THE CORN CRIB

The Corn Crib – by definition in the agriculture world, it is a bin or ventilated building for storing unhusked ears of corn. (There is actually a Corn Crib Restaurant in Christiana, PA., Shelby IA., Middlebury, IN., Corning, KS., just to name a few… my knowledge of this is a credit Google, Twitter searches, and Facebook places!) In the lovely Bloomington-Normal, however, the Corn Crib is home to the Normal CornBelters, a professional baseball team and one of 12 members of the independent Frontier League.

This multi-purpose facility not only houses the CornBelters games, player clubhouses, and front office staff, but it also hosts local college and high school baseball, softball, and soccer games. In fact, beginning this fall through 2015, the Corn Crib will host the IHSA Class 1A Boys Soccer State Finals. Going back to baseball, this beautiful, brand new stadium will also host the 2012 Frontier League All-Star Game, which is quite an honor! As a member of the front office staff, I can tell you we are very proud, and excited to host other events at our ballpark – don’t get me wrong, baseball is awesome, but it’s a great feeling knowing that we can bring fun events to fans of other sports, other age groups, and non-sports fans (i.e. when we bring some sweet concerts here this summer!).

So now you’re thinking, ‘Great, it’s called the Corn Crib. People play and watch sports and concerts. Fabulous.’ (insert sarcastic voice here) While this is all true, let me explain how it all ties in and is possibly the most theme-oriented ballpark in all the land. (I say all the land, which is probably an exaggeration, but Ballpark Digest did say, “It is the corniest ballpark in the independent leagues — which is saying a whole lot…. This is perhaps the most integrated deal with a sponsor that we’ve ever seen.”  The deal they are referring to is the partnership with Illinois Corn Farmers.)

Let me bring some truth to my claim – we have corn everywhere: players walk through rows of corn in just behind the center field wall when they make their way to the field, pictures of corn and fun facts are on banners that have been wrapped around giant posts along the concourse, corn tassels and silk are pictured in a lot of our signage around the ballpark, our main logo is an ear of corn, team merchandise features images of corn, we sell corn on the cob in the concessions, and our mascot’s name is Corny! Yes, his “dreadlocks” are supposed to be corn tassels too and we call him a “Cornisaurus”. Even our ticket packages have a corn theme: The Husker (24 games); ¼ Ear (12 games); The Kernel (6 games).

You can see that we’ve got the administrative details ”corn-ified”, the stadium “corn-ified”, but what about the players? Lucky for us, some of our players grew up on farms or in farming communities and so they know all about corn! Texan and left-handed pitcher, Donald Furrow, has some first-hand knowledge of corn, which he talked about in a recent article for the Illinois Ag Mag, an agricultural magazine for kids. Furrow explained that “corn is the single most important agricultural product in the world and is in most of the meals you eat. The healthier you eat and the less junk food and sweets that you put into your mouth, the better your body and mind will perform in sports and in the classroom. If you only eat junk, your muscles won’t grow, your bones won’t be strong, your vision won’t be sharp and your brain function won’t be up to speed.”

Needless to say, the Corn Crib is not just a clever name that was chosen because there are lots of corn fields around… no sir, that name just scratches the surface of how “corn-y” this beautiful ballpark really is!

If you haven’t witnessed it already, my hope is that you get a chance to experience the Corn Crib! Even if you wouldn’t enjoy the baseball game, our games are all about entertainment – fans participate in on-field contests between innings, our Fun Crew is always running a promotion for the fans, and various free activities are available throughout the concourse including face painting, bounce houses, Discovery Museum craft tables, and opportunities for kids to run the bases after the games (Tuesdays) and get player autographs (Sundays)! If that still doesn’t spark your interest, I hope you consider checking out a Heartland Community College baseball, softball, or soccer game, the IHSA Boys 1A Soccer State Finals games, or upcoming concerts! (Stay tuned for those details and dates!)

Ashlynne Solvie
Public/Media Relations Manager
Normal CornBelters

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO

We’re finding all kinds of ways to share information about corn and the family farmers that grow it at The Corn Crib, professional baseball’s newest ballpark. The Corn Crib is home to the Normal CornBelters. If you visit you’ll see messages like this one, reminding non-farmers that their friends and neighbors are the family farmers producing Illinois’ highest valued crop. If you sit through a game, you’ll hear conversations about corn and farmers happening between people that otherwise never would have talked about corn. Spontaneous shouts of “Let’s Go Corn!” echo through the stands, and Corny, the CornBelters mascot, is high-fived wherever he goes. It’s opportunities like this that can make a huge difference as more and more challenges to agriculture are being promulgated by detractors.

CAUTION: MEN AT WORK

The Illinois Corn home office is under construction this week. We’re trying to prepare for our June board meetings by repairing some massive pot holes in our parking lot and driveway. What that means for those of us in the office is parking a little further away and doing a bit of a hopscotch move to get into the front door of the building without stepping in drying cement.


Inside the office, we’re under construction too. In fact, there’s a host of issues and events that we’re working on! Some have short deadlines, some have been in progress for decades, but much like the men outside pouring cement, we’re dedicated and can’t wait to see these projects to completion.

It’s just that we’re going to do so with our shirts ON.

Locks and Dams

If you take a look at our website and visit the locks and dams section, we boast that this just might be the year that Illinois corn farmers finally see funding for lock and dam upgrades. What led us to that conclusion is partly that industry and the Army Corps of Engineers have come to an agreement on how to fund the upgrades AND complete them efficiency. We’ve been taking this message to Congress and have found that they are particularly receptive to groups that have their own funding streams to partner with federal dollars! But we also know that if we don’t get lock and dam funding this year, we might have to wait a few more before we push it again. So … 2010 is the year in our minds because the timing just won’t be right next year. Call your Congressman and ask that they fund lock and dam upgrades!

CornBelters

Opening day is June 1! That means that the rest of the week and Tuesday, we’ll be hard at work preparing messaging, coordinating media, assigning tickets, outfitting our suite, and doing all the other miscellaneous work that accompanies our CornBelters partnership. Please join us for opening day when our ICMB Chairman, Jim Rapp, will throw the first pitch! If this is something that interests you, you might check out our recent podcast.

Ethanol

Now that we finally have the first blender pump operating in Sullivan, IL, we can return to other ethanol issues that are close at hand. The EPA indicates that they will issue a decision on higher ethanol blends this summer and we continue to press our Illinois Delegation to co-sponsor HR 4940, the Renewable Fuels Reinvestment Act. This act would extend the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit among other things and will help ethanol remain a valuable partner in developing rural communities, lessoning our environmental impact, and accomplishing energy security. Kuddos to the Illinois Congressman that have already co-sponsored this important bill – if your Congressman doesn’t appear here, give him or her a call today!

Social Media

We have hired several interns for the summer that will start next week working on social media projects and helping us continue to gear up our social media presence. As you’ve obviously noticed, our blog posts and content are improving daily, but we can’t wait for them to arrive, helping us populate our youtube channel with valuable information and maybe even getting more facts and data our on facebook and twitter. If you aren’t already following us on all of these important outlets, I’d encourage you to check into them!

There are a million other “projects under construction” in our office but this definitely gives you a flavor for what the Illinois Corn staff and boards are up to right now. Please notice that we can’t complete many of these projects without your help! Consider contacting your Congressman on the above issues to thank him and ask for his help on the things that matter to you. Consider partnering with us on the social media front by following us on twitter, Facebook, youtube, or the blog and forward our messaging to your friends and family.

As they say, it takes a village. And I could sure use your help as I traverse the construction area outside our door! That’s one construction project that can’t be done soon enough.

By: Lindsay Mitchell

ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP A BRIDGE BETWEEN FARMERS AND COMMUNITIES

Perhaps you’ve seen it in previous news outlets, or perhaps you haven’t. Either way, the gist of the message is that the Illinois Corn Marketing Board believes in our own version of “If you build it, they will come.”

In October of last year, ICMB and the Normal CornBelters entered into a partnership – a partnership that is actually quite rare as far as sports teams and not-for-profit associations go.

The thing is, Illinois corn farmers know that what they do is confusing for everyone outside the agricultural industry. They understand that others just don’t get the dynamics of tillage, huge machinery, chemical applications, and export markets. They realize that everyone wants to know more about our nation’s food production systems, but doesn’t personally know a farmer to ask. And Illinois corn farmers want to change that.

There are parents, teachers, ministers, and policemen in Bloomington-Normal that live five minutes from a corn field, and even right in the middle of the largest corn producing county in the nation, that believe myths about corn production and the safety or efficiency of corn products. Farmers want to encourage the one-on-one dialogue that will improve understanding and build trust between farmers and consumers, even in their own communities.

A partnership with the CornBelters will help us do this. A partnership with the CornBelters makes us more visible and provides us the opportunity to stand in front of you and explain who we are, what we do, what’s important to us, and that we love our jobs.

So please consider joining us for a game at the Corn Crib and don’t be surprised to see us rooting for the home team with our families while we enjoy a cold beer and a ballpark hot dog. We are your neighbors and we are proud to be doing a job that we love while serving your needs and the needs of folks all over the world.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director