Joni Kamiya-Rose:  Kaneohe, Hawaii

Farmers are the musicians of the land.

This thought struck me as our family celebrated the 100th birthday of one of my great uncles. During the gathering last year, we listened to an Okinawan taiko performance—an ensemble of percussionists who dressed in yellow shirts with red sashes and pounded away on wooden drums.

A taiko performance includes no melody or lyrics, but each piece requires incredible amounts of practice, precision, and choreography. The musicians have their own drums and their own times to play. The best performances are masterpieces of coordination. They’re wonderful to hear.

As I watched the drummers and listened to their beats, I thought about how much this is like my family’s papaya farming in Hawaii—or, indeed, farmers who grow just about anything, no matter where they live.

Everyone enjoys music, but only a few people have the special talent and dedication to play for the masses. Those who possess these qualities bring beauty and happiness to the rest of us.3-31-16Hachidan

A single musician can play a few songs, but audiences enjoy variety. That’s why musicians come together in bands and groups, making bigger and richer sounds. Expertise takes passion and practice, and tastes are always changing. In Hawaii, we enjoy a true blend of musical styles, both old and new, from traditional chanting to the familiar ukulele, introduced by the Portuguese.

Farming is the same way. Everyone eats, but in modern economies, only a handful of people devote themselves to agriculture. This is a good thing: The amazing efficiency of modern farming gives people more time to chase other pursuits, such as music. While you strum your guitar, my family will grow your papayas.

Farmers don’t farm by themselves. Like the musicians in an orchestra, they’re part of a much bigger team. They start by focusing on their own skills and the separate roles they must play, but they also strive to collaborate with others, learning how to work together. They depend on people who build and maintain machinery, provide basic supplies, and sell insurance.

Farmers also look to conductors—people in organizations and places of leadership who provide guidance and direction on stage. Off stage, they recruit members, launch careers, and sustain businesses.

Just as musicians need audiences, farmers need consumers. They enjoy feedback, provided as applause or comments—but they also don’t want crowds to direct the show. Imagine a performance in which listeners rise up from their seats and tell musicians how to play their instruments. It would be terribly disruptive. Those people should start their own bands, rather than lecture the rest of us. Then they can have their own performances, in their own venues and with their own audiences.

We make beautiful music here in Hawaii—and on our farms we grow everything imaginable, from the pineapple plantations that so many associate with our islands to the sugar and seed operations that aren’t as well known. My family produces papayas, and they’re genetically modified to resist the disease that nearly wiped out all the papaya trees in our state a few years ago.

3-31-16papayaUnfortunately, some people haven’t learned to appreciate Hawaii’s unique blend of music. They don’t know much about our traditional ways and they refuse to take up the new sounds that we’re introducing all the time. Too many people in our audiences want to tell us how to make our music. They go on the Internet, spreading false information in their crass attempts to draw a crowd. Some politicians have even sided with these hecklers.

I want to hear Hawaii’s harmony, listening to all of our musicians and supporting what they do. We can grow GMO papayas, as my father does. We can also produce taro for traditional poi dishes plus macadamia nuts and coffee in every flavor. As Hawaiians, we should support them all. That way, we can enjoy the music now and ensure that it continues for others in the future.

The alternative is almost too ugly to contemplate: the sound of silence.

Joni Kamiya-Rose is a farmer’s daughter, health professional, wife and mother who grew up on a papaya farm in Hawaii.  Joni is a member of the Global Farmer Network. 

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[Reposted from Illinois Farm Families Blog. Find the original here.]

A voice from a local Illinois farm speaks up about farm animal care issues that matter to consumers.

Sara Prescott met her husband Michael when they were both 13 years old and showing livestock in 4-H. (Showing livestock is when farm kids raise and groom an animal to be judged against other like animals.) From the start, they had a lot in common; Sara grew up with show livestock while Michael was raised on a third-generation Angus cattle farm. Today, they operate Prescott Angus & Simmental in Lincoln, Illinois. That’s where they maintain a herd of 100 mother cows and where they are raising their three children, Madison, Emma and Carter. Here she answers three animal welfare questions research has shown consumers have concerns about. 

One thing I know for sure is that every mom feels the way I do about what she provides for her children. We all want to be sure we’re giving them the best this world has to offer and that we’re passing on the best of everything we’ve learned. For us, that includes keeping our kids involved in the day-to-day running of our farm, from the time a calf is born to the day it’s shipped off to be raised before going to market.

3-29-16oneWe truly believe the more we teach our kids and the more questions they ask, the better understanding they’re going to have in years to come. It’s the same with everyone; we all deserve answers to our questions. And, with only about two percent of Americans actively involved in farming, it’s natural that people will have a lot of questions about what farmers and ranchers do to put food on everyone’s table. I’m happy to offer the best answers I can based on what I’ve learned from my life in agriculture.

You raise animals for food. Do you care about their living conditions?

3-29-16twoPeople who live off the farm may wonder whether farmers and ranchers care about the welfare of the animals they raise. The short answer is yes. The longer answer? First you have to understand how our farm works. We run what’s called a cow-calf farm. We have a herd of about 100 mother cows, and hopefully they each have one calf a year. We raise those calves until they are ready to be weaned from their mother’s milk and eat a more grain-based diet for added nutrition, just like human babies are transitioned from milk to baby food.

The thing is, it turns out doing what makes cows happy and comfortable also makes good business sense. That’s because, just like humans, beef cattle thrive and grow best when they’re not experiencing stress or anxiety or discomfort. So ensuring our animals have healthy, comfortable conditions is satisfying in two ways. As people who grew up around livestock, we care about the welfare and comfort of the animals we’re responsible for. And that in turn helps us to be successful, and to continue raising healthy, happy calves. If our animals don’t thrive, then neither can we.

How do you know when you’re giving your animals the proper care?

3-29-16threeMichael and I have been around farm animals all our lives, so a lot of what we need to know is second nature to us. But that doesn’t mean we don’t keep learning. A lot of people don’t realize how many farmers today have college degrees, with expertise in areas from animal science to crop and environmental technology. When we hear about new research into animal behavioral science, we’re serious about finding out how we can apply it to our own herd. More and more, we’re finding out about how important it is to allow cows and calves the opportunity to perform natural and instinctive behaviors essential to their health and well-being. So we make provisions to ensure social interaction, comfort, and physical and psychological well-being.

There are many factors that contribute to animal well-being, including food, water, bone and muscle strength, immunity to illness, as well as overall behavior and health. Farmers participate in a continuing education and certification program specially focused on animal husbandry techniques called Beef Quality Assurance. This program has empowered farmers to continuously improve the safety and wholesomeness of beef and provide the best animal care. It is a comprehensive set of sound production practices, which includes the following:

  • Provide adequate food, water and care to protect cattle health and well-being.
  • Provide disease prevention practices to protect herd health.
  • Provide facilities that allow safe and humane movement and/or restraint of livestock.
  • Provide personnel with training to properly handle and care for cattle.


That part about providing the proper training goes right to the heart of the question. Just like anyone who reads the papers or watches the news, we’ve heard about cases of animal abuse within the livestock industry. And, I think it’s important to note that these seem to occur in operations where the people working with the animals may be untrained, or under-trained, in the best ways to care for farm animals. Personally, because we run a family business, I believe that when you have a connection with the success of a farm, like we do with ours, you’re just not going to see that kind of animal abuse. As I mentioned earlier, caring about animal welfare is the morally right thing to do and just makes good business sense.

What does humane treatment mean to you?  

3-29-16fiveI understand why consumers want to know that farmers and ranchers practice good animal care. To me, that means that when people go to the grocery store or to a restaurant, they can feel like the treatment of the animals was ethical and humane. From my perspective, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

The way most cow-calf operations work, the animals spend a lot of their time outside, grazing on pastureland. We supplement that with a really nutrient-packed supplemental feed. We watch them all closely and work with our veterinarian to control infectious diseases and metabolic disorders along with regular herd health checkups and overall guidance on animal care. Really, that’s a combination of science and common sense. Humane treatment to me means understanding the animals as best we can and providing an environment that lets them thrive.

You know, farming is one of the toughest jobs in the world. I think it’s also one of the most rewarding. Everybody’s life is full of ups and downs, and raising cattle is no different. We take great pride in what we do every day, and ideally we can pass this all down to our kids.3-29-16six

By being raised on a farm and with livestock, we hope our children can take away as many skills and values as we’ve built throughout the years. We want them to have a good work ethic and be responsible for the choices they make.

Agriculture has always been a huge part of our lives, and I feel we’re extremely blessed to be raising our children with the same values and traditions we enjoyed in our own childhood.

Lincoln, IL


Milk is one of the integral parts of my breakfast. Whether served as a full glass or mixed in with my favorite cereal, I have milk every day. Drinking milk is an old standby for parents: it develops strong bones and gives you the Vitamin D you need daily. This adage may gain new ground, because right now milk is incredibly cheap. Prices in places like Wisconsin are down a third from a five-year high. But why is it so cheap? Let’s take a look.

Credit: Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune

Shipping Out Isn’t Shaping Up

America exports roughly 15% of its milk production overseas. Yet, different countries have stopped importing American dairy. China, a major importer of American dairy, has an abundant supply that results in smaller milk purchases. It also does not help that economic sanctions against Russia have halted exporting to the Asian country. Exporting less creates a higher American supply than demand for milk. This overabundance of supply causes prices of milk to plummet.

Milk Means More…Competitors

While exports represent 15% of American milk sales, other countries are coming to play. China has begun producing more milk than it imports. Additionally, New Zealand is a major competitor, only adding to the growing milk production. Equally, this competition forces market prices to decrease. Therefore, the declining exports yet growing milk production by competing countries creates an atmosphere that demands unfavorable action to move milk off the grocery shelves (e.g. slashing prices).

The Cost of a Dollar

The rising strength of the U.S. dollar is another important factor to consider. A strong dollar may signal a stronger U.S. economy than seen in recent years, but that makes American dairy less attractive. Rather than spend loads of money on high-cost milk, importers might choose cheaper options from different countries. Reports of federal interest rates rising will only strengthen the U.S. dollar. Therefore, dairy prices may continue to drop due to less exporting.

Ultimately, low prices may be good for consumers, but American dairy farmers are already feeling the effects.


Taylor McDonald
Communications Assistant
IL Corn


Spring is a magical time. Birds begin to chirp, the sun makes longer appearances, and warmer weather improves everyone’s mood.  Mother Nature, especially in Illinois, likes to tease us about when spring will decide to come and stick around, tricking us with warm temperatures one week and a snow shower the next.  Thankfully there are signs to indicate that spring has sprung!

You know it’s spring when planting begins.

3-24-16Hints of Spring- PlantingAs the weather warms up, farmers begin getting antsy to get into the field. They must wait for the right amount of moisture in the soil. If the soil is too wet, the weight of the tractor and planter may compact it. Compaction limits the flow of air and water through the soil and makes it harder for a sprouting seed to break through to the surface.  Farmers may also use a field cultivator to kill existing weeds and work up the soil. Once soil and weather conditions permit, farmers begin sowing seeds, which will hopefully turn into a bountiful fall harvest!

You know it’s spring when flowers begin to emerge.

3-24-16Hints of Spring- FlowersPlants have a variety of growing seasons. Some are perennial, meaning they live for more than two years.  Bulbs and tulips are examples of perennials. Some are biennial, meaning it takes two years to complete its biological lifecycle. Examples of biennials are carrots and onions. Summer annuals begin germinating in the spring and are mature by fall of the same year. Germination is the process of a seed beginning to grow after a period of dormancy. Carnations, pansies, and many other common types of flowers are annuals.  Spring is the time that many different types of flowers begin making their way to the surface and become beautiful for the summer months.

You know it’s spring when children begin playing outside.

3-24-16Hints of Spring- Fresh Air and SunshineLike Laura Ingalls Wilder said, “Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.” After a long winter, everyone is ready to get back outside. Spring signals the time to break out bicycles and baseball gloves, sidewalk chalk and jump ropes. Playing outside has many health benefits, such as increasing attention span and reducing stress. Playing outside also provides a chance to soak in some Vitamin D, which helps prevent bone problems, diabetes, and heart disease. Parents and children alike are thankful when the weather warms up enough to get back outside!

3-24-16Hints of Spring- DirtSpring is a beautiful time as the weather warms up, flowers begin to emerge, and fields are planted. As Margaret Atwood said, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Whether it is from spending the day in a field planting or cultivating, planting a garden, or playing in your backyard, many spring activities result in smelling like dirt, sunshine, and happiness.




To see other images like these, check out our Instagram page @ILCorn

Christy Allen

Christy Allen
University of Illinois


W3-22-16garden1ith all this beautiful weather and the grass greening up, I’ve been thinking about my “garden” lately. I’m obligated to put garden in quotes because I’m really not a gardener. In fact, last year was the first time I tried to grow anything edible outside. My husband, the farmer, wouldn’t allow our yard to be torn up for my fantasy of a big, green, lush garden, so he allowed me two strips of his cornfield for sweetcorn and three big barrel bottoms which he filled with dirt and manure, and told me that if I kept those weeded, we’d see about an actual garden next year. Well, my cucumbers failed (twice) and it was too wet of a year for pumpkins. However, my tomato plant gave me a handful of tomatoes each day and there was more sweetcorn than we knew what to do with (thanks to him).

3-22-16garden4I had corn and tomatoes. Tomatoes… and corn…. Plus countless gifted cucumbers from neighbors on all sides, coworkers and friends. I needed something to do with all this produce! That’s when I found this recipe, which I have adapted to my own and refer to as “Straight From the Garden Salad”. It’s best with fresh garden veggies but certainly doesn’t require them. It’s also very adaptable, inexpensive, can be made ahead of time and travels easily to pot lucks picnics!

Straight From the Garden Salad

2 cucumbers, thinly sliced

3-22-16garden3¼ large red onion, thinly sliced

1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 ear corn, kernels cut from the cob

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. sour cream (optional, yields a creamier dressing)

2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  • Add sliced veggies and toss to coat.
  • Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving to marry the flavors.

This year I’ll be planting cucumbers, bell peppers, 2-3 tomato plants, sweet corn out in the field, and trying some ornamental pumpkins and gourds again. What’s going into your garden and do you have any tips for me???


Ashley Deal
ICGA/ICMB Membership Assistant


3-18-16 Photo with Congressman FosterIllinois farmers are pictured here with U.S. Congressman Bill Foster. Illinois farmers met with Illinois delegates in Washington, D.C. over National Ag Week to discuss sustaining the profitability of farming. Illinois farmers shared messages from their home state about issues critical to farming, from the importance of the TPP and free trade to the preservation of crop insurance.


Some people think that the only busy time of the year are planting and harvest and the rest of the year farmers spend their glorious amounts of free time vacationing or tinkering with antique tractors. This may be true for some, but not the majority. Today is the third post in my one-year series which will give you an idea of a farmer’s workload throughout the year. Keep in mind that all farms operate differently and I am just providing one example of a year in the life of a grain farmer. There are several factors that contribute to the seasonality of the farm such as size and scale of the operation, crops grown, location, livestock, management style and general upbringing or personal work ethic! I hope this provides some insight to what versatile businessman farmers are.



March 1st was the deadline for farm taxes to be filed. That chore is a load-off… Quite possibly LITERALLY. Also, a lot of Ag lenders also expect their prior year’s input loans (think 2015’s crop) to be paid in full by now.

Next THIS year’s crop

What we previously considered “next year’s crop” can now be called “This year’s crop”. The 2016 crop year is officially under way! There is lots of prep work to get done before the first seed can be placed in the ground – but nearly every task is weather permitting.

  • 3-15-16Ayear3The seed corn that was selected last December or January will likely be delivered to the farm by the end of the month. Better clean out a corner of the shed to store it for a bit.
  • Get machinery cleaned up and prepped for planting. Wash, wax, check tires, make sure the engine’s running smoothly, re-calibrate settings for depth and spacing, vacuum out the cab, etc.
  • There might be drainage or other “dirt work” to do before crops are put into the fields. The freeze-thaw of winter might have slightly shifted the lay of the land and new, or worse, wet spots may now be visible. It would also be a good idea to make sure tile line exists are free of debris and able to drain the fields properly.
  • Depending on how wet the fields are, there’s a possibility of working ground for seed bed preparation and fertilizer application.

Household and farm odd-jobs / repairs

As mentioned last month, in March the weather dictates your schedule. If the ground’s still too cold or wet, you might have some spare time to spend working on indoor projects. Then again… don’t count on it. If something needs doin’… Do it now!


Ashley Deal
ICGA/ICMB Membership Assistant


Here in Illinois, we are all fairly familiar with the big farm machinery in the fields during spring and fall, but have you ever wondered what kind of financial investment a farmer undertakes?

Photo Credit: Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer

It’s mid-March, the weather is getting more pleasant, and all farmers seem to have one thing on their mind: planting.

The first field of corn was planted near Pearl, Illinois last Tuesday and it is expected that many farmers from all over the state will soon be following suit to start the long process of getting food to your dinner table. However, for farmers to get the food from farm to table, they need machinery to do it, and machinery costs money. Lots of it. But what exactly is the financial investment a farmer undertakes when it comes to their machinery?

Chad Braden, President and Chief Operating Officer of Arends Hogan Walker (AHW), one of the largest John Deere dealerships on the continent, says that the image created by the media about the cost of farm equipment is a negative one, but in reality, it is a necessary part of the production cycle. In order “to sustain a long-term farm operation, you must be able to invest in, and support, a reasonable amount of equipment to maintain the farming operation.” He also suggests that the general rule of thumb should be spending “$95-$100 per acre on machinery costs. This gives a 1,000-acre farm about $100,000 of cash flow to cover annual machinery payments and maintenance, insurance, fuel, etc. Only $70 per acre of this is direct machinery costs.“ Braden closes by adding, “$70 per acre is about 10% of the total costs of production in 2016 for an acre of corn.”

So, it costs $95-$100 per acre for machinery costs, but what about the expense of the actual machinery itself? John Spangler, my uncle, as well as a grain and livestock farmer from Western Illinois, states that this all depends on the size of your operation. A small farmer, who may have around 350 acres, needs nothing more than a $50,000 tractor, $20,000 planter, and a $50,000 combine. But, that is about as “minimum” as you can get. “A 1000 acre farmer is going to need a couple of tractors around $150,000, a $50,000 planter, and $100,000 combine.”

This may seem like lots of money, but Spangler mentions that it is better to keep the combine, planter, and sprayer up to date. “A lot of dollars flow through those machines and a breakdown at the wrong time can be expensive.”

If buying new isn’t something you want to do or can afford to do right now, have no fear. Leasing has become more popular in recent months. Also, there is a company called Machinery Link who connects farmers from all over the U.S. who need different types of equipment at various times. Some farmers even share equipment over two or more farm families. In reality, there are tons of other options to make machinery more affordable. “Everyone has their own philosophies on machinery,” says Spangler. “It basically comes down to what fits best in your operation.”

Kaity Spangler


Kaity Spangler
University of Illinois


Free trade is beneficial farmers. For instance, a strong free trade agreement makes it possible for farmers to have market opportunities and meet food demands around the world. The economic stimulus from worldwide demand for American products also helps each of us feed our families.

TPP-AgricultureA study conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation o
n the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement that is already negotiated and waiting for Congressional approval, explains that the American economy benefits from a $4.4 billion revenue increase that not only sustains farming within the United States but also helps to contribute to a healthy American economy.

  • Livestock receipts with implementation are $5.8 billion higher with approval than without. For the crops sector –including fruits and vegetables—receipts are $2.7 billion higher. Net farm income is also $4.4 billion higher.
  • S. beef and pork exports are expected to be $1 billion and $940 million higher, respectively.
  • Farm prices for corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, cotton, fed steers, feeder steers, barrows and gilts, wholesale poultry and milk are all projected to be marginally higher with the agreement in place than without.
  • Net trade rises for rice, cotton, beef, pork, poultry, butter, cheese and non-fat dry milk
  • Net trade of corn declines slightly, but overall use increases and corn revenue rises as higher feed use is needed to provide for the added beef and pork exports rather than being exported as raw commodities.