Back to School with Agriculture in Mind

It’s that time of year, the time that parents look forward to the most and the time children dread. It’s time for children everywhere to go back to school! At the end of summer, schools post their back to school items needed for each student to be successful in the coming school year. Whether your child is going into Kindergarten or High School, some of the items on the back to school lists consist of the same items including, pencils, crayons, glue sticks, and loose leaf paper. All of these products are extremely important for students all around the world and they all include American agricultural products to succeed in classroom activities.

Most school supplies are made from some part of United States agriculture whether it is made form crops or renewable resources. Luckily one of the biggest producers of school supplies comes from forests all around America. About 33% of the U.S is forestland that is the same as 737 million acres! Forests have many responsibilities; one, which is extremely important, and that is the production of paper. Millions of children all around America use paper for all sorts of activities in their classrooms. Fortunately trees are renewable, most of the paper that is used come from managed timberlands or tree farms that are specifically grown to produce paper products including paper and pencils.

Agriculture in the United States is playing an increasing role. Two of the biggest crops that are not only used for food and fuel but also classroom school supplies all come from soybeans and corn. One supply that students look forward to using the most is crayons, not only for the completion of assignments graded by their teachers but also because crayons bring to life so many children’s visions. Not only are soybeans used for food, and bio diesel but are also used to make crayons that millions of children use daily.

Corn also makes its appearance in the production of one favored children’s school supply, glue. When children have the opportunity to use crayons and glue in any school assignment, the creations that they make are important for the building blocks of a child’s life. Without these “basic” supplies, the students who are our future would be less prepared because they would not have the opportunity to create such monumental creations in all years of learning.

It is clear that Agriculture plays an increasing role in the school supplies that students use every year. Take a moment to realize how important Agriculture plays a role in the production of supplies all around the country.

Alyssa Kabureck
Illinois Corn summer intern
Illinois State University Student


USDA supporting vegetarianism to save the environment? This was quite the mishap when the USDA announced support for a Meatless Mondays campaign. The announcement was sent out internally to staff about how employees can reduce their environmental impact while dining in the agency’s cafeteria.

The original post is:

With ag industries such as the National Cattlemen’s Association and Farm Bureau in an uproar it was quickly retracted with a twitter explanation stating it was posted without clearance.

feedlot cattleSo what exactly is a Meatless Monday?  Meatless Monday is a proposed campaign where individuals choose to not eat meat on Mondays for health and environmental benefits. Eating less red meat shows benefits in reducing saturated fat intake and increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables. Promoters believe that it is also a waste of fossil fuel, fertilizers, water and pesticides to raise the meat produced.

Unsurprisingly, agriculture industries are baffled by the idea, especially because the USDA has a supposed commitment to U.S. farmers. As American farmers work hard to ensure to meet food demand, quality, and safety of their products, a suggestion for eating less meat is a slap in the face.

Eating less meat will improve the environment?? That’s quite a stretch.  Thanks to modern farming techniques, America’s farmers and ranchers are producing more food on fewer acres. As our food demand hasn’t gone down, removing grazing land for cattle into land for more grain production would only displace the blame.  EPA regards the nitrous oxide emissions from a grazing animal are insignificant. Methane emissions from cows are only 0.9% of the grand total of greenhouse gases produced in our world.  According to the EPA agriculture in total is 14% while industries and transportation account for 39%.  It is true that raising beef, dairy, and chickens have an environmental impact but overall the impact is very small by comparison.

As Meatless Mondays is an outrageous campaign to be supported by the USDA, it doesn’t mean that everyone shouldn’t be conscious of their red meat consumption all days of the week. Having a large sirloin for lunch everyday isn’t beneficial to anyone’s health.

It is estimated that 27% of our food is wasted. With 96 billion pounds of edible “surplus” food thrown away in the U.S., This leads me to think there are plenty of other ways to benefit the environment than hurt American livestock producers.

Leah Wilkening
Illinois Corn summer intern


They say time flies by when you’re having fun, and this summer I have experienced that first hand! As the summer Agriculture in the Classroom intern, I presented to teachers at Summer Agriculture Institutes around the great state of Illinois and spread the word about corn.

This past week I had the opportunity to go to two Summer Agriculture Institutes in the same day, Vermillion and Champaign County.

My Vermillion County presentation consisted of information about ethanol, products made from corn, and activities and lesson plans teachers can use in their classrooms. I was asked great questions, most of which related to ethanol. Many teachers wanted to know whether the corn being used for ethanol will take away from the amount of corn being used in food and various products. This is an easy assumption to make, but as I explained to the teachers there is an abundance of corn grown in Illinois every year. While ethanol is the #1 user of corn in the US, there is more than enough corn produced each year to fulfill our product and food needs.

After the Vermillion County SAI, I traveled to Champaign County to present to a Horticulture focused institute about the five different types of corn as well as their uses. I loved informing the teachers about how different the types of corn are grown and processed. Ethanol, as a field corn by-product, was also a hot topic with teachers. Many of them were curious for information about E-85 pricing and national effects of its usage. I was able to discuss with them that ethanol is cheaper than regular gasoline by almost $1.00 and using E-85 will allow the US to reduce its dependency on foreign oil.
Every day of my internship as been different, and there was never a dull moment. Each institute brought a different set of questions and a learning experience for the teachers as well as myself.

champaign county agricultureCara Workman
Illinois Corn Intern and
Illinois State University student


This time of year, I spend a good portion of my day checking over all the plants and animals I take care of. The lack of rain and the extremely hot weather in Illinois has really done a number on some of my crops and my animals require additional care to make sure they can handle the heat.

First, I head out to check the cattle.

We’ve had some calves here recently and I like to check in on them as much as I can to be sure they are looking healthy, that their Mama’s are looking well-watered and fed, and that the cows are taking good care of their calves.

Here’s a picture of a bunch of my cattle. A farm just isn’t a farm without some livestock.

On the way, I purposefully drive by several of my fields. The corn is looking dry and heat stressed though this early in the morning, the leaves aren’t quite so rolled and brittle looking. The leaves will roll throughout the day, making their surface area as small as possible so that they lose the least amount of water under the hot July sun. This doesn’t happen every year, just in years when we experience a severe lack of rain.

My double-cropped beans are looking ok too, though they could really use a good drink. Double-cropping is something Illinois farmers do with wheat (which grows a bit in the fall, is dormant during the winter, comes out in the spring and is harvested around the first couple of weeks in July) and soybeans, planting the soybeans after the wheat is harvested. This crop rotation system allows me to get two crop harvests off of the same piece of ground.

And I spend the rest of the day helping to place tile in one of my fields.

Tiling a field is something farmers do to allow fields to drain after heavy rains. Of course, we aren’t experiencing heavy rains this year, but tiling my fields now means that when we have a heavy rain event eventually, my seedlings won’t be drown out by standing water.

The day ends with a fishing expedition in our pond with my daughter Laurel. She heads to college in the fall and we are enjoying spending these last few weeks together before everything changes. Here’s a whopper we can brag about in town!

Bill Christ
Illinois family farmer and
Chairman of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board

Educating at Chicagoland Speedway

During NASCAR race weekend at Chicagoland Speedway the Illinois Corn Growers put a lot of effort into communicating with the general public attending. Here’s a picture of David Loos with the t-shirt gun in action. He had a crowd hoping it would point their way!

To learn more about what Illinois Corn Growers were doing I spoke with Executive Director, Rod Weinzierl. Rod says that the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and Illinois Soybean Growers teamed up again this year to put on an exhibit outside the track that has included an appearance from NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace who signed autographs and talked to the crowd. He says that there are a few challenges in the industry that includes getting more ethanol in the fuel supply. NASCAR helps get that message out. Additionally, having educational materials and displays like a large combine help the public better understand where their food comes from.

Listen to my interview with Rod here:

Illinois Corn Growers NASCAR Weekend Photo Album

Chuck Zimmerman

Posted by Chuck Zimmerman, AgWired

RAB Racing at Chicagoland Speedway

The RAB Racing team competed in last weekend’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol 225. The driver of the 09 Toyota Tundra was John Wes Townley, pictured on the right with team founder Brack Maggard (center) and Chris Rice (left). John Wes started 16th and finished for a career best 14th place in the race.

I spoke with each of these guys when they visited the Illinois Corn Growers Family Farmers pavilion at Chicagoland Speedway.

John Wes says the team is very fortunate to have Family Farmers come on board as a sponsor. He says his Dad grew corn once upon a time so he’s familiar with the business and hoped the race would help farmers take their mind off the weather for a while. Listen to my interview with John Wes here:

Team co-founder Brack Maggard says he grew up on a farm and raised a lot of corn in his life. Back then he says they did it by hand. He wishes he had the big New Holland combine on display when he was farming. He says he’s gotten to know Family Farmers and really enjoys the association. When it comes to ethanol in their fuel Brack says it has performed flawlessly in their engines. As he puts it, “It’s fuel we don’t have to go overseas to get.” Listen to my interview with Brack here:

Chris Rice is the crew chief for the 09 truck driven by John Wes. He says they’ve spent a lot of time with ethanol and the truck runs very well on it. Listen to my interview with Chris Rice here:

Illinois Corn Growers NASCAR Weekend Photo Album

Chuck Zimmerman

Posted by Chuck Zimmerman, AgWired

Winning the STP 300

It has been a great weekend of NASCAR action for Illinois corn growers at Chicagoland Speedway. Capping it off was today’s 2nd Annual Nationwide STP 300.

Ethanol had another victory on the NASCAR track today when Elliott Sadler won the race. The race came out of caution with two laps to go so it made for an exciting finish. Placing 4th today was master agvocate Kenny Wallace, spokesperson for the Illinois Corn Growers Family Farmers.

After the race I asked Elliott what he thinks about racing on a fuel that’s made in part by Illinois corn growers. He says the initiative that NASCAR has taken to go green in the last couple years is a great one. Since the track is surrounded by corn and soybeans he says, “It’s neat to see something in the field growing. I’m a farmer at home too.”

Then Richard Childress, RCR Racing, chimed in. “In NASCAR we’ve put in almost 4 million miles or maybe a little over by now on E15, American Ethanol blend of fuel. That says a lot for what E15 can do for your car.”

Listen to Elliott and Richard’s remarks here:

Illinois Corn Growers NASCAR Weekend Photo Album

Chuck Zimmerman

Posted by Chuck Zimmerman, AgWired

Family Farmers in STP 300

This is the car we’d love to see win the NASCAR Nationwide Series STP 300. The race is on and I’ll post the result later today.

We got a few raindrops right before the green flag and then that was that and the race was underway. Earlier today Kenny Wallace told the Illinois Corn Growers Family Farmers High Performance Team, “I’ll take a rainout for you.” He’s that kind of guy.

Besides final results I’ll post later I’ve got a number of other interviews to share this week. Please enjoy the photos and feel free to share with your friends and via social media.

Illinois Corn Growers NASCAR Weekend Photo Album

Chuck Zimmerman

Posted by Chuck Zimmerman, AgWired

5th Generation of Corn Farmers Next Door to Chicagoland Speedway

Kenny Wallace calls Glenn Fritz “the ultimate farmer.” This morning the Illinois Corn Growers hosted an off the track pre-race meal that included an appearance by Kenny. We were located at Greenfields Campground owned by farmer Glenn Fritz.

I kind of let Kenny take the microphone to chat with Glenn. Glenn has a grandson on the farm that is now the 5th generation of the family on the land. He’s got an interesting story to tell and I think you’ll enjoy listening to it.

Listen to Kenny and Glenn here:

Illinois Corn Growers NASCAR Weekend Photo Album

Chuck Zimmerman

Posted by Chuck Zimmerman, AgWired