if wanted.

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University Student


If you’re looking for holiday recipes, Corn Corps is the place to be this week!  We will be featuring a different recipe every day along with a farm story.

Every family has their own tradition whether it is going on a family vacation to a lake over the summer or having a Halloween wiener roast. My family’s tradition happens to occur during my favorite time of the year, Christmas. At eleven o’clock on Christmas morning, we all meet at my Grandma’s house for Christmas brunch. After all of the kids have unwrapped their presents and rehung their stocking over the fireplace, it’s finally time for our beloved Christmas dish, homemade pumpkin pie.

One of our specialty crops on our farm is pumpkins, so each year during harvest we collect a few pumpkins. My mom, sister, and I meet with my grandma to create this special pumpkin pie. It all starts out in the winter when my dad accepts a contract with Nestle which is located in Morton, IL and known as the pumpkin capital of the world. Then it begins when the flat, white pumpkin seeds are planted in spring. The pumpkins make it through many seasons and weather conditions.  My family really enjoys watching them grow. When the pumpkins are finally ready to pick, my mom, sister, and I go over and find a few of the “perfect” pumpkins. We start out by cutting the pumpkins in half and remove all of the seeds. Next, we cut the pumpkin in pieces, add water, and then put it all together in a roaster. Next we cook the pieces for about an hour in the oven. Once they have cooked for a while we scoop out all of the inner “goodies”.  After we’ve finished we freeze the pumpkin until Christmas. When the time comes around we get it out of the freezer and mix up the pie. When the pie comes out of the oven it leaves an unforgettable sweet warm pumpkin smell with you that lasts forever. We then whip up homemade whipped cream for the perfect topping. It’s so good that you can eat it alone. When my sister and I were younger, we would always sneak some of it when mom and grandma weren’t looking.

While some people think of it as a hard and messy project, it’s a good reason for us to get together and make one of our most treasured Christmas dishes. The thought of making the pumpkin pie all from a couple of our own pumpkin seeds makes it that much more special for us. My sister and I hope to keep this tradition going for many years to come.

Libby’s Pumpkin Pie

¾ cups sugar                           2 large eggs

½ teaspoon of salt                    2 cups of pumpkin (or 1 can)

1 tsp. ground cinnamon          1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk

½ tsp. ground ginger               1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

¼ tsp. ground cloves

Mix – sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

Pour – Into the pie shells

Bake – In preheated oven at 425 degrees F. for 15 min. Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F. and bake 40 – 50 min, or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Fresh Pumpkin

Cut pumpkin in ½ and remove seeds. Cut into smaller pieces and put into a large roaster pan with water (can stack pieces). Bake at least one hour at 350 degrees F. Put fork in to check if done.  Then cut or spoon out of rind and run through mill (unless you like stringy then you can skip this step). Put in freezer bags. (Takes two cups per pie)

Jessi Vance
Illinois Central College Student


In many ways, farmers are traditionalists. Most of the old tried and true values and systems seem to work best on the farm, with a hint of modern and technology thrown in. This week on Corn Corps, we will use famous quotes spouting historical wisdom from even more famous Americans as a platform to tell you more about Illinois corn farmers and agriculture.

Abraham Lincoln Quote, whatever you are, be a good oneToday’s quote, for famous quote week is “whatever you are, be a good one.” This is said by Abraham Lincoln. I want to take the time to recognize how great farmers are at what they do, and the amount of work they put in daily.

It takes innovation, technology and most importantly hard work for farmers to produce crops. While most of us have the luxury of working in a nice office every day, farmers work outside, even through grueling weather conditions.

It seems unreal that American farmers can produce 20% more corn per acres than any other country in the world but with hard work and a strong passion for what they do, they have done so.

Most people underestimate the amount of work farmers must do every day to maintain a farm. Checking nutrients in the soil, harvesting, planting and more is hard enough then they have to add in dealing with unplanned crises. This leaves a farmer with not much free time.

We take for granted the products we use daily made possible by farmers. Make sure to always remember they work they do for all of us.

Emilie Gill
Illinois State University Student


In many ways, farmers are traditionalists. Most of the old tried and true values and systems seem to work best on the farm, with a hint of modern and technology thrown in. This week on Corn Corps, we will use famous quotes spouting historical wisdom from even more famous Americans as a platform to tell you more about Illinois corn farmers and agriculture.

“Every man owes a part of his time and money to the business or industry in which he is engaged.  No man has a moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.”  ~Theodore Roosevelt

Definitely times have changed since Mr. Roosevelt first uttered this quote.  People seem less interested in gathering together with others in their industry or profession and more interested in sending an email or a text.  We’re too busy to participate, too tired to contribute, and too stressed to offer solutions.  Our finances are stretched then.

In the farming community, our numbers are dwindling since Roosevelt’s time.  Now with fewer than 2 percent of the U.S. population growing food for the world, I would argue that we don’t have the benefit of excuses.  Farmers simply can’t shirk away from contributing thinking that someone else will do it.  They can’t afford to be too busy and they can’t dream of not participating.

On the other hand, farmers also can’t miss the window of opportunity to get their crops in the ground to attend a meeting.  They can’t be late for milking because of a conference call.  They can’t skip a sunny day perfect for field work to chat with their Congressman in town.

But they do.  More than 4,000 farmers in Illinois belong to the Illinois Corn Growers Association.  Every single one of them makes a sacrifice to support the industry in which they are engaged.  Even more of them donate meaningful time, leaving their families at home to care for the farm, to determine research initiatives, legislative goals, and educational initiatives to better the agricultural industry in Illinois and the U.S.

By default, they better your lives too.  In the farmer’s quest to preserve his land for future generations, the non-farmer receives more wholesome food and a better earth to live on.  In the farmer’s quest to make better farm policy, you receive food security unknown by millions around the world.  While a farmer thoughtfully researches new markets for his crop, you receive food, fiber and fuel that using renewable resources that often lower your costs and reinvest in your country.

As a non-farmer, you benefit daily from the farmer’s devotion to his industry, his business, his lifestyle.  Are you as committed to bettering the world around you as he is?

And if you’re a farmer reading this, are you doing your part?

American apathy abounds.  I urge you to get engaged in something, find someone to help, find something to work for.  Mr. Roosevelt argues that it is a moral issue; I tend to agree.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICMB/ICGA Marketing Director



In many ways, farmers are traditionalists. Most of the old tried and true values and systems seem to work best on the farm, with a hint of modern and technology thrown in. This week on Corn Corps, we will use famous quotes spouting historical wisdom from even more famous Americans as a platform to tell you more about Illinois corn farmers and agriculture.

”Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” -Albert Schweitzer

Cisne, Illinois – population 700. Tractors, trucks, livestock, crops, and muddy boots. If you blink while driving through Cisne, you’ll miss it. Agriculture is a key part to my home town as it is in any other rural community. We are home to many successful farmers. How did they become successful? Like the quote says, “happiness is the key to success.” Farming makes them happy as they achieve to provide everyone with food, fuel, and fiber. Imagine if a farmer didn’t enjoy what they were doing, we would all suffer.

pony, farm, little girl, farm girl, illinoisAs a young Jenna I enjoyed riding horses as I still do. My parents got me involved in a 4-H club so I could practice and show my horse against other kids my age. As time went on I added a photography project to my 4-H list as well. After my many years in 4-H I can now open the back of the horse trailer or dig through photo albums and see many different colored ribbons and plaques that I won throughout the years. Going to 4-H practice was never really a dreadful experience for me as it wasn’t for any of my other friends. It was a ‘happy time’ that we could all spend together and ride horses and do what we enjoyed.

Upon entering high school I had already decided that I was interested in FFA although I didn’t know a whole lot about it other than seeing pictures in our local newspaper. After four years of being an active FFA member I can honestly say that joining FFA was one of the best decisions I could have ever made while in high school. My first two years of high school I played volleyball and literally dreaded every single day that I had to go to practice and celebrated when practice got canceled. Once I realized my negativity towards the sport wasn’t making me a successful player I decided to just stick with FFA. Being involved in FFA was an awesome experience for me and I took hold of the horns and succeeded in many different areas.

FFA is an organization that allows students to explore different areas of agriculture as well as meet many different people. As many may or may not know, FFA is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States with over 520,000 members, in 7, 439 chapters throughout all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. FFA is the largest of the career and student organizations in U.S. schools. I don’t think there is a better program out there for young adults. At state and national FFA conventions students are being awarded for many different categories. This organization can be a big commitment but it obviously makes kids happy, so they therefore succeed.

My dad has always told me – “make sure you’re doing something as a career that you enjoy or it’s going to be a long road.” I definitely took this to heart when choosing my major in college and even the clubs that I joined.

The point I’m trying to get across is to do what makes you happy, whatever it may be…jobs or clubs. When you look forward to go to going to work, meetings, or class, (or don’t dread it at least) you will find that you will become more successful.

I wish all of you the best of luck in finding your own successful happiness!

Jenna Richardson
Southern Illinois University student


Never let it be said that farmers aren’t generous.

Carol Bolander’s story received national news attention last week and you can see more about it below.  But when people are down and out, farmers are the first to rise to the occasion and show up in droves to help.  Sort of brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?

And more recently, actually just yesterday, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Illinois Soybean Association, and Illinois Pork Producers Association (more or less a community of Illinois’s farmers) donated their 1 millionth serving of pork to the Midwest Food Bank here in Bloomington, IL.

Thing is, farms have changed.  They will continue to change.  Farming is a business that must compete with changing economies, global markets, and new technologies.  But farmers haven’t changed.

Farmers still invest in their communities.  They help each other out.  They send more of their sons to war to defend our country than their urban cousins.  They pull together to face challenges and serve their neighbors whatever the need.

Farmers are a constant in a world full of change.  And that’s one reason why I love them.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant