LIFE LESSONS FROM THE CATTLE BARN

The McLean County Fair starts this week, and I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic about the whole thing. Like most other farm kids, I was in 4-H and spent a good chunk of my summers living at those county fairs where I showed cattle. Corn dogs for breakfast, lunch and dinner, tractor pulls, rigging up hammocks in the cattle chutes for an afternoon nap, being equally as intrigued by the city folks walking through the cattle barn as they were by the cattle themselves… gotta love it! While my friends were busy sleeping until noon and spending the rest of the day in the pool, we were living it up in the beef barn at the county fairs! But I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
227302_1017763249277_5428_nYou can learn so many life lessons from those kinds of experiences. For one thing, no one can teach you respect like a 1,400 lb steer. If the sheer size and strength of that animal isn’t motivation to pay attention and have respect, I don’t know what is! You also learn about responsibility. If you think you are eating breakfast before those cattle are fed, washed and watered… think again. You can eat as soon as those animals are taken care of and content in their stalls.

One of the greatest lessons I learned through the 4-H shows, however, is selflessness. You see, livestock shows can be ruthless just like any other competition. But, at least in my experience, that is what you see at the open shows where anyone and everyone can enter into the competition. The 4-H fairs are different. Each and every one of the kids in the show ring has worked hard to train, feed and groom their animal properly. Some of the kids in the show ring are more experienced than others, but regardless, everyone is learning. At a 4-H fair, I rarely saw an exhibitor or parent hesitate to help someone else with their animal. Whether it be grooming tips, helping with water buckets, or getting a rowdy animal under control, everyone steps in to help those who need it.

These lessons are, of course, relevant in the cattle barn at the county fairs. But they also extend to every other aspect of life. There will always be a need for respect and responsibility no matter what profession those kids choose to be in. And even beyond the workplace, there will always be people who need a helping hand. So many people these days would choose to look the other way; they only help others if they see some sort of personal gain. So often, though, it is people like all those 4-H kids I grew up with that are the ones to step in and help without a second thought.

There are so many different ways to grow up and spend your summer vacations, and I don’t think any of them are wrong. Heck, on those hot summer days I was so jealous of my friends playing video games in the air conditioning & swimming in their pools! But looking back, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I loved those smelly, dusty, sweaty cattle barns… and I learned so many things that some of my peers still haven’t figured out. So I hope all those 4-H kids are going to enjoy themselves at the fair this week! Because I miss it like crazy!

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
Membership Administrative Assistant

LEARN MORE ABOUT ILLINOIS FARMERS AT THE CORN CRIB

An evening or afternoon at the Corn Crib can be a fun family activity. Bring your family- old and young out to see the Normal CornBelters presented by Illinois corn farmers. Manager Brooks Carey has an exciting team evidenced by the CornBelters having the most players to play in the Frontier League All-Star Game this week.

Carey was asked by Phil Warren, the manager of the Gateway Grizzlies and the coach of the West Division All-Star team, to join the coaching staff for the All-Star Game.

The Cornbelters have seven players in the All-Star Game, and they are: Cullen Babin, Santaigo Chirino, Aaron Dudley, Sam Judah, Alan Oaks, Mike Schwartz and Tyler Shover

If you have not checked out a CornBelters game in a while we invite you to com out, it’s a lot of fun, and you can teach your family about the Illinois farmers– a vital part of our community. Check out NormalBaseball.com for information on buying tickets to the games.

1. Open Your Horizons about Corn

Did you know the Illinois Corn Growers Association maintains a high profile in the legislative arena in Springfield, Ill. and Washington, DC? Some of Illinois Corn’s efforts include distribution of educational materials such as the Captain Cornelius comic books, grocery store and service station promotions, educational exhibits at state and county fair, working with the media on issues like ethanol.

corn hop scotch

2. Meet a Farmer

Your food does not just magically appear at the grocery store, and that corn-on-the cob– a staple at family barbecues in the summer is no exception. There is a farmer behind that cob of corn. Of course, we all know that corn you eat on the cob isn’t the same corn that goes into ethanol and livestock feed. Either way, there is a farm family attached to that farmer. They live in our community and support our community, and they attend Normal CornBelters baseball games, just like you do. They know you care about how your food is raised because they are families who care about the same food they grow and eat themselves.  To find out more you can check out: www.watchusgrow.org and get answer to your questions.

3. There are other farmers besides Corn Farmers: Find out more about locally grown beef or pork.

The Normal CornBelters hold Beef Night and Pork Night. Drop by the Corn Crib and meet a livestock farmer. Did you know that livestock animals are the biggest users (via their feed) of corn in the country?

4. Get Your Kids Involved

The Normal CornBelters have a mascot to get the kids involved. Corny is an ear of corn (he is a little bit hard of hearing because he’s only one ear– yuck yuck, ok that was corny). Corny would love to attend your upcoming event including birthday parties, classroom visits and various community events.

Also along those lines, the CornBelters players are also available for events throughout the year.  Dates are filling up so be sure to book your CornBelters appearances today. You would be surprised at how affordable it is and how much it can liven up your events.

For more information: http://www.normalbaseball.com/community/appearance-request

5. How Illinois Farmers Affect Our Lives – From http://www.agr.state.il.us/about/agfacts.html

What agricultural goods are produced in Illinois?

Illinois is a leading producer of soybeans, corn and swine. The state’s climate and varied soil types enable farmers to grow and raise many other agricultural commodities, including cattle, wheat, oats, sorghum, hay, sheep, poultry, fruits and vegetables. Illinois also produces several specialty crops, such as buckwheat, horseradish, ostriches, fish and Christmas trees.

What are the characteristics of a typical Illinois farm?

Illinois’ 76,000 farms cover more than 28 million acres — nearly 80 percent of the state’s total land area. The large number of farms, coupled with the diversity of commodities produced, makes it difficult to describe a typical operation. However, statistics provide some indication about what it means to farm in Illinois.

The average size of an Illinois farm including hobby farms is 368 acres. Most farm acreage is devoted to grain, mainly corn and soybeans. Nearly 10 percent of Illinois farms have swine. Beef cows are found on about 23 percent of farms, while about 3 percent have dairy cows. Some farms produce specialty crops and livestock, including alfalfa, canola, nursery products, emus and fish. Many farming operations also support recreational activities such as hunting and fishing.

How does agriculture benefit Illinois’ economy?

Marketing of Illinois’ agricultural commodities generates more than $9 billion annually. Corn accounts for nearly 40 percent of that total. Marketing of soybeans contributes about one-third, with the combined marketings of livestock, dairy and poultry generating about 23 percent.

Billions more dollars flow into the state’s economy from ag-related industries, such as farm machinery manufacturing, agricultural real estate, and production and sale of value-added food products. Rural Illinois benefits principally from agricultural production, while agricultural processing and manufacturing strengthen urban economies.

Mike Rains

Community Public Relations Manager, Normal CornBelters

IL FARM FAMILIES: SPREADING THE WORD ABOUT AGRICULTURE

Unless you have been living under a rock, you are aware that farmers and ag businesses alike have begun to have more conversations with some of our more urban consumers who have questions about the food we are putting on their tables. This is somewhat of a new concept for our industry, but it presents us with an opportunity to speak to a genuinely interested audience about what we do and why we do it. Most (if not all) of the people who work in the agriculture industry are incredibly proud of what they do, so it is no surprise that many farmers seize the opportunity to teach people about the different things that happen on their farm.

One way those interested urban consumers have been able to learn about their food is through the Illinois Farm Families program. This program, which is funded in part by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, allows moms from the Chicago area (Field Moms) to go on various farm tours to experience farming first hand and have a conversation about their food with the people who are actually growing it. Paul Jeschke, the ICMB District 5 director, and his wife Donna have welcomed multiple groups of Field Moms onto their farm for a tour and discussions about the crops they grow on their farm. Watch the video below to get a glimpse of what it is Paul and Donna are doing to help spread the word about agriculture:

If you are interested in learning more about the Illinois Farm Families program, visit www.watchusgrow.org

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
Membership Administrative Assistant

Summer Travelers Face High Gas Prices

With summer time travel in full gear you may have noticed that when you pull up to the pump the price is continuously going up. Nationally, gas prices are at a six-year high for this time of year. It is estimated that nearly 35 million drivers hit the road this past Fourth of July holiday weekend. Last week, the July 1st United States average price for a gallon of unleaded, regular gas was $3.67.

As gas prices are going to continue increasing, finding the nearest pump that offers ethanol blends is going to be crucial in saving you money. Consumers can find ethanol blends at many gas stations in the state and nationwide. Ethanol fuel prices are reasonably lower than traditional gas prices as currently the price of wholesale ethanol is one dollar cheaper than wholesale gasoline, thus saving consumers of ethanol a good amount of money at the pump.

Ethanol is an alcohol made from renewable resources; mostly corn. The current corn prices are significantly low which allows for ethanol blends to be cheaper than regular, unleaded gasoline.

Aside from ethanol being cheaper than regular gasoline it also provides other benefits such as:
• Reduces harmful vehicle emissions
• Burns cleaner than regular/traditional fuels
• Better for the environment
• Increases vehicle engine performance with higher octane
• Reduces overall costs of transportation fuels
• Locally grown fuel
• Investing in the local and Illinois Economy
• Renewable fuel
Don’t believe it? Check out this video to learn more about the breakdown of Illinois gas prices!

ElizabethElizabeth O’Reilly
ICMB Communications Intern

5 REASONS WHY MY DAD IS BETTER THAN YOURS

  1. He’s not JUST a farmer. He farms in a way that leaves the soil and water on our land in better condition than he found it in. He takes great pride in his job of feeding the world; he doesn’t just work 8-5 or find the quickest way to get the job done, he does it RIGHT.dad 5
  2. He cares about teaching others what he knows. Not only has he learned how we can do better with soil and water conservation on our farm, but he is willing and eager to share that information with others.

dad 1

  1. He works long hours… but he was still present for all the important parts of his kid’s lives. Every year for my birthday, he has gotten me pink sweetheart roses. EVERY. YEAR. How sweet is that?

dad 2

  1. He takes selfies. He’s a pretty hip dude.

dad 3

  1. Do you know HOW my dad became so great? Because of this guy, my grandpa. You have never met a more fun-loving, hardworking, incredibly proud Norwegian in your life. My dad isn’t the only person lucky to have him in his life, we all are.

dad 4

I hope you all enjoyed celebrating the dads in your life yesterday, I know I did!

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
Membership Administrative Assistant

 

GROCERY SHOPPING: OPTIONS ARE GOOD.

As if it’s not bad enough that it’s Monday… I had to go grocery shopping today. Like most of you, I assume, this isn’t exactly one of my favorite activities. Not to mention money is always tight, so it’s never fun spending what you do have on boring stuff like peanut butter and paper towels.

But something amazing happened today. I got all of the items on my list (plus a few extra things like raspberries & kiwi because I felt like treating myself), and my total at the register was UNDER $25. As old and boring as it makes me feel to be THIS excited about my total grocery bill… I couldn’t help but smile as I pulled out of the parking lot.

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I grew up on a farm that raises beef cattle and various crops. We generally use conventional farming methods, but my family is also very interested in conservation of the soil & water on our farm so we take some special measures in those areas. I also have many friends that farm organically or choose to buy organic products at the grocery store. Essentially, I understand where everyone is coming from and truly value everyone’s right to make their own choices about the food they eat.

But today, I am so thankful that I had the option to purchase items at the grocery store that kept my bill under $25. The store I was at offered an organic brand for raspberries, but, to me, raspberries are expensive to begin with and a real treat when I do decide to buy them. So I’m glad I got to spend $3.00 on my raspberries rather than buying no raspberries at all because a store only offered the $6.00 organic product.

This is something I wish the more radical “organic pushers” would understand. I respect your right and ability to buy all organic for you and your family; that’s your prerogative. What I have a problem with, is when people say that their choice is the only right choice, and therefore we, should do away with all other options in grocery stores. I think conversation and education on these issues is incredibly important, but in my opinion, there is no right & wrong when it comes to this debate, there are only options. And, personally, I like options.

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
Membership Administrative Assistant

ETHANOL: FOREVER A SCAPEGOAT AND CONNECTED TO UKRAINIAN UNREST

What’s next? Will high health insurance prices be blamed on ethanol?

What about your kids’ grades in school? Is that ethanol’s fault, too?

Yes, these examples are definitely a bit of a stretch, but seriously. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear it.

A recent example of “it’s ethanol’s fault” was when Trilby Lundberg reported that ethanol is causing gas prices to rise because there is unrest in Ukraine and Ukraine grows corn and the U.S. ethanol supply is primarily produced from corn and so ethanol is more expensive so gas is more expensive. Run on sentence? Definitely. But that’s the point. It’s like a game of 6 degrees of separation. In a desperate bid to be relevant to the news of the day, ethanol comes up in the same news headline as Ukrainian unrest.

It’s exhausting.

Want to know the real story? Jump on over to this blog at A Farm Girl’s Guide to Agriculture. Gracie does a good job debunking this myth. It’s busted.

As Gracie wrote, “…the United States is a huge exporter of corn. According to the U.S. Grains Council, the United States supplies 50% of the exported corn supply while the Ukraine provides a mere 5.5%. In addition, the United States will import zero bushels of corn in 2014. That’s right- nothing.

The petroleum industry is blaming this rise in gas prices on the ethanol industry. Because the national average for gasoline is $3.51 (as of 3/10/14)- which is the highest it’s been since September- it’s automatically ethanol’s fault. Probably because they want to increase the ethanol blend in regular gasoline from 10% to 15% [insert sarcasm here].

Guess what? Ethanol actually LOWERS gasoline prices! If you were to buy ethanol (85% blend) at retail, it’s about $2.89/gallon in central Illinois (as of 3/10/14). That’s compared to the $3.48/gallon gasoline at the same gas station this morning. So yes, ethanol is definitely causing higher gasoline prices [insert more sarcasm here].”

Tricia Braid
Illinois Corn Communications Director

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Suffering from “Testing Jet Lag?” Relax with Ag!

ImageStandardized testing is boring and draining of both student and teacher. Liven up your classroom by rewarding them with a fun, educational, and…tasty activity! Create a fun day for your students after testing as a reward for good behavior. (A little bribery can go a long way, as any good teacher knows.)

Homemade ice cream is not only exciting to make; it also engages students through a simple educational activity. Making ice cream can teach students the different components of milk, the process from producer to consumer, and different jobs available in this field. The dairy industry provides a variety of jobs for many Americans. Every student is somehow connected to the dairy industry as either a consumer or even a future producer! By opening your students’ eyes to another industry or career field that they may never have considered before, you are giving them more opportunities-which is why we chose this career in the first place.

One of the best aspects of this dairy lesson is that it can be catered to any grade level. The activity is definitely what you make of it! Even high school kids enjoy making ice cream! A great video for middle school students to assist this lesson is “Dairy Kids Club” by Heartland Farms.

In addition to making ice cream, try playing a guessing game on dairy trivia! Use the Purdue website link of dairy facts for content. Kids love to play games and the competitive aspect will take their minds off of their stressful testing days so you can have your lively classroom back! Every teacher has, at some point, experienced the “blank stare” which can represent a multitude of things-boredom, confusion, exhaustion. At times like these, you may feel like you’re talking to a brick wall. Take an opportunity like this to tie the dairy lesson into your own content.  Agriculture science can teach students many different things. The dairy industry and process in particular is great for tying into subjects such as economics, the digestive system, biology, animal science, nutrition, genetics, and even mathematics! Build off of their excitement from this lesson to make progress on your own. This will also ease the transition from testing mode to learning mode so your students are back in gear and ready to go!

The most beneficial part of this lesson is the amount of resources available to all teachers. The Illinois Farm Bureau-Ag In the Classroom has developed handouts to guide this lesson. These handouts, called “Ag Mags”, are free! They are also available online through Ag-in-the-Classroom.

Each county has a local Farm Bureau which are generally more than happy to come into your classroom and help with agriculture lessons like this. By establishing this line of communication, you are opening a line of support as well as more opportunities for your student’s education. Your passion for teaching will reflect through your efforts to expand your classroom resources. And most importantly, what teacher doesn’t want to sit back for a day and watch someone else handle their rambunctious yet endearing class of students-who are more than willing to get their hands dirty with the prospect of a tasty sugar high in their future!

Recipe for the ice cream:

 Try this simple recipe to make your own homemade ice cream!

1. In an empty and clean 1-pound coffee can, mix 1 pint of half & half with ½ cup sugar. Add a little vanilla or fruit if you like.

2. Place the lid on the can, secure it with duct tape, and then place it inside of an empty and clean 3-pound coffee can.

3. Pack ice around the small can. Then sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of rock salt on the ice. Finally, fill the rest of thecan with ice.

4. Place the lid on the large can. Secure the lid with duct tape so it does not fall off.

5. Sit on the floor with some friends and roll the large can to each other. You may want to put a tarp on the floor for this. After about 10 minutes of rolling your can, you will have made ice cream in the small can!

6. Remove the small can and rinse it with water before opening. If you don’t, you may end up with salt in your ice cream.

7. Enjoy!

Grace Foster

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Ice cream image from: http://spoonful.com/recipes/homemade-ice-cream-bag

Happy Love Your Pet Day!

Pets are often viewed as members of the family today. It is not uncommon to dress up pets in cute little outfits, Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 7.51.46 PM refer to them as your baby, Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 7.55.00 PMor even buy them luxury items such as a bed that is probably more comfortable than your own. Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 7.56.47 PMHowever, a variety of pets such as horses, dogs, cats, and goats often are not only companions, but hard workers as well! Horses can pull great weights behind them whether it’s a cart, Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.03.53 PM an old-fashioned plow for the fields, Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.06.01 PMor the Budweiser carriage in a parade. Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.07.37 PMGoats provide a source of dairy. Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.13.26 PM Cats help keep the vermin population down. Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.14.49 PM Dogs can guard, herd animals,Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.18.52 PMkeep down vermin population, hunt, and even rescue humans! Dogs assist the police and military. Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.19.35 PMDogs and miniature horses can be service animals to the disabled.Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.20.42 PM Animals are a truly amazing resource!

 

megan kastnerMegan Kastner
University of Illinois Student

APPLES AND PUMPKINS AND PIES, OH MY!

Can you believe it? It’s already the last day of September. It still feels like summer outside with some of the weather we have been having, but the cool mornings and combines in the fields tell me “IT’S FALL!” This calls for a trip to the apple orchard this weekend!

Apple cider, apple doughnuts, apple pie, apple crisp… BRING. IT. ON.

As much as all of those delicious apple treats make my stomach growl, I should point out that most apple orchards offer so much more than enjoyable treats. I always love to see parents bringing their kids to an apple orchard because it gives those kids (and maybe even some of the parents) their first hands-on experience with farming. Picking your own apples or pumpkins, navigating through corn mazes, climbing on the straw bales, petting zoos… all of these experiences can give people a link to farming.

So many people today have concerns about their food for one very basic reason: they don’t have any connection to farming. This lack of a connection often means a lack of understanding, which, in turn, can create concern about the way their food is grown. Creating a connection to farming can be something as simple as meeting a farmer, walking through a corn field, or even picking your own apples.

Obviously farming involves far more than climbing on straw bales and checking the pumpkin patch, so people aren’t going to gain a comprehensive understanding of what we do on their trip to the apple orchard. But their experience is real, it is tangible. If we can teach a person one thing about farming and they are eager and willing to listen, that is a “win” in my book.

I’m not saying that a trip to the apple orchard will solve the dilemma we face today… but it sure doesn’t hurt! Baby steps, people.

You can find me elbow-deep in the Honeycrisp Apple bin this weekend. I hope you all get a chance to make it to your local apple orchard this fall, too!

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
Membership Administrative Assistant