“There is no such thing as a stupid question.”

This week, the world will celebrate “Ask a stupid question” day.  Apparently it was created in the 1980s to encourage school children to ask more questions in class and not feel scared or that they’d be ridiculed.

So today, Illinois Corn brings you a variety of questions that we think are anything but stupid!

When the weather affects the crops, how do the farmers recoup their losses?

Farmers are a vital part of the country’s economy. They help grocery stores stay stocked with fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. Farmers rely on several things to help get them through a difficult farming year.

Crop insurance can provide financial relief to people who suffer the loss of their crops for whatever reason. Usually farmers lose their crops due to weather incidents that take place. These include rain, tornadoes, droughts, or floods.  Most farmers purchase some type of crop insurance to protect themselves.

Some farmers never recoup their costs from a bad growing season.  Sometimes they have to take a loss and rely on whatever savings they have stored up from previous years.

What’s ethanol, and why do we need it?

Ethanol is an alcohol made from renewable resources such as corn and other cereal grains, food and other beverage wastes and forestry by-products. Ethanol-blended fuel substantially reduces carbon monoxide and volatile organic compound emissions, which are precursors to ozone. Adding ethanol to gasoline reduces harmful emissions, lowers the cost of our transportation fuels – and reduces our reliance on foreign oil imports. Find more information about ethanol at

Wouldn’t our food be healthier if you didn’t use chemicals?

Much like people don’t want ants in the kitchen or weeds in the garden, corn and soybean farmers don’t want insects and weeds in our crops. Pests cause significant damage, spread diseases and destroy otherwise healthy crops.

When we need to use a pesticide or herbicide, we use the least amount possible, of the safest material possible.  Farmers are trained and certified to apply chemicals by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.  We also have to follow very strict rules from the EPA and FDA on how and when to apply farm chemicals. You can find more information at

How much ethanol will one bushel of corn produce?

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.

Ethanol can also be used in several forms to meet the needs of our transportation.  A 10% blend of ethanol with gasoline is the most widely available blend.  More than 90% of our national gasoline contains 10% ethanol.  In Illinois over 95% of our gasoline contains 10% ethanol.  E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, makes an excellent environmentally friendly fuel.  Ethanol’s desirable characteristics (higher octane, cleaner burning, less carcinogenic) assure its viability even as new engine technology is developed.

I’m not sure if high fructose corn syrup is good or bad for me. Can you tell me more?

High fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, is simply the naturally occurring sugar in the corn kernel, pulled out and used as a sweetener in processed foods.  By comparison, table sugar is the naturally occurring sugar in the sugar cane plant, pulled out and processed into the sugar that you recognize.

Studies show that your body processed HFCS and table sugar exactly the same and that HFCS doesn’t contribute to obesity any more than any other sugar does.

Visit Sweet Surprise, Sweet Scam, or Corn to learn the facts about high fructose corn syrup.

Do you have a question that you’d like to ask an Illlinois farmer?  Comment here to raise your question or visit to ask.  Remember, there are no stupid questions!  Illinois farmers want you to understand that they are responsible and careful stewards of the land and the food that they produce.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


On Tuesdays in September, IL Corn Intern Jenna Richardson will be providing us a feature called “Tools of the Trade.” The weekly post will give our readers an up close look at some of the little known tools that make agriculture possible, with some interesting photography to boot!


I’ve grown up riding horses; therefore I’ve grown up in a pair of boots, whether they have been steel toe or pink cowboy boots.   Now, I’m a student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale where I study agricultural communications. On a daily basis when I walk into the Ag Building and look at the shoes everyone is wearing, a majority of them are boots.  


What kind of shoes do farmers wear? What kind of shoes do cowboys/cowgirls wear? What kind of shoes do foresters wear? BOOTS! See a trend here?  Boots are related to agriculture.

Boots aren’t worn just because people involved in agriculture are ‘supposed to’ but for their functionality – by protecting the foot and leg from water, snow, mud or other hazards and providing ankle support for laborious activities – and of course for fashion reasons, because farm girls don’t actually wear overalls all the time. 



These sorts of boots are definitely a tool of the trade, though.  Muddy ol’ farm boots equals agriculture, no matter which way you look at it!

Illinois Corn Marketing Board InternJenna Richardson
Southern IL University student
IL Corn Intern


On Tuesdays in September, IL Corn Intern Jenna Richardson will be providing us a feature called “Tools of the Trade.”  The weekly post will give our readers an up close look at some of the little known tools that make agriculture possible, with some interesting photography to boot! 

When I was younger my parents were my alarm clock. Their way of waking me up usually consisted of turning on my VERY bright light and saying, “Jenna it’s time to wake up!” The one morning when we were remodeling our bathroom, my mom thought of a new way to wake me up (keep in mind the bathroom is right beside my bedroom). She enters my room, turns on the light and then goes into the bathroom and takes the hammer to the tile on the wall..then I was up! 

I’m sure most people don’t use a hammer as an alarm clock but I’m sure everyone does own a hammer! Think of all the things this tool can be used for! Anywhere from hanging picture frames to building a barn, a hammer is a very important tool in agriculture.

A hammer is a tool meant to deliver an impact to an object. Hammers are often designed for a specific purpose, and they vary widely in their shape and structure. The usual features of a hammer are a handle and a head, with most of the weight in the head. The hammer may be one of the oldest tools and a basic tool of many professions.

Illinois Corn Marketing Board InternJenna Richardson
Southern IL University student
IL Corn Intern


On Tuesdays in September, IL Corn Intern Jenna Richardson will be providing us a feature called “Tools of the Trade.”  The weekly post will give our readers an up close look at some of the little known tools that make agriculture possible, with some interesting photography to boot! 

For those of you that might not live in a rural area, a grain bin is a big silver cylindrical structure that farmers use to store their grain as they harvest it from the field. What you also might not know, and what farmers themselves sometimes forget, is that a bin full of grain is a VERY dangerous co-worker.

After stuffing well over 1,000 envelopes this summer with a DVD & letter to grain elevators & fire departments about grain bin safety (sponsored by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board) I decided maybe I should watch the DVD myself to see what it was all about. The semester before I had taken an Ag Safety class and my teacher had taught us the importance of grain bin safety and how dangerous it can be, but I still didn’t know exactly ‘how dangerous’ it was. After watching a short movie and getting goose bumps I realized that this big grain bin is a big issue.

In my hometown several fire departments were recipients of a RES-Q-Tube. The RES-Q-Tube splits up into four pieces allowing the firemen to carry them up the side and into the grain bin. Once inside the grain bin, pieces of the RES-Q-Tube are placed around the victim and put down into the grain. Once the coffer dam surrounds the victim, a vacuum system removes the grain from around the victim. The victim can then be hoisted out of the grain.

According to STRA, a 165-pound person engulfed in grain to their waist has 325 pounds of downward pressure on their body. That same person engulfed up to their head has 800 pounds of downward pressure. This kind of pressure makes it impossible for anyone to hoist a person out of the grain with out the use of the RES-Q-Tube.

Illinois Corn Marketing Board InternJenna Richardson
Southern IL University student
IL Corn Intern


The month of September is considered to be “Successful Schools” Month.  Many people speak on the American education system as being elementary, middle, or high school students. The question that comes to my mind however is, “What about a successful college student?”

The agricultural industry wants a wide variety of students not only from agricultural backgrounds, but also from those who have never even stepped foot on farm land. This broad variety of future industry leaders helps with communication to the urban community. Often, individuals who do not have an agricultural background do not think they have the knowledge or the right to take on a career within the agricultural industry.

I personally feel that agriculture should be common knowledge. Society has been placed so far away from the farm that the basic information about how food is produced has all but been lost. People say that knowing where food comes from is important, but none of these people seem to put forth the effort to investigate the truth behind the food industry and American agriculture. There is still a romanticized view of the farm by those within the urban community.  The college years are considered to be the most important time in a student’s life for finding their interests. Incorporating an introductory or exploratory agriculture class into the general education of college students can help them understand the truth about agriculture and maybe even broaden their horizons for future career choices.

I am an agriculture student and see these endless possibilities. I often feel that my connection to agriculture gives me an advantage over other future industry leaders because I am in the field that fuels all other fields.

 Nowadays, food, fuel, and fiber industries are the only thriving businesses. Students have been entering the career world with their degree in hand with, what seems to be, no place to go.  To be a successful student and future industry leader, colleges and universities should require agricultural industry classes for all students. There is an evident lack of understanding about being an agriculturalist.

Universities already require a core of general education classes to create the “well-rounded student.” Why not introduce everyone to the industry and to all of the paths that it has to offer everyone? Agriculture holds strong as the most needed industry in the world, yet people are not grasping the endless possibilities that it has to offer. Successful college students need to be well rounded to enter their career field. Why should society expect well rounded when many of those future lawyers and doctors do not understand where any of their most essential daily needs come from?

Illinois State University agriculture studentKara Watson
Illinois State University student


On Tuesdays in September, IL Corn Intern Jenna Richardson will be providing us a feature called “Tools of the Trade.”  The weekly post will give our readers an up close look at some of the little known tools that make agriculture possible, with some interesting photography to boot! 

ball hitch, farming, tools, photography

“Keep backing up. A little more to the left (THE LEFT). Now straight back!” If you’ve ever helped hitch up a truck and trailer you’ve probably heard those lines a time or two.

Whether you’re hitching up a horse trailer, a lawn mower trailer, or a trailer to a semi, a ball hitch is very important. It may seem like a very minor tool that is used in agriculture but it actually has one of the largest impacts on me and you. How you might ask?

How do the farmers get their crops hauled out of the field? How do they get their crops to the grain elevator? How do the crops get distributed back to the consumer? The ball hitch is such a big asset to everyone whether you realize it or not.

ball hitch, equipment, agriculture

It’s hard to realize that something so small and that weighs only a few pounds can haul such a big load and impact everyone. The next time you see this small tool I hope that you think about how it is affecting your life.

Illinois Corn Marketing Board InternJenna Richardson
Southern IL University student
IL Corn Intern


Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in what’s called a “meetup.” In basic terms, it’s a get together organized on the internet, which anyone can choose to attend. You may or may not know anyone there. Generally there is a topic or theme for the occasion, thus those that attend self-select based on their interests.

At this “meetup”, the 3 dozen or so attendees came to meet farm moms and have a conversation about farms and food. And boy, were the conversations buzzing!

First of all, the meetup was held at a place called Little Beans Café. It’s interesting to me that parents would pay a membership to have a place for their kids to play, but I guess that’s just an aspect of city life with which I’m unfamiliar. The part I was familiar with was the coffee shop! At Little Beans, you can sit down and enjoy a fresh coffee drink while your little one’s enjoy the climate and germ controlled play area.

I could go on and on about the various conversations and observations. Instead, I’ll just make a quick list.

  • The types of questions and concerns we heard fell into thematic areas with which we anticipated.
  • Many of the questions came straight from the script of Food, Inc.
  • The moms, in many cases, just want to know that they don’t have to worry about whatever they’re worrying about!
  • They became concerned about labeling and terms like “organic” and “Angus beef,” even feeling duped when they came to understand the marketing process.
  • One-on-one conversations are the way to go.
  • Social media (like this blog) is a great way to start the conversation and carry-on with it after face to face dialogue.

We’re on the right track with what the Illinois Corn Marketing Board is doing in terms of reaching out to different, influential audiences. The cooperative effort dubbed Illinois Farm Families ( is a great outreach component. We can apply these lessons at the Corn Crib and at NASCAR events, everywhere non-farmers are gathered and interested in food and farming!

But none of this is worth anything if the FARMERS are not involved in the conversation.

Have you talked with someone recently that challenged the way you think? Are you prepared for that to happen?

Just a little food for thought!

Tricia Braid
ICGA/ICMBA Communicatios Director


Back to School will mean 584 teachers will be looking at things a little differently this year!  Where as they’ll still think of class lists, school supplies and probably the temperatures outside, these teachers will also consider the Ethanol in the tanks of the parent pick up line cars, the Soy Bio-Diesel in the school busses, and even the variety of agricultural products used to field a baseball game!

This summer 584 teachers from across the state participated in 29 Summer Agricultural Institutes sponsored by the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program with the support of the various commodity groups across the state.  Since 1991 over 8,000 teachers have participated in these week long, intensive training sessions for professional development or college credit.   

With the support of Illinois Corn Growers, Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Pork Producers, and the Midwest Dairy Association, (among others!) the teachers had an experience that they won’t soon forget.   Each Summer Ag Institute included visits from various commodity organizations with presentations about how commodities can be incorporated into traditional classroom education.  The Illinois AITC program presented sample lessons and materials showcasing the ease in which agriculture can assist students in meeting Illinois Learning Standards.  But most importantly, the teachers got to go and examine agriculture in ways they’ve never experienced—in the field. 

Kathy, a Kindergarten teacher from East-Central Illinois said “I was amazed at the technical side of farming’, Lindsay from North-Central Illinois added, “I visited places in my own county that I didn’t know existed, and I’ve lived here my whole life!”  Sheryl from Southern Illinois added, “Agriculture is much broader and more complicated than the stereotypical idea of farming.  The Summer Ag Institute really opened my eyes as an educator, student and an on-going learner.’ Colleen from North-Eastern Illinois summed up her experience saying “I didn’t know what to expect from this class.  I did not realize how integral of a role agriculture plays in all of our lives. I definitely was not expecting to gain as much knowledge as I did or take away so many great ideas to use in my classroom. I plan to teach an agriculture based lesson once a week in my class.”

Year after year, teachers who have taken our Summer Ag Institutes have become ‘cheerleaders’ for agriculture in general.  It couldn’t come at a more critical time, as all of agriculture continues to face the challenges of fewer and fewer people understanding what is going on in barns, fields and combines across the state. 

AITC is grateful to the commodity groups and individuals who support our effort to help teachers understand how Illinois agriculture plays a role in the world’s food, fiber and fuel system.

Looking for a way to help? Consider adopting a classroom of Chicago area students and becoming a ‘pen pal’ on a monthly basis with a class—explain your farm operation and eyes will indeed be opened–yours and theirs!  For more information about our Adopt A Classroom Program contact me at

Kevin Daugherty
Education Director
Illinois Ag in the Classroom


A mutual friend recently introduced me to someone I’ll call Jane. Jane is college-educated, holds a good job and seemed to be an all around intellectual individual. In the course of our conversation and in getting to know each other it came up that I was from a farm. She literally said to me, “Oh my gosh, YOU are an ACTUAL farmer?” I explained that no, I have a full-time job, but my Dad IS a farmer and yes, I do still help on the farm when he needs it and my time allows. His operation isn’t large enough to hire full-time farmhands… that’s why he had four kids of course, built in help!

Jane was so excited to meet an actual ‘farmer’, she had a lot of questions that I was happy to answer. Some of them seemed so silly to me that I had a hard time not rolling my eyes. But then I remembered: if we as individuals who KNOW the answers to the silly questions don’t take them seriously, then who will? The people who have an anti-ag agenda, that’s who. And trust me, they are out there scattering their false statements around like a manure spreader.

After a lengthy conversation, I think Jane has a better understanding of agriculture and what farming actually is all about. She had no clue that 94% of all farms are family owned. Instead, she thought that the majority were owned by corporate entities and they just hired people to work on the farms. I asked her why she thought that and she said one of the reasons was the signs in fields. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this. Those seed corn signs that are all over the countryside this time of year? Yeah, to those outside of the ag world, they think that displays ownership of the field.

I must admit there were a few of her questions that I couldn’t give a precise answer to. Like what exactly are in pesticides and how they are applied. I’m not a chemist, nor do I have an applicators license, so while I can give broad answers, I can’t give specific details. However, since I do also work in the ag industry, I told her that it would be easy for me to find the answers and would gladly do so for her if she would like me to.

I present this only as an example and a reminder of what the ag community needs to do. If urban folks that literally live in our own backyards are excited, impressed and shocked to meet an actual ‘farmer’ then we aren’t doing our jobs! For so long, farmers have belonged to an association thinking that the association would promote their industry for them. That worked for a while, but no more.

Non-farmers want to connect with farmers. They want to understand who you are, what you do and why you do it. If you don’t tell them, who will?

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant


Last week, Illinois Corn, the CornBelters, and Bloomington-Normal celebrated Ag Week at the Normal, IL Corn Crib. The week featured theme nights celebrating Illinois commodities, special games in between innings, and farm equipment right outside the gate!

Monday was Illinois Corn Growers Association appreciation night. Illinois corn farmers were invited to come to the game at a discounted rate to see how IL Corn is using the team to educate fans about Illinois agriculture.

Tuesday was a celebration of pork with over 700 pork burgers sold. Sixty pig farmers were at the game, serving pork samples to spectators in attendance, mingling with the crowd, and answering questions about their farm. The Illinois Pork Producers Association sold t-shirts, “Peace, Love, Pork,” to fans with all sales benefitting local food pantries.

Beef Night was Wednesday night. Fans enjoyed beef brisket and kids enjoyed a special lasso-ing activity in the kids play area. Over 100 beef farmers were there, checking out the stadium and the ag education opportunities.

A special shout-out goes to Bloomington Meats who served flavored bratwursts on Tuesday night and juicy hamburgers on Wednesday night.

Thursday was Prairie Farms night, with representatives from Prairie Farms and Midwest Dairy Association in attendance. The first 1000 visitors received chocolate milk and fans enjoyed a milk chugging contest on the field.

The week ended with Friday night’s 4-H night. Livingston, McLean, Woodford, and LaSalle County 4-H chapters were represented and the 4-H pledge and Pledge of Allegiance were recited on the field. What an exciting day for 4-H education!

Ag Week was to promote agriculture as a primary industry in our state and reconnect ag with the non-farmers in our community. With that as a goal, Illinois Corn believes we have certainly provided an opportunity to learn more about where food comes from to the non-farm audience in Illinois.