1. Not all farmland is owned by farmers.

Even though the farmers are the ones working all year long on the land, the farmer is not always the owner of the land. In many cases, investors, heirs of land, and retired farmers own land and it is leased to other farmers to use in different ways.

  1. Some farmers rent land from owners.

While farming land that they own, farmers also will rent land from owners. These agreements can vary, but usually, they consist of an agreed upon amount that the farmer will give the owner so that they have full rights to raise a crop on. For example, if an owner owns 80 acres of field prime for corn and soybeans, a row crop farmer will pay a set amount per acre to the owner. This varies by location, but for example, we can use $300. Therefore, the farmer will pay $300 per acre of the 80-acre field and will pay the landowner $24,000 to use the field for that year. This would just be like renting an apartment from a landlord for a set amount each month.

  1. There are different types of land agreements beyond just renting the land.

While some agreements are farmers just renting land from an owner, other types of agreements exist where farmers and landowners make a prearranged schedule of payments on various inputs and the splitting of the output. For example, a landowner might want to split in half the costs and income from a farm. So if seed, chemical, and machinery costs $1,000 a year per acre, the farmer will pay $500 while the owner pays $500. At the end of the year, if the income is $2,000 per acre, the farmer and owner will both receive $1,000.

  1. Owners can pick whoever they want to farm the land.

Owners can obviously choose whoever they want to farm their land. With this in mind, farmers make sure to take care of the land as best as possible. Farmers do not want to lose the bond and agreement with the landowners, so they take care of the land as best they can. This includes using current technologies to save soil and waste less water and nutrients on the fields. The better a farmer treats the land and the landowner, the better chance that they will keep the farm for years to come.

  1. Being respectful to landowners pays off in the long run.

Over time, building a strong relationship with a landowner can be the best thing a farmer can do. A farmer can make sure to meet the land owner’s wants and needs at a fair price. In the long run, a farmer hopes it works out financially, creating a great business relationship that helps promote the strength of the farm. In some cases, the farmer may even be able to buy the land off of the original owner for a lower price that what would be sold to the public.

Overall, farmers and landowners can be compared to renting a house or apartment from a landlord. The stronger the relationship and the more understanding from each side helps the bond become strong and successful.

dakota cowgerDakota Cowger
Illinois State University Student


It’s no secret that myths surround the food industry, most of which circulate on the internet. As a consumer, it’s important to know the facts.

  1. Red meat is not a carcinogen. Despite the myths recently circulating on the internet, no single food has ever been linked to cancer. This includes red meat. So rest easy, and continue munching on that crunchy piece of bacon or delicious bite of Sirloin steak.
  1. Antibiotics are not in your food. Antibiotics are only used to cure or treat an animal that is sick or diseased. The antibiotic-free campaign is not only harmful but also inhumane because it denies sick and dying animals the right to medical treatment. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) strictly monitors antibiotic use in livestock and enforces strict withdrawal periods to ensure no antibiotic traces can be found in our food system.


  1. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not evil. GMOs are the most widely tested crop on the market, and there is no scientific evidence proving that GMOs pose any sort of health risk. And ultimately, we need GMOs.
  1. Genetically modified (GM) wheat does not exist. There are only two methods used to produce new varieties of wheat: conventional crossing and introduction of genes native to modern-day wheat. “No GM wheat is commercially grown in the United States,” confirmed by the USDA.
  1. Everyone needs to beef up. That’s right. Lean beef deserves a place on your plate and is included in the best diets, developed by nutritional experts. Consuming protein more than once a day is also encouraged and has proven beneficial to overall health.
  1. Your food wasn’t produced on a factory farm. ‘Large corporations control farms in the United States and animals are raised in crowded, inhumane conditions.’ This is a common rumor, spread much too often in the farming industry. However the truth is, 97% of farms are family-owned and operated.


  1. “No Sugar Added” and “Sugar-Free” isn’t a guarantee. These claims are often plastered on the boxes of our favorite sweets, but that doesn’t mean they are healthier. No sugar added and sugar-free products can still contain natural sugar and carbohydrate.
  1. “Free Range” isn’t the picture in your head. Most consumers picture chickens running free through the green fields of wide, open spaces. But in reality, the only requirement for a “free range” label is that the poultry “has been allowed access to the outside.” Cage-free, free-range, and organic are common buzzwords found on egg cartons utilized by the advertising industry.
  1. “Gluten-Free” is a dangerous trend. Whole grains, unlike gluten-free products, contain fiber and other nutrients that are essential to a healthy diet. Switching to a gluten-free diet can do more harm than good if you do not have celiac disease, a wheat allergy, or any other medical reason to reduce gluten intake.
  1. 10. Calories count. Many were outraged by the story of the man who lost 56 pounds on a strict McDonald’s diet for a straight six months. How could he do this when McDonald’s is supposed to be so unhealthy? Weight loss isn’t what you eat but rather how much you eat, say experts.

carli millerCarli Miller
University of Illinois


(This guest blog is provided by Matt Reese who writes for Ohio’s Country Journal and was originally posted here.)
It can be really hard to know which way to feel about some issues because these days it seems everyone has their own set of “facts” that conclusively proves their point. The problem, of course, is that as soon as you conclusively prove a point, you run into someone else who has an entirely different set of facts that definitively proves their point, which happens to be the opposite view of the first point that was proven. Confused yet? I know I am.

One only has to sit and listen to a political debate on any issue between any candidates of any party to get all caught up in a muddled mess of my-facts-versus-your-facts. Then there is often a behind-the-scenes reporter who does a fact check on the aforementioned facts to clarify the situation. Unfortunately, more often than not, these fact checks often just compound the problem by providing another opportunity to spin the issue with a set of suspect facts about the facts.

ethanol ghg emissionsOf course, in my line of work I see this all the time in great detail with the wide variety of complicated issues facing food and agriculture. This is certainly true in the current debate over the Environmental Protection Agency’s impending decision about the levels set in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The recent story by Joel Penhorwood on this issue highlights the divergent facts in the RFS debate. Here is an excerpt:

ACCF (an anti-ethanol group) Executive Vice President Dave Banks responded strongly to the outcry by Ohio ag and pro-ethanol groups.

“I think these guys sometimes get lost in this weird, parallel universe in which they actually convince themselves that this mountain of damning, definitive science and data about corn ethanol’s environmental impact doesn’t exist, or that folks don’t actually know about it,” Banks said in a statement.

That environmental impact Banks spoke of is one of negative consequence. The ACCF points to research that they say shows the production of ethanol doubles greenhouse emissions when compared to gasoline over 30 years, making it a dirtier fuel in the end — a highly disputed claim. 

“It’s just misinformation,” said Ohio grain farmer Chad Kemp about the anti-RFS ads. “The things they’re saying there is no scientific backing for. They’re trying to get the people to jump on board with it and basically, their idea is to kill renewable fuels in this country.”

The heated debate over the RFS really ramped up in recent weeks with dueling ad campaigns in Ohio and Washington, D.C. highlighting very different sets of facts pertaining to ethanol’s impact on the environment, the economy and so forth. So whose facts are right?

In the end, the complexities of these various issues generally boil down to some basic truths. The key for me is getting down to those basic truths and sorting out how I feel about those. So, here are some facts about the RFS (that are really facts) that helped me to form my opinion.

  1. Congress created and approved the RFS.
  2. Businesses planned their investment strategies based upon the RFS.
  3. The RFS was implemented and businesses responded as they saw fit.

While there are many more nuances to the RFS debate, for me this set of indisputable facts is reason enough to support it. The government made a deal. Regardless of whether you like the deal or not, it was made and I believe it should be upheld and seen through to fruition. Maybe this set of facts doesn’t address your primary concerns about he RFS. Here are more real facts.

  1. Ethanol offsets the purchase of foreign oil.
  2. Ethanol is made from corn produced by American farmers.

I would rather support farmers in the U.S. with my energy dollar than who knows who I am supporting when I use petroleum.

In the end, there is usually at least some kernel of truth in either side of these debates. Which facts matter to you? The way I sort through them is by identifying the key (and real) facts of the matter that really matter to me.

Either way, the RFS is a no-brainer in my book.

Matt reeseMatt Reese
Ohio’s Country Journal


When running a simple Google search on the term, “Big Ag,” the results are downright frightening, to say the least.

Everything from news articles in the Huffington Post to angry bloggers to cleverly PhotoShopped images—like the one below—can paint a very negative picture in the eyes of the consumer.

But is “Big Ag” okay?  What’s so bad about it?  What even is “Big Ag.”

“Big Ag” is a term used by consumers to describe large-scale farming.  The image typically associated with “Big Ag” is a corporate-owned farm.  This image is what gets used to describe the majority of farms in the United States, but it simply isn’t true.  According to the USDA, ninety-seven percent of farms are family-owned operations, and

Now that we know what “Big Ag” is, we can work to define its role in our food system.  Defining the roles of “Big Ag” in the food production system is not a small feat.  Whenever I’m faced with a complex issue, I like to break things down into a pros and cons list.


It’s more economical.

The biggest pro of large-scale farming is its ability to be economical.  Farming requires a large investment of passion and time, but also of money.  Equipment, land, chemical, and seed costs can run a farmer hundreds of thousands of dollars.

However, when the farmer can operate on a larger scale, those costs are minimized.  This allows the farmer to have a bigger profit, which can be invested into new technologies in agriculture on their own operation.  These new technologies increase the farmer’s ability to be efficient.  The more efficient they can be, the more money can be made.

It’s more efficient.

I mentioned already that it’s more efficient when it comes to the resource of money, but it’s especially less taxing on the environment.  As I said earlier, the new investments in technology gives the farmer an ability to produce more with less; less money, less space, and less resources.  Because of urban sprawl, farmers have less land then they’ve ever had, but they continually produce more.  In fact, this year’s harvest is another abundant year.  This ability produce more with less helps farmers give back to the earth all while feeding the world.


It’s not perceived well by the public

The biggest fact to remember—and often the hardest to accept—is that agriculture is a consumer-driven industry.

With advancements in science and technology, the Ag industry can produce all sorts of crazy things, like green ketchup, but if a consumer doesn’t like it, it won’t be produced.

As I touched on earlier, the term “Big Ag” doesn’t have a lot of positive connotations.  When it comes to farming, consumers often assume big is bad and corrupt and small is pure and good.

The truth?  It depends.

At the end of the day, the size of the farm does not determine its morality; the morality of the farmer determines that. combine image

Farmers aren’t motivated solely by a bottom line. They’re motivated by their passion for feeding their families and families across the globe, no matter the size of their operation.

Molly NovotneyMolly Novotney
Joilet Junior College


There’s a major difference between city living and country life. Here, in central Illinois we are fortunate enough to get to experience “city life” and the simple life of living in a rural area.

In my years of experience, I’d take country living over city limits any day! Life is better spent out in the country, cultivating the soil and contributing to the agriculture world.

Here a few things you need to know if you want to run your house like farm.

1. All animals eat before you do.  Cows, chickens, horses, pigs, and sheep are just some of the animals that need tender love and care on a farm. A farmer knows that their animals well being comes before their own personal needs.

2. School Nights consist of brushing up on good work ethic.  Once homework is done its outside to see what chores are left to be done. Running a farm is hard work! Nothing beats having an extra pair of hands.

3. Our decorating style originates from a barn instead of out a catalog. Barn wood dinner tables, need I say more?

4. IMG_8076We consider “going out to eat” dinner in a combine. During planting and harvest season farmers practically live in the combine. Many nights are spent using the steering wheel as a dinner table.

5. Most of the mouths we feed don’t sit at the dinner table. Just like our family we feed many of our companions need to be.

6. Our security systems have four legs and bark at us when trouble is near. Our four-legged friends protect us and spend most of the day with us. Anybody who is a pet owner can relate to the “trouble is here” bark.

7. IMG_8075Land is not just a scenery to enjoy, it’s a working investment. We take pride day in and day out with what we do. It’s no easy task for somebody has to do it. After all, we do feed the world so we take good care of our land.

8. Most days we get to see the sun-rise and the sun-set. Work begins before the sun rises for these hard-working farmers, the day isn’t done when the sun goes down.

9. Tony Llama’s are piled up by the door. Life is a little easier when you have a great pair of work boots!

10. Most importantly we engage in family conversation at the dinner table. We put the electronics away and enjoy each others company. Nothing beats seeing the fruits of your labor coming together to enjoy a meal at the end of the day.

As you can see, farm life isn’t for everybody. Although city living and country life each have their pros and cons.  It takes a special person to run their house like a farm!

melissa satchwellMelissa Satchwell
Illinois State University student


1. Wake up and never complain.farmer-winter-working

Every farmer that I know wake up at 4:30 in the morning to feed their cattle or milk their cows and I never hear them complain.  They know their life could be a lot worst but they are optimistic about life.  The farmers are happy to have their cattle and family so they continue to be joyous every day.

2.Volunteer in the local community.

Local firefighter.  School board member.  Farm Bureau board member.  4-H club leader.  These are all of the hats that a farmer wears plus being a full-time farmer.  Farmers love giving back to their community.  They were raised to be polite, well-mannered people, and always give back.  One way a farmer gives back is by donating their time and money back into the community that they live in.

3. Take environmental safety very seriously.

There are many groups believing that farmers are dumping gallons of pesticides and herbicide on their land just because they can.  This video proves that wrong.

The video shows much glyphosate is applied to 1 acre of land.  That video puts it into a real-life perspective. Let’s put the cost of applying fertilizer and pesticide to a real-world example.  Let’s say that a farmer has an 80-acre field.  1 acre is the size of a football field without the end zones attached.  The cost to apply 1 acre of pesticides is $60 and 1 acre of fertilizer is $148.  That is $208 an acre.  If you multiply 80 acres by $208, that is $16,640!  A farmer does not want to apply any more fertilizer than they have to because would have to spend more money.  Farmers care for the land.  They want to preserve it because they need to use it year after year.  The farmer wants to make sure that the land with being healthy

for themselves, their children, and their grandchildren.

4. Use the safest modern techniques to provide food for the world.

If you ever see a field with straight rows, we can thank GPS for that.  Many old farmers claim that their rows will always be straighter but GPS helps farmers be more productive.  With the use of a GPS, farmers that spray pesticides on crops use the technology to apply the accurate amount pesticide on the crop.  The technology allows the farmers to drive through the field and allow them not to over apply the spray on the crops.  This saves time and money for the farmer.  The picture shows a cornfield before and after GPS technology.

5. Bring life into the world every day.

Farmers get the opportunity to watch cows, ewes, and sows give birth on a daily basis.  The farmers assist them if they need help with the birth process and love them every day after they are born!  There are some that believe that farmers beat their animals and treat them inhumanly.  This is absolutely incorrect.  If a farmer wants their animals to grow big and strong, they need to treat them with tender, love, and care and THEY DO!

6. Feed us every day.

From the orange juice you drink in the morning to the beer you have at the bar, you can thank a farmer for that.  Farmers allow you to eat every day and at any time of day.  Next time you see a farmer, say thank you!

7.Educate everyone on their farming practices

farmer talking to consumers

One of the greatest things farmers do is educate consumers about their farming practices and tell them how their food starts at the farm gate and ends at the dinner plate.  There is a lot of confusion on the agriculture practices that farmers use but if someone has a question about it, GO ASK A FARMER! Most farmers are willing to take someone on their farm and show them around.  I have even seen farmers advocate about their practices on the streets in Downtown Chicago.  They are willing to educate consumers really about anywhere.

Harlow_Perry 1 edit[2] copyPerry Harlow
Illinois State University