When I think of family I think of the agriculture industry. Just like when you say a TV show that is all about family I also think of This Is Us. Family is a very big part of agriculture and has helped shaped the direction of the industry today. There are many ways you can relate agriculture to This Is Us, because, in the end, we all face the same challenges.

It is best to roll with the punches! Randall is the one who struggles with this the most on the show. He tends to be more uptight about things, especially his family. When Kevin came to move in with Randall and his family we could all see how stressed he was with Kevin coming and not telling him. In agriculture, we have to be flexible with what is happening currently. Everyday something will change and with that, we have to be able to move right with it. Even though Randall is the brains in this family, it is not always great to be like him.

Family does not always mean blood. When a crisis occurs on the farm, it takes everyone to fix it. You can count on people you may not know at the time to become your family. Many times when a farmer has a health issue or family accident right in the middle of harvest you can count on those people who are not blood to help you. Agriculture is one big family and it always brings a smile to my face when I see how close we all become. On This Is Us, they adopt a son when their twins are born and they become the big three! Bringing a new life into their home that was not their blood but became their family. It is all about the people who are there for you when you need them the most.

Some days you wake up and just do not want to get out of bed for work. There are freezing cold days when you think “Can I spend a few more hours in bed and feed the cows later?” untimely the answer is no sadly. Farming is not an easy job to be up doing things all day but someone has to do it. There were many days when Kevin was working on the ManNY and nothing would go right. Each take wasn’t right and he just kept having everything go wrong. When bad days hit you have to make the most of them and keep going, like Kevin you can get back into your groove.

Agriculture is a family industry and just like in This Is Us you can always feel the love no matter how rough a day is.

Alison Heard
Southern Illinois University


[Originally published: January 24, 2017]

1-24-17deal-family-%ef%80%a7-family-session-56Let me tell you a bit about our quaint little farm… We live about a quarter mile off a narrow, but paved, country road. Generally, the only traffic we have going by our house are our neighbors, to whom we always give a “country wave” when we pass. It’s quiet – aside from the cows mooing at dinnertime and birds chirping at 4 a.m. Our house, barns, and shop sit atop a slight hill which allows us to see for miles around. We are surrounded on all sides by green pasture followed by corn and bean fields. Our dog can run freely, our farm cats come and go as they please, and my kids have ample spaces to play and explore. It’s peaceful, it’s picturesque, and it’s perf—– Actually, no. It is FAR from perfect…

Growing up in a town of 850 people, I thought I understood country living. But no. There are many, MANY aspects of living on a farm which I had no idea of. Let me enlighten you to a few:

Farm Smells – Sure, everyone knows farms can be kind of stinky. However, the level of stench drastically depends on both the type of farm and the time of year. We have cattle. So we deal with the smell of cow poop daily. The surprising thing is that the smell changes depending on what the cows eat. The direction of the wind also impacts the level of stink you have coming at you. Some days it is so stinky that it’s actually counterproductive to open up the windows to air out the house! Other bad farm smells make it inside on my farmer’s clothing. Smells like diesel fuel, welding, chemicals, and old rotting silage all plague my laundry room.

Garbage – While garbage pickup is an option where I live, it’s pricey. Country folks who don’t have the luxury of regular garbage pickup have other options such as a dumpster, burning their garbage on the farm, or transporting it to the city dump themselves. Household garbage is handled a bit differently from when I lived in town though. Instead of just putting any old thing in the trash, it’s divided out a bit better. Lots of farm families I know will collect their compostable kitchen waste and either put it in their compost pile that they’ll later use for gardening or just dump it in the cornfield. Recycling is collected and transported to a recycling center in town.

Well Water – Being without city water might be the most life-changing aspect of farm life I face. Some family and neighbors have to be conscious of the amount of water they use based on the depth of their well and recent amounts of precipitation — sometimes your well CAN. RUN. DRY. And that’s a scary thing! Luckily for us, we have a very deep well that’s on the Mohomet Aquafer (ie: a big underground river that will virtually never run dry) and I don’t have to keep track of the amount of laundry I’m doing or make my kids bathe together in 2 inches of water. I should mention that even though we have plenty of water, and it’s safe to drink, we have very hard water with high sulfur and rust contents. We spend a lot of money on softener salt.

Septic Tank – We have a septic tank. Sometimes it gets full. Enough said.

Power Outages – In my experience with country living, the power outages always seem to happen in the dead of winter. City people deal with power outages too, but in the country when there’s a power outage, it is much more difficult for the power company to come repair the lines during an ice storm on slick, unsalted country roads than in town, meaning our power can be out for days instead of hours. This is when our scenic hill and drafty old farmhouse don’t get along. Without power, our propane furnace is unable to ignite and the cold winter wind whips through our home. I’m talking a breeze through our power outlets kind of draft. And let me tell you! It only takes one (freezing) time to realize that your generator is insufficient and can’t keep up with the amount of power needed. I should mention, though, that some of our generator’s power is allocated to our cattle – can’t have the automatic waterer freezing up!

Liquid Propane – Since we’re not on a natural gas line, like in town, we have to purchase liquid propane (aka LP) to heat our home and run some appliances. LP is delivered by a gas truck which drags a hose through your yard to fill a big ugly tank sitting in your kids’ play area. The tank usually holds approx. 500-1000 gal. of propane. The price fluctuates similarly to the way gasoline or corn prices change. Time of year also affects the price, making it cheaper in the summer and more expensive in the winter. Propane is definitely more costly than natural gas but it is essential for heating our home. Some people also use propane for their stove, clothes dryer, and water heater.

Sometimes it really feels like I’m totally living off the grid in central IL, but as much of an inconvenience some of these things are, I truly wouldn’t trade it in for a city life any day of the week! I take a little pride in knowing that should there be a zombie apocalypse, we could survive on our own power, water, food, tools, and toilet!


Ashley Deal
ICGA/ICMB Membership A


Repost from

Illinois Ag in the Classroom provides teachers important, interesting and even fun classroom curriculum on agriculture for free!  Make sure the teachers in your life have incorporated an Ag Mag into their spring 2018 curriculum and get those requests to your county ag literacy coordinator today!

Ag Mags are 4-page, colorful agricultural magazines for kids. They contain information about agriculture, bright pictures, classroom activities and agricultural careers.

Many Ag Mags are interactive.  They are set up for smart board usage in the classroom and give teachers opportunities to engage their students with various videos, online articles, and real-world applications to help students understand how what they are learning in the classroom makes a difference in real-world discussions.

Best of all, Ag Mags are designed to meet specific learning standards.  As an example, the Corn Ag Mag includes the following note:

This Ag Mag complements, and can be connected to, the following educational standards:

Common Core State Standards:

  • ELA-Literacy – RI.4.2; RI.4.4; RI4.7; RI.4:10; W.4.7-4.9; SL.4.1; SL.4.4; L4.1; L4.6
  • Mathematics – 4.MD; 5.MD
  • Next Generation Science Standards:
  • Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems: 3-LS4-3; Energy: 4-ESS3-1; Structure,
  • Function, and Information Processing: 4-LS1; Structure and Properties of Matter: 5-PS1-3;
  • Structure and Properties of Matter: 5-PS1-4

IL Social Science Standards:

  • Human-Environment Interaction: Place, Regions and Culture: SS.G.3.4; Human Population: SS.G.3.4;
  • Exchange and Markets: SS.EC.2.4; Causation and Argumentation: SS.H.3.4

There are tons of other free resources available to teachers to incorporate agriculture education into their classrooms AND meet state learning standards.  For more information, check out the Ag in the Classroom website here.


Originally published on Illinois Farm Families

In a world filled with choice, a food label can be like a beacon of fluorescent light in the middle of a grocery aisle. Nutritional content, ingredients – this is information that helps. But then there are labels that mislead or confuse rather than clarify, hindering your ability to pick out healthy, nutritious food for you and your family – no matter the claim.

We want to help you wade through the words. So when labels lie, you know the facts behind how your food is grown and raised.


[Originally published: May 18, 2017]

As farmers and agriculturalists, we do things a little differently. We work long hours, we work extremely hard, and we aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty. And when it comes to fashion, well, we’re in a league of our own.

We always have something on our boots. Sometimes it’s mud, sometimes it’s manure. And sometimes, we aren’t really sure what’s on our boots. But it will rub off soon.

Photo Credit: Forbes

We all have those jeans that are worn in just the right amount. They’re faded, rough around the edges, and the most comfortable jeans we own. Don’t be surprised if we wear them for a week.

Just like our jeans, we all have a favorite hat. It may be a brand hat or your family’s farm’s hat, but we all have one that fits better than the others. Whether we’re 5 or 50, we just love that hat.

Sometimes we work all day and still have errands to run in town. We are not afraid to stop into the bank or the local grocery store. And if we smell, we’re sorry. It’s just a part of the job.

Some people carry bags, but farmers carry side cutters or pliers. You just never know when something is going to need snipping or tightening.

In the cold winters, our livestock still needs feeding. Coveralls are the perfect solution. Our clothes underneath stay clean and we stay warm. They are a fashion statement of farmers everywhere.

Some colleges with equine programs will have riding classes during the day. You will be able to hear me coming down the hall with my spurs. Hopefully, it isn’t too disrupting!

Some of the brands we wear are unknown to a lot of people. We love the look and the quality, unfortunately, if we outgrow them, it makes it hard to sell to someone!

Many people I know, myself included, have gone off the beaten path when it comes to music. Walking into a livestock show or traveling to different states, you see many different band t-shirts you may have never heard of. Jason Isbell, Cross Canadian Ragweed, William Clark Green. You may not know them now, but you should. You won’t be disappointed.

A must-have for livestock girls everywhere is the Miss Me jean. It’s very rare to go to a livestock show and not see bling!

If you’re walking around a livestock show, you will see hundreds of pairs of Twisted X boots. They are original and they are comfy. It also makes it easy to spot a livestock kid on campuses, allowing for easy start up conversations.

T-shirts, hats, and sweatshirts are full of different logos. Some are John Deere, some are Case, but others are not as recognizable. Every farm has a logo, and we wear the heck out of them. Most people don’t understand it, but when we see one we recognize, we feel a little pride.

Every farm kid has that old beat up t-shirt that they didn’t want to get rid of. So, they cut the sleeves off and made it more breathable and easy to work in.

When we go out, we channel our inner George Strait. Sometimes, our dress clothes and work clothes look the same. The dress clothes are a touch cleaner and not so rough.

Not everyone chews Skoal, but those that do usually have a ring left on their jeans. It always goes right back to the same spot, and if it isn’t there, you notice it.

Photo Credit: Wild Wyoming Woman

Our back door is full of different kinds of boots. A couple of pairs are the same because we loved the first pair so much. Some pairs are nice and some are worn in. But each pair has a purpose and we can’t live without them

Our clothes may be different, our way of life may be different, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t relatable. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation. You’ll be surprised how much we can learn from each other.

Jess Manthe
Iowa State University


[Originally published: October 16, 2017]

Corn husks and dust flying around in the air, the fresh smell of soil being turned over, and farm machinery is being spotted on every highway and backroad. If you haven’t guessed already, harvest time is in full swing. Sometimes it is quite easy for us to overlook what a day in the life of a farmer is like, especially during this time of year. As an individual that is not involved in the agriculture industry, it may be easy to not see how much a farmer’s life can vary compared to the average business person’s, particularly throughout the fall.

The average business person spends their eight hour work day sitting in a cubicle working on their computer. Mounds of paperwork lay on their desk just waiting to be completed. They eat lunch with their boss and wear office clothes all day long. The typical business person also talks on a phone throughout the day. After work, they may head home to their own spouse and kids to sit down for a family dinner. A non-farmer may even sit down with their kids and help them with their homework at the kitchen table. They may also go to different recreational events, such as a pumpkin patch or a football game, on the weekends and enjoy their time off of work.

Meanwhile, the average farmer watches the sun rise and set every day from the seat of a combine, tractor or semi. During a twelve or more hour work day, a farmer uses a computer in the cab of his or her farm machinery while wearing jeans and a shirt that are meant to get covered in dirt and grease. Lunch for a farmer is usually simple and easy to eat while continuing on with harvest. The most common type of communication used by a farmer throughout the day is a CB radio that allows them to easily talk to other people that are helping harvest the crop. As the day gets closer to the end, a farmer will enjoy a nice meal with his or her family on a tailgate. A farmer’s child may even climb up in the cab and ask to drive or simply just ride in the “buddy” seat. A farmer may also take their child for a ride in the semi as another load of grain gets taken into the grain elevator. There are no weekends off for a farmer during harvest unless Mother Nature calls for a rain delay, but even then a farmer will still find something that needs to be done.

Although their days may fulfill similar tasks as the average business person, a farmer makes several sacrifices to assure that the job of feeding the world is being accomplished. So, as you are driving to work or running errands make sure to wave and share the roads with every farmer that you see. Being involved in production agriculture isn’t an easy task and a lot of behind the scenes actions get overlooked. As you sit on the couch and watch TV tonight, remember that 2% of the population is just clocking out and getting ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Sierra Day
Lake Land College


[Originally published: October 17, 2017]

When I was growing up, I was told I could be anything I wanted to be. A doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, an astronaut…  But only a few kids ever mentioned being a farmer.

Prior to 1990, most farmers and ranchers were under the age of 45. As the years go on, most farmer and ranchers are OVER the age of 45, with less and less new blood coming in. The problem we are facing is we have an aging farming population. If left unchecked, this could threaten our ability to produce the food we need.

So why is it that the younger generations are not wanting to come back to the farm?

  • Youth want to be better educated to get good jobs.
  • Farming is mentally and physically exhausting.
  • Changing norms.
  • “It’s too expensive and risky.”

Farming has become a very risky business. There are many costs a farmer has to pay before receiving a check. The price of land has gone up, equipment prices are always on the rise, input prices have gone up, and commodity prices have been seeing ups and downs. Not to mention there is always that chance of droughts or floods.  It is hard work being a farmer.

The ups and downs of farming are nothing new. Young people just do not want to gamble all of their time and money into something that involves such great risk.

Like President John F. Kennedy once said, “The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything retail, sells everything wholesale, and pays freight both ways.” It was a true statement then, and it certainly is a true statement still today.

Right now we are facing a growing population around the world. The current population of 7.3 billion is expected to hit 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050. We need more young men and women coming back to the farm more now than ever. Small farms are what grows America!

  • What if a college graduate comes back to the farm, with student loans and can’t make enough money to pay them back?
  • What if a young farmer loses his farm because he cannot afford to pay his bills?
  • What if young people quit coming back to the farm?
  • What if we don’t have enough food to feed the growing population?

Sara Pieper
Western Illinois University