mindy-bunselmeyerMindy Bunselmeyer is the Illinois FFA Center Executive Director.  She got to this position by first getting a B.S. and M.S. at the University of Illinois and teaching ag education in Monticello for eight years.  She moved from a teaching position to a leadership position when she served as the District 4 Program Advisor for Facilitating Coordination in Ag Education for ten years.

FFA, formerly Future Farmers of America, FFA is a local, state, and national organization that provides a path to achievement in premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education for each student in its membership.

Mindy’s professional life has always been about helping young people understand more about agriculture and themselves, whether that is directly, or by helping other ag teachers who are helping young people.

She and her husband, Mark and their son Gehrig and daughter Emery, live on a farm near Decatur, Illinois, where they raise corn, soybeans and horseradish.

Lindsay: What are your primary responsibilities?

ag-careers-executive-directorMindy: I am responsible for organizing, coordinating and/or supervising the day-to-day activities of the FFA, FFA Foundation, Illinois FFA Alumni and Illinois PAS.

Lindsay: What made you decide to pursue a career in this field?

Mindy:  I was most inspired to become an agriculture teacher and FFA Advisor by my agriculture teacher, Mr. Richard Watson and my parents who were live long 4-H leaders.  I saw the impact that they made and of course benefited greatly from the time they dedicated to me and other members.  I wanted to give to others as they had given to me.  While serving as an FFA officer at the state level, I was truly inspired to serve at the state level by seeing the impact those who served in my position prior to me had made and once again, wanted to give back and give more.

Lindsay: What three things stand out to you as skills that are vital for a career in this area?

Mindy: Open minded – open to ideas, looking for ways to keep us always keep us moving forward, open new opportunities for young people involved in agricultural education, open to news ways of doing things.  Flexibility and problem-solving skills – when working with so many people and so many moving parts – there are bound to be times when things don’t always go as you have planned and being flexible, quick on your feet and able to solve problems is essential in this job and most likely any job.  Friendly and outgoing – This is a people person job, God blessed me with the ability to chat with anyone, anywhere, on just about anything…all the time, so I love working with and meeting people.


Lindsay: What’s a typical day like in your job?

Mindy: That is what’s so great about my job, no two days are the same.  Much of my time is working with our State officer team on coordinating events that they plan and put together, such as STAR conferences, chapter visits, speeches, state convention and so much more.  I work a great deal with our teachers on programming and events that are offered to FFA members throughout the state.  So one day, I am in the office all day working on those programming pieces and the next day we are out of the office putting on those events. Many times I am meeting with friends of FFA to talk about and represent our interests in agricultural education.

Lindsay:  Do you think young people today should be considering careers in agriculture?

Mindy: ABSOLUTELY!  I can’t begin to tell you the number of events that I have attained and research that I have read that we have so many opportunities in agriculture that are going unfilled by applicants with experiences in agriculture.  Those opportunities vary a great deal in areas of the industry, it’s amazing how much opportunity is out there for young people interested in agriculture.

LMitchell_Lindsayindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


Cows are some majestic creatures. Weighing over 1,000 pounds, they aren’t close to being the same as a human. However, we do share some similar traits with cows!

1. Cows miss their best friend.

In dairy herds, cows typically have their best friend. These two cows are just what you think best friends would be. They hang out, assist each other in birth if necessary, and even like to stand next to each other in the barn while being milked! However, when they are apart, they miss their best friend and become stressed. It is weird to think, but cows do have best friends and miss them while apart, just like we humans do!

2. Cows like to have fun and be silly!

Cows seem to always be silly and have some fun while around the farm. They like to stick their tongues out, throw their head, and play with each other in the pasture! Just like you might want to run around and have some fun, cows enjoy having their free time and fun!

3. Cows are diverse!

Just like humans, cows are very diverse. There are numerous different breeds of cows, both in dairy and beef varieties. These cows range in size and color. Some cows are white, red, black, and a mix of everything. While they all have their certain size and color, they either are raised for milk or beef purposes.  Fun Fact: Chocolate milk does NOT come from red and white dairy cows!

Cowger_Dakota_IL CORN INTERN 2x3 16
Dakota Cowger
Illinois State University


12-20-16-redneck-sleddingTis the season for snow days, family time, and sledding. But what happens when you combine all three together? The Annual Spangler Family Redneck Sledding Adventure. The day where safety really becomes just a suggestion and the day isn’t over until you can’t feel a single part of your body. Quotes like, “I could really get hurt on this thing, but it’s going to be so fun” and “We’re going to die” can be heard on the way down the hill. Followed by nervous laughter from the bystanders at the top.

It seems as though each year we get more and more creative with our sleds and what is tied behind the Polaris RZR with a heavy-duty tie strap. So, as a gift from my family to yours, I present you with five things to be repurposed into a redneck sled for your next adventure down the snowy hill!


12-20-16-picture-1The Top of a Poly Tank

As you can see in the picture at the head of this post, our sled of choice is the top of a poly tank. Generally used to haul water to different places, the top of the tank is a perfect sled to tie behind an ATV. Just make sure you abandon ship before hitting the fence at the bottom!12-20-16-picture-2A Deer Sled

Pro Tip- An old baby crib mattress fits perfectly inside the sled. This helps soften the blow of hitting frozen cow pies on your way down the hill.

12-20-16-picture-3Pickup Truck Hood

Really, what is more redneck than using a pickup truck hood for a sled? That’s right. Nothing.12-20-16-picture-4An Old John Boat

I recently watched a video of a group of people literally rowing down a hill of snow. Helmets were included, and I think that would be a safe thing to throw in if you’re going to try out this method. However, the best part about the boat is that you can literally fit the whole family as you dash through the snow!12-20-16-picture-5A Kiddie Pool

It’s not just for summer anymore. Use this puppy all year-long and get more bang for your buck.

Good luck, and remember we are not held responsible for any injuries!

Kaity Spangler
Kaity Spangler
University of Illinois


We actually asked for more stable farm profitability last year, but Santa hasn’t brought it yet!  In fact, farming has gotten harder with more farmers losing money and more bankers refusing to loan farmers the cash to put in a crop based on their precarious budget sheets.



If you haven’t already read our Are Farmers Rich post, you’ll want to start there … remembering that this particular article and the economic conditions it presents are two years old.

The bottom line is, farmers are losing money.  Lots of it.  In fact, for many farmers, the more acres you farm the more you’re losing.  Luckily, this was a good year for crops and higher yields started to offset the extremely low prices, but that might not always happen.

Think about it: for every other business that creates something, they name the price for that product that includes how much it costs to produce it.  Competition in the marketplace might force them to lower their product cost to a lower margin, but they can always guarantee they are making at least a bit of profit.

Farmers are price takers, not price makers.  They don’t get to determine how much it cost them to grow a bushel of corn and set their price from there.  They have to just take whatever price the commodity markets dictate.  And right now, that cost is well below the cost of production.

Most of the other things on our list will help us price prices because they are about creating demand or minimizing costs of production.  Trade opportunities and that darn RVP waiver will create more demand in terms of selling more corn overseas or selling more ethanol in the summer months.  Better locks and dams will decrease the cost of getting corn to an international market.  More conservation will prevent regulations that will cost farmers money.

I swear Santa, we aren’t asking for much.  Please … farm profitability for 2017?

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


This Christmas list item gets complicated, so bear with me.

An RVP waiver – Reid Vapor Pressure waiver – is what Americans really need to use more renewable fuels and capitalize on the domestic, clean-burning fuel we have right at our fingertips.



The back story on this request is that when it’s really hot, bad stuff (emissions) evaporate from your fuel (evaporative emissions) and can cause summertime air pollution.  The EPA doesn’t want that to happen.

They measure the evaporative emissions using the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) standard.  The higher the RVP of a fuel, the worse its emissions are.

The RVP of pure ethanol is 2.  The RVP of gasoline can range from 7 to 15.

But when blended, the RVP of an ethanol/gasoline blend can exceed the RVP standard.  The RVP of a 10% blend of ethanol into gasoline (the standard fuel today) is about 10.

In 1990, Congress amended the Clean Air Act to allow E10 a waiver – in other words, Congress gave EPA the authority to allow the use of E10 during the summer months.  But we’re still waiting on the waiver to allow E15 in the summer months, and the absence of that waiver is what makes E15’s movement into the marketplace so complicated.

By the way, the RVP of E15 is actually lower than E10 and straight gasoline.

So, Santa, I’m not sure if you understood all this, but we could really use that waiver in our hands on Christmas Eve.  The world stands to benefit from cleaner air, and consumers will definitely enjoy the extra cents per gallon in their pockets.

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


IL Corn and the ag industry has introduced some management practices and talked about some concepts that are different for farmers, trying to help them improve the water quality coming from IL farms.

Farmers are anxious to learn, some are trying out a few new practices, others are watching and learning from their neighbors, but …



Farmers are farming because they love it, but also because they need to provide for their own families.  So trying something completely new, and risking tens of thousands of dollars or more in the process, is a scary thing.

Research tells us that trying cover crops will cost *this much* and improve soil health *this much* while also decreasing nutrient loss *this much.*  But the research put into practice on some farms doesn’t always work out exactly the same.  Farmers get nervous to try new things … and that’s understandable!

But Santa, we’ve got to make our water quality better.  We’ve got to lose less of the expensive fertilizer we’re putting on our fields.  We’ve got to invest in our land and preserve it for future generations.  Farmers definitely want to do this!  It is their core value and the foundation of their farming business.

So one thing we’d love for Christmas is for more farmers to TRY a new conservation practice on their fields this year.  Maybe they just try it on one field, maybe they branch out to several.  Maybe they talk with a neighbor and try the same thing she had success within 2016.  We’re making progress, but MORE progress would sure be nice.

Whisper in their ears – would you Santa?  We’ll keep providing the outreach, education, and programming in the meantime …

Note: In 2016, IL Corn offered several new educational programs for farmers!  These are just a few:

  • cover crop coupons – to try cover crops at a reduced cost for the first year
  • field days – to see how different management techniques were actually working on farms in Illinois
  • interactive maps – to help farmers understand when to apply nitrogen and when not to apply
  • Precision Conservation Management – a pilot program that helps farmers understand conservation practices AND the financial implications that correlate with them
  • water testing – to understand how much of the expensive fertilizer a farmer was losing from his/her field

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


It stands to reason that right after an investment in getting our grain to a global market, we’d like to see increased market opportunities, right?

Check out our first ask of Santa here.

The opportunities are there.  And Illinois believes we can compete with anyone in the world in terms of grain quality, quantity, and price.



Trade deals are really important when it comes to selling more corn to more countries all over the world.  We’d definitely like to see trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pass Congress and become effective.

TPP won’t increase the amount of corn we send overseas, but it will increase the amount of red meat we sell overseas.  More meat sold means more livestock production here in the U.S. which means more animals to eat more corn!  It’s a win for everyone involved.

Overall though Santa, we’d love it if you’d just create a blanket of positive trade talk over Washington, DC.  Will the incoming administration support trade in the end?  We’re just not sure and we’d love your help on this!

Note: Trade is so important to Illinois.  About half of our corn leaves the state – much of it to other countries like Mexico and Japan.  What leaves our state and doesn’t go overseas is feeding livestock in other states like Texas and THEN going overseas.  This is because of our position on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers – we will never stop advocating for more and more trade!

There’s also this.  Trade is important from a humanitarian level.  We have to trade to get the food from where it’s produced (the U.S., Brazil, Argentina) to where the hungry people are.

Don’t ever forget about the hungry people Santa.

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


At this point, I sound like a broken record.  (And if you’re tired of hearing me talk about locks and dams, be glad you don’t know Jim Tarmann – an IL Corn staffer who has been working on this issue for 20ish years!)

Illinois farmers need updated locks and dams if the U.S. wants us to remain globally competitive.  There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it.



We’re getting closer.  Congress has changed some funding equations and the industry (all the users of the river system) agreed to pay more in order to generate income to improve locks and dams.  This means that we’re closer than we’ve ever been and that’s exciting.

But we’re really REALLY hoping that Santa will whisper in the ears of the powers that be and include lock and dam construction in the potential transportation and infrastructure spending we keep hearing about in the new year.  This could be such a huge gain for IL agriculture!!

Don’t forget, the locks and dams we’re using now were built in Mark Twain’s era for steamboats!!  At that time, we weren’t even dreaming about huge tows of grain headed to a global market!!

You might also enjoy this short video clip.

Please Santa!  Let’s start on a new lock in 2017!

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director