Imagine it: It is the first week back from a long and relaxing winter break. Although you are excited to get back in front of the classroom, the winter blues is quite possibly your worst enemy. Since winter is in full swing, your students may have trouble re-focusing their attention and energy into the classroom. You greet your students by asking what they did over break, then you begin teaching, but notice that your students are low in energy.

To save yourself from a bad day where your students are not engaged, read on for a couple of ways to reel your students back into school mode. Below, are a few activity ideas, tips, and pointers to turn a bad day into a fab day!

So, what are some good ways to get your students out of the winter blues? The most important part about teaching during the cold winter days is to incorporate some physical activity into or in between lessons. One particular activity, called “Agriculture is Everywhere” is a great way to get your students motivated! Here are the simple steps:

  1. Collect old magazines and newspapers and store them in your classroom.
  2. Tape a poster on the classroom board.
  3. Divide your students into groups of 3 or 4.
  4. Allow students to explore magazines/newspapers to find people/items related to agriculture.
  5. Have students tape their findings to the poster (goal is 100 total).
  6. Assign a student to tally mark for each item on the poster.
  7. Discuss how the items specifically relate to agriculture.
  8. Hang the finished product outside the hallway, allowing students and teachers to recognize that agriculture is everywhere!

The “Agriculture is Everywhere” activity is simply one of the hundreds of ways to get students energized for class. Some other ways to get students out of the winter blues is by allowing students to get up and do hands on work that reminds them of the exciting parts about winter. With the school supplies in your classroom, ask students to create snowflakes by folding a white piece of computer paper in different ways and cutting! This is one of the simplest and messy-free crafts that your students will love!

If your students are older, have the class sit in a circle and ask them to discuss their favorite aspects of winter. You will be surprised how much your students will have to say. For a quicker activity, ask students in groups to list a number of items as fast as they can. The topics can be something like listing farm animals, the 50 states, or all of the fun aspects about winter!

Although winter restricts students from having recess outside, playing inside can be just as exciting! So next time you notice your students are not motivated, take a small break from your lesson plan by doing group activities, class discussions, or crafts. Now that your students are pumped up, you can get back to your lesson.

SamarSamar Dabneh
Illinois State University







  1. Buying Local

When you purchase ethanol you are buying local. Ethanol plants did not just appear on their own. A farmer spent his time, money, and hard work to build those plants. If you know a farmer, keep in mind that he is producing not only food and livestock feed, but also an energy source.

  1. Renewable Energy Source

Ethanol is a renewable energy source. Each year, the United States grow crops used in ethanol production. The amount of farm land needed to create 15 billion gallons of grain ethanol is equivalent to only one percent of the world’s crop land. You get a whole lot of fuel for only using a small amount of land.

  1. Affordability

Gas prices may be dropping, but how would you like a consistent gas price?  Since ethanol is made in the U.S.A. the prices will not severely fluctuate like they would if we imported oil. The Renewable Energy Association stated ethanol-blended fuel lowers gas prices up to $1.09 per gallon on average and saves the average American household $1,200 on their gas bill annually. Wouldn’t you like to save $1,200 a year and use it for something you really want or need?

  1. Creates more jobs

In 2012, 383,000 people got jobs and supported themselves and their families by producing 13.3 billion gallons of ethanol in many different areas of the economy.

  1. Made in USA

Ethanol is homegrown. Nothing is imported. The corn is grown here in America and the United States processes the corn and converts it into ethanol. Everything used – from labor to the engineering side of ethanol – is made in the U.S.A. Why not support your own economy and buy American made?

  1. Most Tested Fuel

american ethanolEthanol is the most tested fuel in the history of the United States. Ethanol vehicles have been driven a combined total of 6 million miles and nothing was found in the way of issues with the engine’s durability or harm to emissions equipment.  It was found that ethanol boosts engine performance, increases horsepower, and clears harmful residues from lower quality fuels. Ethanol has been proven so successful that NASCAR uses E15 for their competitions.

  1. Protecting the Environment

Not only does ethanol have cleaner emissions, but it also reduces pollution risks for the environment. Remember in 2012, when BP had a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and severely damaged the wildlife which affected many families who were in the fishing market? The production of ethanol would be land-locked and would reduce the need for oil rigs. Also, since ethanol has cleaner emissions than regular gasoline there are less greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that are responsible for climate change.

The production of ethanol has many different advantages. It’s safe, renewable, affordable, and a boost for the economy. If you want a greener environment or just want to support the United States of America ethanol is the answer and the right choice.

ellen childress

Ellen Childress
Illinois State University student


I think we may all know how it goes, a New Years Resolution of losing weight that collects into a pile of dust …. Or rather, collects into an addition of a few more pounds rather than that spectacular “diet” you had the plans of completing.

We have all heard about the latest gluten free, non-GMO, no carb diets, as well as diet plans found at your local Complete Nutrition. I’m sure many of you have tried them out, myself included. While I may have lost a pound here or there while on my diet plan of a couple months by the end of the diet I was ready to eat some “real” food. It was back to my favorite pancakes, the infamous horseshoe, and Starbucks macchiatos. Yep, you guessed it, I gained it back and my New Years Resolution was a bust.

Months ago I made the decision to make a lifestyle change, one that I hope to continue for the rest of my life. Here’s the top five reasons why I decided to make the change, and why you should also!

  1. Energy

Fad diets, often those restricting carbohydrates or fats, increases fatigue and decreases body energy. A decrease in body energy can cause low blood pressure as well as athletic performance. Staying active is one of the easiest and best ways to staying healthy and happy.

 2. No More Binging

For those of you that have tried fad diets, there is most often an ending time for completion. When the time comes it is like the world of food has unleashed and you just can’t keep your hand out of the cookie jar. Cookie after cookie, soda after soda, and eventually pound after pound. Making a healthy lifestyle change allows you to treat yourself, OCCASIONALLY. If you are craving chocolate, eat the brownie, but remember, moderation is key.

  1. Less Stress/ Mood Swings

A staff writer from UCLA, Shannon Wongvibulsin, wrote an amazing article on healthy food choices that reduce stress by strengthening the immune system. Vitamin C, complex carbohydrates, and fatty acids were three of the top nutrients that aid in lowering stress. Fad diets often don’t allow enough food in the diet, replacing with shakes or smoothies, skipping a meal, or drinking a broth-like substance causes more stress than one thinks. Not having the adequate amount of nutrients and food to satisfy hunger is an easy entry for anxiety.

4. Cheaper

Eating well does not have to cost a lot of money. As a college student I most certainly know the struggle of staying on budget while maintaining my healthy lifestyle.  My best suggestions are to find the best deals. Find out which vegetables have the best sale, which fruits are in season and have the lowest cost, and don’t be afraid to buy the generic brand bread or rice. On the online, Worldometer, it shows money spent on weight loss programs in the USA today accounts for nearly $68,000,000 and is rapidly increasing.


You MUST be patient. Losing weight doesn’t happen overnight. So many fad diets and weight-loss programs promise quick and easy weight loss. You must understand, it’s not that easy. To have a successful weight loss journey you must make permanent changes to your lifestyle. Find something that gives you the motivation to continue your lifestyle change, because waiting and being patient is the hardest step for many to continue their journey. Remember why you are making the change and who you have in your life that you want to stay healthy for.

Shayla GrosenheiderShayla Grosenheider
Illinois State University



Click here for original recipe.

I’m in love with the idea of a corn fritter.  Not only does it sound amazing, but it also seems like a great way to get your daily veggies in (add zucchini! chopped spinach!  even black beans!) and it’s warm and toasty on a cold winter night.

This recipe for Savory Corn Fritters seems like a great place to start.  Adapt and edit this recipe to your own taste – I’m thinking of adding ranch seasoning instead of cayenne – and let us know how it turns out!

corn frittersIngredients

2 cobs corn (about 1 1/2 cups kernels)
1/4 cup diced green onion
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1-2 tablespoons seeded, diced jalapeno
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 beaten eggs
(up to) 1/2 cup flour
few cracks black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar/honey (optional)

In a bowl combine roasted corn, green onion, red bell pepper, jalapeno and cilantro. Stir in beaten eggs.

Add 1/4 cup flour and stir. Add only as much flour is needed to hold ingredients together, up to 1/2 cup.

Season with black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and salt. Add sugar or honey if desired.

Heat olive oil in a skillet to medium. Pan should be hot, but not so hot the fritters will darken too quickly. Drop spoonfuls of batter to make fritters.

Cook slowly over medium heat until golden brown, crisp and cooked through. Allow to drain on paper towels.

Serve piping hot. Makes about 8 fritters.



The corn farmers I work for are not growing corn for you to eat.

There.  I said it.  One of the largest and most confusing statistics in our industry.  Your gut probably tells you that there are ethanol or farm bill analyses that are far more perplexing.  But the truth is, this one single fact throws off more non-farmers who are trying to understand agriculture and food production than any other.

sweet corn field cornIllinois is the second largest producer of corn in the U.S. – behind Iowa.  The USDA recently reported that we averaged 200 bushels of corn per acre (up from 178 bushels per acre last year) and a total of 2, 350,000 bushels of corn.

A minuscule amount of that corn is corn you will eat.

Look closely.  See the dents?
Look closely. See the dents?

The corn that Illinois is so famous for is actually field corn or “dent corn,” named for the dent that forms as the corn dries down in the field.  This corn is used for the ethanol industry or to feed to livestock.  Or, as is the case primarily in Illinois, for export to other states and other countries.

The corn that most Americans have a relationship with is sweet corn, bred for a higher sugar content and a more pleasing taste.  THIS is the corn that you have in cans in your pantry or frozen in your freezer.  THIS is the corn you slather with butter in the summer time, smiling with fat drips rolling off your chin.

And yet – less than one percent of the corn grown in the U.S. is sweet corn.

Field corn is our versatile crop.  It is used in diapers, make up, and shampoo.  It is used to feed livestock and fuel cars.  It is also used in the food industry as high fructose corn syrup, in corn bread mixes, corn tortillas and corn chips.

Field corn is harvested in the fall, after the stalks die and the kernels dry down.  Field corn is a taller, darker green plant with a small tassel.  Field corn is a grain, not a vegetable.

I know, I know.

mind blown corn


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



groceriesI understand that some people want to buy organic.  I am glad they have that choice.

I understand that some Americans want to buy gluten free.  I am glad they can.

I understand that some Americans will spend extra for labels that claim no hormones.  I love that those products are available.

But what is really hard for me to understand is the folks that spend their money on these (and other) specialty items at the grocery store AND THEN EXPECT ME TO DO IT TOO.

America is about choice.  I should get the opportunity to buy GMO laden products if I believe them to be safe.  And I do.  Why do you get to choose what’s available to me?

I’m happy about the statistic above.  It takes me only 40 days of work to pay for my food for the year.  It takes me 129 days to pay my taxes.  That’s less than half and I’m excited about that statistic.

I have a limited income.  Other single parents, one income families, and folks with disabilities do too.  And I hope that they never have a choice made for them by the vocal minority in our country to spend more on organic, non-GMO foods.

If you purchase non-GMO, organic, or other specialty items at the store, you pay more for them.  If farmers were forced to plant only these sorts of products, they would grow much less and you would pay SIGNIFICANTLY more for them – and for all food – because there wouldn’t be enough to go around.

This is why its so hard for me to listen to the proponents of organic and non-GMO food complain about the foods that are available to them or our modern food production system.  It feels selfish to me – and it must mean that they either don’t understand the implications of their whining or they simply don’t care about the rest of us.

Americans pay considerably less for their food than people around the world.  Let’s celebrate that fact and not take choices away from hard-working families.

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



churchill“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”  – Winston Churchill

I read this and I immediately think of all the changes I make in my life.  I am constantly trying to learn the newest and greatest technology so I can perform my job adequately,  constantly changing up my parenting tactics as my kids grow and learn new bad habits from their friends.  I am constantly altering the means by which I hold myself accountable to my own spirituality and my relationships with friends and family.

I am seeking constant improvement, though I realize that I will never quite achieve perfection – or anything close to it!

1954 tractorIn the same way, I believe farmers are seeking consistent improvement.  Year over year, they are trying to raise more with a smaller global footprint.  They attempt to apply fewer chemicals, fewer fertilizers, to disrupt the land less with every crop year.  They do this because they seek constant improvement in the way they manage their land and preserve it for the next generation of farmers.

And every year when Mother Nature sends them a new curve ball – like a drought or a hail storm or winds that ravage their crops – they change midstream to attempt to salvage the very best that they can from that field.  They change for the benefit of their own family and yours.

For years and years, farmers farmed just like their fathers and grandfathers before them, with minimal improvements in methodology or technology.  Horses pulled implements, farmers walked behind, and the harvest was completed by hand.  Now we see farmers changing vast portions of their procedures year over year.  This year adding GPS to minimize fuel usage and trips over the field, next year adding mapping to help gauge exactly where to apply fertilizer.

Does the vocal society that criticizes farmers realize how quickly they are changing and adapting to new technology?  Do people really understand the changes farmers employ every day to try to become the perfect farmer?

We know there is no perfect farmer.  There can never be a perfect farmer as long as Mother Nature has a hand in the outcome.

But I do believe this world would be a better place if every human being attempted to change and update their routine as often as farmers.  The pursuit of improvement is a noble goal – and one that drives farmers every day.

Does it drive you?

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