NAFTA IS IMPORTANT FOR ALL NORTH AMERICANS!

Maybe you’ve never considered what the North American Free Trade Agreement has meant for you.  Maybe you’ve never considered what it means for others in our country and all over our continent.

To name a few, NAFTA means Mexicans have corn for tortillas and porkfor carnitas.  It means Canada has cleaner air because they use U.S. ethanol for fuel.

Read more.  I hope what you learn will surprise you!

SPENDING MORE FOR HORMONE FREE?

Did you realize that you don’t need to?

Per federal law, hormone use is not allowed for growth promotion in hog farming or poultry farming.  Hormones are sometimes used and allowed for reproductive purposes in hogs.

Therefore, grocery store labels reading “hormone free” on packages of chicken and pork are just marketing ploys for consumers to purchase these products.

In cattle farming, farmers are allowed to use growth hormones.  The hormones are injected under the skin of the ear where the hormones dissolve slowly over time.  This is not all that different from women using an IUD (slow release hormone) to control pregnancy!

Growth hormones are used to produce leaner meats more efficiently.  They are in the ear because the ear is never used or consumed.

If this still makes you nervous, here’s a visual representation of the amount of hormones in the steak you might have on your plate.

If we use one M&M to represent the amount of nanograms of hormones in our foods, then a three-ounce steak would have half an M&M, while three ounces of cabbage would have a mason jar full.

There really is no need to pay more for hormone-free protein.  If you feel better and safer about it, then buy it!  But buy it with your eyes wide open.

 

GET READY FOR THE SPRING SEMESTER WITH AG MAGS!

Repost from ilcorn.org

Illinois Ag in the Classroom provides teachers important, interesting and even fun classroom curriculum on agriculture for free!  Make sure the teachers in your life have incorporated an Ag Mag into their spring 2018 curriculum and get those requests to your county ag literacy coordinator today!

Ag Mags are 4-page, colorful agricultural magazines for kids. They contain information about agriculture, bright pictures, classroom activities and agricultural careers.

Many Ag Mags are interactive.  They are set up for smart board usage in the classroom and give teachers opportunities to engage their students with various videos, online articles, and real-world applications to help students understand how what they are learning in the classroom makes a difference in real-world discussions.

Best of all, Ag Mags are designed to meet specific learning standards.  As an example, the Corn Ag Mag includes the following note:

This Ag Mag complements, and can be connected to, the following educational standards:

Common Core State Standards:

  • ELA-Literacy – RI.4.2; RI.4.4; RI4.7; RI.4:10; W.4.7-4.9; SL.4.1; SL.4.4; L4.1; L4.6
  • Mathematics – 4.MD; 5.MD
  • Next Generation Science Standards:
  • Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems: 3-LS4-3; Energy: 4-ESS3-1; Structure,
  • Function, and Information Processing: 4-LS1; Structure and Properties of Matter: 5-PS1-3;
  • Structure and Properties of Matter: 5-PS1-4

IL Social Science Standards:

  • Human-Environment Interaction: Place, Regions and Culture: SS.G.3.4; Human Population: SS.G.3.4;
  • Exchange and Markets: SS.EC.2.4; Causation and Argumentation: SS.H.3.4

There are tons of other free resources available to teachers to incorporate agriculture education into their classrooms AND meet state learning standards.  For more information, check out the Ag in the Classroom website here.

ILLINOIS FARM FAMILIES: LEARN THE LABEL LINGO

Originally published on Illinois Farm Families

In a world filled with choice, a food label can be like a beacon of fluorescent light in the middle of a grocery aisle. Nutritional content, ingredients – this is information that helps. But then there are labels that mislead or confuse rather than clarify, hindering your ability to pick out healthy, nutritious food for you and your family – no matter the claim.

We want to help you wade through the words. So when labels lie, you know the facts behind how your food is grown and raised.

TOP POSTS OF 2017 #4: WHAT DO FARMERS WEAR?

[Originally published: May 18, 2017]

As farmers and agriculturalists, we do things a little differently. We work long hours, we work extremely hard, and we aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty. And when it comes to fashion, well, we’re in a league of our own.

We always have something on our boots. Sometimes it’s mud, sometimes it’s manure. And sometimes, we aren’t really sure what’s on our boots. But it will rub off soon.

Photo Credit: Forbes

We all have those jeans that are worn in just the right amount. They’re faded, rough around the edges, and the most comfortable jeans we own. Don’t be surprised if we wear them for a week.

Just like our jeans, we all have a favorite hat. It may be a brand hat or your family’s farm’s hat, but we all have one that fits better than the others. Whether we’re 5 or 50, we just love that hat.

Sometimes we work all day and still have errands to run in town. We are not afraid to stop into the bank or the local grocery store. And if we smell, we’re sorry. It’s just a part of the job.

Some people carry bags, but farmers carry side cutters or pliers. You just never know when something is going to need snipping or tightening.

In the cold winters, our livestock still needs feeding. Coveralls are the perfect solution. Our clothes underneath stay clean and we stay warm. They are a fashion statement of farmers everywhere.

Some colleges with equine programs will have riding classes during the day. You will be able to hear me coming down the hall with my spurs. Hopefully, it isn’t too disrupting!

Some of the brands we wear are unknown to a lot of people. We love the look and the quality, unfortunately, if we outgrow them, it makes it hard to sell to someone!

Many people I know, myself included, have gone off the beaten path when it comes to music. Walking into a livestock show or traveling to different states, you see many different band t-shirts you may have never heard of. Jason Isbell, Cross Canadian Ragweed, William Clark Green. You may not know them now, but you should. You won’t be disappointed.

A must-have for livestock girls everywhere is the Miss Me jean. It’s very rare to go to a livestock show and not see bling!

If you’re walking around a livestock show, you will see hundreds of pairs of Twisted X boots. They are original and they are comfy. It also makes it easy to spot a livestock kid on campuses, allowing for easy start up conversations.

T-shirts, hats, and sweatshirts are full of different logos. Some are John Deere, some are Case, but others are not as recognizable. Every farm has a logo, and we wear the heck out of them. Most people don’t understand it, but when we see one we recognize, we feel a little pride.

Every farm kid has that old beat up t-shirt that they didn’t want to get rid of. So, they cut the sleeves off and made it more breathable and easy to work in.

When we go out, we channel our inner George Strait. Sometimes, our dress clothes and work clothes look the same. The dress clothes are a touch cleaner and not so rough.

Not everyone chews Skoal, but those that do usually have a ring left on their jeans. It always goes right back to the same spot, and if it isn’t there, you notice it.

Photo Credit: Wild Wyoming Woman

Our back door is full of different kinds of boots. A couple of pairs are the same because we loved the first pair so much. Some pairs are nice and some are worn in. But each pair has a purpose and we can’t live without them

Our clothes may be different, our way of life may be different, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t relatable. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation. You’ll be surprised how much we can learn from each other.

Jess Manthe
Iowa State University

TOP POSTS OF 2017 #3: A FARMER’S DAY VS A BUSINESSMAN’S DAY

[Originally published: October 16, 2017]

Corn husks and dust flying around in the air, the fresh smell of soil being turned over, and farm machinery is being spotted on every highway and backroad. If you haven’t guessed already, harvest time is in full swing. Sometimes it is quite easy for us to overlook what a day in the life of a farmer is like, especially during this time of year. As an individual that is not involved in the agriculture industry, it may be easy to not see how much a farmer’s life can vary compared to the average business person’s, particularly throughout the fall.

The average business person spends their eight hour work day sitting in a cubicle working on their computer. Mounds of paperwork lay on their desk just waiting to be completed. They eat lunch with their boss and wear office clothes all day long. The typical business person also talks on a phone throughout the day. After work, they may head home to their own spouse and kids to sit down for a family dinner. A non-farmer may even sit down with their kids and help them with their homework at the kitchen table. They may also go to different recreational events, such as a pumpkin patch or a football game, on the weekends and enjoy their time off of work.

Meanwhile, the average farmer watches the sun rise and set every day from the seat of a combine, tractor or semi. During a twelve or more hour work day, a farmer uses a computer in the cab of his or her farm machinery while wearing jeans and a shirt that are meant to get covered in dirt and grease. Lunch for a farmer is usually simple and easy to eat while continuing on with harvest. The most common type of communication used by a farmer throughout the day is a CB radio that allows them to easily talk to other people that are helping harvest the crop. As the day gets closer to the end, a farmer will enjoy a nice meal with his or her family on a tailgate. A farmer’s child may even climb up in the cab and ask to drive or simply just ride in the “buddy” seat. A farmer may also take their child for a ride in the semi as another load of grain gets taken into the grain elevator. There are no weekends off for a farmer during harvest unless Mother Nature calls for a rain delay, but even then a farmer will still find something that needs to be done.

Although their days may fulfill similar tasks as the average business person, a farmer makes several sacrifices to assure that the job of feeding the world is being accomplished. So, as you are driving to work or running errands make sure to wave and share the roads with every farmer that you see. Being involved in production agriculture isn’t an easy task and a lot of behind the scenes actions get overlooked. As you sit on the couch and watch TV tonight, remember that 2% of the population is just clocking out and getting ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Sierra Day
Lake Land College

TOP POSTS OF 2017 #2: WHAT IF YOUNG PEOPLE QUIT COMING BACK TO FARM?

[Originally published: October 17, 2017]

When I was growing up, I was told I could be anything I wanted to be. A doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, an astronaut…  But only a few kids ever mentioned being a farmer.

Prior to 1990, most farmers and ranchers were under the age of 45. As the years go on, most farmer and ranchers are OVER the age of 45, with less and less new blood coming in. The problem we are facing is we have an aging farming population. If left unchecked, this could threaten our ability to produce the food we need.

So why is it that the younger generations are not wanting to come back to the farm?

  • Youth want to be better educated to get good jobs.
  • Farming is mentally and physically exhausting.
  • Changing norms.
  • “It’s too expensive and risky.”

Farming has become a very risky business. There are many costs a farmer has to pay before receiving a check. The price of land has gone up, equipment prices are always on the rise, input prices have gone up, and commodity prices have been seeing ups and downs. Not to mention there is always that chance of droughts or floods.  It is hard work being a farmer.

The ups and downs of farming are nothing new. Young people just do not want to gamble all of their time and money into something that involves such great risk.

Like President John F. Kennedy once said, “The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything retail, sells everything wholesale, and pays freight both ways.” It was a true statement then, and it certainly is a true statement still today.

Right now we are facing a growing population around the world. The current population of 7.3 billion is expected to hit 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050. We need more young men and women coming back to the farm more now than ever. Small farms are what grows America!

  • What if a college graduate comes back to the farm, with student loans and can’t make enough money to pay them back?
  • What if a young farmer loses his farm because he cannot afford to pay his bills?
  • What if young people quit coming back to the farm?
  • What if we don’t have enough food to feed the growing population?

Sara Pieper
Western Illinois University

TOP POSTS OF 2017 #1: TO THE FARM KID DURING HARVEST

[Originally published: September 19, 2017]

That time of year is quickly approaching. You know the time of year where the air becomes colder, the food you eat becomes warmer, and the sunset comes sooner. It’s the time of the year that you look forward to every year because you get to finally see the combine going in fields nearby and maybe just maybe you get to ride in the tractor to the elevator to drop off some freshly harvested grain. But what no one really tells you is that sometimes these can be really hard because you might not get to see your mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa like you are used to because they have to get the crops out of the field. Take it from me, a farm kid whose dad not only farms but also runs multiple grain elevators. During harvest, I barely see my dad for around six to eight weeks. My dad has missed endless amounts of concerts, sporting events, birthdays, and literally any event during the months of September through November. Having a dad that would go to literally everything you had to him not being there all the time was and is still super hard to deal with. But this is what I have learned through all of the harvests that I have been through:

When you get the chance to ride/drive in combine or tractor with them, do it!

Though this might be a “well duh” moment to you, remember that this might be the only time during the week that you get to see them. Enjoy the ride. Stay off your phone. And actually, talk to them. I have found that some of my conversations ever have happened in either a combine or tractor.

It hurts them not being able to see you as much as it hurts you!

Though they may not come out and say it, they miss you as much as you miss them. Though they might like harvest, the endless hours can sometimes get to be too much for them. Know that they miss not being at every event that you have in life. They really do. But know that they want to be there cheering you on and even though they might not be there physically they are still cheering you on.

Help make a meal to take to them in the field.

Okay, this isn’t harvest, but come on. THIS IS ADORABLE

Nothing. And I mean nothing (okay maybe no equipment breaking down) is better during harvest than a home-cooked meal. If you know or are able to, make something for that someone that you miss that you can take to them in the field or wherever they are. The way to someone’s heart is through their stomach (I think that’s how that saying goes, LOL) and I am sure they will get the hint loud and clear that you love them, miss them, and care for them.

Remember this doesn’t last forever.

Harvest (hopefully) only lasts between six to eight weeks. Though it can, and sometimes does feel like a long time, know that it will end. Life will go back to how it normally was. They will be found on the sidelines of your games, sitting in the auditorium waiting for your performance, and tucking you into bed like they normally do.

You are not alone

It’s going to seem like you are alone. Like no one else is going through this. But that is not true. Even though people around you might not be saying all the time that they miss _____ because of harvest, they really do. Know that there are so many people, people you might not even know that are going through this time of missing someone because of harvest, but like I said earlier harvest does not last forever.

To all of the Farm Kids and Farm Families gearing up for harvest, I wish you nothing but a successful and smooth harvest season. Always remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that harvest does not last forever. Enjoy this season!

Abby Jacobs
Illinois State University