We all love our teachers, but looking back there are things we wish somebody had told us. Here are six things about agriculture that I wish were taught in school.

  1. Food is not easy to grow.

farmer in fieldOn TV you always see farmers portrayed as a bunch of uneducated hillbillies, but that is not the case! There is a lot more to growing food than most people realize; farming is a science. Farmers have to be masters of chemistry, agronomy, physics, mathematics, economics, and meteorology. In fact, there are over 70 colleges across the country that offer degrees in Farm Management. Who knew?

  1. Most of the corn we see in the fields isn’t sweet corn.

There are several different types of corn grown in the US, but the main type is field corn, also called dent corn. This corn is used for animal feed and also processed into ethanol, corn syrup, and other products like makeup and plastic. Less than 1% of the corn grown in the US is sweet corn! Check out this math lesson teachers could use to teach students about corn.

  1. Dirt is not the same everywhere you go.

soilHave you ever wondered why Arizona soil is so much redder than the dark black soils we have here in central Illinois? It turns out there is much more to dirt than meets the eye. All soil is made up of a combination of three components: sand, silt, and clay. The way a soil looks, feels, and even how well crops can be grown in it can all be predicted by looking at the age of the soil (some soils are thousands of years old!), mineral composition, topography of the land, and what the native vegetation was. There are even people whose whole job is studying soil!

  1. Hamburgers and milk don’t come from the same place.

eat mor chikinEveryone has seen the Chick-fil-a commercials where the black and white cows are telling you to eat more chicken, but besides being a cute marketing strategy it doesn’t actually make sense. Holsteins, like the Chick-fil-a cow, are one of hundreds of breeds of dairy cattle that are milked to make cheese and ice cream, but very rarely used for meat. A more accurate commercial would have a Black Angus because they are the most common beef breed in the US. These are the cattle that are raised for their meat to be processed into steaks, roasts, and burgers.

  1. Farmers do care about the environment.

The media is always pointing its finger at the agriculture industry for polluting the atmosphere or causing global climate change, but farmers really do care about the environment. In fact, they are effected even more than the rest of us by global climate change. As the climate patterns change over time, new pests invade our fields that they are not equipped to handle. This in turn lowers their yield and actually costs them money!

  1. There are chemicals in your food. Gasp!

Pyridoxine, Natamycin, and Carboxymethylcellulose, oh my! Find out what these chemicals are. Just because something has a long name doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, all food is naturally made out of chemicals called vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A chemical-free diet would mean that you couldn’t eat anything!

elizabeth brownElizabeth Brown
Purdue University


Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and birthdays all have something in common, and it isn’t just time for celebration. All of these events host some of the most anticipated meals of the year! For my family, food is the centerpiece of gatherings and makes everyone come together to enjoy the time with each other.

A question I always have is “Where does all this food come from?” I know I have that certain outspoken cousin that would be first to give the know-it-all answer of “Well, Walmart of course!” That is not the answer I am looking for, however. Where was that food before it is on the shelves of Walmart? What should I know about that food that the shelves and labels don’t tell me?

Fear not fellow question-askers! There are Pinterest boards out there with answers to all these questions and more. Here are my ten favorite Pinterest boards with some great information on the foods we love!

  1. Best Food Facts

This board is very true to its name. From fun recipes to food safety knowledge, this board has a broad range of information to look at even if you do not have a specific question about foods. If you are looking to just browse and learn a little about the food you eat, this is the best board out there!

  1. MN Food Facts

The shelf life of different types of food is something I do not know off the top of my head, so that is why I like this board! There are pins that give that information about shelf life and also some kitchen and cooking tips. Also, my favorite food of all time is fruit, so I love Blueberriesthis pin about what fruits are in season at certain times of the year!

  1. Infographics

The Pinterest account that created this board is called Where Food Comes From, so it is a great account to look at overall. This board specifically caught my eye because I love a good infographic! I think they are so fun and easy to read, so it is easy to learn things from them. Look at this part of an info-loaded graphic about blueberries!

  1. Food for Thought

The description of this board gives the best explanation about it! You can read the description below, but basically this board is a conversation between farmers and consumers about anything that one would want to know. I like this board because it is a great source of farmer input for information about the food they grow!Screenshot 1

  1. Fact vs. Fiction

Answers to every answer there could be about GMO’s! What are GMO’s? They are simply organisms that have been modified to have certain traits or be more productive. This board does a great job of making distinctions between what the media portrays genetically modified organisms as and what they really are. The truth is they are a useful tool for farmers and everyone should know as much about as possible.Screenshot 2

  1. All About Beef

As you can guess from the name, this board gives answer about beef and where it comes from. Some things you may have heard of in the beef industry, that this board answers questions about, are hormones and grass fed beef. Both of those practices are safe and more can be learned by visiting that board!Screenshot 3

  1. All Things Dairy

Every fact about dairy cattle and the milk they produced is explained and described on this board. There are pins about what milk does for the body, how milk gets from the farm to the table, and even instructions on how to make your own butter!

On a side note, I love this pin that leads to a farmer’s wife’s blog about her cute calves! Meet #308!

  1. Growing Sweet Corn

SweatshirtA summer food favorite for many, including me, is a nice ear of sweet corn. While you may get your sweet corn from a grocery store, there are many sweet corn farms that grow a lot of this delicious treat and provide it to that grocery store! This board belongs to one of those farms and has many useful tips and information about sweet corn.

As a sweet corn grower myself, I really appreciated this sweatshirt from the board. Sweet corn needs a minimum of 1 inch of water per week for normal development!

  1. Family PictureFood Families

Food on the shelves of grocery stores not only came from a farm at one point, but there was also a family that dedicated their life to the successful production of that food. This board highlights some families that have great stories about the foods they grow. How precious is this family that has a pork operation?

For more farm family stories, you can visit this bonus board and read all about Illinois farm families!

  1. Cheesecake PictureEndless Recipes

A post about food information on Pinterest would not be complete without including an account full of wonderful recipes. When I say endless recipes, I mean you could cook a different meal every day for decades if you used these farm fresh boards! My favorite boards are Colorful Veggies above the Ground, Fruit, and, of course, Dessert Recipes.

If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments.


Amanda RollinsAmanda Rollins
Illinois State University


We’ve got some great photos in the IL Corn library – photos that speak volumes about what we do and who we are as an organization as well as who the farmers are that we serve! This week, we’ll feature a few of those photos as well as share the lessons you can glean from them!

What it means to drive a Flex Fuel vehicle

IMG_00561.This is a photo of a Ford F-150 Flex Fuel truck that one of our board members currently drive. Flex Fuel means the vehicle can run on an array of combinations of gasoline and ethanol. The blends you will most likely see at your local fuel station range from E10 to E85. This acronym indicates the percentage of ethanol blended with the gasoline, 10% to 85%.

2.What is ethanol? Ethanol is an alcohol made from renewable resources such as corn and other cereal grains, food and other beverage wastes and forestry by-products. The corn-based substance is added to gasoline to reduce oil imports, reduce emissions, increase performance and reduce overall costs of transportation fuels.

3.Illinois Corn supports higher blends of ethanol in our gasoline because the higher blends create a higher demand of corn ethanol. Ethanol is made in the USA. Because ethanol is homegrown, every time you purchase it, you are buying local and supporting our farmers right here in Illinois.

4.One bushel of corn produces 2.8 gallons of ethanol in addition to several valuable food and feed co-products. Using only the starch from the corn kernel, the production process results in vitamins, protein, corn oil fiber and other by-products that can be used for food, feed and industrial use.

5.Ethanol is also cleaner burning and environmentally friendly. It reduces pollution risks for the environment and since ethanol has cleaner emissions, there are less greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that are responsible for climate change.


We’ve got some great photos in the IL Corn library – photos that speak volumes about what we do and who we are as an organization as well as who the farmers are that we serve! This week, we’ll feature a few of those photos as well as share the lessons you can glean from them!

Congressman Quigley on the Farm

quigley on farm1.  In this photo, Congressman Mike Quigley (IL-5) visited the farm to learn more about the primary industry in Illinois.  Congressman Quigley does this very cool “Undercover Congressman” program where he visits Illinoisans and tries to learn more about even the most menial jobs in our state.  I think it shows a real desire to learn – and we couldn’t have been happier to let him farm for a day

2. Connecting Illinois farmers, IL Corn staff, and elected officials is one very important job that IL Corn performs for its members.  As voters, every single American would do well to make at least one connection a year with the people that represent them!  That priority gets lost in the busyness of all of our days – so one job of our association is to help our members connect with elected officials and help elected officials understand as much about farming as possible.

3. The Congressman is standing in front of the machine that harvests corn – called a combine.  A combine is a VERY expensive piece of equipment (just under $500,000!) that a farmer simply can’t do without!  Learn more about combines here.

4. Congressman Quigley was likely shocked to learn about the very technical nature of a modern combine.  Combines monitor yield per acre, utilize GPS to minimize fuel usage and maximize efficiency, and employ a ton of other modern conveniences to make U.S. farming the most efficient food and fuel production industry in the world.

5. As farmer Steve Ruh was harvesting this field in October 2015, he was likely making around 200 bushels per acre.  (A bushel is about the size of a large bag of dog food and an acre is about the size of a football field.)  In October 1980, this same field would have yielded only about 100 bushels per acre.


As we head into 2016, we’d like to look back at the best performing posts of 2015.  All week, we’ll repost the articles you liked best!  Enjoy!!


Americans have questions about farm subsidies – and why shouldn’t they?  Americans deserve to understand what their taxes are paying for and why.  So here’s the top five questions we get on a semi regular basis and the best, short answers we can provide.  Do you have more questions on farm subsidies?  Ask away in the comments!

1. Why should tax payer dollars fund farmers anyway?

The government got involved in helping farmers stay afloat because they were interested in food security.  Our country needs to guarantee a safe, affordable, DOMESTIC food supply and not put ourselves in the position to have to import food because American farmers go out of business.  The food security portion of this equation is what makes government payments to farmers different than other businesses or industries that are also reliant on weather or market conditions.

Helping farmers stay in business also supports American rural economies that are built on farming and agriculture.  Without farm subsidies, rural communities would be completely desolate and Americans would be forced to urban areas to find work.  In essence, farm subsidies that keep farmers in business help many more Americans that don’t farm, but live in rural communities.

Illinois, farm, field, farmer, country, scenic

2. I don’t want to pay a farmer to not farm!  That’s not right!

There was a time in our history when farmers were paid to leave their land fallow.  The “set aside” program sought to control supply and increase commodity prices.  But we haven’t done this since the 1990s.  The “set aside” program was unauthorized in the 1996 Farm Bill.

3. I don’t really understand what farm subsidies are paying for then.

Government payments to farmers currently come in the form of subsidized crop insurance.  Because farming relies on the weather and is so unpredictable, farmers must insure their crops or face investing a ton of money to plant a crop only to have Mother Nature ruin their crop and leave them with no income for the year.  Crop insurance protects farmers when this happens.

But private insurance companies find the proposition too risky.  No private company can withstand a weather event like the 2012 drought we experienced here in IL.  So the government subsidizes crop insurance, making it available for farmers and encouraging them to protect themselves.

Farmers do pay a portion of their premium AND what amounts to an average of a 20 percent deductible in the event of a loss.

(Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at crop insurance and what it means to farmers in the near future!)

Marty Marr Family

4. Farmers are small businessmen and should compete in a fair and free market just like all other Americans, without government assistance.

Yes.  And that would be amazing.

But consider that farming is a different business model than most.  In most other small businesses, the business buys inputs at wholesale prices, builds a product or completes a service, and then determines the cost for the product or service based on the input costs.  Farmers do not have this business model.buy wholesale, pay retail

They must buy inputs at retail prices, pray for great weather, and accept whatever commodity price the market dictates for that month and year.  Yes, opportunities exist for farmers to mitigate risk, but they should not and can not be compared to all other small businesses because they do not get to dictate market prices that cover their cost of production.

Also, back to the first point, guaranteeing that we have affordable access to domestic food supply is somewhat different than guaranteeing access to barbershops or photographers.

5. Farmers made so much money last year.  I don’t understand why farm subsidies are still needed or even considered by Congress.

Yes, farmers did have a great year in 2013.  Commodity prices were high because of the low corn supply after the drought, but farmers still grew a lot of corn.  They did well and they didn’t need/use their crop insurance.

But like all American families know, you have good years and you have bad years.  Farmers are well versed at saving money back from the good years like 2013, to pay for the bad years like 2014 (and probably 2015!).  Government subsidized crop insurance is still needed because bad years always happen no matter how good the good years were.

If you’re still curious about farm income, read ARE FARMERS RICH here!

I am very excited to answer your questions about farm subsidies and crop insurance.  Please leave a comment!

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager


Christmas is that one-day of year where most people are entitled to getting the day off. But that is a little different for a dairy farmer. No matter what day it is, the cows still have to be milked.  The cows don’t know if it’s Christmas or not. All they know is that they still want to be milked three times a day. Here is an example of a schedule that a dairy farmer might have to go through on Christmas day:

dairy farm calf6:00 am- Wake up and start to prepare yourself for your day. Get everything ready to start milking your herd.

7:00-9:00 am- You start milking your cows. You will have the challenge of dealing with sick cows and any other problems that may pop up during milking.

9:00-10:00 am- Of course a mess is always going to occur when working with cows. If you have been around cows, you know that they like to poop a lot. So this time would be clean up time. Milking parlors have high standards and must be spotless.

images10:00am – It is time to feed your hungry cows. They aren’t like dogs where you have to go out and put some food in a bowl. You have to mix the feed to a precise ratio.  Cows are actually very picky eaters; so all the feed must be very uniform.  It takes a lot of time especially if you have a high number of cattle.

12:00 pm- It is finally noon, and this is the time when you get to sit down eat your lunch and cram in a two hour nap.

2:00-4:00 pm- It’s that time again! Time to milk your cows for the second time today. Each milking is never the same. You will still have some challenges that you will have to overcome.

4:00- 5:00 pm-And still the cows know how to make a mess. Cleaning is very big part of the work that goes into a dairy farm.  There is always something that needs to be cleaned.

dairy farm feed5:00 pm- Before you are able to enjoy the rest of your Christmas, you need to feed your cows one more time. You never want your cows to run out of feed. If the cows are not fed, they will not produce milk.

6:00 pm- You are now able to sit down with your family and enjoy your Christmas. You get to have that typical Christmas evening just like every one else. But that doesn’t get to last for long. You are only able to stay up for a few hours since you have to get up soon to do your third milking.

11:00-1:00 am- Most people are asleep in their beds, but you are up doing your third milking.

1:00-2:00 am- Time to clean up for the final time of the day. It seems like cleaning is a never-ending chore on a dairy farm.


As you can see, no matter what day it is the cows still need to be milked. But dairy farmers love what they do. They would have to love it to be able to do it all the time. But you must think that if we didn’t have those people who love milking their cows, we wouldn’t have the dairy products that we all so love.  So there has to be somebody out there to do it.  So make sure you remember those dairy farmers this Christmas, and be thankful that they love to work with their cows no matter the day.

samanthaSamantha Wagner
Illinois State University


dear santa



It’s become a tradition and we aren’t stopping now!  Want to know what’s on IL Corn’s Christmas list this year?  We’re hoping Santa brings us …



1. More Social Media Interaction

Yes, it’s definitely the least important on our Christmas list, and yet, if more people were plugged in to who we are and what we are doing, we think getting the other items on our list would be so much easier!

Everyday, IL Corn staff and farmer leaders are publishing information that is relevant to Illinois farmers and Illinois ag.  If you really want to understand what it is to be a farmer and what farmers are facing today, we wish you’d plug in!

Are you curious about the science and the economics behind farming?  You might get something out of our daily news updates.  We call them “Corn Scoops,” and they are geared towards our farmer members, but you can subscribe to the updates too!  Get them daily or weekly … your choice.  Click right here to sign up.

adopting biotechnologyMaybe you’d like a little less intense look at Illinois agriculture.  Find some motivating quotes, beautiful farm scenes, and important ag facts on our Instagram page.  It’s our fastest growing social media outlet!  (Click here to see what we’re up to, but to subscribe, you need to download Instagram on your smart phone and search for ilcorn.)

Perhaps the easiest place of all to keep up with us is on Facebook.  We’re sharing interesting articles from all over the web here as well as our own stories.  This is the very best place to learn more about what IL Corn is doing, but also to learn more about farmers in general, how they farm, and why they are invested in doing what they do well.  This will take you directly to our page!

And, if you haven’t already, make sure you’re following this blog.  You can follow us by checking out the bar on the right side of this page!

If more people read about, paid attention to, and understood farmers and farming, we know that all our other issues would melt away!

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager



We also want:


5. Better relationships with our customers – overseas and domestic

4. Pump standardization

3. A functioning state and federal government

2. More stable farm profitability



dear santa



It’s become a tradition and we aren’t stopping now!  Want to know what’s on IL Corn’s Christmas list this year?  We’re hoping Santa brings us …



3. A Functioning State and Federal Government

Here’s the thing: an organization like ours appreciates the opportunity to get things done.  Getting things done within a non-functioning government framework is very, very difficult.  Ergo, our organization isn’t getting anything done for farmers – and it’s frustrating.

Illinois State House Capitol - Springfield
Illinois State House Capitol – Springfield

Illinois is in a bit different scenario than some of our fellow Midwestern ag states.  Most of them are dealing with the same frustrating federal government status quo, but they find opportunities to benefit farmers in their states by moving state initiatives and they still accomplish some good.

In Illinois, we can’t move state OR federal initiatives.  So we often feel like we’re twiddling our thumbs.

In spite of the broken state of our state and federal government, we have accomplished a few things:

  1. The livestock industry in Illinois is growing.  Certainly, this has much to do with market signals that are screaming at farmers to invest, but the economic impact that results from investment in the livestock industry (an estimated $70 million!) can’t hurt our broken state.
  2. We are effectively working with our state EPA and other agencies to clean up Illinois water.  To date, we have several important projects going on – both research and educational – to help farmers understand the VOLUNTARY practices that will minimize nutrient run off.  When we keep the practices voluntary but still accomplish the goal, we relieve the burden of paperwork for farmers and the cost of implementation for our state.
  3. We’ve secured some federal grant monies to help with that fuel pump standardization priority that I mentioned yesterday.  With any luck, many of the fuel pumps will be ready to handle higher blends of ethanol by this time next year!

Though we’ve found places to make a difference and we’re continuing to positively impact the farmers in Illinois, it would definitely be nice to have a functioning government to help and not hinder our growth.

Santa, this is a huge ask, but can you make our government work!?


Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager



We also want:

5. Better relationships with our customers – overseas and domestic

4. Pump standardization

2. More Stable Farm Profitability


Recipes for Success: Your Food and the Farm it is From

The world today is full of diets, food advice, food controversy, gluten-free, organic, free-range, and all sorts of other things that make choosing the food you eat down right confusing. So today we are going to try and provide you with resources that will hopefully be useful in your search for delicious food.

  1. Farmland

farmlandThis film takes a candid look at American farmers and ranchers from around the United States. It is a documentary funded by U.S. Farmers and Rancher Alliance and takes a look at 6 different farms and ranches while getting the farmers’ perspective on controversial topics like GMOs, antibiotic use, and the overall treatment of animals. It is an excellent film and provides a close look at places your food could be coming from.

  1. watchusgrow.org

watch us grow logoThis website is simply awesome and provides a look into Illinois farms. Watch Us Grow has partnered with Illinois Corn for their main program. The main program they have brings urban moms to rural farms in order to see how they food they eat is produced. They discuss livestock as well as crops. It is a good resource if you have the time browse.

  1. This Article on Pesticides and this Website Discussing Antibiotics

There is a lot of misinformation about food being unsafe because of pesticides and antibiotics, as well as the belief that organic is outright healthier than conventionally raised foods. Both of these places discuss these issues and talk about the facts.

  1. Your Food, Farm to Table

This is a great video short that shows how farming has changed since it first began. “Your Food, Farm to Table” is an animated video made by the International Food Information Council Foundation to give consumers an idea of just where there food comes from. While not nearly as controversial as some of the other topics in this list, it is still worthwhile to watch if you have a couple of minutes to spare.

  1. The Official USDA Website

USDA logoThis page is a good place to go get some general information about anything from food production to current food programs that are going on in the US. From here you can also read about the current laws and regulations in place by the USDA for crop and animal production. You can also access the 2012 farm census data.

6. Lastly…….

Stay up to date and be sure to continue to check out CornCorps!

derekDerek DeVries
Illinois State University student