At my house, the summer seems like it is going to be over before we even turn around twice. Sadly, we haven’t even gotten a vacation in! Between work trips, church camp, the kids’ work schedules, and life, finding a day to just do something fun seems so difficult.
If you’re feeling the same way, I’d encourage you to take a quick minute and schedule a day trip to learn more about agriculture before the summer is over! A day trip can be the perfect solution to so many problems:
- You need a break
- Your kids need a break
- You want your children to have one happy memory of you over the summer
- They haven’t learned anything meaningful since the end of May and it’s about time.
In that vein …
Please enjoy this quick roundup of potential ways to learn more about where your food comes from before the summer is over!
Alpaca’s are similar to camels, but with more charm and personality says the West Wind Alpaca farm in Amboy. You can tour their alpaca farm by calling or emailing them.
The blueberries, red raspberries, and currants are available for picking at Valley Orchard in Cherry Valley. Your kids will love picking their own fruit, and if you plan ahead, you can schedule a tour of their orchard and learn something about how apples and other fruits are grown.
During weekend visits, farm guides invite the public into each animal pen and are ready to supply information about the animals to inquiring visitors. Guests are welcome to touch, pet and groom many of our animals. Our barn animals change seasonally but we often have a variety of chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, pigs, goats, cows, sheep, horses, ponies and donkeys. And if you’re looking for a longer term opportunity, they even take volunteers to care for the animals!
I learned something today! Who knew that we had one of the premiere Japanese Gardens in the U.S. right here in Rockford, IL!? Anderson Gardens is a twelve-acre landscape of streams, waterfalls, winding pathways, and koi-filled ponds has been rated one of North America’s highest quality Japanese gardens for more than a decade. Not your traditional agriculture visit, but definitely something to see.
The M.J. Hogan Grain Elevator is the earliest remaining grain elevator built along the Illinois & Michigan Canal. The elevator, constructed in 1861-1862 by John Armour, allowed local farmers to ship their grain in bulk to Chicago markets via the canal, as opposed to transporting each load by horse and wagon. You can take a tour of this treasure!
Yes, this one isn’t in IL, but it still might be a possible day trip for you. And it’s worth it! This tour isn’t about history of agriculture or what used to be, but instead features the way farmers currently raise cattle, pigs, and how they use technology to do everything better. This one is worth more than a day if you have the time to spare!
Hope you enjoy these fun places to learn more about agriculture this summer! Please come back and comment if you visited any or have any others we should add!
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director
[Originally published: June 23, 2016]
June is National Dairy Month! Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds like an exciting time for me. You can find me celebrating by eating ice cream, cheese, and all of the other delicious dairy products that our American Dairy Farmers work hard to produce!
National Dairy Month is a little more personal for me. I grew up on my family’s dairy farm 40 miles south of downtown Chicago. On my family’s farm, I was able to watch as my grandfather, uncle, and father worked hard each morning and evening, no matter the weather conditions, to feed, milk, and clean up the cows. Their dedication to the animals was mesmerizing. Even I had the chance to be active and work with the cows in day-in and day-out as I grew up.
No matter how much hard work dairy farmers put in, they still seem to be scrutinized by the general public. It is always interesting to me that those from off the farm don’t stop to see and realize that American Dairy Farmers spend every day of the year working with their cattle to make sure they are strong and healthy.
I grew up on a dairy farm and I have worked on my family’s dairy farm. I know how we treat our animals. We treat our animals with care, love, and respect. You can ask anyone who knows me that I love my cows and treat them with better respect than most humans I interact with.
Now, to celebrate my love for National Dairy Month, I decided to cook one of my favorite meals, my homemade pizza. I make the dough and sauce from scratch, but what makes this pizza great is the cheese: Chellino’s Scamorza Cheese to be exact. Chellino’s is based in Joliet, IL and they use milk from our dairy farm to make the cheese. Now, what could be better? Great tasting cheese AND you know who put in the hard work to produce and deliver the milk and cheese.
If you can’t get your hands on Chellino’s Scamorza, it is okay to use other Scamorza, or even smoked mozzarella. However, if you can get your hand on some of Chellino’s, you’ll know it will turn out delicious, and you’ll even know where the milk came from that produced it!
FOR THE PIZZA:
- 1 1/3 cup hot water (not boiling)
- 1/4oz envelope active dry yeast
- 3 tsp sugar
- 3 tbsp olive oil (and extra for oiling bowls)
- 4 tsp salt
- 3 3/4 cup flour
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- granulated garlic
- scamorza cheese
- baby arugula
- diced pancetta
- baby arugula
- In a bowl, add warm water and 1 1/2 tsp sugar, and then add in the yeast packet. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer bowl, add 3 tbsp olive oil, salt, the rest of the sugar, and the flour. Then, take the water, yeast, and sugar and mix until it is dissolved. Once dissolved, add to mixer bowl. With a dough hook, mix at low until everything is combined, and then mix on medium and let the mixer knead the dough. Add more flour if needed until the dough is coming off the sides of the bowl and not sticking, about 6-8 minutes.
- Take the dough and divide it into two piece. With each piece, round into two balls and place into an oiled bowl seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and let them sit to rise for 90 minutes, preferably in an oven recently turned off and still warm.
- Once risen, the dough should be able to be poked and the indent stays. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Roll the dough out into a circle and onto a pizza stone. Mix together 1/4 cup olive oil with 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic. Once mixed, brush onto the dough. Once spread onto dough, grate about 1/4 – 1/2 lb of Scamorza cheese onto the pizza. Pop into the oven for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, remove the pizza from the oven and add the diced pancetta. Pop back into the oven for another 5-7 minutes. Once finished, add baby arugula to the top of the pizza. Slice up and enjoy!
For more recipes, find me on my website at DiningWithDakota.com
When I really think about it, I’ve lived off the farm longer than I lived on, but you know how it goes: You can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.
So, here’s a fun list of quotes from famous people that make my mind slip right back to the farm.
Innovation – wow. Have you SEEN what’s going on on the farm lately? These farmers are using GPS to map their fields. GPS is turning on and off the planter boxes so that the planted rows don’t overlap. GPS is controlling the fertilizer application so that the soil is getting exactly what it needs – no more and no less. These innovative farming techniques are distinguishing the really great farmers from those that still need to improve.
This takes me back to spring planting. The years when the soil was dry and hard, yet those little seedlings pushed through! And, although I didn’t appreciate it fully at the time, the first day driving to church on Sunday when you could finally “row the corn” which meant that the little green rows of seedlings were finally visible as you drove by … those little guys saw strength and growth through continuous effort and struggle. And in the end, they put me through college. I’m so grateful little corn seedlings!
Optimism: some farmers have it more than others, but all farmers have it. Think about it, when you put a field of seeds into the ground, knowing that at that present moment you are going to lose money on each and every one, hoping that the economy turns around before harvest? That’s optimism. Farmers are full of hope and confidence. They hope for good growing seasons and good marketing opportunities. They are confident in their own abilities as farmers and, usually, in God that they will take care of their families somehow.
This isn’t something that my parents said to me *exactly* but the sentiment is the same. Don’t do a job halfway. Always do it the very best that you can and look for the opportunities to learn to do it better. I definitely remember conversations like this in regards to my school work, but also when it came to ironing, house cleaning, and picking up the yard. In the end, it was a great lesson and one that I’m always teaching my kids too. I definitely think of kid’s ag organizations like 4-H and FFA when I read this one.
Check out the 4-H motto: I pledge my head to clearing thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, and my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world. Hear the push to always be better, bigger, clearer … and more?
Me to my kid: Yes, you did clean up your room about 50%. Is that your best work? Did you understand that we don’t allow piles of trash on your floor? Do you think you can do better? Then go do it! And don’t complain about being punished when you know you only did it 50%!
This. Every planting season. Every harvest season. Every week of hauling grain. Every calving season. Every season on the farm looms large ahead of you and the work is overwhelming. And yet, every farmer I know keeps moving forward, eyes only on the next thing – the next calf, the next 80 acres to harvest, the next 8 hour day of hauling grain – until they turn around and the job is done. THAT feeling of satisfaction can’t be matched.
Are there quotes that make you think about your life and your upbringing? Do these quotes give you any insight into what it is to grow up and work on a farm? Let’s chat in the comments!
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director
I was walking into my final CHEM 102 lecture on Cloud Nine. The class which caused me so much stress and many late nights was almost over. Apparently, this attitude was noticeable as someone I’d never met chose the seat next to mine. I began making small talk when she suddenly stopped me, “What do you mean a family farm? Aren’t farms owned by huge corporations?” Her question caught me off guard. I always mention my upbringing when I introduce myself, so I don’t think about it much. To address her confusion, I began to tell stories of growing up on the farm. To her, the idea of a family farm is a strange one. This prompted me to reflect on family farms and the following three questions:
- How many farms are family farms?
- How does farming work as a business?
- Why do people pursue this lifestyle?
How many farms are family farms?
Today, it can seem most of our food is the result of science experiments and the profit invested interests of large companies. However, when we look at farms from a family perspective we find that conventional truths may not be very true.
To begin with, large companies have a very small stake in the production of food. While many companies who buy and sell agricultural products may be quite large, the actual growing of food is a family experience. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, only 4% of all farmland is not owned by family farmers. Even more surprising is 45% of farmland is owned by small family farms. The remainder is owned by mid-sized to large family operations. The apparent follow-up question seems to be who makes up that 4%? Well, we find that most of that farmland is owned by universities and companies for research purposes. More information on this topic can be found here.
How does farming work as a business?
At their core, all farms are businesses. A farmer’s most basic goal is the same as an accountant or nurse, to establish a means of providing for themselves and their family. However, unlike an accountant or nurse, family farms involve more than just adults working. In my household, everyone was wholly invested in providing a living for our family. However, when it comes to farming the way this living is made is quite unique.
One of the most difficult concepts of farming to understand is the markets. When referencing the markets, we often are discussing the factors which dictate the price at which farmers sell their crops. To fully understand the markets and all the nuances one would need to study this area for most of their life. To keep things simple let’s just briefly discuss two overarching concepts, the futures and cash prices. The futures market is where individuals exchange contracts of commodities for sale at a future date at a set price. Cash prices are what a farmer could get right now for the grain he currently has in storage. The dollar amounts of both futures and cash prices are constantly changing. This means is a farmer never knows how much money they will earn. As a business farming is one of the most turbulent. Imagine you work at grocery store and at the end of your first 40-hour week, your boss pays you $600, or $15 an hour. But the next week consumers decide to stop buying bananas, so your boss pays you $360, or $9 an hour, for your second 40-hour week because of the loss of profits. Due to factors beyond your control, you got paid $240 less than you expected. That is like the stress farmers feel as they watch the grain prices fluctuate daily.
Why do people pursue this lifestyle?
It’s hard to explain the way farmers work. It takes a unique person to want to submit themselves to this lifestyle. So unique, that only 2% of the U.S. population finds work as farmers. This 2 % provide enough food and resources for the U.S. and a large portion of the globe. However, if you ask them, there isn’t anything else these people would rather be doing. They serve the world by raising the best crop they can. Despite the highs and lows of the markets, the turbulence of everyday farm work, or the potential troubles looming on the horizon, our farmers continue to labor producing the safest and highest quality crop they can because they know your family depends on it.
IL Corn Legislative Intern
Now that #plant18 is done, what happens during the growing season? Follow along in the combine with IL Corn farmer, Justin Durdan.