YOUNG PERSON IN AG: MAZI WALKER

Mazi can make friends anywhere she goes. On a bus going to Washington D.C. or at a conference for an organization, she loves meeting new people. Don’t talk about sheep too close to her or she will talk your ear off about how much she loves sheep and its industry. Her passion for meeting new people, sheep, and leadership is what makes her a great young person in ag.

  1. What is your ag background?

I am the fourth-generation agriculturists where in the past we farmed corn and soybeans, but know we are only focused on the sheep industry. We currently run about 20 breeding ewes with alternating breeding rams every two years. The lambs will be born between January 1st and March 31st. The lambs that don’t meet show quality will be sold to local consumers and sale barns. The sheep industry has opened many doors for me and is something I am happy to be a part of and teach others about it.

  1. What college do you attend and what is your major?

I am a freshman at Lake Land College in Mattoon, IL in the Agriculture Transfer program. After Lake Land, I will transfer to a four-year university and double major in agriculture business and animal science.

  1. What is your involvement at Lake Land?

I am a Freshman Delegate in the Student Government Association that represents the student body. I am also a part of our Agriculture Transfer Club and the Inaugural Colligate Farm Bureau here on campus.

  1. What were some of your high school experiences/involvement in ag?

I was a part of many organizations including serving on the 2016-2017 state FFA officer team as the Section 13 President. I also served as the District III student director. In 4-H I have been the president of my club for the past 4 years. My senior year I was able to start my own agricultural business, Black Sheep Photography. I traveled to different livestock shows and farms to take photos of livestock that was then used as promotional tools.

  1. What is your dream job?

I really hope to one day open up my own feed mill to supply livestock producers with feed as well as help them with supplements for their animals.

  1. Do you have any mentors?

My main mentor would have to be my mom. She has never relied on anybody, even in terms of a job. She has opened two successful businesses.

  1. Do you remember anything that has really changed in agriculture?

I have seen more and more involvement with the youth in the agriculture industry. Youth are becoming involved earlier in 4-H and learning about where their food comes from. However, there is still a large gap between those children and other children who do not know where their food comes from.

  1. How do you see the agriculture industry changing in the next 5-10 years?

I see technology becoming bigger and better. I also see GMO’s becoming bigger and better. Hopefully with that comes, even more, education about where our food comes from so consumers can be well educated.

  1. Do you have any advice for younger people in agriculture/FFA or thinking about agriculture as a career?

Don’t sell yourself short, even if you don’t come from an agriculture background. Agriculture is getting bigger, never smaller. If you think you can play a part in this industry or have a new idea then go for it.

  1. Have you ever been looked down on because you’re a young woman in the agriculture industry?

Women in the livestock industry/ show industry are supposed to know their place which is usually just along the fence or alongside the show ring and aren’t supposed to do anything. When they do step up they are looked at as bossy or rude when really, they just want the same opportunities as everyone else. I would say that I have experienced this and have learned how to deal with it.

Lacie Butler
Lake Land College

CANNED PUMPKINS: FROM FARM TO STORE SHELVES

The Today Show recently featured a story on how Libby’s Pumpkin products are produced, starting with the farm. This in-depth leaves no step of the process to the imagination as you the journey from the farm to store shelves. This transparency is something we welcome in the agriculture industry and hope that through this video, consumers will have a better understanding of how food gets to their tables.

FARMERS FIGHTING HUNGER

Farmers work diligently every day to feed the ever-growing population. Think about what was on your dinner plate last night. In a world without farmers, that plate would be empty. Society would have to return to the days of hunting and gathering. There is no way we could support the current population in this way.

It’s not enough for farmers to produce the food that sustains life as we know it. They wanted to do more to help fight hunger. Farmers across the country donate to local food banks as individuals and as businesses. Farmers work land that has been passed down for generations. No industry results in deep community ties in the way that farming does. Simply put, farmers care.

Agriculture organizations do their best to encourage this behavior and aid in the cause. Illinois Corn Marketing Board regularly donates to the “Pork Power” program that is run by the Illinois Pork Producers. Donations can be made in the form of the cash value of an animal sold at market or in the form of an animal to the program. The pork is then shared with local food banks to provide a source of healthy protein. Since the program began in 2008, 565,000 pounds of pork have been donated to hungry mouths across the state of Illinois. That totals up to more than 2.3 million servings of pork.

Illinois farmers didn’t stop with just donating pork to the needy, many farmers also donate other foods such as sweet corn to local food banks. Think about a warm summer day, sitting out of the back porch with your family eating sweetcorn along with your dinner. With Sweet Corn for Charity, hungry Illinois residents are now able to share that experience. More than 60 thousand pounds of sweet corn was donated to food banks both locally and into inner-city areas across the state of Illinois.

via FarmWeekNow.com

Instances such as those listed above are far from rarities. Nationally, farmers can be seen donating their fresh produce to local food banks. Access to fresh produce is incredibly challenging for many people both in and out of cities. The generosity of those who are privileged enough to have easy access to fresh produce encourage healthy habits and expand the opportunities for the less fortunate.

Consider how you can join the cause to feed America. Planting a small garden could provide your family with fresh produce over the course of the summer. When the warm summer weather produces a bountiful harvest of produce, you can donate to your own favorite charity. Just like the American farmer, you too can feed the world one hungry mouth at a time.

Shelby Carlson
University of Illinois

YOUNG PERSON IN AG: KADE GAMBILL

Kade Gambill, Second From Right

Kade Gambill knows his stuff. Ask him just about any questions about agriculture, politics, or agriculture policy and Kade most likely knows it. Kade did not grow up on a farm but once he got into the industry and saw what all it had to offer he was hooked. His goals and passions are very commendable making him a great leader as well as a great young person in ag.

  1. What college do you attend, what is your major and your future plans?

I am currently a sophomore at Kaskaskia College in Centralia Illinois. After that, I plan to go to Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky to major in Agriculture Business with a focus in Economics. I have also really found a passion for Agriculture Policy so that is something I may go into also. I want to work in Southern Illinois where I am originally from and possibly open some sort of AgriBusiness business or work with Farm Bureau or a private company with their agriculture policy and law department. I may not know exactly what I want to do, but I do know that I want to work in the Agriculture Industry.

  1. What is your involvement at school?

I am involved in multiple different clubs including Ag Club as an officer and PAS. I also work some with the research farm that my agriculture department partnered with the Fayette County Farm Bureau to operate, as well as helping organize different contest for different FFA contests

  1. High school experience/involvement in ag?

I was involved in numerous clubs and organizations. I was the Section 21 President my senior year of high school and got the opportunity to travel the state as well as to a few states with my 29 other teammates where we lead, organized, and helped with anything Illinois FFA related. My section included about 16 schools and 1000 students and is something that I will never forget. I also was involved with Farm Bureau and served as the student representative on the school board.

  1. Mentors?

My freshman year of high school was the first year that agriculture classes were being offered so I decided to take one. Before high school, I was not even thinking about being any part of the agriculture industry. My agriculture teacher and FFA advisor Casey Bolin really pushed me and encouraged me to be involved and to make my own path in this industry as well as in FFA to take leadership roles that I didn’t think I would normally.

  1. Some internship highlights?

This past summer I interned for the Lieutenant Governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti, and her office. I went to Springfield twice a week and assisted her staff on different legislation she was trying to push as well talking to legislators and representatives of various interest about different bills. We also went to different businesses with her and went with to the DuQuoin and Illinois State Fairs. It was a great experience getting to talk with and get close with the Lt. Governor as well as other lawmakers. As well as, getting to see the behind the scenes work at the state government level that goes on. It gives you a new appreciation/look at that process.

  1. In the terms of age of Agriculture, we are very young people, but do you remember anything that really changed agriculture in any way

I think there has been a lot of misinformation that has gone around. Whether that be because people are not from the farm or people making up things I don’t know. But I think it is our job as young people to hopefully fix that kind of gap of what is right and wrong information.

  1. How do you see the agriculture industry changing in the next 5-10 years?

Technology is going to get bigger and better. I look forward to the day that farmers are getting to run their combines or tractors from their phone. Hopefully, by then agriculture companies and interest groups like the Farm Bureau will have been able to bridge that gap we just talked about on what agriculture really is and where people’s food and fiber come from.

  1. Do you have any advice for younger people in agriculture/FFA or thinking about agriculture as a career?

I may not know exactly what I want to do, but I do know that I want to work in the Agriculture Industry. I have met so many people through FFA, college, and so many other things. This industry is welcoming and encouraging and I want to be a part of that. My advice would be to embrace ALL those welcome people and opportunities. I have regretted some missed opportunities of things that would have helped me in my professional life. You can’t be too involved in a group or organization.

Lacie Butler
Lake Land College

WHY FARMERS CARE ABOUT LEGISLATIVE ISSUES

Farmers are often considered to be a “jack of all trades”, and there is a reason for that.  On any given day, they can be mechanics, construction workers, scientists, and meteorologists.  What most people don’t think farmers specialize in is policy, but they do that too.  It makes sense if you think about it. There are a lot of rules when it comes to farming, and they need to stay up to date on legislative issues because they directly affect their livelihood.

They have a lot to lose

 

Because farmers have so much invested, they also have a lot.  In all reality, it is a wonder that farmers are able to survive in today’s economy.  It may seem like their fields of green turn into the best kind of green (money), but that is not always the case.  Farmers spend millions on their harvesters, planters fertilizers, irrigation, sheds, seeds and land but that doesn’t mean that they have millions.  Their inputs cost so much, that they need the highest prices out of their outputs possible just to stay afloat.  The government can help farmers through creating policies that help farmers yield the most out of their inputs.

 

Farmers are usually self-employed

 

In my family, my parents’ employers provide insurance and retirement, but that usually isn’t the case for farmers.  Especially if the farmer’s spouse does not have outside employment, they have to make room in their income for things that most people are provided in the workplace.  In order to afford this, they need to make their voice heard to lawmakers when it comes time to create policies like health care acts.  Farmers also need the government to support companies that give them loans to make large purchases like equipment.  Especially considering that farming is dangerous, farmers need insurance.

They care about their families

 

Even if they make enough to provide for their family right now, they can never be certain for the future.  Farming is a family tradition.  Most farmers have been passed down land from many generations, and they want to pass it down to their children.  When farmers get involved in legislative issues involving agriculture, it is because they care about the future of their farm.  One year yields could reach an all-time high, and the next year a drought could kill all of the crops.  On top of this, land is becoming more and more valuable with technology advancements.  Legislators need to implement policies that ensure long-term farming success, and they are more likely to listen to the farmers talk about their families than anyone else.

For some farmers, it’s a hobby

Policy is interesting. Even if a farmer runs a very successful operation, they might be involved just because they can make a difference for other farmers.  The agriculture industry is huge, and companies have plenty of representation, but what politicians like to see are the real people, like farmers, who care.

Over the summer, I was able to see how involved farmers actually are in farm policy.  They want to talk to legislators, and they want to be heard.  Because farming is so necessary to our economy, farming is highly regulated.  The people who know agriculture best are the farmers cultivating the land, which is why their voice matters the most.

Kylie Bohman
University of Illinois

THE “GHOULING” TRUTH ABOUT DRIVING DURING HARVEST

Harvest season is in full swing throughout the Midwest region, and with harvest comes farmers (and their equipment) driving on the roads. The ‘average Joe’ would have no clue what really goes into driving combines down a busy-traffic road, but it is really quite dangerous. It is important to realize that a farmer puts his safety at risk every time he/she drives down the road in their farm equipment. Road safety is important, especially in the country this time of year. Here are 5 spooky truths about driving during this harvest, Halloween season.

  1. Your car is a ‘ghost’ to the equipment driver.

When driving past any piece of farm equipment, passing is very dangerous. Most likely, the driver cannot see you- there is a lot more of him than you, and it can be difficult to get around the vehicle in a timely and safe manner. The last thing anyone wants is a deadly accident. Farm equipment can usually only go a max speed of 30 mph, and they are prone to wide turns.

2. Move with caution, the signs are as orange as pumpkins.

Most farm equipment has large, orange caution signs on the back, visible to other drivers. When you see these signs, be cautious. Realize that you might need to slow down, pass with care, and realize that you have to share the road.

3. Don’t be ‘spooked’ by big farm equipment.

You will know farm equipment when you see it: a giant green or red tractor, combine, carts, or trucks. Most farmers know that their equipment is big, slow, and take up a lot of space. But, don’t forget that a farmer’s 18,000-pound tractor cannot go 70 mph. down the road. Be prepared to slow down to their speed.

4. No need to be a ‘witch’, farmers understand.

Farmers understand that their equipment is slow, they understand you want to pass them as you’re trying to get to your destination. Farmer’s will drive over the shoulder of the road, but you have to give them time. They have to be cautious of guard rails, road signs, and other vehicles on the road. There is no need for you to honk, make angry gestures, or anything of that nature. Realize that farmers are just trying to do their job.

5. Trick or Treat! Farmers are just like you and me.

This is the busiest time of the year for farmers all across the country. Making sure they can get their crops in before snowfall and freezing temperatures is hard. This is their job, we have to respect that. Safety comes first.

The most important thing to remember this time of year is that safety is the most important thing. We have to remember that this is a part of country life, farmers driving is just the norm this time of year. The spooky truth is this- farmers have a family to come home to at the end of each night during harvest, so please drive safe. For more tips and tricks this harvest season- check out this article full of harvest driving to-dos.

To all the farming families here in the Midwest and across the country, we wish you a bountiful harvest and a safe fall and Halloween season!

Ashley Hauptman
Illinois State University

WHAT IF YOUNG PEOPLE QUIT COMING BACK TO FARM?

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 farm?
  • What if we don’t have enough food to feed the growing population?

Sara Pieper
Western Illinois University

10 WORDS ABOUT AGRICULTURE THAT MAY HAVE CONFUSED YOU

When hearing agriculture words sometimes we sit back and think “what is that exactly? How is that used?” Some terms are very confusing and without using them yourself they wouldn’t make sense. Here are some common agriculture terms I am used to hearing from my family and being surrounded by others in agriculture.

  1. Tagging. When a new calf is born most farmers choose to tag the ear on them. The purpose of this is to keep an identification on the calf in relation to the mother and the year they were born. You might hear your friends say “going to spend my night tagging tonight”.
  2.  Harvest. During the fall months of the year, farms spend countless hours out harvesting crops. This is the process of collecting plants that were planted in the spring. One of the prettiest times of the year is during harvest seeing all the bright plants of summer change to yellow and brown are so fitting with fall.
  3. Irrigation. Luck enough in the Midwest we usually do not have to use irrigation systems but in southern Illinois, it is a very common thing. With clay soil and not very much water this season it is important to have a controlled water source for our crops. This is why as farmers we are always praying for rain!
  4. Bushel. If you have ever come across your local farm report on the radio you have heard this term many of times. Such as price per bushel this week has gone up or has went down. This is used as a measurement for dry crops, usually 1 peck (which is what we use for apples so imagine 1 bushel equals 42 pounds of apples).
  5. Combine. One of the most important pieces of equipment in agriculture. Used to harvest and thresh crops which is very important. Growing up as a farm kid spending hours in the combine with your dad is something we look forward to.
  6. Steer. No not in that direction! We’re talking cattle not directions this time. A male calf that has been castrated, which is important if you want to eat the meat. This keeps the taste very fresh and not very tough!
  7. Cover Crop. Blankets are optional when planting these crops! When it is off season for our main crops to grow (such as corn and soybeans) we grow cover crops! This helps with keeping the soil exactly how we would like it till we can plant our main crops again.
  8. Acre. I always tell people that an acre is very close to the size of a football field. This is the measurement we use in farming to describe an amount of land that we are using. Around 44,000 square foot is the total distance, imagine having to walk that!
  9. Compost. Most of us could actually start composting in our yards very easily too! We use waste matter (leaves, egg shells and old food) which is very easy to find. This is a very nutritious fertilizer for plants and something fruit and vegetable farms use often.
  10. Specialty Crop. Some of my favorite snacks are specialty crops! This is all the fruits, vegetables, and nursery crops we grow. With more difficulties growing locations and seasons this why they get the name that they have, but they do make the best treats.

Alison Heard
Southern Illinois University

GROWERS’ GRATITUDE

Harvest is upon us and that means that the farmers have begun their endless days of work. You have probably been spotting the floating lights in the fields from the combines running hours after dark.  You will see the once towering corn fields cut down to reveal the soil they’ve been growing in for months with only a short nub of a stalk left to show that something grew there.

What you won’t be seeing is the families back at home running meals out to those fields for the farmers. You won’t see the missed birthdays, missed sports games, and lack of family dinners. You won’t see the broken-hearted farmer that had to finish early for the night because a piece of machinery broke and they don’t have the part to fix it.

What you won’t see are a farmer’s kids “corn swimming” in the back of the semi-trucks. What you won’t see is the bright smile of a wife welcoming her husband come home in the early hours of the morning. What you won’t see are the sleepy faces of a farmer’s kids after riding around in combines all day. What you won’t see are the laughs and smiles of farming families gathered around a table on Thanksgiving sharing good memories despite the hard work they’ve all been through the past weeks of harvest.

When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” –Gilbert K. Chesterton

When it comes to harvest, the whole family is involved in one way or another. They celebrate that extra acre they got done last night and they all get heavy hearts when the machinery breaks down. They do not take their time together during this season for granted. “Harvest is always an incredibly busy time of year for farm families. There are a lot of sacrifices made and not much free time but it all is worth it when you can see what comes from all the hard work” states Jennifer Lindstrom, a farmer’s wife from central Illinois. Growers put their hearts and souls into their farms. A farm is a farmer’s way of life rather than a job and the sacrifices that come with that are immense. There are no holidays or set vacation days. However, any farm family would tell you they would not give it up for the world.

Coming from a small farm, it gives me great hope and pride to see other family farms thrive as well as be appreciated. I have grown up experiencing all that goes into the growing seasons, year after year, and it has taught me how to be grateful for what we accomplish as well as how to adapt to the unexpected roadblocks. There is a lot of work that goes into maintaining your own farm. The long hours, the hard labor, and the mental toll that goes into it make growers nothing short of superheroes. I am grateful for the sacrifices each farm family makes during this time, as well as thankful for the memories that strengthen their family bond.

Maddi Lindstrom
University of Illinois