The agriculture industry employs over 23 million people in the United States, and only about 4.6 million of those people live on a farm. So, what does the other 18.4 million people do if they don’t live on a farm?

Agriculture encompasses a wide range of career options; it’s not just for your average farmer. I want to show you five of my favorite unconventional agriculture careers.

1.) Florists: Florists create decorations with agriculture products, such as flowers, plants, and greenery. Floral management is not just about making beautiful arrangements for events. A florist has to be educated on all aspects of the many varieties of flowers and plants; such as the nutrition, climate, preservation, and overall health. You could consider them your urban plant scientists.

2.) Viticulturist: Which is someone who works at a winery or vineyard, caring for and managing grape production. There is a lot that goes into being a wine maker; it is defiantly not an easy career. Winemakers must be knowledgeable in vineyard pruning, irrigation, fertilization, nutrition, grape verities, and selection of grapes, which are all important factors that could affect the taste and consistency of wine. A viticulturist is truly an agricultural scientist and an artist.

3.) Turf -grass Manager: This is most commonly known as a golf course manager. It takes extensive science and skill to care for a healthy fairway and green. Turf scientists are educated on what grasses work best in different climates and soils, and the proper care it takes to keep them healthy. No only do turf-grass managers work at golf courses but also in lawn care, athletic fields, park sites, and grounds around corporation headquarters.

4.) Forest Ranger: A forest ranger plays a major role in protecting the natural environment, and conserving our natural resources. The major responsibility of most rangers is a forest firefighter. Fire prevention and control is a major role for a ranger. This career works hard ensure the environmental conservation, so we can continue to produce a healthy and sustainable food source.

5.) Food Scientist: This scientist usually works in the food processing industry. Many food scientists find ways to process, preserve, package, and store food properly. Some food scientists even do things such as flavor technology, they work develop the best-tasting flavor for your food. This career plays a vital role in the way your food gets from the farm to the table safely.

The agriculture industry covers such a broad spectrum of careers, many of them you would not even think twice. I like to think that everything in this world is related to agriculture in some way. Think of something as simple as a newspaper, the shirt on your back, or even your cell phone; someone in agriculture harvested the trees for your paper, woven the cotton in your shirt, and we can even go as far as the ethanol blended fuel used to deliver your cell phone to the store.

Agriculture will continue growing, and there could be a career in it for you. It’s not just for farmers.

Jesse Cler PicJesse Cler
Southern Illinois University Student


combineSo you are thinking about becoming a farmer? There are many things you need to ask yourself before considering this challenge. This is not an unusual desire especially if you were raised on a farm. If you grew up farming and you have parents or grandparents that can help you get started that is a huge advantage as you have years of experience and equipment and possibly resources, such as land, to get you started.

The first thing is to be able to accept the fact there will be times you fail. Every farmer fails at some point in their career. It is failure that makes them smarter and stronger in times of adversity, which leads to my next point.

Second, know the farmers that live around you. In those times of adversity and when you need help, those neighbors can become very helpful. So, becoming friends with them will be very helpful in the long run, and if you don’t start off on the right foot with your neighbors it could really be a pain.

Third, you will need a real desire to farm. It will require some very long days to be successful. Many times when your buddies are off to baseball games, cookouts, or weekend trips you will have to turn down the invite. There is no way around that. When it’s time to plant, milk cows, bale hay, harvest or numerous other chores you are the one who must be there to perform these tasks. It takes a motivated person to be a farmer.

baling hay

Fourth, you must be willing to get your hands dirty and to learn how to do many different jobs. You can hire people to get some tasks done but you will be more profitable and self-sufficient if you can do these chores yourself. It may be being an electrician, vet, mechanic, builder, etc.

Fifth, be responsible with your money. When you are growing your operation, which will continue for most of your career, you must reinvest what you can in the business. The things that you want or desire should take a back seat. You should ask yourself, will this purchase make me money?  As a beginning farmer often you will need to forgo pleasure purchases, be it cars, vacations, jewelry and instead invest in inputs, land, and improvement in equipment.

Last but not least, one of the most important factors in the success of a farm operation is that your spouse or any other farming partners have the same goals in mind as you. Just as in any business, if you aren’t all in and focused on the same goals then you will not have the success that would have been possible otherwise.

Farming requires a lot of patience and faith and perseverance. You will have to deal with weather, insects, regulations, and price fluctuation. You will have to be absent at times when you wanted to be present. But, if you feel like you are made for farming and can work within those parameters, then you will find no better way of living. Knowing that you come from generations of farmers before you who have survived and thrived in this field gives you a sense of place and satisfaction. Farm life is a good life and a great place to raise a family. When you can go out and be in the midst of nature and smell freshly turned soil or fresh cut hay as part of your occupation, what more can you ask?

Jacob RotherhamJacob Rotherham
LincolnLand CC Student


Jelly, jams, pickles, fresh pickles, and spaghetti sauce is only the beginning.   Canning jelly in the summer is a family tradition.   In my family nothing says Saturday morning besides doing chores like moms freshly made pancakes. The one secret ingredient that makes her pancakes so great is the homemade strawberry jelly that goes on top. Nothing is quite like it.  You can’t compare the taste of homemade jelly to any store bought brand. When one jar runs low mom tells me to go downstairs and get a new one, and count how many are left. We would never want to get into a situation where we run out our jelly. So when mom knows we are getting low she starts saying were going to have to go picking, and she says that all the time until its really time to go.

Strawberry Patch

photo credit:

It takes some convincing to get a young family to a friend’s farm where we pick the strawberries, but mom always reminds us about how good the fresh strawberries will taste while we collect our strawberries. When the day comes to go picking mom and dad would get us all up early in the morning, we want to be the first on the farm to get the good berries and beat the heat. It seemed to last forever, we pick and pick, but if you were to ask mom she would say us kids were doing more eating than picking.  Mom asked us to raise our buckets to see how many strawberries we had collected, not enough to her expectations of course! After we had enough to put up the jelly, it was time to go time!  We weighed them and took them home to get down to the real business.

skimfoam - Strawberry Jelly

photo credit:

Once we were home and it was straight to washing. Filling buckets and sinks full of fresh strawberries, cleaning them, cutting the tops off, and of course eating as many as you can when mom and dad weren’t looking. Next, mom started to do most the work, blending the strawberries, cooking them down and making it into jelly. The best part is during this time in the process, the foam that was at the top, it was basically strawberry sugar but it tasted amazingly delicious. Mom would only let us have a little portion, but when she did it was heavenly. Shortly after it was time for the canning, cooling, and storing it for the rest of the years use.

Strawberry Jelly

photo credit:

It is a family experience from beginning to end. We also made extra to give out to other family and friends.  Seeing their faces after sharing our delicious homemade jelly.  Learning the aspects of canning in a magnificent for young children to grow up participating in.  I wouldn’t trade the family memories that I will continue to make and have from the many years of our strawberry jelly!

Ree Drummond, also known “The Pioneer Woman”, has an amazingly easy strawberry jam recipe that walks you through step by step!  You can also find a more detailed recipes complete with in depth photos here.

Simple Strawberry Jam

5 cups hulled mashed strawberries

7 cups sugar

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 49g package powdered fruit pectin

1. Place 8 or 9 8-ounce mason jars in a large hot water bath canner (or pot). Cover with water and bring to a simmer.

2. Simmer center lids in separate saucepan full of water.

3. Place mashed strawberries and lemon juice in a separate pot. Stir in pectin until dissolved. Bring strawberries to a strong boil.

4. Add sugar (measure beforehand so you can add it all at once), then return mixture to a full (violent) boil that can’t be stirred down. Boil hard for 1 minute 15 seconds.

5. Skim foam off the top.

6. Remove one jar at a time from the simmering water. Pour water back into the pot. Using a wide-mouth funnel, fill each jar with jam, being careful to keep the liquid/fruit ratio consistent. Fill jars so that they have 1/4-inch of space at the top.

7. Run a knife down the side of the jar to get rid of air bubbles.

8. Wipe rim of jar with a wet cloth to remove any residue or stickiness.

9. Remove center lid from simmering water and position it on top.

10. Put screw bands on jars, but do not overtighten!

11. Repeat with all jars, then place jars on canning rack and lower into the water.

12. Place lid on canner, then bring water to a full boil. Boil hard for 10 to 12 minutes.

13. Turn off heat and allow jars to remain in hot water for an addition five minutes.

14. Remove jars from water using a jar lifter, and allow them to sit undisturbed for 24 hours.

15. After 24 hours, remove screw bands and check the seal of the jars. Center lids should have no give whatsoever. If any seals are compromised, store those jars in the fridge.

Otherwise, fill your pantry with your newly canned goodness.


jenna sudethJenna Sudeth
University of Illinois student


Valentine’s Day, some people smile or even cringe at the mere mention of this holiday. Whether you like or dislike this holiday, it’s all about love and showing appreciation for someone else. Farmers don’t usually come to mind during this hearts, red rose, and chocolate filled holiday, but have you ever thought about what farmers love? I’ve compiled a list a things that most farmers love. This will of course vary from farmer to farmer but here are some basic things that make a farmer’s heart skip a beat.

clouds over corn fieldGood Weather- Farmers have a love/hate relationship with Mother Nature because many aspects of agriculture are dependent on the weather. This is especially true for farmers who grow crops because they use weather patterns to plan the best times to plant and harvest their crops. Crops need significant amounts of sunlight and rain at the right times in order to grow which will later result in a bountiful harvest. Too much or too little of either of these can cause the crop to become unhealthy and reduce yields.

New “Toys”- Yes, farmers love getting new toys but they aren’t the ones that you would usually find under a Christmas tree. They are far more expensive than something found at Toys R Us. I’m talking about the best kind of toys, new farm equipment. Who doesn’t love a brand new shiny combine that is equipped with the latest technology? Combines can start at $180,000 and go all the way up to $250,000.

living the dreamPassing down the love of Agriculture- Farmers love what they do. If they didn’t have a love for the land and the livestock they wouldn’t do it. From this comes the most rewarding aspect of farming, which is the rich family history that comes with it. Farming is a family oriented profession. In fact, 98% of farms are family owned and operated. Farmers love watching their kids grow up with the same passion for agriculture that they do. That is exactly what farming is all about.

nighttime farmingA good return on their labor (good harvest or healthy livestock)- Farmers, just like everyone else, strive to be successful in their line of work. The only difference is that farmers put in more hours and the labor is more strenuous than that of the typical nine to five job. Since farming is a time consuming profession, they expect to get a good return for their hard work. During harvest, farmers stay up late into the night harvesting. Then, they wake up early in the morning to do it all over again. Harvest cultivates a sense of accomplishment because they planted the seed and then reap the harvest of their hard work several months later.

Coffee or Caffeine- Most Americans grab a cup coffee as they rush out the door to make it through the day that involves a long drive in traffic and a day in a cubical. As stated earlier, farmers do not get nearly the same amount of sleep as a regular person would. That’s why they depend heavily on coffee and caffeine. Life on the farm is always subject to change, and there is never a set work schedule for the day. Farmers and ranchers who raise cattle have to be alert and ready to go during anytime of the night during calving season. When the grain farmer is working the hard ground at seven in the morning, it is almost certain that a thermos full of coffee will be in the cab of the tractor right along with them.

youbeenfarminglongChatting about farming- Farmers do love to talk or as many call it, shoot the breeze. Normally this talking is over a cup of coffee or a good meal. Whether that’s about yields, technology, land prices, if it has to deal with the farming lifestyle, they will talk about it. This is how many farmers learn about the outlook on their crops or the newest technology. They can learn all of this just by stopping at the local grain elevator, coffee shop, gas station, or even restaurant.

Farmer’s love for their profession and feeding the world by far exceeds something that can be bought for Valentine’s Day.  Forget the teddy bears or balloons the only things that a farmer truly loves is faith, family, and farming.

amanda zAmanda Zuercher
Illinois Central College student

Amanda is managing the IL Corn Instagram account this semester.  Go check it out!


A small collection of the heart shaped items you might find on farms all over the world.

heart-head[photo credit: ABC]

A very sweet calf with the cutest pink tongue and a bright white heart on her head … she’s the perfect Valentine’s Day package.


[photo credit: NY Daily News]

A loving tribute to a wife lost too soon, planted in the forest near this farm.


[Photo credit: Liberty Fajutrao]

Red produce fresh from the garden is the perfect reminder of the sweetie in your life!

redbudlvs[Photo credit: Plants and People Project]

The leaves of a redbud tree around the farm house are a heart-shaped reminder of love on those long nights after spring planting!

Jim Tarmann working "heart"

And perhaps nothing shows your true feelings than a perfect heart of sweat on your chest!


I’m a farm kid.  And I probably had much fewer chores than the average farm kid, but I guess because I grew up in the country as a child of two farm kids and I find myself surrounded by farm kids-turned-adults all day, every day, I must have absorbed the mindset.

My kids work.  They work hard.  And while my mom is sometimes reminding me that there aren’t many eight year olds out shoveling the driveway for their mother at 6:30 am so I should probably cut him some slack, I think making my kids work is the exact right thing to do for us.

In response to this article, I’d like to offer up the five things my kids and our family gain because they have jobs around the house.

Note: My kids do not have a chore chart or a list of things they are supposed to complete every day.  I just know what they can do and I assign tasks ad nauseam.  They probably get the short end of the stick compared to kids with a designated chore chart, but … life isn’t fair.  They’ll get over it.

washing dishes1. Teamwork: Sometimes, I think it’s ok for my kids to work together against me.  And when I assign them a job that is too big for one of them, they figure out that if they work together, it will go faster and they can return to their fun quicker.

Yesterday was a snow day for us and after the myriad of snow days we’ve had recently, we are all getting on each other’s nerves a little bit.  So when I announced at 2 pm that they had two hours to play together while I decompressed alone, I wasn’t shocked when 15 minutes of fighting followed.  I solved the fighting with an announcement that we were going to clean the living room.  They weren’t happy, but they vacuumed, cleaned under furniture with the swiffer, washed windows, helped me move furniture, and in one hour when the three of us had deep cleaned the living room, I reminded them that the job would have taken me three hours alone.  And then they quickly retreated to playtime together – minus the fighting – and we all lived happily ever after.  Everyone is happy when we work together.

2. Charity & Kindness: I am forever asking one or the other of my kids to pick up the school bags and coats that were thrown in the doorway after school.  Or please empty the lunch boxes.  Or pick up the dirty clothes in the hallway that didn’t quite make it to the laundry basket.  I am often met with “I already picked up MINE, those are his/hers.”  To which I usually reply, “Then I’m only cooking dinner for myself tonight.  What are you planning to eat?”  Or “I guess I’ll wash my clothes then … would you like to learn how to wash yours?”  I think it’s a wonderful lesson for my kids to learn.  Its “Love your neighbor as yourself” in action.

shoveling3. Family Solidarity: When we have a big job to do and someone complains, I remind them that we are all in this together and we are a family.  Sometimes things just have to be done.  We rake leaves together, we shovel snow together, we clean together, and we paint together.  And yes, sometimes its sad to watch the neighbor kids riding bikes or sledding while we’re still trying to clean off the drive, but I like thinking that they are learning a lesson about family responsibility.  It’s our house together and some things just have to come first.

raking4. Delayed Gratification: In my head, our society has a huge problem with instant gratification.  I hope I’m doing my part to ensure that at least two members of our future will understand delayed gratification and use it to live a happy and prosperous life.  Is it fun to have to put away your clean clothes before you can play outside?  Nope.  Is it fun to have to put away your clean clothes a second time when your mom realizes you’ve messed up your drawers in your haste to get outside?  Nope.  But over time, I hope they will understand the value of working hard THEN playing hard when they are making a decision to study for their final exam or go out with the guys instead.

5. Do It Right the First Time: One thing I’m very strict about – my kids always make their beds and I like for them to look perfect.  They don’t always look perfect, but when they make their beds and I can tell they didn’t even try, they get the opportunity to do it again.  This is about a once a week occurrence, and it doesn’t make anyone happy, but I don’t see anything wrong with doing a chore over and over until you get it right.  When they vacuum, they sometimes get to vacuum again if I can tell they’ve done a crappy job.  When they fold towels, they fold them again if they don’t meet my expectations – after all, an eight and a nine-year old can totally fold a rectangle in half and in half again without messing it up.  And someday, when the stakes are higher than folding towels and are, instead, finishing that report for the boss, I hope they are less tempted to half-do it.

If I were living in the country, these jobs might look like feeding the animals, helping in the garden, mowing, or even following dad to the field to give him a ride home.  But I think the lessons are the same.  And just because I’m a city dweller now, doesn’t mean I don’t rent my kids out to help the neighbors spread a truckload of mulch or help carry lumber for a deck or something.

Trust me.  That sort of work builds character.

Mitchell familyLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director