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

3 WAYS FARMERS HELP THE ENVIRONMENT

Taking care of the environment is something every person in the world can contribute to. Maybe you turn off the water when you brush your teeth or carpool with friends to work. Did you know that farmers also care about the environment? Farmers want to protect the environment so they can continue to feed the world.

Here are just a few things that farmers do to protect the earth we all live on:

  1. Cover Crops. Have you ever driven by a field in the dead of winter and wondered why something was growing there? A cover crop is planted in a field during winter when other types of plants can’t grow. The reason farmers plant cover crops is to reduce the risk of soil erosion, or the wearing away of the soil. Some common examples of cover crops are crimson clover and radishes. Soil erosion causes many problems such as poor drainage that could lead to water pollution. The cover crop helps eliminate soil erosion since the root of the plant is holding the soil in place. When wind and rain come along, the soil will not wash away. Cover crops also help keep organic matter in the soil, which increases soil health. Through this practice, farmers are ensuring the health of their soil, while also protecting the environment.
  2. No-Till. Farmers prepare for the planting season through tilling the soil. Tilling is a way of preparing the soil through digging, stirring, and overturning. On the other hand, no-till is a way of growing crops from year to year without disturbing the soil through tillage. The soil in the field is not disrupted and old corn stalks or leaves act as the “cover” to the soil. Because the farmers leave the soil intact, it is less likely to be washed away by water or blown away by the wind which would cause soil erosion. Farmers want to protect the soil so it can continue to be used in the future.
  3. Help Reduce Runoff. 

Agricultural runoff is water that leaves farm fields because of rain or melted snow. When the runoff moves, it can pick up pollutants, such as chemicals or fertilizers, which can then deposit into ponds, lakes, and sources of drinking water. Farmers can plant riparian buffers, which are vegetated areas that help prevent runoff into water sources.There are also programs in place to help protect water sources from agricultural runoff. The Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) is one of those programs. The goal of MRBI is to work with farmers to implement conservation practices that help avoid and control runoff from fields, specifically into the Mississippi River. Farmers put a lot of effort into protecting the water that everyone drinks.

Laine Honneger
University of Illinois

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

A FARMER’S DAY VS A BUSINESSMAN’S DAY

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

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

#TBT: MAKE SCIENCE MORE FUN WITH AG!

[Originally published: October 6, 2015]

Bringing agriculture into the classroom is a great idea to cultivate an assortment of topics and subjects into a theme around the school year. Agriculture and science coincide with each other, but agriculture is often overlooked in science. One unit about agriculture can crack abstract topics in chemistry, microbiology, biology, and environmental science. Here is a list of great ideas to utilize in your next science lesson:

Growing Seeds in a Jar Seed-Germination-Activity1

This experiment is easy, cost-effective, and fun; a younger crowd would enjoy this compared to high school students. All you need are glass jars, seeds, and wet paper towels. Have the students wet the paper towels, put the towels in the glass jar, place the seeds inside the jar, and wait a few days to see germination! You can use this experiment for a biology lesson that talks about photosynthesis or the plant life cycle! Also, this experiment is a great segue into talking about how plants provide us resources we need to survive such as food and clothes.


Incubation and Embryonic Growth

baby chickThis experiment is a bit more common than #1; I remember doing this project in 5th grade; it’s one of the things I can remember from long ago. With this, it’s simple: nurturing eggs into chicks allows students to visualize life and to learn the importance for our lives. Chickens play a huge role in agriculture because of what they do on a farm. My favorite memory of it was hearing the chicks chirp when they eventually made their way out of the shells.

Friendly Farm Visit

kids visiting farmThis past summer I interned with my county farm bureau with Agriculture in the Classroom; each day we took the kids to a local farm to learn about various topics from plant growth to DNA. The hands on experience offered the kids something they couldn’t learn from a textbook. They got to visualize how their clothes were made (shearing a sheep) to watching their food grow six feet in a few months (corn stalks) to learning how breeds of cows differ (natural selection).

Chemical and Physical Changes

soybean crayonsThis topic can be tricky in Chemistry. As we know, a chemical change is a change of a substance with a different composition than what it started off as. On the other hand, a physical change is the change in appearance with the composition staying the same. To easily demonstrate a chemical change to students, show a bowl of soybean seeds and then show a box of crayons. Why? Because soybeans are morphed into crayons (along with other substances). In the beginning, the seed is just a seed but it’s composition and appearance change when it’s used for crayons. For a physical change, show a bowl of corn seeds, a corn stalk, and an ear of corn. Why? Well, the corn seed is morphed into a plant that grows seeds (kernels) from itself. The seed that was planted had the same composition as the kernels on the ear of corn.

Composting for Kids

A great idea to teach environmental science with agriculture is to start composting! Sounds weird, right? It’s a great hands-on experience that teaches kids a great way to be sustainable. It also shows students how we can reuse our resources and not waste products. Compost is comprised of decayed organic matter such as manure, food scraps, grass clippings, and leaves. Manure comes from farm animals, and food scraps come from humans and animals. Composting also teaches about the life cycle. Compost can help the growth of plants which helps to feed us and animals who produce the manure and food scraps that turns into compost, repeat.  No matter what grade you teach, composting is a great way to teach kids about environmental science!

If kids aren’t understanding a science concept, it’s always a great idea to step outside the box! Agriculture is a great way to spice up the science curriculum while teaching students about topics that still matter to education and to our lives.

michelle nickrent

Michelle Nickrent
University of Illinois student