As we officially head into summer, enjoy the recipes of grilling week!  We’ll be featuring opportunities for you to get more delicious pork, beef, and chicken into your diet and sharing some fun facts about livestock farming in Illinois!

Fun Fact: Three out of four American grillers say they grill beef the most often (over chicken or pork)!

Today’s Tip: Preheat your grill 15 to 25 minutes before you start cooking to make sure it reaches the right temperature (and to kill any bacteria). Your grill should be 400-450°F for high, 350-400°F for medium-high, 300-350°F for medium and 250-300°F for low heat. A properly heated grill sears foods on contact, keeps the insides moist, and helps prevent sticking.

Today’s Recipe: Flat Iron Steaks with Grilled Corn and Cumin-Lime Butter

What You’ll Need:

  1. 4 beef Flat Iron Steaks (about 8 ounces each)
  2. 6 ears fresh sweet corn, in husks
  3. 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  4. 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  5. 1 medium poblano pepper
  6. 1 small red finger chili (cayenne) pepper or serrano pepper
  7. Lime wedges
  8. Salt and ground black pepper\


  1. 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  2. 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  3. 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  4. ½ teaspoon freshly grated lime peel
  5. ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper

What You Do:

  1. Pull back husks from corn, leaving husks attached. Remove and discard corn silk. Bring husks back up around corn; tie in place with kitchen string or strips of corn husk. Soak corn in cold water 30 minutes or up to several hours.
  2. Combine rub ingredients. For Cumin-Lime Butter, combine 2 teaspoons rub mixture, butter and lime juice in small bowl; set aside. Press remaining rub evenly onto beef steaks. Cover and refrigerate steaks 30 minutes.
  3. Remove corn from water. Place on grid over medium, ash-covered coals; grill, covered, 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, turning occasionally. About 15 minutes before corn is done, move ears to outer edge of grid. Place poblano and finger chili pepper in center of grid; grill poblano pepper 10 to 15 minutes and chili pepper 5 minutes or until skins are completely blackened, turning occasionally. Place peppers in food-safe plastic bag; close bag. Set aside.
  4. Place steaks on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 10 to 14 minutes for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally.
  5. Remove and discard husks from corn. Cover and refrigerate 2 steaks, 2 ears corn and grilled peppers to use in Steak and Grilled Corn Tortillas. Carve remaining 2 steaks into slices. Squeeze lime wedges over beef, as desired. Spread Cumin-Lime Butter over remaining 4 ears corn. Season beef and corn with salt and black pepper, as desired.

To prepare on gas grill, preheat grill according to manufacturer’s directions for medium heat. Place vegetables and steaks on grid as directed above. Grill corn and poblano pepper, covered, 15 to 25 minutes, or until corn is tender and skin of poblano pepper is completely blackened, turning occasionally. Grill finger chili pepper 5 to 10 minutes or until skin is completely blackened, turning occasionally. Grill steaks, covered, 12 to 16 minutes for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


As we officially head into summer, enjoy the recipes of grilling week!  We’ll be featuring opportunities for you to get more delicious pork, beef, and chicken into your diet and sharing some fun facts about livestock farming in Illinois!

Fun Fact: Illinois ranks number #4 in the nation in pig farming!  We raise more pigs here than in the other 46 states!

Today’s Tip: The age old debate over whether charcoal or gas grills are best still lives.  Many people prefer the smokier taste of a charcoal grill, but for those of us that are environmentally conscious, a gas grill burns cleaner and is better for air quality.

Today’s Recipe: Honey Jalapeno Grilled Pork Chops

What You’ll Need:

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 jalapenos, sliced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 bone-in pork chops

What You Do:

  1. Combine all ingredients (except chops) in a small bowl.
  2. Place chops in a shallow dish with a cover, or in a large zip-top plastic bag, and cover with the marinade. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or as long as overnight).
  3. Grill the marinated chops over direct medium heat until an internal thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 145 to 160 degrees, about 4 to 6 minutes per side.
  4. Transfer cooked chops to a platter and tent with foil. Let meat rest about 5 minutes before serving.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


Farmers are busy planting – or replanting – throughout the month of May.

Certainly, the climate and weather have a lot to do with this.  For many Illinois farmers, their corn was planted in one perfect week in early May, but then heavy rains and now drowning corn seedlings have forced farmers to rip out fields and replant.  And for some, the fields STILL aren’t dry enough to replant or even plant the first time!

But if you’re interested in what Illinois corn farmers are doing this time of year, you’ll want to check out this video.  It’s a 360-degree look at how one of our farmers, Justin Durdan of Utica, plants his corn.

If viewing the video on a desktop, click and drag your mouse. If viewing the video on mobile, open the video in the YouTube app to experience the full 360° view.

Spring is SUCH an important season for farmers.  Certainly there are many risks along the way – not enough rain, too much rain, too hot, bug and disease pressure – but if the corn never gets in the ground or doesn’t get off to a good start, the rest of the growing season is plagued with problems, problems, and more problems.

If you’d like to check out more farmers and their planting stories, simply search #plant17.  Farmers all over the country are posting photos, videos, and blogs about the 2017 planting season on their farms!

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


  1. A corn seed is planted about 1.5 to 2 inches below the soil. Two inches deep is ideal, but there are circumstances (like planting early into cool soils) when planting a bit more shallow might make sense. For optimum root development, corn should never be planted less than 1.5 inches below the soil’s surface.
  2. A long time ago, rows of corn in a field had to be at least 40 inches apart in order to accommodate horses and horse drawn implements. When tractors came along with significantly narrower wheels, farmers started to play with row spacing to determine how they could maximize yield on any given plot of land. Today, the majority of the corn grown in the U.S. is planted in rows 30 inches apart, though some farmers and seed companies experiment with rows that are even closer together than 30 inches, combining more narrow rows with other management practices to try to increase yield.
  3. This corn plant was most likely planted with the help of a GPS system. Tractors, planters, combines, sprayers and virtually all farm equipment can now utilize GPS guidance systems that make planting and caring for crops very efficient. When this seed was planted, the tractor knew exactly where it was planting, and was careful to space the seeds the appropriate distance apart and not to overlap rows which would force corn plants to compete for resources.
  4. Different corn varieties will have different lengths to maturity, which helps farmers select a corn plant that will perform optimally in their growing climate. Farmers also pay attention to the number of days to maturity so that the approximate time to harvest for all their fields can be managed and not every single field will need to be harvested in the same week or on the same day. We can be sure that this corn plant was carefully selected for this field, with a maturity that the farmer felt fit best in his harvest plan.
  5. In this field, something is *almost* about to happen. These corn plants are almost to the stage that farmers will call “closed canopy.” This means that the corn plants and their leaves will finally get big enough that the leaves shade the ground and prevent most weeds from creeping in to steal nutrients. This also means that a farmer can no longer fit a tractor through the field so if any additional farm work needs to be done, it will be done via airplane!

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


This planting season we tried out a new product on our farm, Bayer Fluency Agent Advanced. This is a seed lubricant mixed in with the corn or soybean seeds inside the seed bins replacing the need for talc or graphite powder. It keeps things flowing nicely through the planter tubes and plates before the seed gets dropped into the ground. The other neat thing about Bayer’s fluency agent advanced is that it is considered pollinator friendly. In recent years there has been some concern that the dust dispersed from talc and graphite lubricants during planting lands on the plants in the ditches and can be harmful to pollinators like bees and butterflies. Another benefit to using this product was its low use rate at only 1/8 cup per seed unit. We used it in our individual box planter, but it can also be used in a bulk fill planter. The literature says it can be used in all makes and types of planters – including seed tenders to apply it to the seed while filling the planter. One notable quality was due to its properties, it really needs to be mixed in well with a paint stirrer (or your hands) in order for it to adhere nicely to the seed – don’t just rely on gravity to disperse it through the box.  It was also cleaner handling and had less residue buildup meaning easier and faster clean up, plus no black grimy hands like you’d get with graphite. All-in-all this was a quality product which we plan on using more extensively in the future!

Ashley Deal
Membership Assistant
IL Corn


A recent Department of Energy (DOE) study on employment in the U.S. shows that the ethanol industry employs a significantly larger share of military veterans than any other segment of the energy industry.

We’ve always loved the ethanol industry because it’s clean energy, another market for our corn, and is grown, processed, and used right here in the U.S. eliminating the need to fight wars over foreign oil.  But this patriotic twist on the industry is just one more reason to gloat.

The study showed that nearly one in five ethanol industry employees is a veteran (18.9%), compared to a national average of 7% across all sectors of the workforce.

Per 100 workers, the ethanol industry employs twice as many veterans as the oil and gas sector and nearly four times as many veterans as the coal and nuclear power generation sectors. Other renewable energy sectors, including advanced biofuels, wind and solar, also employ a relatively large share of military veterans. Across all energy segments, veterans comprise 9% of the U.S. energy sector’s workforce, slightly above the national average.

If an industry that gives back to its country is an important moral guideline to you, then you’ll want to choose to fill up on ethanol.  Ten percent of your fuel is already ethanol, but fifteen percent blends have been approved for cars model years 2001 and newer.  Fifteen percent blends are available in various areas of the U.S., expanding every day.

An 85 percent blend of ethanol is also available all over the country for flex fuel vehicles with a yellow gas cap.  For ethanol availability at the pump near you (which, is also cheaper for higher octane!), click here.

Read Rachel Gantz’s article about the DOE study here.

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director



5-15-17njohann200x286Nathan Johanning works for the University of Illinois Extension based in the Jackson County office.  He is an Extension Educator working in agriculture, specifically in Local Food Systems and Small Farms.

Alicia: What are your primary responsibilities? What does your typical day look like?

Nathan: My main duty is to help the growers in southern Illinois and the Midwest with production challenges they have and to help them explore new growing systems and techniques to improve their farm operation.  I work mainly with crops including grain crops and fruit and vegetable production as well.  I don’t know that there is a “typical” day.  Many days like today are spent out in the field setting up research trials and helping growers.  Sometimes we are spending time planning or preparing for a conference, workshop, or field day or just working in the office on reports, trial data, or presentations.  Very few if any weeks are just in the office my desk only.

extension_educatorAlicia: Why did you pursue this career field?

Nathan: I pursued this career first for my love of growing crops which started from working at my grandparents’ farm.  Also, as I was working on my degrees I had a chance to conduct research and also teach and both of these things are things I thoroughly enjoy and this position has given me the opportunity to do both!  For me, there is just something very satisfying to be able to help a farmer improve their operation or looking back on a successful day in the field working on research trials.

Alicia: What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

Nathan: The most rewarding part is when I am able to help someone or educate them and their gratitude for saving their strawberry crop, teaching them about soils, sharing with them new pumpkin varieties that are a success or anything else

5-15-17uieAlicia: To someone outside of the agriculture industry, why should they join careers involved in agriculture?

Nathan: First off if they like to eat, which most do, it is great to have in some way a hand in bringing food to someone’s table whether you are on the frontline selling vegetables at a farmers market or behind the scenes teaching or researching the next new innovation.  Also, in generally the agriculture industry has so many great people to work with.  There is such a great network of people and even if you are in a different area of agriculture you still feel this connection and common interest or goal with others in the ag industry that you can all relate to.   If you ever need help there are always people willing to step up and help out.


Alicia Sunderlage
Southern Illinois University – Carbondale


A few years ago, drones zoomed into the public eye. Since then, they’ve become a much more common sight. Recreational drones are now popular, and various startups and corporations have been developing new ways to use them.

In agriculture, drones are having an especially large impact. As companies continue to innovate new ways they can be used in agriculture and more farmers adopt the technology, drones are likely to revolutionize agriculture in the next five to 10 years. Here are a few benefits they can provide for agriculture.

Improve Efficiency

Drone technology can help farmers make their operations much more efficient, which saves them money and leads to more affordable and abundant food supplies. Drones can do this by helping farmers with all sorts of farming tasks include surveying land, planting seeds and monitoring crops.


One UK-based startup, BioCarbon Engineering, is developing drone technology that can survey an area, create a planting blueprint and then actually plant seeds. It plants the seeds by launching biodegradable canisters containing a germinated seed and plant nutrients into the ground.

The startup created the idea to replant trees to help stop deforestation, but the idea has a lot of potential for farmers too. Automating the planting process, at least partly, could save them time and money while freeing them up to do other work on their farm.

Higher Yields

Diseases, pests, underwatering and other problems can cause farmers to end up with lower yields. If they can spot these issues early, however, they may be able to put a stop to them before they significantly damage yield.

Drones can help farmers monitor their fields and spot problem areas before they do real harm. Drones can fly over fields and see things from a vantage point you couldn’t get from the ground. They can also regularly monitor crops by flying over and taking photos or sensing conditions. The farmer can review the data from the drones allowing them to identify any changes, even small ones.

When combined with other technologies, drones may be especially useful. Using drones and technology that allows farmers to track equipment location, speed and avoidance zones would help farmers to get a more accurate picture of their entire farming operation.

5-11-17pexels-photo-186635 (1)

Using drones can allow farmers to monitor their crops more quickly and efficiently, which saves them time and money. If they stop problems before they spread, they’ll save their crops and save money. The profits from higher yields may even be worth more than the cost of a drone. When farmers save money, the cost of food may also go down for consumers and the quality of produce may improve as farmers can invest more back into their farming operations.

Environmental Benefits

More accurate field monitoring may have environmental benefits as well. Being able to pinpoint an area where pests are causing problems, for example, allows farmers to target just that area with pesticides. This reduces the amount of chemicals used, which means fewer chemicals will enter the water, get into the air and contaminate other crops.

Stopping those plant diseases and other issues before they spread can help the environment as well. There’s less risk of those diseases spreading to other plants if they’re spotted and stopped early. When farmers are able to harvest more of the crops they plant, they may also be able to plant less. This means more land can be conserved and can continue being a habitat for animals and a hub for plant life and biodiversity.

Agriculture has a huge impact on the environment, especially as human populations continue to rise. Drones may play a part in reducing that impact in the future by allowing for more efficient farming operations. Better yields would also help us face the challenge of feeding our growing population.

5-11-17pexels-photo-248837 (1)Although some worry drones could compromise privacy and cause other issues, there are also plenty of potential benefits from the use of drones. While those fears are certainly not unfounded, the benefits may outweigh the risks if we use them correctly. Responsible use and appropriate regulations will play a part in how beneficial drones are to society. In agriculture, especially, they’re already doing a lot of good and have the potential to do much more as the technology continues to improve.


Megan Wild
Contributing Writer
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