Many women believe that the agriculture industry is mostly for men. However, what most women do not realize is that the percentage of women in the agriculture industry continues to increase almost every day. Women’s roles on the farm have increased greatly over the last 25 years. Research has shown that since the 1980’s, women now run about 14 percent of nation’s farms. And with the increasing about of females sparking an interest in agriculture, this number will only get larger overtime. What should make women feel better about their roles on the farm is that you do not have to be married to a farmer, with the stereotypical title of a “farmer’s wife”. Since 2002, America has seen a 32 percent increase in female-operated farms, which goes to show just how important a woman’s role in agriculture truly is! Most of these farm operations are small, where women simply grow food and raise livestock.

Along with raising children and tending to duties inside the home such as cooking and laundry, women also tend to chores outside. Some duties include feeding animals such as livestock, swine, goats, etc, scooping manure, raking straw, cleaning stalls, and many other chore.  Females are also having an increasing role during planting and harvest season. From operating a combine, to driving a grain truck, these jobs are no longer seen only fit for a man!

However, a woman’s role in agriculture does not only pertain to the farm. Even small things such as growing a garden or owning horses are hobbies that women, as well as men like to do, that are agriculture related.

Agriculture is not only increasingly in rural areas, but in urban areas as well. Seed corporations such as Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Syngenta are increasingly stressing the need for females in their company. Positions such as sales, marketing and business planning, advertising and corporate communications are areas that these corporations, as well as smaller companies, are increasingly looking for women to fill. This goes to show that agriculture truly is more than just “cows, plows and sows”! Women in other countries who make our clothing are contributing to the agriculture industry as well.

Women are needed in the agriculture industry now, more than ever. According to the 2011 Hunger Report, “the low social, economic, and political status of women in many parts of the developing world, particularly rural women, contributes to high rates of food insecurity and malnutrition”. Also, the average farm held by women is only 40 acres, while the average stretch farmed by men is more than three times as large, with 149 acres. But with number of females taking an interest in agriculture, this number is sure to grow over the next few years. The number of females majoring in some area of agriculture in our nation’s universities growers a little every few years, as does the number of females going back to the family farm in hopes of one day managing it.

Every day, women, as well as men are making a difference and improving modern day agriculture. With roles on the farm and in corporate offices increasingly demanding a woman’s attention, you can be sure to see many more females out on the form or in the office, trying to make a difference in today’s agriculture industry!

Baylee Kirk
Southern Illinois University


In life’s hectic day-to-day grind, we all probably take many things, and people, for granted.  It’s easy to do.  This week is National Write a Letter of Appreciation Week, so take a few minutes today and think about something, or someone, you’d like to show appreciation for and write a letter.  Here’s mine:

Dear Farmer – more specifically – Dad,

Growing up on a family farm, life wasn’t always easy or ‘fair’.  I wasn’t able to run down the street to play with my friends after school or on many weekends like the rest of the kids in my class.  You expected me to be at home helping in the garden, in the field mowing hay, or in the pasture checking cows.  And you didn’t pay me for doing these things.  If I wanted to buy something extra, then I had to earn the money for it.  Summers of my youth were spent detasseling and baling hay.  Once I hit sixteen, I worked part-time outside of the farm.  You were always there for me and supplied me with the necessities, but if I wanted more, I was expected to earn it myself.      

I wasn’t able to have all the coolest, up-to-date clothes that other girls in my class sported.  Mom took us shopping at Farm & Fleet and we got the Wranglers that were on sale.  Boots were handed down from older siblings, it didn’t matter if they were boys or girls, we wore what fit. 

While my town friends were sleeping in or watching Saturday morning cartoons, we were working cattle before the heat set in for the day.  Sometimes even being woke up in the middle of the night to round up cattle that got out.

You know what though… I wouldn’t change it for anything.  Life on the farm taught me many lessons that I have carried with me into adulthood.

–          Determination and Commitment – When I got bucked off a horse, the world didn’t stop turning for me, I had to get right back on and ride.  You taught me that when something isn’t going right, you don’t give up, you dig your heels in and finish the job. 

–          Roll with the Punches –  Things don’t always go as expected on a farm… you’ve got a 30 acre field of hay cut and an unexpected thunderstorm rolls in, or a heifer is having problems calving at 2 in the morning, you’ve got to deal with the obstacles as they come at you, not everything can be done by the book…. Not so different than the hurdles I face in life now.

–          Caring – Farmers care about the welfare of their sources of livelihood – the livestock and the land – like no other profession I’ve ever come across.  You taught me this.  How many corporate folk do you know that would go out in the driving rain and sleet to help a downed cow?  I can’t name any.  That’s part of a farmer’s job though.  You care about the quality of life of your animals and that extends to caring about others as well.  When a neighboring farmer is going through a hard time and needs help getting the crops in, we helped.  You don’t stand by and watch others struggle, you do what you can to lift them up.

–          Respect – You taught me to respect my elders, the land and the animals we raised.  Without them, we wouldn’t have anything. 

–          Be Independent and Work Hard– You can’t rely on others for everything.  You taught me that if I wanted something I had to work for it and do it myself.  There wasn’t going to be any magical Fairy Godmother to wave her wand and pay for my first car or my college tuition.  You taught me how to change a tire so I wouldn’t have to be stuck on the side of the road waiting for help. 

This is just a short list of the things you taught me, but what I’m really trying to say is, thank you Dad, from the bottom of my heart.  I appreciate all the lessons learned and quality time spent together.   Without you and Mom showing me the ropes of farm life, I don’t think I would be the person I am today.  And to all the other farm parents who have created such an amazing environment in which to raise their families, you are appreciated.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant


Last week, most of the Illinois Corn staff and nearly all of their farmer leaders were in Nashville, TN for the Commodity Classic.  This entire event is a collection of corn, soybean, wheat, and sorghum farmers from all over the nation.  This year, we broke a record with over 6,000 farmers in attendance!

nashville, TN commodity classicSo what do we do while we’re there?  The most important event for IL Corn is “Corn Congress.”  This is when National Corn Growers Association delegates (farmers leaders from each state) come together to present and review policy directives that give the National Corn Growers Association staff and the corresponding state staff direction on what to pursue the following year.

This was confusing to me at first.  Basically, the farmers get together and complete new statements or revise old statements that reflect what they as a body of corn farmers believe.  Things like, “We support public funding of land grant institutions to disseminate information, science, etc. about biotech.”  And “Grain marketing value should be determined on a dry matter and intrinsic value basis.” are the sorts of things we discuss.  At the end of the Congress, we have a book of values statements that staff are able to follow when making a decision about how we should react in any given situation.

Jeff Jarboe, corn, farmer, trade, show, Commodity Classic, Nashville, TNBut there are also lots of other perks to being at Commodity Classic.  Their trade show is one of the largest farm trade shows all year with over 900 booths this year.  The farmer leaders and all the other farmers that come to the event get to enjoy representatives from every ag industry you can imagine, hearing about new technologies and making contacts that will utimately better their farms.  Pictured is Jeff Jarboe, a Loda, IL farmer, discussing farm business with a trade show representative.

And we find plenty of time to unwind too.  In fact, we build fun time into fundraising time.  This photo of IL Corn staffer Dave Loos and Illinois Corn Growers Association Vice President Paul Taylor was taken during the NCGA PAC auction.  Farmers bid on auction items to raise money for NCGA’s political activities throughout the year.  This year, we raised $144,000!

paul taylor, corn farmer, illinois, auctionCommodity Classic next year will be held Feb 28 – March 2 in Kissimmee, FL.  If you are a farmer, you might consider attending!

If you are not a farmer, please know how hard farmers work to develop a national organization that really represents who they are and is a leader on the national political stage.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


Last week I was given the opportunity to attend the Agricultural Communications Symposium in Champaign, IL.  It was a great opportunity for a college student such as myself, because I got to hear numerous professionals speak about ag communications and what they have learned in their years of experience. While I learned a lot at the event, there was one statement that I thought was a great take-home message from the day. During the last panel, Kristina Boone from Kansas State University made a great point:

“We all know our beliefs, but we need to know our facts.”

What a short but noteworthy point! How many times have I tried to make the point that everyone is entitled to their opinion or beliefs, but before forming said beliefs people need to do some research? Her statement really hit home for me and I thought it was worth sharing.

No matter how opinionated people are… you can’t argue the facts. Even when researching information on a topic, people often disregard facts that disagree with their current opinion. The fact of the matter is that there are facts out there that can support almost any argument, but we must take ALL of the facts into consideration in order to be making an informed judgment. Especially when it comes to the food we are choosing to buy, it is incredibly important to be an informed consumer!

So I encourage you to form your own opinions and stick to your beliefs… but know your facts first.

For more on this event, check out Holly Spangler’s blog, Is Agriculture Waiting to Talk?

Rosie Sanderson
Illinois State University Student


As GroundHog Day is being celebrated today, many people have anticipated over the past few weeks whether “Phil” the groundhog will see his Shadow. Many dread that six extra weeks of winter while others, like me, welcome it. Either way, agriculturalists know that weather in general can influence crops in hundreds of different ways, good or bad. Despite what most might think, winter weather is actually a vital part of the growing process, and snow has several benefits besides providing a fun filled snow day to students or a day off of work. Snow provides much needed moisture to plants, such as trees, grass, and winter cover crops that must survive the cold season.

What is a cover crop?

illinois, winter, field, farm, agriculture, harvestIn Illinois, it’s typically winter wheat, shown in the picture above, which gets planted between peak production periods of corn and soybeans. This crop typically lays dormant over the winter months and then grows in the early spring season. The cover crop offers farmers another source of income, weed control during the early spring months, along with protecting the soil from wind and water erosion or the washing/blowing away of material from the surface of the soil.

Another major benefit of snow is that it literally creates a blanket for the soil. Soil temperatures actually vary a lot through the course of the year and snow actually is an excellent insulator to keep the soil warmer during the winter months. Typically, for every inch of snow the temperature underneath the snow increases by 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Why is the soil temperature important to farmers?

illinois, farm, winter, snow, cornSoil contains millions of different organisms with millions more still not identified that are beneficial and harmful to plants. Many of these organisms need warmer temperatures, moisture, and several other components to survive and typically dive deeper into the soil where it’s warmer or become dormant during the winter months. The organisms that benefit the plant, such as, earthworms and microorganisms, actually eat organic matter. Organic matter consists of dead animal remains or plant material that can decay over time. When harvesting crops a good portion of the plant is actually left in the field where the plants begin to decompose. When millions of these microorganisms eat organic matter or the left over plants, they excrete vital nutrients that plants can use such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur. When the soil becomes warm enough, those organisms become active and start breaking down that organic matter in the soil. When we get snow covering the ground for longer periods of time the cold doesn’t penetrate the ground as deep and protects those organisms in the ground. It also means that the soil takes less time to warm up once the winter months have passed enabling farmers to enter the fields sooner in the spring.

So as the landscape begins to turn green over the next couple months, or whether Phil the groundhog actually sees his shadow or not, know that weather actually plays one of the biggest roles in growing crops year round, including the winter months that we get snow.

Eric King
Western Illinois University Agribusiness student


Welcome to Video Week on Corn Corps! The Sundance Film Festival is in full swing and we thought what better way to celebrate than by bringing you one video every day this week that celebrates Illinois agriculture, corn production, and farm family life.

Today’s video comes to us from the Facebook page Agriculture Everyday

“The past few days there has been quite a bit of discussion on a Yahoo article about useless degrees, with agriculture topping it. It makes a few comments that I find somewhat degrading to the agriculture and farming lifestyle. Since most of the agriculture community has been upset and offended by that article, I felt the need to uplift farmers and remind them that agriculturalists are some of the strongest people I know. So please, watch the video below. Paul Harvey hit the nail right on the head in my opinion, and I am proud to say I grew up on a farm and I can attest to most of this video in some way or another.”


The Department of Agriculture at Illinois State University has just celebrated its 100th birthday.   The instructors, students, technology and career opportunities have changed considerably over the last ten decades but the mission of the Department has not, and that is to prepare young people to succeed and become leaders in our nation’s most important industry, agriculture. 

In 1911, Erwin Madden was hired as the first professor of agriculture at Illinois State Normal University.   Professor Madden moved quickly to establish a University Farm and by 1914 farm buildings and a house for the farm manager had been constructed.  That farm was located at the north edge of campus where the current Ropp Agriculture Building is located. The fields extended west and south where now Horton Fieldhouse, Redbird Arena and Turner Hall are located.  Enrollment in the agriculture program grew rapidly given the increase in the demand for agriculture teachers at Illinois high schools.  Because of the need to construct new classrooms, athletic facilities and dormitories near campus the ISU farm was moved to the northwest edge of campus on Gregory Street.  As the Town of Normal grew, inevitably the University farm needed to be relocated once again.  In 2000, ISU purchased the FS Research Farm near Lexington, Illinois.  Buildings at that location were renovated and new buildings were constructed.  Today the ISU Farm at Lexington provides state of the art facilities for research and teaching, and each year hosts hundreds of visitors. The Horticulture Center located just off of Rabb Road was established in 2006 and is the latest addition to the Department’s teaching and research facilities.  The Horticulture Center offers students and the general public an opportunity to view a number of gardens made up of hundreds of different plant species.

The agricultural curriculum at ISU has changed to reflect the evolution of the agriculture industry. By the 1960’s Illinois State Normal University had evolved into a comprehensive university and was now called Illinois State University.  An agriculture major with specific sequences in agronomy, livestock science and teacher education was developed and in the mid-1970’s a new major, agribusiness, was offered.  In 1992, the ISU Agriculture Department established a Master’s program in Agribusiness and later launched a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Science.  The Department’s current curriculum reflects today’s wide range of specialized fields in agriculture.  Student’s can now concentrate in horticulture and landscape design, agricultural communication and leadership,  food industry management, pre-veterinary studies as well as the traditional fields of study such as agribusiness, agronomy, livestock science and agricultural education.

The Department of Agriculture’s Centennial Celebration featured a number of events for alumni, students and the general public.  These included the 1911 Dinner at the Horticulture Center that featured food commonly offered in 1911, an old fashion barn dance and Agriculture Day at an ISU football game.   The celebration culminated in a 100th Anniversary Gala that featured Max Armstrong as the keynote speaker.

While reflecting on the accomplishments of the last 100 years, the Department of Agriculture faculty and staff look forward to the challenges and opportunities agriculture will present in the next 100 years.

Rick Whitacre
ISU Professor


On July 28, 2010 in the small town of Mt. Carroll, IL, fourteen year old Wyatt Whitebread and nineteen year old Alex Pacas were killed working in a grain bin.  Out of this tragedy and the efforts of family members to bring awareness to the dangers of working in and around stored grain, the Grain Handling Safety Coalition (GHSC) was born.

The coalition includes ag associations like Illinois Corn, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois FFA, and others as well as Universities, family members, private citizens, and government agencies.  Together, they plan to develop curriculum and train volunteers to reach into communities and educate farmers, fire departments, rescue teams and others on grain bin safety.

Illinois Corn is excited about this project and appreciates the chance to educate farmers and rural communities about these issues.  As an example, Illinois Corn’s home office is in Bloomington, IL right in the middle of McLean County which is largest corn producing county in the U.S.  Still, Bloomington is somewhat of a urban area with local rescue teams and fire departments potentially having no education on how to save someone trapped in a grain bin.  This project has the potential to save lives due to swift and educated action when an accident occurs.

GHSC’s mission is to prevent and reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities across the grain industry spectrum through safety education, prevention and outreach.

We look forward to aiding in that mission.

Phil Thornton
ICGA/ICMB Value Enhanced Project Director


It’s trivia day here in the U.S. and to celebrate, brush up on your corn trivia!

  • American family farmers produce 20 percent more corn per acre than any other country in the world.
  • 95% of all corn farms in America are family owned.
  • The largest corn yields in history all occurred in the last eight years.  Consequently, eight of the largest crops in history also occurred over the last eight years.
  • Researchers estimate that a national average of 300 bushels per acre is aIllinois, farm, field, farmer, country, sceniccheivable by 2030.  The 2010 national average was 153.
  • Less than 1 percent of the country’s corn crop is sweet corn – the kind we eat frozen, from a can, or fresh off the cob.
  • An acre of corn removes 8 tons of harmful greenhouse gas, more than that produced by your car annually.
  • America’s corn farmers have cut soil erosion 44 percent by using innovative conservation tillage methods.
  • America’s corn farmers grow 87% more corn per ounce of fertilizer applied thanks to innovative farming practices.
  • Only about 11% of corn acreage was irrigated in 2010.
  • Illinois’ number one market for corn is exporting it to other countries.
  • The number one U.S. market for corn is livestock.
  • Agriculture helps feed our economy with nearly $100 billion in exports and over 24 million jobs here at home.
  • Agricultural productivity has increased 200 percent from 1948 to 1994, with no increase in overall inputs.
  • The value of the corn in a standard box of corn flakes is approximately 5 cents.



In many ways, farmers are traditionalists. Most of the old tried and true values and systems seem to work best on the farm, with a hint of modern and technology thrown in. This week on Corn Corps, we will use famous quotes spouting historical wisdom from even more famous Americans as a platform to tell you more about Illinois corn farmers and agriculture.

“Every man owes a part of his time and money to the business or industry in which he is engaged.  No man has a moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.”  ~Theodore Roosevelt

Definitely times have changed since Mr. Roosevelt first uttered this quote.  People seem less interested in gathering together with others in their industry or profession and more interested in sending an email or a text.  We’re too busy to participate, too tired to contribute, and too stressed to offer solutions.  Our finances are stretched then.

In the farming community, our numbers are dwindling since Roosevelt’s time.  Now with fewer than 2 percent of the U.S. population growing food for the world, I would argue that we don’t have the benefit of excuses.  Farmers simply can’t shirk away from contributing thinking that someone else will do it.  They can’t afford to be too busy and they can’t dream of not participating.

On the other hand, farmers also can’t miss the window of opportunity to get their crops in the ground to attend a meeting.  They can’t be late for milking because of a conference call.  They can’t skip a sunny day perfect for field work to chat with their Congressman in town.

But they do.  More than 4,000 farmers in Illinois belong to the Illinois Corn Growers Association.  Every single one of them makes a sacrifice to support the industry in which they are engaged.  Even more of them donate meaningful time, leaving their families at home to care for the farm, to determine research initiatives, legislative goals, and educational initiatives to better the agricultural industry in Illinois and the U.S.

By default, they better your lives too.  In the farmer’s quest to preserve his land for future generations, the non-farmer receives more wholesome food and a better earth to live on.  In the farmer’s quest to make better farm policy, you receive food security unknown by millions around the world.  While a farmer thoughtfully researches new markets for his crop, you receive food, fiber and fuel that using renewable resources that often lower your costs and reinvest in your country.

As a non-farmer, you benefit daily from the farmer’s devotion to his industry, his business, his lifestyle.  Are you as committed to bettering the world around you as he is?

And if you’re a farmer reading this, are you doing your part?

American apathy abounds.  I urge you to get engaged in something, find someone to help, find something to work for.  Mr. Roosevelt argues that it is a moral issue; I tend to agree.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICMB/ICGA Marketing Director

Have you checked out the ICGA Annual Report focused around this Roosevelt quote?