HERE’S A REAL FARM – NOT A MARKETING PLOY

I just watched Chipotle’s latest marketing scheme … an attack on modern agriculture that they hope will bring more millenials to their big, all natural burrito table.  It might work.  It might not.  What happens to their sales doesn’t really concern me.

What makes me sad – and I mean seriously sad to the point that I have tears welling up in my eyes – is that people who have lived in the city all their lives, who have never experienced a farm firsthand, will believe what this video is telling them.

I grew up on a farm just like Chipotle is attacking.  My dad raises crops on a couple thousand acres.  Our farm isn’t huge; it isn’t small.  But we grow GMO crops.  We use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides when needed.  We don’t raise livestock anymore, but when we did, we gave them antibiotics when they were sick and used farrowing crates to keep the piglets safe and the moms healthy.

This is the view of our front yard from the front window in the house where I grew up.
This is the view of our front yard from the front window in the house where I grew up.

Our farm is beautiful.  I feel emotional when I think about the way that the tall grass sways in the wind, or the trickling and bubbling of the creek as I would walk along the rock lane to pick up the mail.  I feel sad when I think that I won’t be there to smell the scent of harvest or hear the whirl of the combine bringing in the crops behind our house.

My mom will email me pictures of deer eating from the apple tree outside what used to be my bedroom window.  I remember the feel of the fresh turned earth underneath my bare feet on the night that we plowed up the garden in the spring.

And when you're walking into the house on the sidewalk between the garage and the house, you get to see this!
And when you’re walking into the house on the sidewalk between the garage and the house, you get to see this!

I had a happy childhood here.  I’m bummed that my kids won’t.

When I tell people about our farm, about the way I was raised and my memories of agriculture in central Illinois, they always tell me that *our* farm isn’t the sort of farm that they are against.  But what they don’t get is that our farm *is* 95 percent of the farms in America.

Farms in America are vibrant places were children are growing up with grass between their toes and the sounds of tractors and the calling of livestock intertwined.  They aren’t exactly the same image of a farm that we saw in the 1950s, but the spirit of that farm still remains. Farms have gotten better – more technology, more efficiency, more food – but they still have a core of ethical values, environmental preservation, and giving back to the community.  Those things don’t change … won’t change.

And when you're washing dishes after Thanksgiving dinner, here's the view from the kitchen window!
And when you’re washing dishes after Thanksgiving dinner, here’s the view from the kitchen window! This is no big box corporation here!!

You don’t have to believe me, but as a person who has lived in rural Illinois, grown up with the farmers you are unsure about, and still works with them today, it’s true.

And it makes me so sad to think that as a non-farmer, this is not the perspective you are offered.  You don’t get to see the love, the connection with the land and the animals, the closeness to God that farmers and their families have on their farm.  Instead, media and businesses use marketing ploys to scare you into thinking that what’s true, isn’t really true.  That farms are just big business, manufacturing your food, and chasing the dollar.

Take it from me, Chipotle’s latest video isn’t the truth.  It’s marketing.  The truth is that farmers are people, just like you.  They own and operate most of the farms in America and they do so with integrity.  They are educated – most have college degrees – and they are not blindly farming the way that someone tells them.  They are making informed choices that benefit their own families and the families eating their food.

My heart begs you to believe me.  If not, you are missing out on the reality of one of the first and best occupations that God ever provided.

mitchell_lindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

WHY IS THE FARM BILL SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND?

If you’re confused about what the title “farm bill” refers to, what is in the bill, and more generally why it exists, then welcome to the club. See, certain groups have a vested interest in the farm bill not passing. These groups use misleading and incorrect information to confuse the general public. If you have a family and a job, it’s crazy to think you have the time to go searching for unbiased information. This blog entry is your simple and straightforward guide to understanding what the farm bill is and why America needs it.

girl_farm_great depressionTo start, it’s important to understand the farm bill is nothing new. Back when a lot of American’s were farming, the Great Depression really hit rural families hard.  To lend a helping hand, the Federal Government passed the first farm bill known as the “Agricultural Adjustment Act”. The bill helped American farmers get through a very rough patch and provided America with enough food to win World War II.

WWII_Patriotic_Posters_Garden_Farm_Jobs_4LG

A lot has happened between now and then. The agricultural economy continues to develop. Over time, fewer kids chose to stay on the farm. When fewer people farm that means that there are fewer people who understand what it means to farm. That’s another way of saying, these days not a lot of people don’t know what happens on the farm. When people don’t farm and they don’t know what it means to farm, this disconnect leads to people not understanding where their food comes from and the process it went through to make it to their plate.

where_does_our_food_come_fromAs I brought up above, outside groups abuse the complexity of modern day farming and manipulate the “facts” for their own benefit. If less people are farming and today’s farmers are usually located in rural areas, then non-farmers outside of rural places don’t regularly interact with farmers. Instead of asking farmers what they do, most people today get their information from non-farmers. Instead of hearing from the very people that work the land, much of the debate about the farm bill today is being done by people in offices and cities.

Over time, these third parties began to fill the disconnect between farmers and non-farmers causing much of the confusion we have today. While most of the country understood while the first farm bill was an absolute necessity, many people question why we still need a farm bill today. As I’ve shown, farming isn’t really popular anymore and despite what you’ve heard, farming isn’t a particularly wealthy job. Upwards of 30% of a farmers income comes from non-farm activity. What that means is most people that farm don’t make enough farming alone to support their family.

See, 95% of farms are family farms. That’s a fact a lot of people who don’t like farming today forget to mention. They also forget to mention that farming is unlike other jobs: It’s dependent on the weather, on the climate, and on the earth. Few other jobs deal with such unpredictable variables. Farming today certainly isn’t simple to understand, but its people with an agenda that are making it hard for farmers to get a farm bill that they and the American people can’t live without.

28be5d9 (1)Ted Delicath
Illinois Wesleyan University student

 

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, and RETHINK

RethinkRecycle. Eco-friendly. Byproducts. Biodegradable. Repurpose. “Green”. Compost. Emissions. All of these words are relatively new to our modern vocabulary, and are changing the way people think about the waste that they produce on any given day. Have you ever thought about how farmers recycle and reuse the products that they use for their operation? They are the original recyclers!

Farmers are growing very conscious of all of the byproducts they create while running a successful farming operation. Livestock farmers have found that the manure their animals create is great fertilizer for their crops, and have been spreading this on their fields for hundreds of years! Talk about a smelly recycling project! This picture is of a modern day small-farm manure spreader.

Manure Spreader

Cattle farmers have also found a new feed that can be fed to their cattle, that is a byproduct of ethanol! DDG, or dried distillers grain, is leftover from ethanol processing, which is high in energy, protein, and easy to digest, perfect for cattle! It is also a low-cost product, making it easier for the cattle companies to make a profit.

Dried distillers grains

Crop farmers also have a new system that conserves the soil, while adding vital nutrients and plant material. When a farmer harvests his crop in the fall, he will leave all of the leftover plant material in the field, such as corn stalks or bean stubble. Instead of working the leftover plant back into the soil, they leave it as is. This prevents wind and water erosion because of the root system that is holding the soil in place. Also, when the plant finally breaks down, all of that organic matter goes back into the soil. Such a great way to reuse plant material that otherwise would be wasted!

No Tillage crops

Does all this talk of recycling and reusing make you want to repurpose something of your own? Check out the IL Corn Pinterest page for amazing ideas of how to repurpose old farm equipment and items into something beautiful for your home! We love finding new and creative ways of using old farming gear to make something new! Check out this side table made from old farmhouse shutters!

Shutter Table

What about that old fence that won’t keep the cattle contained anymore? Make a cute key and coat hanger for your entryway!

Fence Hanger

Use farm items to dress up the outside of your house too! We love these metal watering troughs made into container gardens for a small yard, such a great idea!

Metal Trough

And this is one of my all time favorite ideas for a farm item in your home…your very own candy dispenser made from a chicken feeder (clean..and never used of course!) How cute!

chicken feeder

So whether you are a famer conserving the land by reusing nature’s byproducts, or a homemaker creating works of art for the home, everyone can repurpose! And just remember, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rethink!

erin barrowErin Barrow
Illinois State University student

THE CHICKEN MONTH CHALLENGE: 30 DAYS OF EATING MORE CHICKEN

September 1 officially kicked-off National Chicken Month. This year in celebration of the 30 days devoted to all things chicken, I have decided to see how many different ways I can prepare this versatile meat. After all, this should be easy since I’ve been in the poultry industry for nearly 12 years now, right?

Through my work at the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council (USAPEEC), I have worked with our 14 international offices on promoting U.S. chicken, turkey, duck, and eggs to around 75 countries. What surprises me most is that no two countries prepare and eat chicken alike.

foreign chicken preparation In fact, most consumers outside the U.S. prefer dark meat over white. Russians reach for leg quarters; Mexicans and Middle Easterners go for more processed items such as chicken sausages; and Chinese crave chicken feet and paws. While some of these items may not sound as appetizing as fried chicken tenders with honey mustard sauce, other cultures definitely believe in not letting any part of the chicken go to waste.

Accordingly, our U.S. chicken industry realizes the value of shipping many parts of the chicken to other countries, particularly those that Americans tend to shy away from. In fact, the U.S. exports more than 20% of its chicken production.

Chicken is the only meat that doesn’t seem to have a major religious or cultural barrier to consuming. That’s probably one of the main reasons why the U.S. chicken industry also exports more than any other meat, including pork.

Mexico is the largest export market for U.S. chicken, while Hong Kong is the second, followed by Russia and China. Turkey and egg exports make up smaller volumes. However, Mexico remains the largest market for U.S. turkey, and Japan and Hong Kong are the largest for U.S. eggs.

Our U.S. poultry industry has been able to reach all-time record highs in export value and volume thanks to the feed-grains industry, specifically the Illinois Corn Marketing Board (ICMB). ICMB has worked alongside USAPEEC for nearly 20 years to open up, develop, and protect markets around the world for U.S. poultry. In fact, ICMB funding has allowed USAPEEC to explore new markets in the South Pacific region.

Here's a Mexican Chicken Burger I'm planning to try.  YUM!
Here’s a Mexican Chicken Burger I’m planning to try. YUM!

 

It’s really no surprise that livestock remains the largest market for U.S. corn, and poultry is still the largest user by livestock group, accounting for 33%. A little more than 13% of total corn usage goes to the U.S. poultry industry annually which translates into nearly 2 billion bushels of corn. That’s more than the entire corn production of the state of Illinois!

With all of the corn consumed by the U.S. poultry industry, it also amazes me just how much is used for indirect poultry meat exports. Poultry exports are just another way of adding value to the corn crop in Illinois. In 2012, U.S. poultry and egg exports set another record in value and volume, accounting for 158 million soybean and 323 million corn bushel-equivalents (38.6 million corn bushels directly from Illinois). That’s a lot of corn feeding the poultry industry!

As I begin this month looking to prepare new chicken recipes, I cannot help but think about all the feed that is required to produce just a pound of meat. There’s no denying just how important our two industries are to each other.

If you’d like to join me in this 30 day chicken eating challenge, then please visit our website for some great global recipe ideas. Bon Appetite!

jennifer geckJennifer Geck Ott
USAPEEC