I have been trained as an agriculture education teacher, though I don’t spend my days in a classroom.  Still, bringing up the next generation of agriculture professionals is a task that remains near and dear to my heart.

When I get the opportunity to talk to junior high or high school students, I still highlight to potential of agriculture.

  • Agriculture is the top employer in many states, including Illinois where it provides more than 700,000 jobs.
  • Illinois did almost six billion dollars of export business related to agriculture.  Frankly, people are always going to need to eat and that economic driver isn’t going away.
  • When you’re in agriculture, you’re either creating wealth or supporting those that create wealth.  Think about it … in what other industry do you start with something as small as a seed, something nature provided, and literally create wealth?  Agriculture truly is the industry from which all others spring.

And here’s the really cool thing: it’s an industry that has a job for everyone, regardless of your interest.  There are over 300 careers in the industry and I’m guessing more are created yearly as our technology advanced.  Yes, if you have any skills at all, you can most likely use them in agriculture.

Are you an artist?  Consider graphic arts, website design, or marketing.  Every day, I work with an excellent artist that designs our advertisements and communications to membership.  I also work with other talented artists creating infographics that support our industry and logos that bring us into the current century.

Are you a mathematician?  Every farm, every farm association, every farm business needs accountants.  And many of those hire statisticians as well to analyze important data.

Do you excel in the sciences?  Agriculture has opportunities in genetics, biochemistry, veterinary sciences, and a myriad of others.  In fact, agriculture IS science, so your opportunities here are endless.

Do you enjoy writing?  Photography?  You might be a fit for agriculture communications.  The need for excellent communicators in the ag industry is growing as farmers seek to reach out and reconnect with non-farmers for the first time in decades.

Are you a people person?  Enjoy talking and visiting?  You might be a great fit for sales.  Agriculture has seed salesmen, equipment salesmen, fertilizer salesmen, and many others.  And I can tell you first hand that farmers are a great group to chat with!

Ag has opportunities in engineering, law, technical writing, laboring, health, education, biology … the possibilities really are endless.

If you are a student looking for a place to fit, consider agriculture.  You just might have more in common with the people that grow your food than you think.

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


old irrigation photoEver since the dawn of time agriculture has been a staple in the revelation of the Earth. Although this being said many people do not understand the depth farmers and people of agriculture go to continue this revelation. The answer most people reciprocate with when asked “Are farmers important?” is “Yes, we would not be able to eat without the food they grow.” This is true, but food is just the tip of the iceberg as to why farmers are important.

A good place to start is with the most obvious, food. These individuals that resort to food as their answer, like mentioned before, are correct. Everything we as humans and animals consume has had some form of connection with a farmer. If you grow your own herbs and vegetables at home in the garden, then you are a type of farmer and are involved with agriculture. Just thinking about what someone eats will lead you directly back to mother Earth. If we just take a look further into a typical candy bar, it will better explain where our food starts. Chocolate for our candy bar comes from cocoa beans grown and harvested in South and Central America. Our next ingredients would be sugar and peanuts which can be grown and farmed in the Southern United States. So as anyone can see even things such as candy bars are related to agriculture and our farmers.

cottonNot only are farmers important to food production, but also fuel and fiber production. Not many people know that roughly 25% OF Illinois corn goes towards the production of ethanol. Not only is ethanol important to the planet and anyone who drives, but the shirts on our backs would not be able to clothe us without farmers in the fiber industry. Many people just think of cotton when they hear of fiber, but there are two other types called flax which is used to make linen, and agave which produces a fiber called sisal. Sisal is a type of twine fiber that is growing in popularity due to its “rustic” look and feel.

Another huge reason farmers are important are the creation of jobs in the world. It is estimated that agriculture is the world’s largest provider of jobs at nearly 40% of the population. Within this 40% are jobs such as agri-science, transportation, horticulture, soil science, forestry, and meat science to name a few. A reason that is somewhat related to jobs in agriculture, is that farmers whether they view themselves this way or not are the stewards of the land. Generation after generation of farm families have been tearing up the Earth and sowing the seeds of human growth, so there is hardly anyone that knows the Earth better than the farmer.

barnLast and definitely not least, is that farm families and rural individuals have a sense of debt to Earth and country. These certain individuals have learned to give back and put the hours in to pay for what they have been blessed with. Studies show that the largest share of the United States military recruits come from rural backgrounds. This goes to show how important farmers and people of agriculture are. Farmers, their families, and agriculture impact something in our lives every day. So yes farmers are important.

Garret EssGarret Ess
Illinois State University student



It’s become an annual tradition, and here it is again.  IL Corn is asking Santa for only a couple of things this year, but they are biggies!


chinese pork
Take a look – right – at how we’re working with our partners to brand U.S. meat in other countries!

It’s something that we don’t talk about a lot here, but IL Corn wants to export more meat and less corn.


If we export more red meat and poultry, it means that we have fed the corn here in the U.S. and created more economic gain and more jobs in our country instead of allowing the jobs and the money to be created in another country.

The truth is, corn that we export is 99.9 percent of the time fed to livestock in another country.  What if instead of feeding international livestock, we were feeding American livestock?  What if all the animals were raised here, providing jobs and money to our citizens?  What if we were able to raise the animals according to American humane guidelines where we feel more comfortable that the animals have had a good life instead of however they raise them in other countries?

This makes sense to IL corn farmers.  We want to export more corn in the form of meat and we pursue that every day by partnering with the U.S. Meat Export Federation and the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council.

Santa, what do you think?  Surely you have contacts in international countries!  You think we could increase our meat exports in 2015?

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


It’s become an annual tradition, and here it is again.  IL Corn is asking Santa for only a couple of things this year, but they are biggies!


renewable fuel, E85, corn based ethanolYes, we’ve definitely talked about this before.  And I don’t want to be like the boy who cried wolf.  But market access for ethanol is definitely a problem.

Illinois farmers believe that ethanol can compete in a fair marketplace, but when was the last time you felt the petroleum industry – otherwise known as Big Oil – was fair?

Retailers do not want to offer ethanol to customers because it just decreases petroleum sales.  Offering gas station owners the opportunity to sell ethanol is sort of like nicely asking Whole Foods to start stocking Walmart brands next to their top sellers.  It just isn’t going to happen because ethanol is cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and would beat out the competition at every turn.

So yes, we need legislators to give ethanol market access.  We must make selling ethanol too good of an opportunity to pass up if we hope to increase market demand for corn and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.

One of the recent opportunities to do this is in Chicago.  The Chicago City Council is considering a change in their ordinance that would make E15—a fuel blend containing 15 percent ethanol—available as an option to Chicago drivers.

Chicago paved the way for the rest of Illinois to adopt E10, and now 99 percent of the gasoline sold in Illinois is 10 percent ethanol.  If the Chicago City Council passes this E15 ordinance, Illinois could see a significant upswing in ethanol market access in Chicago and eventually throughout the state.

Santa, this sure would be an amazing way to help Illinois farmers market all the extra grain they produced this year.  Would you please give us a “yes” vote in the Chicago City Council for E15 this year?

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director




It’s become an annual tradition, and here it is again.  IL Corn is asking Santa for only a couple of things this year, but they are biggies!


Labeling is a tricky issue.

All NaturalSome “foodies” and non-farmers want labeling because not knowing enough about how food is grown scares them.  Or maybe they feel like they know a lot, but are getting their information from others who don’t know enough about how food is grown and aren’t getting accurate information.  No matter what, not knowing enough about food production is scary, and labels seem like they would help.

Until the labels get just as confusing as the “where is my food produced” question.

Illinois corn farmers and some others in this debate don’t want food labeling that isn’t based on scientific data.  If a percentage of our population is allergic to peanuts, then mostly certainly, we should include “peanuts” in the nutritional label.  That is labeling based on scientific truth.

The problem is that customers are confused.  There is a very gray line between labeling and marketing; some customers can’t delineate which is which.  Marketing is when a food company places a label that gives it a bump over its competition.  Labeling is when a food company places a label that is scientifically proven to safe lives or improve human health.

Ingredient and nutritional labels safe lives and improve human health.

“All Natural” labels do not.  They only cause you to think about buying their product over another.

Santa, for Christmas this year, IL Corn (and probably millions of Americans who are confused about what to buy for their holiday dinners!) would like more clear food labeling.

We want to know when buying “USDA certified” is better for us than “hormone free.”

We want to understand what organic labels really mean.

See what you can do.  OK?

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


It’s become an annual tradition, and here it is again.  IL Corn is asking Santa for only a couple of things this year, but they are biggies!


This one has topped our Christmas list for several years.

barge and tow2014 is no different.  But 2015 might be, because Congress did pass a Water Resources and Reform Development Act this year that made some necessary changes, allowing less money to be sucked into Olmsted and more money to be freed up for other lock and dam projects.

And the user fee increase that we’ve advocated for over the past several years was included in a piece of legislation that passed in the House this month.  All that remains is the Senate to take action and the President to sign – and I’m sure Santa can manage that!

Why are new locks and dams important?

  • 60 percent of the nation’s export-bound grain is transported on the inland waterways.
  • The Panama Canal expansion will create opportunities for increased American trade, but not if our channels are not dredged and our locks and dams are not functioning.
  • American consumers benefit from transportation cost-savings made possible by the inland waterways; for every $1 invested in our inland waterways, $10 is returned in national benefits.

Santa, if you could see it in your heart to just answer one of our Christmas wishes, this is the one.  Let’s start on a new lock in 2015.

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


For years now farmers have been arguing over many things from weather to which coffee shop they are going to sit and argue at. But, now, here are the greatest farmer debates of all time.

1. Chevy vs. Ford

This is an age old debate for farmers and non-farmers. There are the two main truck names, Chevy and Ford. I will even throw a bone and include Dodge in this discussion. They made a pretty remarkable influence on the agriculture industry with The Year of the Farmer in 2013. Most of you will remember the “So God Made a Farmer” Superbowl commercial? (If not, you can watch it here.) However, daddy raised me a Ford girl through and through. So, in my opinion this is a closed debate.

2. Weather Channel vs. AccuWeather

With the new and ever changing technology, farmers are now fighting over which weather app is better on their smart phones. Don’t get me wrong, to some, the religious watching of the news and looking at the radar at the local elevator will never change. But, just like the technology in that smart phone, agriculture technology is changing as well. It is a lot more convenient for a farmer to quick check on the incoming storm while sitting in the tractor. The question is now which app is more reliable and the most accurate?

3. Organic vs. Conventional

As the consumer is becoming more and more food oriented and organic vs. conventional is becoming a very important debate. It comes down to preference by the farmer. Organic farmers have a great deal more regulations and rules to follow than conventional farmers, but at times the payoff is greater due to the demand for organic products. Neither is better than the other, like I said, it just all comes down to preference. Before you make a decision make sure you do your research from a credible source to make an educated decision!

Don’t be afraid to go out and visit a farmer to get some first-hand experience!

4. Seed Dealers

Monsanto, FS, Becks, AgReliant, Stone Seed, Dow, the list goes on and on of where you can buy your seeds to plant this year’s crop. Farmers put a lot of thought into this decision. Some brands claim to produce higher yields, some claim to be more pest resistant but they will all grow a crop, so it is in the farmer’s hands to decide what will work best for him. Farmers will work with these companies and their dealers to determine which product is the best fit for their land.

5. Red vs. Green

Ahh… John Deere vs. Case IH. A debate that will never be settled and I’m sure has even come to blows at one point. Every farmer has a favorite and, much like his favorite baseball team, the whole family better support that color. Some say that John Deere is overpriced, but JD lovers sware the quality is worth every penny. In the end, every piece of equipment does the same thing and the color truly does not matter. My family is green but our combine is red, my boyfriend’s family has red tractors but has a green combine. Riddle me that one!
Farmers are very passionate people, they have to be to get out there and work as hard as they do to produce the food for you and me. This translates into the decisions they make on their farm every day. Choosing wrong could cost you a couple bushels that you cannot afford to lose. This could be the same as forgetting your coupons while Christmas shopping, I hope you were not planning on using the money you would have saved on someone else’s gift! I challenge you to take on a farmer in one of these debates!

Merry Christmas everyone!!

cmCourtney Miller
ICMB Social Media Intern


There are various myths about farmers; such as what they wear, how hard they work, or even what time they wake up! So what four things do you think you know best? These are the four that first come to my mind!

  1. Farmers wear overalls

Not many of the farmers I know actually wear overalls. They may own a pair or bring them out of the closet here and there but in all reality, I see farmers wearing jeans and a dirty, old T-shirt…add the Carhart jacket for the winter time. Aren’t overalls uncomfortable and out of style anyways?

  1. Farmers wake up at 4 am

Not all farmers are up at the crack of dawn. When you are working for yourself, you have the luxury to pick and choose what days you need to work and therefore, what time you want to report to work. We can probably all agree that a farmers alarm clock is going off earliest during harvest season!

  1. Farmers work for large corporations

Marty Marr FamilyDid you know that the United States Department of Agriculture reports the vast majority of farms and ranches in the United States are family owned and operated?  In fact, 93 percent of the 2.1 million farms in the United States are family owned farms! That means that the majority of farmers in our country definitely do not work for large corporations.

  1. Farmers are uneducated

This could not be any more false. All of the farmers that I have ever interacted with are very educated people who provide great insight and background knowledge related to their profession. I know farmers who went to college and farmers who did not. About 30 percent of today’s farmers and ranchers have attended college. Also, a growing number of today’s farmers and ranchers with four-year college degrees are pursuing post-graduate studies. But does/should attending college truly define how educated one is? After all, farmers are pretty darn good at what they do in their fields!

ElizabethElizabeth O’Reilly
Illinois State University student