TOP POSTS OF 2017 #1: TO THE FARM KID DURING HARVEST

[Originally published: September 19, 2017]

That time of year is quickly approaching. You know the time of year where the air becomes colder, the food you eat becomes warmer, and the sunset comes sooner. It’s the time of the year that you look forward to every year because you get to finally see the combine going in fields nearby and maybe just maybe you get to ride in the tractor to the elevator to drop off some freshly harvested grain. But what no one really tells you is that sometimes these can be really hard because you might not get to see your mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa like you are used to because they have to get the crops out of the field. Take it from me, a farm kid whose dad not only farms but also runs multiple grain elevators. During harvest, I barely see my dad for around six to eight weeks. My dad has missed endless amounts of concerts, sporting events, birthdays, and literally any event during the months of September through November. Having a dad that would go to literally everything you had to him not being there all the time was and is still super hard to deal with. But this is what I have learned through all of the harvests that I have been through:

When you get the chance to ride/drive in combine or tractor with them, do it!

Though this might be a “well duh” moment to you, remember that this might be the only time during the week that you get to see them. Enjoy the ride. Stay off your phone. And actually, talk to them. I have found that some of my conversations ever have happened in either a combine or tractor.

It hurts them not being able to see you as much as it hurts you!

Though they may not come out and say it, they miss you as much as you miss them. Though they might like harvest, the endless hours can sometimes get to be too much for them. Know that they miss not being at every event that you have in life. They really do. But know that they want to be there cheering you on and even though they might not be there physically they are still cheering you on.

Help make a meal to take to them in the field.

Okay, this isn’t harvest, but come on. THIS IS ADORABLE

Nothing. And I mean nothing (okay maybe no equipment breaking down) is better during harvest than a home-cooked meal. If you know or are able to, make something for that someone that you miss that you can take to them in the field or wherever they are. The way to someone’s heart is through their stomach (I think that’s how that saying goes, LOL) and I am sure they will get the hint loud and clear that you love them, miss them, and care for them.

Remember this doesn’t last forever.

Harvest (hopefully) only lasts between six to eight weeks. Though it can, and sometimes does feel like a long time, know that it will end. Life will go back to how it normally was. They will be found on the sidelines of your games, sitting in the auditorium waiting for your performance, and tucking you into bed like they normally do.

You are not alone

It’s going to seem like you are alone. Like no one else is going through this. But that is not true. Even though people around you might not be saying all the time that they miss _____ because of harvest, they really do. Know that there are so many people, people you might not even know that are going through this time of missing someone because of harvest, but like I said earlier harvest does not last forever.

To all of the Farm Kids and Farm Families gearing up for harvest, I wish you nothing but a successful and smooth harvest season. Always remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that harvest does not last forever. Enjoy this season!

Abby Jacobs
Illinois State University

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: FARM PROFITABILITY

[Originally posted December 16, 2016]

We actually asked for more stable farm profitability last year, but Santa hasn’t brought it yet!  In fact, farming has gotten harder with more farmers losing money and more bankers refusing to loan farmers the cash to put in a crop based on their precarious budget sheets.

WE NEED FARM PROFITABILITY!

If you haven’t already read our Are Farmers Rich post, you’ll want to start there … remembering that this particular article and the economic conditions it presents are two years old.

The bottom line is, farmers are losing money.  Lots of it.  In fact, for many farmers, the more acres you farm the more you’re losing.  Luckily, this was a good year for crops and higher yields started to offset the extremely low prices, but that might not always happen.

Think about it: for every other business that creates something, they name the price for that product that includes how much it costs to produce it.  Competition in the marketplace might force them to lower their product cost to a lower margin, but they can always guarantee they are making at least a bit of profit.

Farmers are price takers, not price makers.  They don’t get to determine how much it cost them to grow a bushel of corn and set their price from there.  They have to just take whatever price the commodity markets dictate.  And right now, that cost is well below the cost of production.

Most of the other things on our list will help us price prices because they are about creating demand or minimizing costs of production.  Trade opportunities and that darn RVP waiver will create more demand in terms of selling more corn overseas or selling more ethanol in the summer months.  Better locks and dams will decrease the cost of getting corn to an international market.  More conservation will prevent regulations that will cost farmers money.

I swear Santa, we aren’t asking for much.  Please … farm profitability for 2017?

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: RVP WAIVER

[Originally posted December 15, 2016]

This Christmas list item gets complicated, so bear with me.

A RVP waiver – Reid Vapor Pressure waiver – is what Americans really need to use more renewable fuels and capitalize on the domestic, clean-burning fuel we have right at our fingertips.

SANTA, BRING THAT WAIVER FOR E15!

The back story on this request is that when it’s really hot, bad stuff (emissions) evaporate from your fuel (evaporative emissions) and can cause summertime air pollution.  The EPA doesn’t want that to happen.

They measure the evaporative emissions using the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) standard.  The higher the RVP of a fuel, the worse its emissions are.

The RVP of pure ethanol is 2.  The RVP of gasoline can range from 7 to 15.

But when blended, the RVP of an ethanol/gasoline blend can exceed the RVP standard.  The RVP of a 10% blend of ethanol into gasoline (the standard fuel today) is about 10.

In 1990, Congress amended the Clean Air Act to allow E10 a waiver – in other words, Congress gave EPA the authority to allow the use of E10 during the summer months.  But we’re still waiting on the waiver to allow E15 in the summer months, and the absence of that waiver is what makes E15’s movement into the marketplace so complicated.

By the way, the RVP of E15 is actually lower than E10 and straight gasoline.

So, Santa, I’m not sure if you understood all this, but we could really use that waiver in our hands on Christmas Eve.  The world stands to benefit from cleaner air, and consumers will definitely enjoy the extra cents per gallon in their pockets.

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: MORE CONSERVATION

[Originally posted December 14, 2016]

IL Corn and the ag industry has introduced some management practices and talked about some concepts that are different for farmers, trying to help them improve the water quality coming from IL farms.

Farmers are anxious to learn, some are trying out a few new practices, others are watching and learning from their neighbors, but …

WE NEED MORE FARMERS TO TRY MORE CONSERVATION PRACTICES.

Farmers are farming because they love it, but also because they need to provide for their own families.  So trying something completely new, and risking tens of thousands of dollars or more in the process, is a scary thing.

Research tells us that trying cover crops will cost *this much* and improve soil health *this much* while also decreasing nutrient loss *this much.*  But the research put into practice on some farms doesn’t always work out exactly the same.  Farmers get nervous to try new things … and that’s understandable!

But Santa, we’ve got to make our water quality better.  We’ve got to lose less of the expensive fertilizer we’re putting on our fields.  We’ve got to invest in our land and preserve it for future generations.  Farmers definitely want to do this!  It is their core value and the foundation of their farming business.

So one thing we’d love for Christmas is for more farmers to TRY a new conservation practice on their fields this year.  Maybe they just try it on one field, maybe they branch out to several.  Maybe they talk with a neighbor and try the same thing she had success with in 2016.  We’re making progress, but MORE progress would sure be nice.

Whisper in their ears – would you Santa?  We’ll keep providing the outreach, education, and programming in the meantime …

Note: In 2016, IL Corn offered several new educational programs for farmers!  These are just a few:

  • cover crop coupons – to try cover crops at a reduced cost for the first year
  • field days – to see how different management techniques were actually working on farms in Illinois
  • interactive maps – to help farmers understand when to apply nitrogen and when not to apply
  • Precision Conservation Management – a pilot program that helps farmers understand conservation practices AND the financial implications that correlate with them
  • water testing – to understand how much of the expensive fertilizer a farmer was losing from his/her field

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: TRADE OPPORTUNITIES

[Originally posted December 13, 2016]

It stands to reason that right after an investment in getting our grain to a global market, we’d like to see increased market opportunities, right?

Check out our first ask of Santa here.

The opportunities are there.  And Illinois believes we can compete with anyone in the world in terms of grain quality, quantity, and price.

WE JUST NEED GLOBAL MARKET ACCESS!

Trade deals are really important when it comes to selling more corn to more countries all over the world.  We’d definitely like to see trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) pass Congress and become effective.

TPP won’t increase the amount of corn we send overseas, but it will increase the amount of red meat we sell overseas.  More meat sold means more livestock production here in the U.S. which means more animals to eat more corn!  It’s a win for everyone involved.

Overall though Santa, we’d love it if you’d just create a blanket of positive trade talk over Washington, DC.  Will the incoming administration support trade in the end?  We’re just not sure and we’d love your help on this!

Note: Trade is so important to Illinois.  About half of our corn leaves the state – much of it to other countries like Mexico and Japan.  What leaves our state and doesn’t go overseas is feeding livestock in other states like Texas and THEN going overseas.  This is because of our position on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers – we will never stop advocating for more and more trade!

There’s also this.  Trade is important from a humanitarian level.  We have to trade to get the food from where it’s produced (the U.S., Brazil, Argentina) to where the hungry people are.

Don’t ever forget about the hungry people Santa.

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS: LOCKS & DAMS

 

[Originally posted December 12, 2016]

At this point, I sound like a broken record.  (And if you’re tired of hearing me talk about locks and dams, be glad you don’t know Jim Tarmann – an IL Corn staffer who has been working on this issue for 20ish years!)

Illinois farmers need updated locks and dams if the U.S. wants us to remain globally competitive.  There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

WE NEED LOCKS AND DAMS!

We’re getting closer.  Congress has changed some funding equations and the industry (all the users of the river system) agreed to pay more in order to generate income to improve locks and dams.  This means that we’re closer than we’ve ever been and that’s exciting.

But we’re really REALLY hoping that Santa will whisper in the ears of the powers that be and include lock and dam construction in the potential transportation and infrastructure spending we keep hearing about in the new year.  This could be such a huge gain for IL agriculture!!

Want to learn more?  We’ve published some great articles on the need for upgraded locks and dams (click here).  Don’t forget, the locks and dams we’re using now were built in Mark Twain’s era for steam boats!!  At that time, we weren’t even dreaming about huge tows of grain headed to a global market!!

You might also enjoy this short video clip.

Please Santa!  Let’s start on a new lock in 2017!

Mitchell_LindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

WHAT WAS FARMING LIKE 10/25/100 YEARS AGO?

 

Change is the only constant in a perpetually evolving world.  Just as life and traditions change, so do farming practices. In today’s day in age, farmers have easy access to tractors and large machinery, which make the profession of farming much easier. Agriculturists also have the technology of fertilizers, that ensure the crops receive necessary nutrients. Advancements in chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides are used to rid fields of unwanted weeds and pests. However, farming has not always been this precise of a science. It’s interesting to look back and see how far farmers have come in the past century.

Early in the 20th-century farmers used a system of planting called hill dropping of checked corn. This system required a wire to be strung from one end of a field to the other, and it would be strung through a planter powered by a team of horses. This wire would release a small pile of corn, hence the term ‘hill’, in 42-inch rows. But why 42 inches? Because that’s the average width of a horse! These checked rows allowed for cultivators to be easily pulled through the field. Since there were no herbicides to kill weeds, farmers relied solely upon cultivators to uproot the nuisances. More in-depth information on this practice can be found here!

Fast forward to about 25 years ago, when farming seems to have vastly improved from the seemingly primitive ways of the early 1900’s. Instead of farming in 42-inch rows, corn grew within 30-inch rows. This allowed for more plants to grow in each field, which lead to an increase in yields. By this point in time, farmers were using tractors to pull their planters, which greatly increased the efficiency of their time and efforts.  However, these aren’t the only technological benefits! In the 1990’s farmers started utilizing satellite technology to increase their accuracy, which made the farming profession a very meticulous one. Additionally, the number of farmers trying conservation tillage methods continued to rise. This simply means that producers leave more plant residue in the field, with intentions to prevent erosion. This extra plant material will add organic matter to the soil, which will also improve the land’s productivity. On top of all these advancements, in 1997 the first insect and weed resistant crops become commercially available. If you’re particularly interested in learning more about how farming improved in the 90’s, I suggest you check out this link!

Farming in the early 2000’s… was it really that much different from farming today? To start off with, one of the most important pieces of legislation regarding farming practices was passed. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, also referred to as the Farm Bill, created rules and regulations for anything from conservation practices, to organic agriculture, to crop insurance. This bill promoted innovative solutions to resource challenges, established a new disaster assistance program, expanded the opportunities for farmers’ markets, and much more!  Further information about the full impacts of the 2008 Farm Bill can be found here. Without these past accomplishments, the agriculture industry would certainly not be the same as it is today.

Rosie Roberts
Iowa State 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

 

 

#TBT: 10 WAYS FARMERS ARE DIFFERENT FROM SUPERHEROES

[Originally posted: September 28, 2015]

As an Agriculture Communications major and not having much of a background in agriculture, let me tell you how much I am learning about this incredible industry, and more importantly, the leaders of this industry.

One big lesson that I have learned is that some of the most accepting and loving people come from the world of agriculture. Many people have their special talents but I’ve learned that it’s farmers that are my superheroes!

farmer superheroThese are just some of the ways farmers are different than superheroes:

  1. They don’t wear their underwear on the outside of their pants.

2. They don’t have an alter ego to hide their superhero-ness-they just own it. Farmers aren’t anybody but themselves and they’re proud of it!

3. They feed the world, instead of fighting crime.

4. Their capes are actually farmer hats

5. Their mode of transportation doesn’t fly but has four-wheel drive. Farmers need four-wheel drive to pull and load heavy farm equipment

john deere case6. Farmers work past bedtime to make sure the day’s work is done. Being a farmer is a lot of hard work! A farmer works around the clock to make sure daily chores are accomplished. This isn’t no nine to five job!

7. Their kryptonite is the battle to choose between red or green. Will it be John Deere or Case International? Which one is better?

8. Farmers don’t wear tights they wear fashionable flannel.

9. Their idea of a vacation is coming back with a farmers tan. A farmer’s tan refers to the tan lines developed by a working farmer regularly exposed to the sun. The farmer’s tan is usually started with a suntan covering only the arms and neck. It is distinct in that the shoulders, chest, and back remain unaffected by the sun.

10. Their partners in crime may cluck or moo but they will always be there for you. There is no greater bond than an animal and its caretaker!

Farmers are so much more than just superheroes. They are one of a kind. I have so much respect for these men, women, and families who work around the clock to provide each and every one of us food, and other vital resources. Where would we be without these producers?

Fun fact: Did you know that for every acre of land harvested provides food for 122 people?

Next time you see a farmer thank them for all the hard work that they do!

melissa satchwellMelissa Satchwell
Illinois State University student

#TBT: HOW TO FEED A FARMER

[Originally posted: September 22, 2015]

Harvest has just begun at my house! For our family farm, that means Dad’s in the combine, Hubs is running the grain trucks, Mom’s occasionally helping in the grain cart, and I’m… in the kitchen. I wasn’t raised on a farm – I married into it. I can’t move the trailer, dump the truck, shift the 4455 or herd the calves that are grazing my front lawn while the rest of the family is shelling corn at the field furthest away. But I can give rides… and I can cook!

“Field Meals” are my way of contributing to the harvest effort. As a farm wife who’s got a nine-to-five (or 7:30 to 4:00) in town, I don’t have time to pack the folding table, crock pot, and picnic basket full of gourmet goodies requiring full table service to eat supper. My family likes to “eat with one hand and shift with the other,” as my farmer would tell you! In order to keep up with the fast pace whirlwind of the season, I have developed a strategic game plan to conquer harvest hunger:

  1. Plan ahead.

    I’m a meal planner. I’ve always sat down on Sunday afternoon with my calendar, recipe book and shopping list — Harvest is no different. I have an idea list of main dishes, sides, snacks, drinks and desserts to keep stocked at the house. Drinks are chilling in the fridge, ground beef is browned the night before. That way when I get home from work I already know what’s going in their supper sacks – which leads me to my next tip…

  2. Make it disposable.

    I learned early on that stuff that gets sent out to the field doesn’t often make it back to the house – and if it does, three days later, it’s extra gross and moldy. To save time and sanity (and dishsoap!) I package everything in baggies, plastic sauce cups with lids, tin foil and plastic grocery sacks. The guys get plastic cutlery when required (which isn’t often) and in recent years I’ve invested in those Styrofoam take out boxes which have been a huge help. Once everything is individually wrapped, I do my best to split it out into Dad’s bag and Hub’s bag. I’ll pack a thermal bag with the hot food and a cold cooler with drinks to put together at the last minute in the back of my vehicle.

  3. It must be 1-handed.

    Some farm families I know take the time to sit down and eat in the car with regular dishes and silverware. Not us. This is where you have to know your farmer… As I mentioned before, my husband likes to eat while he drives, therefore it can’t be anything too complicated (no spaghetti, no chilli, no packets of mayo and mustard to put on his own sandwich). He’s running the grain trucks to the bins and can barely keep up with the combine. His dad, on the other hand, doesn’t mind taking a break from combining to sit in the car with me and eat “like a civilized human being.”
    I’ve come up with some pretty creative one-handed meals – some more successful than others. You’ve got your classic, hamburgers & brats, to the more contemporary pigs in blankets, pork chop on the bone, and grilled ham & cheese with a tomato Soup-At-Hand. Fresh fruit is always a win and veggie sticks with dip works out well. Some epic fails include Salad wraps (think: veggies wrapped up in lettuce leaves with dressing inside), go-gurt, and those kid-friendly applesauce pouches. Apparently food packaged in tubes is inappropriate for anyone over the age of 12.

  4. Keep it clean.

    Don’t forget to pack plenty of napkins, paper towels, and something to wipe their hands on before eating. My mother-in-law always sends out a wet rag in a plastic baggie for the guys to wipe their greasy, dirty hands with. (She too has learned the hard way not to send out her good washcloths – they won’t come back). I’ve tried to substitute the cloth for a wet-wipe but they just can’t withstand the rough, farmer, man-hands. Trust me on this one, just send an old sock or chunk of t-shirt.

  5. Don’t forget Dessert.

    This may or may not go noticed by my farmer, but I always try to include a treasure at the bottom of the bag. Whether it’s homemade chocolate chip cookie, a couple Reese’s peanut butter cups, or a cold silver bullet, it’s my way of making him smile as he works late into the evening.

So what’s on my upcoming menu, you ask?

  • Stuffed French Bread sandwiches with carrot and celery sticks, ranch dip, grapes, and a pudding cup. Tea/water/soda
  • Bratwurst on the grill, individual bags of chips, steamed veggies, apple slices, and banana chocolate chip muffins. Tea/water/soda
  • Breakfast sandwiches (fried eggs with bacon and cheese between buttered English muffin halves) Rosemary roasted potatoes & onions, orange slices. Tea/water/soda… chocolate milk?
  • Corn dogs, French fries, fruit cup, steamed veggies, drinks
  • Aaaaaand probably a fast food run to Arby’s or Subway a couple times in between!

If you have any recipes that fit my criteria, I’d love to hear from you.

Ashley Family pic

 

Deal_AshleyAshley Deal
Membership Administrative Assistant