When you think of a farmer, what do you think of? Do you think of an intelligent man who knows various farming techniques or do you think of a hillbilly wearing bib overalls with a front tooth missing? Most people who do not live in rural America probably think of farmers as being dumb hillbillies that have strange accents and have mud all over their clothes from working in the fields all day. With this in mind, I think this is the biggest misconception about farmers.

Last Sunday, I was in Costco with my family doing our weekly grocery shopping and while we were checking out, the nice cashier lady asked what we did for living. As my mother and father told her we were farmers, she began laughing and said, “You guys sure don’t look like farmers!” My family and I looked at each other with surprise because we didn’t think farmers looked a particular way because we are surrounded with other farmers all the time and it’s simply our way of life. After our Costco trip, I began wondering what the main misunderstanding about farmers were and I think it’s that people think farmers are rednecks with no brains, but that’s simply not the case.

Idaho, A Farmer stands in his field of Soybeans.
Idaho – A farmer stands in his soybean field.

To begin with, farmers are a little more fashionable than what you may think. Farmers generally wear jeans, work boots, and a work shirt that’s appropriate for their job, certainly not bib overalls! If you drive down the road and see a farmer in a tractor, you will most likely also see him wearing a ball cap too. It’s just the fashion trend that farmers do!

Furthermore, farmers are really intelligent people. The average farmer in the state of Illinois handles over $600,000 to put in one crop, like corn, for one year. How many people do you know that can walk into a bank and borrow $600,000? Probably not many! So not only do farmers need to have financial skills, balance sheet and sales knowledge, he also has to know the biology of soils, crops, and plants.  Being an expert of soils, crops, and plants, allows a farmer to determine when the field is ready to plant, fertilize, and harvest. The agronomic information a farmer has today is in such demand that companies will pay the farmer for the data.

All in all, farmers are just like everyone else, just a different field of knowledge and interests. I encourage you to take a drive out in the country. Its prime planting season, so you will be able to see you’re local farmers planting away, putting their crop into the field. If it wasn’t for farmers, we wouldn’t be able to put more than half of the food on the table for dinner. Be sure to thank a farmer next time you see them because they do a lot more than what you may think!


Kalie Rumbold
Black Hawk East Junior College


5-10-16Victory harvestLiving the life of a farmer was something that I grew up understanding because almost everyone in my life was involved in agriculture; however, not everyone may know what it takes to be a farmer. It is as easy as one, two, three! I am here to show you the three simple tactics to hop right into the field as a top-of-the-line farmer. * Read on to see how brains, following your gut, and cold, hard cash can lead you to the farmer lifestyle you desire.

*Unfortunately, this is sarcasm.

Step 1: Education

5-10-16I Want YouEven though the stereotype may be that farmers are uneducated, this is far from the truth. Farmers today would not be able to run their operations without all the knowledge they have gained throughout their lives. The key to their education is that it has been their entire life and it has been very hands on. If you are starting new as a farmer, you will need to spend at least the next ten years of your life devoting time to learning about whatever type of operation you wish to have. This writer spent one week on a farm and tells what he learned about getting into the rhythm of farm life. Whether you need to spend time in the field growing crops or in a barn working with cattle, that full-immersion education is the first key to becoming an expert farmer.

Step 2: Intuition

5-10-16The Intuitive FarmerUnlike obtaining an education, this step to becoming an expert farmer is not as cut-and-dry. Having the intuition to face the everyday obstacles that a farmer may meet is arguably one of the most important things to have, but, also, the most difficult. A cattle farmer needs to know when to follow their gut feeling about when a heifer is about to have her calf (like the farmer does in this article). A grain producer needs to listen to their inner voice about when to hold back a few days on planting and when the right time to harvest is. Timing of these events is critical to maintaining one’s farm and using your intuition correctly can lead to being an expert farmer. There is even a whole book about this step!

Step 3: Cash

5-10-16Cost per AcreThe final step to becoming an expert farmer is having the cash to start and run an operation. Just like in every other field, operating costs for farmers have gone up a great amount in the past decade.  It can be seen in this graph that cost per acre is on a continuous upward slope. That upward slope is true for all branches of farming, so to be an expert farmer with a successful operation, you need money to handle the costs. This article explains the increasing costs for rice farmers in Arkansas. The increased cost of inputs does not completely outweigh the income that farmers receive for their products. That is why having a cash source is included in these quick steps to becoming an expert farmer.

5-10-16Dairy family

My hope is that after reading this, the number of farmers in the world will increase exponentially! In all seriousness, these three steps are not all that it takes to be a farmer. There is so much that goes into the lifestyle, and these three are only a place to start. There are many places for education to be obtained, it is possible to naturally have the intuition needed, and managing money well in order to start a farm is also a feasible goal. While the cash step may seem daunting, I would say that these farmers would tell you the benefits greatly exceed the costs of becoming a farmer.

Amanda Rollins

Amanda Rollins
Illinois State University


Periscope and Facebook Live are emerging technologies that allow groups, companies, and individuals to show real-time aspects of their lives and work. Farmers, for instance, are using the technology to reach and educate non-farmers by broadcasting their day-to-day from planting in the field to answering questions about farm life.

Recently, Illinois Farm Families partnered with Chicago radio personality Patti Vasquez to do a Q&A broadcast on Periscope with Illinois corn farmer Justin Durdan. We watched as viewers contributed and Durdan answered questions about farming, all while he worked in the field.


Periscope is a smartphone app that can be downloaded at iTunes and Google Play for iOs and Android devices, respectively. Also, Periscope is available for Apple TV so that users can watch broadcasts from their televisions. People who do not have Periscope accounts can watch from the web if they have the link to the broadcast. Users likes Illinois Farm Families can also tweet broadcasts from their Twitter feed. However, you cannot interact via questions or likes.

Credit: PRNewsire

Downloading the app is the best option. This allows people to keep up with their favorite accounts and to interact with the broadcasts. An account can be created account with a phone number or through a Twitter account. Once a user name is set-up, the user can watch and share broadcast from literally all over the globe. If there is a specific region users want to watch (like Illinois), they can use the interactive map on the app to find local broadcasts. Also, users can follow specific accounts like Illinois Farm Families (@ILFarmFamilies) and receive notifications when they go live.

One current drawback to Periscope is that the videos of past broadcasts only last 48 hours. The video must be downloaded and posted to sites like YouTube to be kept. Another drawback is that watching broadcasts on the Twitter app for non-users only works with Apple/iOs devices (for now).

If you’re interested in checking-in on some farmers who broadcast their work on Periscope, be sure to follow accounts like Judi Graff (@farmNwife), Nathan Brown (@Brown_Farms), and RedDirtInMySoul (@rimrockes). Remember: you can only see broadcasts that are live or that happened within the last 48 hours.

Click here to learn more about Periscope or click here for a full tutorial.

Facebook Live

Credit: FB Newsroom

Facebook Live is another powerful tool for real-time broadcasting. Similar to Periscope, users can react to your broadcast with comments, questions, and likes. The broadcast takes place on the user’s profile page and a video of the broadcast will remain on the user’s timeline. However, Facebook’s videos stay on the user’s feed until the he or she chooses to delete it.

Well-known agriculture blogger “Dairy Carrie” uses Facebook Live to show some of the most intimate moments of farming life. Just recently, she’s shared videos of turning her cows out to pasture and of a calf being born. Carrie will even post pre-broadcast notices on her Facebook timeline, so others can tune in. Carrie is just one of many farmers who are using these technologies to demonstrate to a global audience different dimensions of farming and agriculture.

For more information about Facebook Live, click here. A full tutorial can be found here.


Taylor McDonald
Communications Assistant
IL Corn


One of our biggest misconceptions – 99% of the corn grown in Illinois is field corn (a grain) that we feed to livestock of use for ethanol. The rest of the corn crop is sweet corn (a vegetable) that you eat with butter and salt in the summer or out of a can in the winter.

IL farmer Paul Taylor explains the difference from the field in this video!


Chris is an IL Corn leader who is active legislatively with our association. In addition to growing corn, Chris also raises hogs on his Illinois farm. Chris and his family are great examples Illinois farmers – watch this video to get to know him!

Do you have questions about how your pork (bacon!) is raised? Ask them in the comments. We’ll get you the answers!